Subseries Highlight: Sword Art Online Alicization Arc (Light Novel)

Sao Volume 9

Absolute Defense Shield, activate!

*ahem*

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’d like to talk about the Alicization Arc in a series I like both watching and reading despite acknowledging its many flaws! I’m aware that Sword Art Online receives a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and a lot of hatred, which feels a bit extreme. Regardless, I’ve been enjoying the latest arc in the light novels, and at least some of the content from that arc is going to be the subject of the anime’s upcoming season 3, so I decided to talk about it anyway! After all, I’m all about enjoying the best parts of a story despite its flaws and, in my opinion, this arc is the best that mainstream SAO has to offer so far. Flame me if you must – or try. This shield will never break!

An overview of the Alicization Arc’s role in the light novels – it encompasses volumes 9 through 18, so, by the end, it claims more than half of SAO up to that point. Until now, only volumes 9 through 14 have been officially translated into English, so even I don’t know how this all ends! However, as I understand it, the Alicization Arc can be split into two subarcs, and I’ve finished the first of those, and I really enjoyed it! I have no idea if season 3 of the anime can adapt 10 volumes of material – previously, the 25 episode seasons have covered 4 volumes each, so if season 3 is to tell us the full story of the Alicization Arc, I imagine it would have to be at least 50 episodes long. Maybe they’ll split it into two seasons.

I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of the story whether you watch it or read it, so I plan to keep spoilers to a minimum. That said, I will touch on some plot points from volume 9 and hint at some facts from volume 10. Also, anything that happened in seasons 1 and 2 of the anime or volumes 1-8 of the light novels is fair game.

Volume 9 opens up… strangely. Kirito has somehow become younger. He lives in a small town called Rulid with his friends Eugeo and Alice. The setting is that of the start of a typical fantasy game. A simple village. Lush forests. A dark land beyond that none may enter. The people of this world are ruled by the Axiom Church and its Taboo Index, a set of rules that are not only absolute laws, but literally unbreakable. For most people. Heroes called Integrity Knights uphold the laws and protect the people from the denizens of the forbidden land. Rulid is to be a place of order and stability. As you might expect, that doesn’t stop Kirito – who has only ever known this world – from going on an adventure with his friends. An adventure that leads to dire consequences.

Then he wakes up. He was just testing a game for an acquaintance of his in the MMO industry. Whoops! That almost got dramatic! He recalls nothing of the time he spent in that world.

He then hangs out with his real life friends, including his girlfriend Asuna, his AI daughter Yui, and Sinon, a player of a competitive MMO called Gun Gale Online. The latter recounts the tale of her attempt to win a major tournament only to be defeated by an opponent who told her that her soul would be sweet. Creepy! Afterwards, Kirito and Asuna leave together – and are confronted with something truly frightening.

The Death Gun murders, previously stopped by Kirito and Sinon, were carried out by two former members of Laughing Coffin, a murderer’s guild from the original SAO, and one of their brothers. While the two siblings were brought to justice, the third person was never caught. And he – known as Johnny Black – wasn’t particularly happy with Kirito. So, in the middle of the night, Kirito finds himself the victim of a real life attack using the same substance that Death Gun used for his killings.

When Kirito wakes up, he’s back in that fantasy world, now his proper age – and with all his memories, save for the ones of his previous time in that world. Before long, he realizes it’s a virtual world, but that the inhabitants are not mere AI like in previous MMOs, but fully fledged people. With the help of a friend, he embarks on a quest to escape from this world – known as the Underworld – and to better understand the true nature of the people surrounding him. It seems as if his MMO insider acquaintance may have been more than he appeared…

That’s all I’ll say about the story for now! As I mentioned before, I really liked this arc. It touches on themes such as what it truly means to be a human being and delves deep into the characters’ souls. If you like SAO, I recommend reading the light novels and checking out season 3! If you hate SAO, I don’t recommend bothering! If you hate me for liking SAO, please don’t post in the comments below! Otherwise, though, I’d love to see your feedback. Are you excited for the next arc? Interested in watching season 3? Have you already read some of the Alicization Arc, and, if so, what did you think? Feel free to criticize SAO, too – just keep it friendly and civil. I hope you all have a great week!

