Tag Archive | February Fantasy Month

A Ramble on Ranger’s Apprentice

I recently read the The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice, #1) by John Flanagan.

In honor of February #FantasyMonth (hosted by Jenelle Schmidt) I want to share some thoughts about this book.

I’m foregoing my usual review format to just ramble a little about things it made me think about, and I hope you’ll enjoy. 🙂

(Note: I haven’t read the rest of the series yet. I just want to talk about the first Ranger’s Apprentice book today.)

Ranger’s Apprentice: Book 1 (The Ruins of Gorlan)

On the surface, it’s just a fun, YA fantasy book about fifteen-year-old Will and a sort of coming-of-age tale with swords and bows and rangers in a medieval-esque world, and a much more straightforward, less-convoluted story.

And it is all of that.

But beneath the surface there are other things going on (at least to this reader) which I’ll get to later.

It’s very funny, in a dry, kind of sarcastic way, that sometimes you almost don’t catch — and then you do and it’s HILARIOUS and you’re not totally sure why. Will doesn’t always “get it” when Halt makes little jabs and jibes and wry comments but I love it. XD

I love Will! He’s such a fun little character and just… I don’t know… he’s classic, somehow. And I like how he’s very determined and doesn’t give up.

Halt is the absolute best!! One of my favorite mentor characters. He’s an amazing Ranger and I just… I can’t describe how cool he is, but he’s awesome. Hands-down the best thing about this book! (And the main reason I read it. ;))

And I love some of the other characters, like Gilan (he’s awesome!) and Tug the pony (SO ADORBZ!!) and Horace and so on. And the Rangers are fabulous.

Did I mention it’s funny? I love funny books!

And it’s just fun fantasy, and good old-fashioned Good vs. Evil. Speaking of which…

“There’s Some Good in This World, Mr. Frodo”

One thing I noticed that was refreshing was there are good people in this book and a lot of them are just… nice.

I mean, sure, there were villains. And a few bullies. And Horace and Will both had their moments of disagreement or resentment — it’s not like they weren’t human. And by nice I don’t mean everyone was always sunshine, but they were GOOD.

I remember as I was reading, I kept expecting that everyone would be nasty to everyone else. I expected the wards to have had a miserable time growing up; and the Baron to be mean; and Sir Roderick to be mean; and for the villagers to be mean. That’s how I feel like most books these days would do it. But you know what? Their lives weren’t actually terrible; the Baron was super nice and really did want the best for these kids; Sir Roderick may not have known about the bully problem but he did want the best for Horace; the villagers might have been wary of Rangers in general through ignorance, but they were goodnaturedly applauding certain exploits of the hero(es).

The thing is, I’ve grown used to the usual setup of many books these days, where the characters are so flawed and “realistic” that… they’re not actually realistic anymore. People say you can’t have “perfect” characters and that you have to give your characters flaws; that’s all well and good. But that doesn’t mean that every character (or person in real life) you run into is going to be a terrible person! That’s just… not true?? I mean, yes, there are bad people, both in life and in fiction, but that doesn’t mean every character has to be out to ruin our heroes’ lives… or be mean-spirited… or whatever. There can be the forces of good and they can be ordinary people like you and me, and they can be nice — and there will still be tension, I promise! (I first noticed this issue when I read the Bright Empires series by Stephen R. Lawhead and was so shocked — in a good way — by how there were actually *gasp* good people in the world, that it made me realize that most books are not this way.)

Anyway, minor rant over. I didn’t mean to go into all of that. My POINT is that it was SO, SO refreshing reading this book and every time I ran into one of the “good guys”, they were exactly that. The villains and bullies were the bad guys. But the good guys were GOOD. And they have their flaws and have to work on life just as you and I do, but the good was good and the evil was evil and I LOVE that. And I MISS that. And I was surprised how big of a difference this seemingly insignificant aspect of the book made in making me enjoy it. 🙂 There was a clear divide between the good people and the bad, and it was refreshing, and something you can get away with in fantasy — or you used to, anyway.

Sometimes you want to focus on GOOD things instead of the things that are just stressful to read about. And I loved that I was able to just enjoy this book, for that reason and others. 🙂

There’s a Place For You, Just Waiting…

Another thing I absolutely loved was something a little hard to explain but I’ll do my best.

In the book, Will has always dreamed of going to the battle school to become a knight, but he’s turned down because he’s too small. Then he unexpectedly becomes Halt’s apprentice. (Not a spoiler! It’s called Ranger’s Apprentice; it’s in the title.)

And the thing is, it’s obvious to Halt, and to the reader, that Will is MEANT to be a Ranger. He’s small and light and quick and agile, and he has this habit of sneaking around without being noticed, and climbing trees and walls and living his own kind of solitary life, even in a community setting like the castle where he’s one of the wards.

