Red-Stained Wings: Review

Received an eARC via NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge.


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“Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear.

Over other previous reads, where stories were filled with action and adventure, “Red-Stained Wings” featured almost no epic clashes between warring factions. Sure, there’s a few cannon balls here and there, and a few sorceries pulled up from Wizards’ sleeves every now and then. But it’s a definitely a big change of pace and I’m not complaining about it.

It’s the most character-driven book I’ve read in a while, where we explore each of the main cast as they navigate in their own hopeless and complex situations. “Red-Stained Wings” is proof you don’t need a tome with a thousand pages to give you intricate character-driven narratives. Everything is packed in there, self-discovery, purpose and empowerment, ambitions in every angle. Of course you’ll know who to root for, and at the same time, you kind of develop sympathy over supposed antagonists. Reader’s Stockholm syndrome?

All the characters are rich, fleshed out, and well-developed. There were characters I cared for, those I never wanted to leave their POVs, and a character I love to hate so much, which makes the book all the more better.

In such a tight book, the worldbuilding is amazing. It’s vast and weird. The Cauled Sun provides dim light and heat in the night, and the stars brighten the day. There are strange entities in the world and divine schemes gradually unfold.

Perhaps my favorite parts involved the Gage, traversing through dangerous land. The worldbuilding here explodes, a blast of epic proximity, making it known that there are much bigger things happening than the family drama. Or rather, the true reason behind it all. The intrigue here extends farther and makes insidious twists along the way.

Red-Stained Wings” by Elizabeth Bear comes out on May 28, 2019.

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Game of Thrones Finale Predictions

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Image from HBO

It’s been a brutal five weeks. In a few days HBO will air the final episode of “Game of Thrones” and while everybody is tossing their two cents, here’s mine.

The song of ice and fire begins. Jon and Dany will be at war at each other. From here on out, anything could happen.

– Northmen will face off against the remaining Dothraki horde and the Unsullied. Grey Worm appears to have some beef with Jon Snow, after showing hesitation from storming King’s Landing.

– That scorpion in the Red Keep might still come in handy.

– If the battle somehow spreads, Gendry, being indebted to Dany, might come fight against Jon.

– Jon will die.

– Gendry, being one of the causes of Jon’s death, will end up being a target for Arya. Doesn’t Gendry have green eyes? Hard to tell.

– Somewhere in the depths of the internet, Kit Harington said he was disappointed at the ending. (Then made a pathetic attempt to backtrack). To me, this translates as: With King’s Landing burned to the ground, Dany immediately orders for Jon Snow’s execution. There may be a battle, there may not be one—and Jon is just burned to a charred crisp. Hey, we either might see or not see that he’s immune to fire as well, which can turn the tide. Probably. Or Kit is just acting out to lower expectations.

– Dany is going to win that battle no matter what. Drogon will die, though.

– Sansa never came up until at this very point in writing. So, maybe, with Dany on the throne, Winterfell will soon be a target to prevent Sansa from rallying people and instigate a rebellion. So, Sansa with Brienne and Bran, will head off to the North, and join the free folk. Maybe Ghost will find love and affection through Sansa.

– The last scene will be Dany sitting on the Iron Throne, feeling empty like a husk. There’s this big “Was it worth it?” question.

– Alternatively, there might be a scene where Dany sets sail back to Meereen, where a waiting Daario will be there to welcome her back. (Yeah right, but anything can happen at this point.)

– Dany sits on the Iron Throne, feeling empty like a husk. Yes, there’s also a big question in there if everything was worth it. Then a giant dragon killing scorpion bolt pins Dany to the Iron Throne and then she dies. That’s right, no one walks away.

– Would had been amazing to see some swords, possibly from our protagonists, melted into the Iron Throne.

– Bronn kills Tyrion. Sure, Dany won and all, but it is doubtful if Tyrion manages to convince her to give Bronn High Garden.

– Alternatively, if Gendry keeps a low profile, he’ll be visited by Arya.

That’s all I got.