Review: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows for Silence

Hiyo, everyone! I’m still recovering, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on a novella I read recently: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. That name is a bit of a doozy, so I’ll just be calling it Shadows for Silence for the rest of the review. =p Shadows of Silence was originally written for the anthology Dangerous Women edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. As usual, I plan to avoid spoilers where I can but to cover the premise of the story.

The story takes place on the smaller continent of the world of Threnody, which is dominated by forests haunted by somewhat-sentient ghost-like creatures called Shades that are known to viciously attack people in certain circumstances. It begins at a waystop – in this case, a safe-haven from the shades where all are welcome – with two men discussing the dangerous and notorious bounty hunter named White Fox while one of them weighs his chances with Silence Montane, the woman who runs the waystop. Little do either of them known that Silence is actually responsible for the bulk of White Fox’s work.

But Silence, our protagonist, knows, and she also knows that a dangerous criminal with a huge bounty on his head is present at the waystop, disguised as a merchant. In something of a financial pinch, Silence, with the help of her daughter, William Ann, decides to use a light poison on the merchants to disorient them so they can kill the criminal at night, after he has left, and collect the bounty on his head. This puts them at great risk of drawing the attention of the Shades, whose ire is earned by starting a fire, drawing another’s blood, and running at night. Needless to say, Silence’s plan becomes complicated when unexpected events occur – but that’s all I’m saying for now!

I really liked Shadows for Silence in large part because of its haunting atmosphere and morally gray characters. Even though we didn’t spend much time with her, I felt Silence received strong character development, and I couldn’t help but blaze through the story. I would love to see more of Threnody. The idea of a world dominated by all sorts of latent horrors is super appealing to me. As usual, Sanderson does a good job keeping the story interesting and surprising. While few characters other than Silence herself receive too much development, I felt some were really relatable, especially Sebruki, a young girl whose family was murdered by the criminal Silence was chasing. While Shadows for Silence didn’t have the same striking impact as The Emperor’s Soul did for me, it was a great read, so I rate it 4.8/5.

Have you guys ever read Shadows for Silence? If so, what did you think? Do you know of any other series with eerie atmospheres? (The world of Sabriel fits the bill, and I liked that, too!) Let me know in the comment below! Have a wonderful week!

Review: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

Edgedancer

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson, a novella that’s part of the Stormlight Archive series. As usual, I plan not to spoil Edgedancer itself, just discuss the premise; however, I will spoil a single interlude chapter in the preceding novel, Words of RadianceThe reason is because the information in that chapter is necessary to understand the position of Edgedancer‘s protagonist, Lift.

During that chapter, Lift, a quirky thirteen year old girl with special Surgebinder abilities, attempts to rob Azir’s imperial palace. However, the heist goes wrong, and one of Lift’s teammates, Gawx ends up mortally wounded when the group is attacked by another Surgebinder Lift calls Darkness, who is an agent of the law. At great risk to herself, Lift heals Gawx. It just so happens that the imperial viziers present in the palace had been struggling with an issue where their Prime Agasix (emperor) kept getting assassinated, and they were looking for a new one. They take Gawx’s healing as a miracle, name him their new Prime Agasix, and he legally dismisses Lift’s crimes, leaving Darkness with no excuse to execute her. He leaves, but Lift certainly doesn’t forget about him.

Our story begins when Lift flees the imperial palace, paranoid that the privileged treatment she was receiving was in preparation to eat her. (I did warn you she was unusual.) Lift goes with her spren, Wyndle, who is invisible to everyone else and entirely unenthusiastic about leaving the palace behind. She uses her special abilities (which she refers to as ‘awesomeness’) to quickly travel on a grand quest to… um, actually, she’s not sure. She just doesn’t like staying in one place for too long.