A Ranger is supposed to be good at all of those things, and it’s immediately clear to me, as I read it, that Will Is A Ranger and that’s where he really fits.

But the funny thing is — he has no idea. At all. He has these skills, but he doesn’t really realize he has them, or think of them as skills, or realize he can put them to use as a Ranger’s Apprentice.

And I think that’s true of a lot of us. How many of us have things we could do, callings we could follow, jobs we could fill, that we’d fit into just perfectly, and we just… don’t realize it? Don’t think there’s anything special about us? Think we’re misfits and don’t belong?

As we watch Will trying out this new, unexpected turn of his life, and see him find his place in the world — really find it — it was just deeply satisfying to me.

And it made me think — oh. Sometimes, as a writer and whatever else it is I’ll be one day, if I’m feeling like I don’t know what skills I have or what to do with my life, or like I don’t fit in and there’s no place for me… I’m wrong. Because you know what? There IS. I have to find my “Ranger skills” and my “Rangers” and then I’ll be home and have found my place.

Especially if I work hard on it…

Keep Trying and You’ll Get There

Because the third and final “deep” thing I pulled out of this, was the fact that when we watch Will learning his Ranger’s craft, it just… well… inspired me. I might be rubbish at learning the things he had to learn — how to shoot arrows and ride a horse and how to track and be stealthy and unseen and live in the wilderness — but watching him learn them, and seeing him just keep at it and become adept at these things… it inspired me.

Because he just kept trying and he was able to do it. I saw him go from an uncertain lad who was rather timid and didn’t know what his skills were, to a confident lad who has conquered these skills and is every inch a true Ranger’s Apprentice. I saw it happen, and it showed me that it’s not impossible to learn and become better at something, to master it. Especially if you have a good mentor and just don’t quit.

If I’d been in Will’s shoes (boots?), I would have stared at what needed to be learned/accomplished, and been crippled by doubts and “I-can’t-do-its”. But Will didn’t. And Halt wouldn’t stand for that anyway. (I’d be a terrible Ranger’s apprentice. XD)

BUT. If you just start something, and tackle it, and hang on and keep trying… then we too can learn and conquer the things we need to learn and do. Which is something I know in theory… but seeing it play out on the page, in this little story of characters I love, with fun and humor and an enjoyable fantasy story, I saw it, and I believed it, and so now I Know it, instead of just knowing it in theory.

Fin

That may sound odd. I mean, what do I mean by saying this “unrealistic” book, this Fantasy (oh, escapism; oh, horror. …’Scuse the Halt-ish sarcasm.) taught me things? I mean, who am I, finding things in a fantasy novel which teach me things about life? Shouldn’t I just find these things in some self-help blog?

But the thing is . . . it took a story — a real story, which I enjoyed and which was just for fun, not one that set out to do this (because I suspect then it would not have sunk in nearly as deeply, if at all) — to prod at my subconscious and bring out things that I kind of knew or suspected but hadn’t ever thought of in that way before. It inspired me and let me put it into words.

To know that you have skills and a place in the world, that you have YOUR Rangers to find that might be somewhere out there in the world, is a liberating thought. And so is seeing that keeping on and practicing can make a difference. I can know a thing in theory without really knowing it, and that’s what I’m trying to say.

What I’m trying to say is, even though this is just a fun little book, and I enjoyed it as simply a good STORY, it also made me happy to see Good people and was like a breath of fresh air, and it showed me there’s a place for everyone. Even if you feel like you don’t fit in — especially if you feel like you don’t fit in; it’s Will’s uniqueness that makes him the perfect fit for a job that only a handful of people can fulfill — there’s somewhere that you belong, even if you don’t know what it is yet. Something you can DO, that you’re meant to do. We just have to find it. And no matter how impossible a thing may seem, if you just keep at it, you can succeed.

I’m not saying it’s one of the the greatest books I’ve ever read, or one of the most profound; I’m not even saying that it will be this way for anyone else.

But the thing is . . . it doesn’t have to be.

It’s a fun and light read which I spent an enjoyable morning with and just… made me happy.

And that’s all it needs to be.

And, while it was at it, it showed me things about life where I’m at right now, without — I’m sure — really meaning to.

It made me smile and taught me things.

And isn’t that one of the things good Fantasy is best at?

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February Fantasy Month 2018/Nightstand!

Some books I want to read this month. And oh! It’s Benedict Pendragon, my little dragon, popping in for a look! ^_^

Hello, dear page dreamers!

It’s February, and that means it’s time to celebrate . . . FANTASY MONTH!

Yes, indeed, one of my favorite times of year! 😉

Jenelle Schmidt is once again hosting February is Fantasy Month, and she has all sorts of fun things planned, so be sure to check out her blog!