The Bell

UPDATE: I realized the formatting was crap. I don’t know how that happened, I’m sorry for that. Must have been a nightmare to see. I wrote this all through the mobile app, so, probably that had something to do with it? Anyway, proper formatting posted below.

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Epic spoilers for Episode 5, Season 8 of Game of Thrones.

Don’t tell me none of you saw it.

I didn’t. I was expecting a big battle. Some bloodshed. I was thinking there were stashes of wildfire everywhere in the city, ready to detonate and destroy a large chunk of the united forces of the Unsullied, Dothraki, and the North.

After bringing down hellfire to the Iron Fleet and incinerating about 20,000 mercenaries, destroying the city’s scorpion defenses, and tearing down the walls, the bell finally rang, signifying their surrender. Soldiers of King’s Landing had had already thrown down their swords, yielding. But then we get a shot of Daenerys. She’s pissed. She’s really pissed. “Do you think it’s that easy?” She probably thinks and flies off, to what I assumed would be burning down the Red Keep.

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That look says it all. (Dany is so frightening at times, and when you look at Emilia Clarke, she’s so… opposite.)
Instead, she burns down the entire fucking city, killing soldiers and innocent civilians alike. Drogon kept shooting fire and it seemed Daenerys didn’t care if her own troops get hit in collateral.

Yes, she’s making an example. She’s always done things her way, since the first season. Every single enemy she has ever faced, she’s burned down to the ground. So it wasn’t unexpected that she would burn down King’s Landing as well. This scenario is strengthened when Missandei was killed, when Jorah was killed. Two of her closest friends, dead. She lost half her army fighting for complete strangers. She feels isolated and the people of the North makes it clear they don’t like her. She’s used to being surrounded by people who would die for her, worshipped her. She’s had her own journey

The thing is, I’ve always felt that Daenerys was more of a “villain’s journey,” instead one of the hero. The only reason so many people rooted so hard for her was because we followed her journey. We knew her story. Also, she did a lot of badass things backed up by the “Game of Thrones” badass theme music.

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Erase everything we knew about Daenerys. We meet her the same time she met Jon Snow. Things would be a little different. We have no idea who she is, and we might even regard her the same suspicious way as the people of Westeros. It would’ve been too easy to paint her as the series’ big bad.

“Game of Thrones” and the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books it was based on, introduces us to a wide range of characters in a world where morality is in the gray area. When the first book kicked off, we’re allowed to believe that Jaime and Cersei Lannister were the villains, but as we saw their characterizations, we at least could understand their actions. The same goes for Daenerys. Just because she’s a badass character, doesn’t mean she wasn’t the big bad all along.

Well, the Cleganebowl had finally happened. It was violent, not any less or more violent than anything shown in the past. But it is the most violent bout of the season, thus far. For sure, I was screaming my pants out, actually afraid of Ser Sandor Clegane’s ultimate fate. I was hoping he’d at least bring down the Mountain. But for a moment there, just a glimpse, it seemed like Ser Robert Strong – Zombie Gregor Clegane – might actually win this one out. Despite hating that possibility, I was willing to embrace that result. Somehow that direction would had more meaning to it, more tragic than a mere “Oh, it’s a stalemate.”

We’ve never seen Gregor, really not seen him. We only know he’s a dick. And ever since his big fight with Oberyn Martell, we saw even less of him. Unlike Sandor, we’ve spent some good years with him. He’s a dick, but he ended up being a likeable dick. Personally, there was no emotional investment. Sandor kills Gregor, yay. That’s it for the Cleganebowl. But if Gregor ended up killing Sandor, instead? There’s a lot of hurt going to reverberate in the coming weeks.

The same goes with Jaime Lannister. Something in me expected that both Jaime and Cersei will die together. It’s scattered in the books as tiny breadcrumbs. I expected Daenerys storming into the Red Keep. Cersei has Qyburn, or someone, use the scorpion they have in there against Drogon. Just for a little OMG moment. Then it fails and as Cersei escapes, she encounters Jaime, who sees the inevitability of dragon fire. “The things I do for love,” Jaime probably would had said, stabs Cersei, watches her die as the flames consume them.