Nevertheless, her overpowering hunger (her abilities are fueled by food) draw her to the Yeddaw, a city built into the ground where trenches replace roads. Being Lift, she quickly gets into trouble for stealing things; her primary targets are pancakes. No, I’m not joking. Before too long, she discovers that Darkness is in Yeddaw, too. Well, maybe she was sort of following him. She’s not entirely certain. In any event, she decides to tail him, and the story takes off from there!

I would say the greatest appeal of Edgedancer is Lift herself. It’s rare to be treated to such an eccentric protagonist. She’s generally a lot of fun to read about, and I find myself wanting more characters like her. She has a rather unique perspective on the world, and that leads her to take actions that aren’t always easy to predict. I’m eager to read more about her in the remaining Stormlight novels.

The setting of Yeddaw is also quite distinctive, and invites the reader to imagine a city that’s probably unlike any other they’ve read about. In my opinion, Edgedancer‘s greatest shortcomings are in its plot and the rest of its characters, who feel somewhat generic. It was pretty easy to figure out what was going on early in the novella, and there was an unfortunate lack of especially emotion-provoking moments, unlike in much of Sanderson’s other work. That’s not to say Edgedancer wasn’t intriguing, ’cause it was, but I’d say it was at its best when giving Lift character moments and showing the reader things from her perspective. She had a solid character arc throughout the novella, one that made sense without being overly predictable.

Overall, I did enjoy Edgedancer, but I would say Lift herself was the only part of the story that really stood out. Therefore, I rate Edgedancer 3.8/5. If you’re a fan of Sanderson’s work (especially the Stormlight Archive), it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Have you guys read any of Sanderson’s work? If so, which did you most enjoy? If not, are there any other books or authors you’re particularly fond of? I’m eager to hear about them in the comments below! Until next time, I hope your life is filled with awesomeness!

 

Successor’s Promise by Trudi Canavan Review

Successor's Promise

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to review a book by one of my favorite authors, Trudi Canavan! I just finished reading Successor’s Promise and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I should note this is the third book in her Millenium’s Rule series. (If you Google that, you may see it referred to as a trilogy, but there’s another one coming, so I guess that label is outdated. =p ) The previous two entries are Thief’s Magic and Angel of Storms. Obviously, I recommend you check those out before reading Successor’s Promise; without having done so, a lot of the story won’t make much sense.

On that note, while I will avoid significant spoilers for Successor’s Promise, there will be spoilers for the previous two books. I’ll try to keep those to a minimum, too, but, without some, I can’t properly describe the premise.

Successor’s Promise takes place across many, many worlds; I don’t know whether the term ‘multiverse’ is appropriate here, but that’s the feeling I get when I read about them. Mages with sufficient power are able to travel between worlds quickly and freely as long as they possess enough magic. The story’s two viewpoint characters, Rielle and Tyen, are exceptionally strong mages. They can also easily read the thoughts of those who are magically weaker than they are, which makes for interesting interactions.

I’ll briefly discuss the backgrounds of our two main characters. Rielle comes from a world with little magic where use thereof is strictly forbidden. She is tricked into using magic and eventually cast out of society for it. She’s delivered to the angel Valhan, who takes her from her world and helps her master her strength – all so he can use her for his own purposes. At the end of the second book, she makes a decision that alienates her from Valhan’s faction.

Tyen’s world also has little magic, in his case, as a result of magical machinery consuming a lot of it. He discovers a book which contains the memories and knowledge of a woman named Vella. After being framed as a thief, he, too, finds himself up against the laws of his world. He flees and, eventually, he finds a way to travel to another world and later encounters the Raen – the ruler of worlds – who forces him to act as a spy for him by posing as a member of the Resistance trying to overthrow him. He does so while trying to protect as many people as possible all while hoping the Raen will find a way to create a body for Vella. In the end, however, the Raen is killed. Tyen’s role as a spy is suspected but not revealed to all, so others remain wary of him.