Also, this time she has a splendid daily hashtag game/meme, so I’m hoping to do that on my Twitter each day. Check out the prompts and feel free to join in the fun on the social media of your choice with the hashtag #FantasyMonth!

Today I figured I’d share my Nightstand Books for February (which is another meme created by Jenelle Schmidt, and DJ Edwardson, where we share our currently-reading books each month)!

I have QUITE the ambitions for reading this month; whether or not I’ll get to them all is another matter. XD There always seems to be something else to read that pops up in the middle of the month and takes over from my previously scheduled plans. But it’s all for fun, and talking about books is everyone’s (or at least MY) favorite thing to do other than reading them, so, ONWARD!

Nearly all of these are Fantasy, in honor of the month. 😀 (Titles are linked and lead to Goodreads.)

Daily Readings

  • Hall of Heroes(anthology) 27 fantasy short stories by members of the Fellowship of Fantasy should be just right for February Fantasy Month… 😉 I won this lovely copy in a giveaway and I’m excited to dive in! 🙂 (The ebook version is available for free on Amazon!)
  • Tolkien and The Silmarillion – Clyde S. Kilby [and] Finding God in The Lord of the Rings – Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware(non-fiction) These two together have just the right number of chapters for daily reading in February, if I can manage it. I really enjoyed my daily readings of Mere Christianity and Tolkien: A Celebration, during January, so we’ll see if I can keep it up!

Nightstand

  • A Matter of Magic – Patricia C. Wrede — I’ve been meaning to read this ever since Christmas and I can’t wait! 😀 (Someday I will allow myself to read for fun. And when that day comes, I will read this. XD)
  • Adela’s Curse – Claire M. Banschbach — I got this during NaNo and somehow have been too busy to read it… but I’m determined to because it’s tiny and sounds fantastic! Because faeriiiies!
  • Lady Moon – Rachel Starr Thomson — I actually got this for my birthday LAST year (because it was highly recommended by my friend Mary Horton) and I’ve been putting it off because I want to love it SO BADLY that I’m afraid to start reading it. XD But I really ought to read it before my next birthday, AND it’s currently Fantasy Month, so of course it needs to go on this list.
  • The Children of Hurin – J.R.R. Tolkien(re-read) Last year I re-read The Silmarillion and read the new Beren and Luthien book, so this is next on my Tolkien list, if I can get to it! Looking forward to it. ^_^

Ebooks

  • Minstrel’s Call – Jenelle Leanne Schmidt(for review) This is coming out February 28 and I’m an ARC reader and it’s the LAST book in the series and alksdjfljd I’M EXCITED. (Also petrified; but… y’know. XD) Cover reveal coming soon!
  • Dissemble – Sarah Addison-Fox(for review) After enjoying Disowned last month, I’m excited to be reading this sequel, releasing February 22! It’s starting off a bit choppy but I’m otherwise intrigued so far. 🙂
  • The Lady and the Frog – L. Palmer(bookclub) This is the Fellowship of Fantasy book of the month for February and it sounds absolutely delightful. ^_^
  • Presumption and Partiality – Rebekah Jones — What is a non-fantasy book doing on this list? *gasp* Juuuust kidding! But this is the final Vintage Jane Austen book and I’ve been meaning to read it since it released (because Pride and Prejudice retelling!) so I’m hoping to get to it soon! (Also there’s going to be a great Kindle Countdown sale for the whole series, the week of Valentine’s Day, so watch for that!)
  • Battle for the Throne – E. J. Willis(for review) Another review book, I don’t know much about this one but it’s fantasy and sounds intriguing! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

How about you? Are you excited for Fantasy Month? Planning to do the hashtag game? (It would work as a great tag on a blog, too!) What’s on your bookish “nightstand”?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer / Deborah O’Carroll

The Ordinary Princess (Fantasy Love Feb. Challenge 4)

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And now for the 4th and final blog mini challenge for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge, which is to reread or rewatch a fantasy favorite movie or book, and share in a blog post what’s so fantastic about it that made you want to re-adventure with it.

I picked . . .

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye

“You shall be ordinary.” So proclaimed the fairy Crustacea at the christening of Her Serene Royal Highness, Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne. And ordinary she was. With mousy brown hair, a turned-up nose and freckles, Princess Amy was nothing like her six blond, beautiful princess sisters. She was so ordinary, in fact, that no prince could be found to marry her. But that didn’t bother Amy. Who wanted to marry a stuffy old prince, anyway? Amy had other ideas about how to spend her life. Like running off to the forest . . . and an enchanting adventure all her own.

–Summary from the back

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I first read The Ordinary Princess in April last year, and fell in love with it instantly. ❤ I was so tempted to reread it the moment I finished it, but refrained… and now this was a perfect chance to pick it up again.

