- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Last week, HBO released the second season of their massively popular and critically acclaimed series Game of Thrones on DVD and Blu-ray. And if you have HBO, you probably already know that the third season will premiere on the strategically chosen date of 3-31-13.
If you haven’t already seen it, or want to watch it again, you can check out Season 1 from your nearest location. San José Public Library has ordered several copies of Season 2 and they should be appearing on the shelves soon!
The award-winning television show, a surprisingly faithful adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, premiered in 2011 and quickly gathered a mass following that swelled the ranks of already ardent fans of the books.
The first five books of the planned seven-volume series are currently available. The epic fantasy has been praised for its realism, depiction of political intrigue, morally ambiguous characters, and unpredictability among other things. Just a warning: Don’t get too attached to any one character. No character is safe from being killed off, but the series is so good you will just dry your tears and read on. You can pick up or download any of the five books at SJPL.
If you have already read the books, you can check out the graphic novel, the soundtrack, and the official or unofficial cookbook. There’s even a book focusing on philosophical issues in the series called Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords.
Whether you choose to watch, read, or listen, enjoy immersing yourself in the world of Westeros!
The first part of the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, "An Unexpected Journey", opens this Friday in theaters. No surprise - interest in the book has increased as evidenced by the amount of hold requests on our library copies (check out this edition if you still need a copy). So, let's say you've read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and you want more Middle Earth. What's next?
Tolkien spent most of his career as a writer refining the mythology that would become the "back story" to the published "Rings" era (the Third Age) but these tales only saw publication following his death in the form of The Silmarillion. This is very much "The Bible" of Middle Earth in both content and narrative approach. It tells the epic history of the world from its very creation to the end of the First Age as Elves (and later, Men) struggle against the evil forces of Morgoth (the Lucifer figure) and attempt to regain the three holy jewels, the Silmarils, he stole from them.
Despite its beautiful and ambitious scope, readers familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings can sometimes find The Silmarillion a bit hard to get into. Because it covers a millennia or so, there is less dialogue, characters are less defined, and events are concise and compressed. The narrative approach is rather similar to the historical Appendices at the end of The Lord of the Rings (you didn't skip those, right?). The Silmarillion is also lacking a single overall protagonist; instead, characters come and go between chapters as they fall victim to the passage of time and frequent tragic deaths. There are also no familiar cross-over characters or places from the Rings books (except briefly for Galadriel, and a small role for Sauron); in fact, most of the lands of The Silmarillion no longer exist by the time of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien does a lot of "name-dropping", and since everyone and everything tends to have multiple names, I found it useful on my first reading to constantly be double-checking every name reference in a companion book such as The Complete Guide to Middle Earth. Yes, you get some spoilers, but it also helps keep you focused on the big picture - where things are going and which details you should pay attention to.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by The Silmarillion and want an experience closer to The Lord of the Rings, try the recently released The Children of Hurin. This takes the Tale of Turin Turambar, a 28 page chapter in The Silmarillion, and expands it to a 200+ page novel (with big print, for a change). Hot-headed Turin battles Morgoth's forces but is cursed to unintentionally carry out Morgoth's will, leading to the destruction of one of the three hidden kingdoms of the Elves and Turin's own tragic fate. The story is self-contained enough that it can be enjoyed without knowledge of its place in the greater scheme of events told in The Silmarillion. Tolkien often attempted to tell stories of the First Age in longer formats like this, but The Children of Hurin is the only one that was complete enough to stand on its own, with a bit of patching. (You can see the original version with holes intact in Unfinished Tales)
Stay tuned for more highlights of the First Age from Tolkien's incomplete and miscellaneous writings...
Alchemists Ed and Alphonse Elric are “Alchemists,” magicians with the ability to use the magic of equivalent exchange to transform raw matter. They can turn lead into gold, rebuild buildings from rubble, and turn scrap metal into deadly weaponry. Despite all their power, no alchemist can bring the dead to life. Trying it quite literally costs Ed an arm and a leg (which he replaces with mechanical contraptions) and costs Alphonse even more. Now they are on the hunt to find the mythical “philosopher’s stone” the only thing said to be able to restore their missing limbs. Their quest puts them at odds with an outrageous and deadly array of enemies and brings them face to face with a conspiracy at the very heart of their nation.
If you like a compelling story with plenty action and comedy, you should definitely check out Full Metal Alchemist, even if you’ve never touched a Japanese comic in your life. It is not only one of the best but also one of the most accessible manga I have read. Hiromu Arakawa brings her characters to life, both through the dialogue and her distinct character designs. In addition, the series’ setting (a sort of early 1900s steam punk America or Europe) lacks many of the Japanese manga tropes and conventions that prove most confusing to American readers. Finally the fight scenes are exciting and use “alchemy” in incredibly creative ways, though definitely violent enough to justify its “teen” rating.
