The Victorian Hawk Dragon has currently reviewed the following:
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring - Part One
A Classic Fantasy Tale, with a range of Fantasy Characters (including Elves, Dwarves and Men), that sees a Quest of Power, through the Roots of Adventure, in the Darkest Days of Middle-Earth. With a guiding Wizard, and a bare foot Hobbit (one of the Little People), it's The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring:
I've always thought, that this is one of the best, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy Novels, that you can ever read :) There's several reasons for this ... First: is it's use of Humour ... I found myself laughing, when Sam (one of the Hobbits), is pulled through the Window (by Gandalf the Wizard), after having eavesdropped, and making out that he hadn't - he was cutting the Lawn you see! I also laughed, when Gimli the Dwarf, tasted some Cram (a Travellers Bread), having not believed, that it will taste very nice (even raising an eyebrow) - then promptly eating, the whole piece! I also found humour, in the strangest of places, such as when Gandalf had nearly been destroyed - well, well, he flew down some stairs, after encountering a foe, that he could not best, whilst joking about it! Second: is it's range of Fantasy Locations ... First and Foremost, my favourite is the Dwarven Mine/City of Moria. I especially liked the Ancestry of Moria, that it was once the most prized, of all the Dwarven Realms (owing to it's Mining of Mithril - the Dwarven Wonder Metal), which was in-turn lost, to the Orcs/Goblins and Durin's Bane (a large Fire Breathing Western Dragon of a Daemon, that even the Elves Fear). Moria is now a dark place, which Gandalf leads our Adventurers through, with his Bobbing Wizards Staff of Light (akin to a Will-o'-the-wisp). I especially liked the idea, of Moria's Dwarven Doors, that can only be seen in Moonlight (and opened with a specific word/phrase). I also found comedy here, as I laughed at Gandalf, being outwitted by a door! Of Moria itself, did I like the idea of staircases hewn from stone, together with cavernous pillars (that defined a City in Starlight), together with Tombs of the Fallen (still blessed in daylight), and Treasures of the Deepest Mines (that Dwarves still dream of). I also liked, what I feel was the reason that Moria was built (by the Dwarves) in the first place - a Magical Lake (called the Mirrormere), which Shines with Stars in it's Waters so Deep :) It is with some irony then, that although I love the Green Places of this World, that I have often felt a Desire, to explore the Dark Halls of Moria myself! In stark contrast to Moria, are the Fantasy Woods, of the Old Forest. It's a mythical place, that Tales of Old, used to scare young Hobbits with - and yet, Frodo Baggins (the main Fantasy Character of this Tale), decides to venture that very way :) Now I like Woods, and I like Trees, but the Trees of the Old Forest, are not like other Trees (they can move/walk, and they can talk/be-spell) - it's Old Man Willow you see. He's a Magical Willow Tree, who does not have the Hobbits best interests at heart! Although I find the Old Forest to be a Dark Place (perhaps even more so than Moria), it leads to one of my favourite Fantasy Characters - Tom Bombadil :) He's such a fun/comedy element, that it's hard to feel all Dark and Gloomy, when he's around (especially with that Bobbing Hat of his!). Now it feels to me, as though Tom is some kind of Nature Fairy (as he's always been concerned with Trees) - yet even if he isn't, then his sidekick (Goldberry), is certainly a Water Fairy :) In any case, I like the fact, that both Tom and Goldberry, tend to the Old Forest, and look after Frodo (after Old Man Willow, gets his Roots to him). To me, the Old Forest feels as though, it's full of Magic - both Good and Evil, that's just kind-of mixed together, in it's raw, natural form. It's a powerful place, that I feel, could have played a larger part in the Tale (together with Tom Bombadil). Third: is it's range of Fantasy Characters ... The Fellowship of the Ring, is itself comprised of a Motley Crew: four Hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin), two Men (one called Aragorn, one called Boromir), one Elf (called Legolas), one Dwarf (called Gimli), and Gandalf (the Wizard). I like the idea of the Fellowship (aka our Adventurers), because it is a