In Successor’s Promise, the Raen’s most loyal servant, Dahli, endeavors to find a way to resurrect his ruler. He manages to rope Tyen into playing a role using the potential of resurrecting Vella the same way as a bargaining chip. Rielle, on the other hand, feels responsible for the well being of Qall, a boy she saved from the Raen five years (‘cycles’, by in-universe terminology) ago. Dahli is searching for Qall, who has now come of age, and does her utmost to protect him.

I feel I’ve already said enough about the plot, so I’ll stop there. xD It’s quite intricate and is best experienced from the beginning.

As a reader who has been following the series since volume 1, I found it very satisfying to see how the characters have evolved. They’re constantly faced with difficult decisions with strong repercussions. I’m really eager for the fourth volume to arrive, to learn which paths they take and what they’re willing to give up as a price.

I found Successor’s Promise to be quite the page-turner due to its deep lore, introspective characters, thorough world-building, and strong momentum. The only part that seemed a little puzzling to me was an arc near the beginning of the book that served more as a way to bring Rielle and Tyen together than as an important part of the plot. Overall, the book was still excellent! I had a lot of fun watching the plot evolve and hidden truths be revealed. Therefore, I rate Successor’s Promise 4.8/5.

Have you read any of Trudi Canavan’s work? What did you think? Who are some of your favorite authors? Please let me know in the comments below, and thank you for reading! I hope you all have a stellar week. Ciao~

Series Highlight: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Light Novel)

Haruhi Cover

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’ll be talking about the series that got me into reading light novels – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, by Nagaru Tanigawa! Most people familiar with this series probably learned about it by watching the anime, but that alone wasn’t enough for me. I had to get all of Haruhi I could! So, I bought and read all the light novels, and those are what I’ll talk about.

The series follows Kyon, a self-described ‘average guy’ who, as of the beginning of the series, is starting as a student at North High. He finds himself seated in front of the notorious Haruhi Suzumiya, an incredibly eccentric girl who proudly declares during her class introduction that she wants nothing to do with anyone unless they have some link to the paranormal – ghosts, aliens, time travelers, whatever. Despite that, she and Kyon get into the habit of speaking to each other before class each morning.

Kyon learns that Haruhi is bored with the mundane and aggressively seeking something new to spice up her life. She’s known for dating anyone who asks her out, but for breaking off her relationships very quickly. She has also tried out every school club and rejected them all, despite her talent for both academics and sports. Then, Kyon makes his decisive mistake. He suggests she start a club of her own. Haruhi loves the idea, and, of course, Kyon is instantly roped into membership.

After hijacking the Literature Club and assimilating its only member, Haruhi begins the hunt for more. She ends up with a total of five members – each of whom has their own extraordinary quirk. Her club is called the SoS Brigade and is basically focused on doing whatever she feels like doing, whether that be entering a baseball tournament, creating a film, or scouting town for signs of the paranormal.

Kyon soon finds himself in over his head with all of Haruhi’s demands – and the astounding phenomena that surround her to which she is completely oblivious. The story takes many twists and turns from there, which I don’t intend to spoil, so if you haven’t at least watched the anime, I suggest you do!

That said, this highlight is about the light novels, so I should mention some of the storylines that are exclusive to them. But, first, those of you who are veterans of the anime will be happy to hear that the hated Endless Eight takes up only a single chapter in the light novels – the anime’s nonsensical take on that story is its own. Anyway, some of the other circumstances Kyon and his friends deal with in the light novels are as follows:

  • Defending the SoS Brigade against the student council president
  • Kyon finding a duplicate copy of Mikuru Asahina in the Literature Club closet
  • SoS Brigade tryouts.
  • Solving a mystery involving the strange behavior of dogs at a certain location
  • Encountering a second cast of characters that reflect the SoS Brigade members under incredibly convoluted circumstances

I don’t want to delve too deeply into any of those storylines, ’cause spoilers are bad, but the light novels feature even more quirky situations than just those, and if you liked the anime, I suggest you pick up the light novels and read them, beginning to… well, to where the author stopped.