Let me know what you think of Full Metal Alchemist, and leave me a comment about any other series you think deserve to be called great.
Don't miss my other Great Graphic Novel Series
Move aside Eragon, Seraphina is here!
Rachel Hartman’s novel thrills with an intriguing new world of dragons who can take human form but often refuse to do so because of their contempt for experiencing human emotions when in such a state.
Our story unravels through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Seraphina, who is assistant to the court composer and secretly half-dragon—a secret that forces her to remain guarded from those around her and also to fear for her life because human-dragon relationships are forbidden. Lonely and at war with her own nature, as Seraphina heart-breakingly genuinely questions whether or not she is a monster, she navigates the complicated, dangerous politics of the court consisting of both dragons and humans. The sudden murder of the human royal heir seems to point to a dragon and has both sides suspicious of—and wanting to take revenge on—the other. With her unique half-dragon mind bringing vivid dreams of different people like herself, Seraphina struggles to both discover and come to turn with who she is while hiding in plain sight—or rather, at the side of the Princess, whom she ends up unofficially advising on the sticky and heated human-dragon affairs, and the Princess’ betrothed, handsome Prince Lucian whom Seraphina is surprised to find herself growing close to. But in Seraphina’s world, any person she lets in might find out who—or what—she is. And her secret could mean her death.
interested in adventure and fantasy fiction set in a medieval world that includes a death god and a convent that trains assassins?! If so, Robin LaFevers’ first book of the His Fair Assassin Trilogy will entangle you in deadly games of intrigue, conflicting loyalties, and the struggle to make your own choices against the influence of others.
The novel is set in 15th century medieval Brittany andintroduces us to seventeen-year-old Ismae, who was fathered by St. Mortain, the God of Death Himself. History, romance, and political conspiracy weave seamlessly together in this fast-paced tale that begins as Ismae flees the abuses of both her intended husband-to-be and father only to find herself in the hands of the mysterious and secretive convent of St. Mortain which serves the God of Death as His handmaidens and assassins. Offering to train Ismae as one of their own, the sisters present a new life of purpose and power, but only if Ismae will follow their orders and complete an important assignment to protect the Duchess of Brittany by finding and killing the traitor in her court. The further Ismae is drawn into the high court of Brittany, the more she learns how unprepared she is for her task because in order to find the traitor, Ismae must destroy the lives of others, including the only man she may loAre you interested in adventure and fantasy fiction set in a medieval world that includes a death god and a convent that trains assassins?! If so, Robin LaFevers’ first book of the His Fair Assassin Trilogy will entangle you in deadly games of intrigue, conflicting loyalties, and the struggle to make your own choices against the influence of others.
The novel is set in 15th century medieval Brittany andintroduces us to seventeen-year-old Ismae, who was fathered by St. Mortain, the God of Death Himself. History, romance, and political conspiracy weave seamlessly together in this fast-paced tale that begins as Ismae flees the abuses of both her intended husband-to-be and father only to find herself in the hands of the mysterious and secretive convent of St. Mortain which serves the God of Death as His handmaidens and assassins. Offering to train Ismae as one of their own, the sisters present a new life of purpose and power, but only if Ismae will follow their orders and complete an important assignment to protect the Duchess of Brittany by finding and killing the traitor in her court. The further Ismae is drawn into the high court of Brittany, the more she learns how unprepared she is for her task because in order to find the traitor, Ismae must destroy the lives of others, including the only man she may love.
Looking for something different? Ever thought about books combining ancient Rome, magic, and big scary monsters? Jim Butcher wrote the gripping Codex Alera series just for you. The setting is a classic low-tech fantasy world (unlike the author’s Harry Dresden files, recommended in an earlier blog). But don't think this is just another Middle-Earth rehash. It's not. Aleran society in the series is based on ancient Roman culture, including challenges to the throne, but there are other fascinating people with their own cultures, too, including a second hominid race, the Marat, and another of large wolf-like creatures called Canim. Aleran political intrigue complicates the plot, but Butcher doesn't skimp on thrills, adding border struggles with the Marat and, later, an invasion of Canim. The furies of the title are elementals that humans can use: to move stone, heat water, or fly, for example. The Alerans will need all the strength they can muster, too. A new invader approaches: the vord, a hive-creature with the potential to destroy everything in its path.
The first book is Furies of Calderon, which you can get in print or choose between book on CD, e-book, or downloadable audio, and the series is complete in six books, all available through SJPL-- good news for people who don’t like to chew their nails waiting a year or two while the author writes the next book.