contradiction - you have powerful members (such as Gandalf and Aragorn), mixed with weaker members (such as Merry and Pippin). Whilst in the middle, do you have members that are a bit of both: both in terms of alignment (such as Legolas is to Trees and Nature, whilst Gimli is to Stone and Anvil), and in terms of not judging a book by it's cover (such as Frodo at first appearing weak, but over time, does Frodo become the appointed/recognised strongest, Ring Bearer). Of these Fantasy Characters, would I say that my favourite is Gandalf, though I wouldn't normally like Wizards! Gandalf is an exception, for he's more like a Warlock - a Wizard and a Warrior, all rolled into one :) Next would there be Aragorn - as I like the fact, that he is descendant from Kings (although I'm not so keen, on his Strider personality, in the earlier parts of the Tale). Then would there be Gimli, as there's a fair amount of humour, surrounding his character: A Dwarf! Which plays right into, the grievances between Dwarves and Elves (with several twists in friendship, along the way). In any case, I especially like the portrayal of Elves within this Tale. I like their connection with Nature (especially of the Woods, plus Spells of the Sea), and I like the fact, that there's at least three, families of Elves found, within Middle-Earth: those from Rivendell (who were there at the start, when Darkness first showed it's face), those from Mirkwood (who still have dealings with Men, and is the home of Legolas), and those from Lothlorien (who Guard a Treasure of Middle-Earth, and befriend the Fellowship). I also liked the way, that the Elves are used, to underline an important point/theme (within the Tale): the Elves may be Powerful, blessed to live much longer than Men, skilled in the Art of Combat (especially Bow and Arrow) - yet just like the rest of Middle-Earth, they do not have the power, to throw back the Darkness/Evil by themselves! Or do they?
This Classic Fantasy Tale, sees a Quest for Treasure, in the Lost Kingdoms of the Dwarves, with a Guardian Fire Drake of the North, who goes by the name of Smaug. It's The Hobbit:
Whilst it had been quite some time, since I'd last read The Hobbit, I was amazed with the amount of humour, that's found within it's opening chapters (particularly the very first - An Unexpected Party). I especially found it funny, when the leader of the Dwarves (Thorin Oakenshield), ended up with several of his fellow Dwarves, right on top of him - when The Hobbit (aka Bilbo Baggins), abruptly opened his front door :) I also liked the fact, that Bilbo initially has no idea, as to what is going on - why are all these Dwarves here? But soon finds himself, pouring over a Treasure Map, wondering where the Secret Door is! Which in-turn, leads to Bilbo and the start of his Adventures - having just been recruited by the Dwarves (based upon the recommendation, of Gandalf the Wizard). And it is this recommendation, that I feel captures the Heart and Soul, of this Fantasy Tale ... As The Hobbit does not at first, appear to be the best companion, for Thorin and his Dwarves - let alone their Quest! For one simple reason: The Hobbit / Bilbo Baggins, has only ever read about Adventures in books - preferring instead, to put his feet up, and have his second breakfast :) Indeed, is this low opinion of Bilbo, held by Thorin Oakenshield, and several of his Dwarves - which plays right into, Bilbo's desire to prove them all wrong :) And as such, did I enjoy the irony (that is experienced), as Bilbo's character, becomes central to the Tale - even gaining a Strength of Character, that supersedes the Dwarves (as eventually, he is more of an advisor to them). I found this particularly true, in three specific places: i) When Bilbo rescues the Dwarves - from the Darker Fantasy Spiders (otherwise the Dwarves would have been a juicy meal). ii) When Bilbo rescues the Dwarves - from the Not So Friendly Elves (otherwise the Dwarves would have been captive, in the Dungeons of the Elves for quite sometime). iii) When Bilbo is asked by the Dwarves, to tackle the Dragon Smaug (the Guardian Fire Drake of the North) - as Thorin and his Dwarves, dared not to enter, their own Underground Kingdom ... Yet in all three, do I feel that Bilbo's character, has come a long way - but still remains the same, as that first cheeky Hobbit, who dared to pick the pocket of a Mountain Troll, and land them all in a Stew! What of