The unfortunate thing about the Haruhi series is that it remains incomplete, and Tanigawa hasn’t published anything in years. He’s on record promising a continuation of the series, but even if that really happens, there’s no telling how long it will take, and no one seems to be quite sure what’s up. Part of me wants to believe this is some crazy gimmick Tanigawa is using to eventually garner more interest (Maybe he’ll claim to have been pulled into an alternate dimension or something! xD), but, realistically, the cause is probably completely ordinary. Haruhi wouldn’t be satisfied at all!

Speaking of Haruhi, I just have to write a little bit about why she’s one of the characters I most look up to in any series. The reason for that is in her unbridled individualism. She knows what’s supposed to be possible and impossible in life, but strives for the impossible anyway. Her free-spiritedness and openness to trying all sorts of things legitimately inspires me. I love her willingness to ignore society’s expectations for her and instead follow a path she really believes in, no matter how unlikely success seems – and her unconscious ability to find magic in the ordinary. She has character flaws, of course, but I’m totally willing to overlook them in the face of her sheer determination to be herself.

Anyway, that’s all for this highlight! Have any of you read the Haruhi light novels, or watched the anime? If so, what did you think? Have you read any light novels at all? Please let me know in the comments below, and have an outstanding week!

Looking for Beta Readers for The Sapphire of Sacrifice

Hiyo, everyone! I’m just posting here to more visibly announce the the book I’m writing, The Sapphire of Sacrifice, is still in need of beta readers! If you’re interested in learning a little more about the book, click this. Feel free to contact me if you’re potentially interested or just want to know more about what being a beta reader entails.

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and have fun!

Ideas for the Title of your Fiction

Hiyo, everyone! I’m making a brief post today. Recently, I’ve had to choose a title for the piece of sample fiction I intend to release here soon, which got me thinking about titles in general. I’ve always had some trouble selecting them, and I figure others probably feel similarly, so I thought I’d share my findings. To emphasize, I am in no way an expert concerning this matter!

Here are some things to consider:

  • Important characters, objects, places, or concepts in the fiction are often used as titles. For example, Lirael and Abhorsen (both by Garth Nix) simply borrow their names from a character or a rank (respectively) already present in the book. Similarly, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins uses the name of the event around which the book is based. If your work contains appropriately intriguing names or terminology, a key word or phrase central to the work may serve as an effective title.
  • If your work is part of a series or existing franchise, a title that ties it to that franchise may be appropriate. This works especially well for longer series.
  • If you’re looking for something deeper, reflect on the themes of your work. A title tied to a key theme can impart a certain weight upon the reader. Many literary works, such as To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, derive their titles from some theme.
  • Tone is important. If your work is a comedy, a silly title may be appropriate. Not so much if your works centers around solemn darkness. The title of your work is something of a promise to those who decide to experience it, so make it reflective of the content within.
  • Unless you’re purposefully trying to convey a sense of complexity (or something similar) in your title, simple is probably better. People often look to fiction for enjoyment, and people generally like things they can relate to, or at least understand to some degree. Unless it works against your purpose, you’re better off with a title that’s intriguing enough to inspire interest but concise enough not to appear entirely alien. I may not be doing a good job of articulating my point here, but the gist of it is that you want to choose a title that appeals to as many people as possible without sacrificing the identity of your work.

And, for now, that’s all. I told you this post would be a short one!

Have any of you struggled to come up with a title for something before? Do you have any tips of your own, or do you disagree with any of my advice? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! I’m eager to hear from you. Happy New Year!