But instead, for spectacle, from somewhere in the middle of King’s Landing, near the gates of the Red Keep, Jaime had teleported somewhere outside city walls and comes face-to-face with Euron. I thought I could deal with this. Jaime getting killed by Euron and the twins never having to say their farewells seemed more powerful and painfully tragic. Maybe it cheapens things. I don’t know. But if Jaime had died there on that beach, somehow to me it would had felt so much more satisfying.

In the end, I felt that author of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” George RR Martin had intentionally allowed the delay of his books, telling David Benioff and D.B. Weiss key events, allowing them to use and test it out on screen, to see fan reaction. If it’s bad, at least GRRM knows what to avoid. It’s actually brilliant.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

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I take great pride being at E3 2015 where the “Final Fantasy VII Remake” was officially announced. And finally, after four years, we got a solid gameplay trailer.

Game Director, Tetsuya Nomura, has promised the game won’t actually be an exact remake, but more of a re-imagining, which to tell, translates as “Don’t get upset when there’s a couple of changes here and there.” And to me that’s totally cool. If “Kingdom Hearts” and “Advent Children” were any indicators, substance is down the drain. It’s visuals where Nomura excels at and that’s what I’m setting myself into.

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Looking at the screenshot above, we are 100% certain that this is going to be an action-oriented RPG. As my friend said, it seems more like a down to earth “Final Fantasy XV.” Or a more realistic “Kingdom Hearts.” Considering Nomura has spent significant amount of years from those two titles, it makes sense 7R follows through.

There’s a lot of gauges in the game. Under “Command Menu” there’s two or three gauges, which we can assume will be increased later on. It hints that there’s a number of times you can use the Menu and will have to wait before using it again. I guess this is to prevent potion spams. Fair.

Also, I like this shade of blue they’re using. Very reminiscent to the original FFVII game.

On the right picture, there’s a bazillion gauges. The yellow ones under the character names seem to represent HP. Same with MP on the right, and below that appears to be Limit Breaks, assuming they make a return – and they should. But what’s up with the two blue bars? A gauge that represents character actions? Similar to the Active Time Battle in previous games? This is an RPG after all.

Well, whatever. We’ll have to wait until next month to get more details. We’ll probably get more trailers, game play mechanics, if there’s an overworld – an overworld where characters turn chibi would be so cool – an explanation how the game might be divided into “Parts,” which isn’t necessarily “episodic.” There are multiple titles after all. Who knows, we might get FFVII Part One and Part Two, which divides the main game into two – which would suck, then maybe a playable version of “Advent Children,” a better “Crisis Core,” and an even better “Dirge of Cerberus,” which could finally lead to that teased sequel. And of course, at E3, we might hear the release date, which is the most important.

Tetsuya Nomura was the character designer of the original “Final Fantasy VII.” He later directed the sequel movie, “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.” He also directed “Kingdom Hearts,” yes, all ten billion of them. He also spent many years on directing and the development of “Final Fantasy XV” before handling the reins to Hajime Tabata.

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“Are you okay?”

Knowing your future? I am not.

Still writing

I gave myself a March deadline, and then one in April, and one more before Mark Lawrence’s SPFBO, because I’ve intended to participate this year — as much as I’ve wanted to participate since Year 2.

Looks like I will have to hope for Year 5, or is it 6? Not really sure anymore.

I’ve made significant progress in the past weeks. I’ve been satisfied with most of my chapters, but there’s still a ton of work to be done. I get delayed from exhausted from my day job, among other things. But I know there are others out there going through the same thing. So my plight is nothing.

Writing is a test of patience, of perseverance. While the once satisfied chapters will yet again undergo some serious rewrites in the coming weeks, I feel I’ve at least made one small step forward.

I used to feel that writing a new chapter was easy, compared to editing it. For a time it felt that way, but these days, the opposite is true. But I’m still enjoying everything thus far. And that’s the pep talk I tell myself to keep on writing.

Hopefully the next time I post something about my own work, it’s something far more significant than, I’ve done X amount of words these past few days.

Here’s the battle theme of the hyper stylish JRPG, Persona 5. (Mokoto FTW)