the Tale's other Fantasy Characters? Well ... There's three, that I quite like ... First: is Beorn (the shape-shifter). I liked the idea of a Man, that could take the form of a Bear - whilst also being able to talk, to an entire variety of animals (from Bees to Horses). I also liked the idea, of Beorn's Gardens and Lands - as he uses his shape-shifting powers, to guard his Domain, against the creatures of Darker Fantasy (such as Goblins and Wargs). I especially enjoyed, the comedy that surrounds the introduction of the Dwarves to Beorn (which is again contrived by Gandalf) - enter two by two, a minute or so after each other, OH! you may as well all come in then! Second: is Smaug (the Fire Drake). Being a Western Dragon, he meets this definition in every sense of his Being - large, powerful, clever (enjoying Riddles), breathing Fire, rows and rows of Teeth, armour as strong as Steel, hoarding Treasure, rending walls and eating all (especially Men and Dwarves). Yet does Smaug, still have a twist of an Eastern Dragon - the ability to speak :) And as such, did I enjoy Bilbo's conversations with him, especially when Bilbo thought, that he could outwit a Dragon! Bilbo dares to steal a Golden Cup - yet Dragons know, every ounce of their Treasure :) For Smaug's personality, is the Darkest of the Dark - it's HIS Mountain, and it's HIS Treasure, that HE stole from the Dwarves, a Long Time Ago. Third: is Thorin Oakenshield. I found that his character, tended to fluctuate somewhat. On the one hand, he will take charge (such as when planning a Quest for Treasure, or meeting a Great Goblin in Battle) - but on the other hand, can Thorin tend to give up in a huff (such as when the Dwarves, are unable to find the Mountain's Secret Door). An interesting character then - as we have to remember, that it was Thorin's Quest in the first place! And of that Quest, does Thorin also wish to retake, his Lost Dwarven Kingdom - of the Mountain. It's a Dwarven Kingdom, where I enjoyed imagining - what it would once have been like, at the height of it's powers: Countless Dwarves - mining Crystals and Gems, Endless Dwarves - Forging Swords and Armour, Robust Dwarves - hewn by the Harshness of the Rocks, Timeless Dwarves - hewn by the Ages of Old, and the Timelessness of Bonds :) And it is these Bonds, that Thorin's most Treasured Treasure (the Arkenstone), is most directly - at conflict with! For the Arkenstone (to me), seems to represent Greed (both Bilbo Baggins, and Thorin's). Thus, was I not too surprised - by the disagreement that arises, between Thorin and Bilbo! Although I was surprised, when Thorin pulls it back, and makes amends with Bilbo, just in the nick of time :) Overall: I feel that The Hobbit, is an enjoyable Fantasy Tale, that successfully incorporates, the important features, from the Sword and Sorcery Fantasy genre. The Swords are the Dwarves, Elves and Men - with the twist of a Hobbit, who could not hope to lift a Sword! But a Knife/Dagger - Bilbo can do that :) The Sorcery is directly from Gandalf, and indirectly from the Dragon's Hoard, and the Dwarves Arkenstone (their Achilles Heel). The Darker Elements, come from the Dragon and the Goblins, together with the Fantasy Character called Gollum (who Bilbo meets beneath the Mountains). Whose Gollum you say? For me, he's a key ingredient, to the popularity of Bilbo - as after Bilbo meets Gollum, does Bilbo's character, seem to tend towards an advisor (for the Dwarves). Thus do I feel, that it seems to be Fate, that Bilbo was destined for Adventure - in the first place :) Finally: an important question arises - is it still worth reading The Hobbit book, after you have watched the three Hobbit Fantasy Films? Yes is the answer to that! The Hobbit book, I found to be much simpler (less extravagant), and as such did it seem - much more magical :) Just one thing remains, where is that Treasure Map? And thank goodness for the Adventurous side - of the Took in Baggins :)
An Urban Fantasy Tale, that's now a Classic, that defined the Pearls of Fantasy, and the Spirits of Adventure - for many a Sunday afternoon :) It's The Goonies:
Whilst the Pirates Fantasy storyline, may take a while to get going - once The Goonies find that Treasure Map, there's no stopping them ... And it is here that this Fantasy Film, connects strongly with the Dreams of my Childhood - as I always thought that it would be fun, to find a Treasure Map! There'd be Parchment Frays - that Guide the Way. There'd be Spanish Prose - that Give a Clue. There'd be Island Shapes - that Rock the Boat. There'd be Skull and Bones - that Mark the Spot! And so it is, with the Fantasy Locations, that are found within - The Goonies ... There's Glowing Lantern Caves - with Falling Rocks and Pit of Spikes. There's Silent Guarding Stones - with Voices Bat and Waters Fall. There's Tranquil Wishing Well - with Pegs of Three and Skeleton Key. There's Caves of Door in Skull - with Glowing Eyes and Slippery Logs. There's Awe and Shock Piano - with Rights of Tune and Screams of Fall. There's Drawbridge cast from Rock - with Water Chutes and Shout Geronimo! But the best Fantasy Location for me, is the Pirates Hidden Cove/Cave, with the Pirate Ship of One Eyed Willie (the Inferno), moored at ease :) I just loved the appearance of the Pirate Ship, which appears somewhat magical, in the majestic jewel-like waters (of it's Fantasy Cave). I also liked the idea, of this Fantasy Cave, being the final refuge/hiding place, of the Mythical Fantasy Pirate - One Eyed Willie :) And of course, it is both the Pirate Ship, and the Fantasy Cave, that form the centrepieces, for the Swashbuckling climatic action: the finding of the Pirate's Treasure, the greeting of One Eyed Willie, the Plundering of the Loot, the Walking of the Plank, the Climbing of the Masts, and the Raising of the Anchor! And of my favourite Fantasy Characters? Well ... First: there is Chunk (a Goonie). I was sold on that scene, where he first enters Mikey and Brand's parents house (two fellow Goonies) - as its just the way he stands there, telling a tale (after the Truffle Shuffle!). Chunk's character, primarily revolves around the thought of food, and is intermixed with his ability to break things (such as smashing down doors, and dropping Treasure Maps). Which in-turn, leads to two of my favourite comedy scenes (of all time): i) where Chunk tells the Tale, of the Fake Puke :) And ii) Where Chunk becomes - Captain Chunk! I almost fell of the sofa with that one - especially with his Cutlass, and Pirate's Hat :) Second: there is Data (a fellow Goonie), who adds to the comedy of the film, with his range of Crazy Inventions. It is Data that falls into the Pit of Spikes - only to be saved by his Pinchers of Power. It is Data that covers the Boat Mast Bridge, with an oily substance (secreted from his Slick Shoes/trainers), that leads to an hilarious scene, with the villains of this film. And it is Data, that falls through the roof/hatch of the Pirate Ship, and goes into a whole ranting rave! Watching that rant with subtitles (turned on), really made me laugh :) Third: is the Fantasy Pirate, One Eyed Willie himself. Granted, he may only appear for a short time within the film (as he is a Skeleton) - but his character is built from the outset, as a Pirate that ... Stole a Pirate's Loot - with little hope of running a Navy Blockade. Who is instead forced to hide his ship (the Inferno) in a Pirate's Cave - whilst devising an entire series of Booby Traps (to protect his Treasure). He is also a Pirate, that has an Eye Patch to match - who sits Pride of Place, at the Captain's Table :) I also liked the twist, that surrounds Willie's Gold - as there's one more Booby Trap, that's only to be triggered, by those who are too Greedy! Would that be you then? Who took those Golden Coins? In any case, I found something of a parallel, between The Goonies, and One Eyed Willie's Pirates Crew - as both seemed to me, to be of Motley Crews :) Overall: I love the fact that this film, takes the Fantasy Tales of a Pirate, and merges it with the Childhood Friends, that we all once had ... There's something of the Pirate: Treasure, Treasure Chests, and Pirates and their Pirate Ships. Mixed with something of our Childhood: when we'd all just hop onto a bike, and head off of out for an Adventure :) There's something of Romance: a Childhood Kiss, a First Real Love - of Pirates and their Pirate's Lore! As we all wanted to be a Pirate - didn't we? And there's something that I just learnt - as it's only recently (watching this film), that I have at last, finally realised/understood, exactly where Mikey's bag of Gems and Jewels comes from (towards the end of the film). For some reason (over the years), I'd managed to miss Mikey with that line: bye bye marbles (at One Eyed Willies Captain's Table). It's Captain Chunk you know!
Hey mon - woh there! Da thee seek Adventure? Or da thee seek our Treasures in da Cave? Be off with thee! This be no place for Weak of Spirit ... From Mountain Caves to Under Hills. From Roots so Deep to Stones in Peril. Speak up now! What Magic you say? Tread lightly mon! Be gone! Be gone! This Spirit we have, born in Quest. This Spirit we have, Transcend through Time:
At Norway's foot ya say? Yee are not the first to utter this phrase! In Scandinavia ya say? Yee shall not be the last to verb this way! I speak in Nature, I speak of Charm. For we've a family of Trolls - that bar ya way, along thy way, to Trollville. Bee - no Sunlight here, on Cloudy Day! I speak da Riddle, I speak da Door. What say yee, oh Smiley Troll? Two hands in pocket, with Forest step - da dips me toes, in Icy Spring: Butterfly. What say yee, oh skiing Troll? Two feet in place, with Mountain curve - da shouts me name, from Sloping side: Spring. From Trollville da we - Smiley Ski! What say yee, two-headed Troll? The branching of da River pass, the roots upon da Barking Tree - da Seas me swim, through Rapids ahead: Forth. What say yee, oh Hiking Troll? One hand in place, with Nature's Wood - da Tweets me worm, from Cuckoo in nest: Pass. From Trollville da we - two Paths to Hike! What say yee, oh Bearded Troll? Two Greys in White, with Windy hair - da Hides me way, from Greener hat: Yee. What say yee, oh Wizened Troll? With Magic of me, plus rhyme in thee - da Guides me way, from Norse to thee: Knot. From Trollville da we - Bearded Wise! For we've a family of Trolls - that bar yee way, along thy way, to Trollville: Butterfly Spring Forth - Pass Yee Knot! What's that you say? How dare you speak! Be turned to Stone ... These Trolls of Trollville, know thy Runes! Adventure: he seeks the way - but Trolls and their Magic, twists trails. Peril: she seeks the Gold - but Trolls and their Magic, like da Self, do Good in Life. Quest: they seek fulfilment - but Trolls and their Magic, go Fast or Slow but Go! What's that you say? You seek the Spirit of Norway? Well ... There be Seaside Towns, with Lantern pools. There be Homely Inns, with sense of Quite. There be Warring Blood, with Songs of Viking. There be ... Viking Longboat? We know thy name! Troll Magic - be Still be Quite ... In sense of Touch, this Viking name. In heat of Fire, this Viking came. In cold of Steel, this Viking thrust. In Valhalla, this Maelstrom ride! For wee six Trolls, bar yee way ... In Norway flows, with Seas of Wrath. In Arctic swells, with Wrath of Ice. In Mountain foot, with Blades of Rock. In Northern heights, with Shards of Mist. In Thoughts of Doubt, with Seeds of Self. In Thoughts of Lone, with by Myself. Go back! Go back! For wee six Trolls, test your Soul ... This Norway Spirit, in Paths of Daring. This Norway Spirit, Refusal to Quit. This Norway Spirit, Abide in Time. This Norway Spirit, with Thoughts of Flame. This Norway Spirit, with Strength in Grip. This Norway Spirit, with Know thy Truth! For wee six Trolls - know Spells of Old. For wee six Trolls - know Paths of Power. For wee six Trolls - know Beauty and Charm. A Spell we Cast, for Tests be Past ... Yee may pass. To Trollville!
This is by far the best Sword and Sorcery fantasy novel that I have ever read:
I was hooked from the first page! Prince Rupert has been sent upon a Quest: to slay a Dragon and rescue a Princess. But being Prince Rupert, the Quest does not go according to plan - and it is instead, just the start of his Adventures! I especially like the fact that the novel is packed full of Quests - both main Quests (such as the Quest to find the High Warlock) and sub Quests (such as the Quest to find out what has happened in Coppertown). Prince Rupert is not your typical Prince - he is a Second Son (in line to the Throne), and was regarded as a good-for-nothing (by most of Castle Society). I like the fact that Prince Rupert has numerous challenges to overcome, and in doing so, proves them all wrong! Even so, it's his Quest for the Dragon that changes his Character the most, as he has to pass through the Darkwood - which hones his fighting skills (by improving them the hard way), and earns him new friends (with which he returns to Forest Castle). My favourite main Quest has to be the Quest to find the High Warlock - as I like the fact that Prince Rupert takes command of an entire Troop of Guards, together with the Kings Champion, and leads them into the Darkwood. It is hear that the Champion starts to gain some respect for the Prince Rupert (instead of just seeing him as a threat to the Throne). I laughed when they first met the High Warlock - as he is somewhat anti-social, has some-what lost touch with the world (not having been outside his Dark Tower for years), and puts a Dead Rat in every barrel of Wine that he brews! He is also the most powerful Sorcerer that the Forest Land has ever known - and is perhaps, the only hope of throwing back the advance of the Darkwood (a Magical place that's full of Demons and the Night). Both the High Warlock, and the Dragon, provide much of the comedy (for me) - especially when it comes to what the Dragon wants to eat (mountains of food first, then will talk). My favourite minor Quest has to be when the Princess Julia (a friend of Prince Rupert's) goes on an expedition (within Forest Castle) to find the Old Armoury (which happens to be in the missing South Wing). How can a Castle Wing go missing you ask? Well, Forest Castle is somewhat unique: with Ancient Spells and Wards cast within it's walls - it's larger on the inside (than it is on the outside), and as such, most of the Castle rooms/halls change places everyday! I was excited when the Princess Julia (eventually) stands before the Doors to the Old Armoury - especially when you learn/remember that it's also where the most Powerful Swords ever made by Man are kept (the three Infernal Devices) - the three Broadswords, Rockbreaker, Flarebright and Wolfsbane. The storyline manages to merge Battlefield Drama with Castle Politics and Intrigue. There's a Plot to Overthrow the King, and appoint a new one (although not who you would expect). There's also several Traitors (one who I had expected all along), and another (who I didn't see until the very end). My favourite Warrior has to be the Kings Champion. The Tale goes to great lengths to build him into a Hero out of Legend (which indeed he is): towering above the heads of mortal men, covered from head-to-toe in the Armour of a Knight, swinging his Axe effortlessly (against a never ending Tide of Foes), placing the Might of Steel above all others - defiantly against the use of Magic (although there's a twist towards the end!). I also approve of the use of Magic within this Tale - with it's first use being when the Dragon casts a Spell, so that Prince Rupert may make the Rainbow Run: a light appears before him (like a Will-o'-the-wisp) that leads him to his Destiny (or at least - part of it). I also liked the idea of the High Warlocks Teleportation Spell - although as we learn, he is not the only Sorcerer that's capable of such magic. I also enjoyed reading the parts where the High Warlock flies high above the heads of his Foes - casting Bale-fire, denying entrance to the Foes of Forest Castle. Another favourite Fantasy Character (of mine) is Breeze - Prince Rupert's Unicorn. He is also Prince Rupert's friend - who grumbles when he is fed grass (wanting barley only), who fights by his side (saying that the Prince won't last long without him) and who jokes from time to time (especially the part where Prince Rupert says: Were just going back into the Darkwood a little way - and Breeze replies: So I'll suppose we'll only be killed a little bit. Forget it!). Overall: this is an amazing Tale - which has kept me turning the pages, until many the early hours. I'm still amazed at how much the author (Simon R. Green) has managed to pack into just over four hundred and forty pages - whilst not seeming to rush the Tale (at all). If you like Adventure and Fantasy, mixed with Swords and Bale-fire, mixed with a Dragon and a Unicorn, mixed with Demons and a Demon Prince - then this is a Fantasy Book/Novel that you should definitely consider reading! It's also a book that I've reread several times over the past few years - five or six times now, as I enjoyed reading it so very much!