So last night I did, and devoured it all over again in an hour and a half. It’s a short read, but oh so lovely!

How can I even DESCRIBE it? It’s probably my favorite little fairytale-esque story ever. Yes, it’s THAT good.

It just has this perfect fairytale feel — it’s like an original fairytale with some nods to a few classic ones, such as starting out with a Sleeping Beauty-esque christening with fairy gifts etc. (The king even makes a reference to his great-great-something-grandmother, who evidently WAS Sleeping Beauty! Isn’t that perfect? <3) And something like the song Cinderella sings in the new Cinderella movie, and a few other things.

It has all the classic fairytale feel, and yet it’s a totally original fairytale, turning many of the old plot devices on their heads! To say much more would be to spoil the marvelous tale, but be assured that whether you like new or old tales, it will satisfy you either way.

In the author’s note, she says she wrote it one spring in an apple orchard in blossom in Kent, England, and that it practically wrote itself. All of this makes perfect sense. It’s exactly the sort of beautiful little tale that would be perfect to be made in a blooming apple orchard in England! It just FEELS like that.

It has this fabulous writing style, like many old fairytales and yet even better somehow, which is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious (don’t ask how. It just is). I don’t even know how the author did it, but it just has this perfect FEEL. There’s not a single thing I dislike about it.

And the illustrations!! It was also illustrated by the author, and they’re just the most darling, beautiful, yet simplistic and perfect drawings ever! ❤ They perfectly capture these lovely medieval fairytale kingdoms and characters. (It’s just the sort of setting I love the most in books!)

ordinaryprincessillustrationMMKaye

Then the characters, all of whom are fabulous. Even the side characters have a lot of spirit to them, from the myriad councilors and ministers of two different kingdoms, to the king and queen, to the adorable animal friends of Amy, a red squirrel (one Mr Pemberthy) and a crow (Peter Aurelious), to the fairy Crustacea, the old fairy of the waters with hornrimmed spectacles who tends to drip and be somewhat cranky when she’s held up in traffic trying to reach the christening. (Seriously, the whole thing is fabulous like that.)

The heroine, (Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne; a.k.a. “Amy”), the Ordinary Princess herself, is quite fun, and then the eventual hero, Peregrine! Oh my goodness, Peregrine was so wonderful! His lines, so British and fantastic, and only he would be met eating ice cream in the middle of the night in the midst of the leftovers of a banquet! So much wonderful. And they two of them together are just perfect and sweet and funny. I love them so much. ❤

The story itself is simply a rollick. The perfect fairytale mix of whimsical, fun, lovely, and slightly worried hoping everything will turn out all right, but being fairly sure it will, with a few twists which are absolutely perfect. (I know I keep using that word, but I will not apologize — I can’t think of a better one.)

The writing, style, setting, humor, sweetness, illustrations, characters, story, dialog — it’s just all so fantabulous, I can’t get over it!! *flails around*

I simply can’t describe how perfect it is, and the only thing for it is for you to read it yourself.

If you love fairytales new and old, fun little books, a touch of adorable sweet romance, a bit of “English” feeling and wonderful dialog and humor, and just an all around lovely read, you simply MUST read The Ordinary Princess! It’s sweet, adorable, lovely, gorgeous, hilarious, and just all-around PERFECT.

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…There is my fangirl gushing for the day. 😉

It was just the perfect thing to read for this reading challenge, and February Fantasy Month and all! ^_^

***

I must say, I’ve been very much enjoying the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge, and all the little challenges, and everything, and will be sad to see its end. But enormous thanks to Grace @ Fictionally for hosting it! I’ve been having a blast! 🙂

And although I sadly did not read all of the fantasy books I’d PLANNED to read, due to acquiring some different fantasy-ish books and reading them instead, I still have a few reviews to come in the next day or two! Since I did read The Castle Corona, Wolf Tower, and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, hopefully I’ll review those soon!

***

So how about you? Have you read The Ordinary Princess? What did you think? If not, then what are you waiting for, my good bookworms? Do not delay!

(But seriously though, READ THE ORDINARY PRINCESS. It’s so good. <3)

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Fantasy Fan-Art

FantasyLoveFebruaryReadingChallenge

I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m linking up with this week’s Mini Challenge for the Fantasy Love February (hosted by Grace @ Fictionally) which is to share some Fantastic Art! 🙂

(See the challenge post with the other linkers here — even join in the linkup if you like, with some fantasy art or photography or poetry or whatever! 🙂 — and read about the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge here.)

I have no claims that these bits of fan-art are fantastic in any way other than that they are a) fan-art and, b) from fantasy books I love… but here you go. I am very rarely artistic with anything other than words, hence writing is my art of choice instead of drawing… But I do occasionally draw things, if I have inspiration. (Which is rare.) I’m also a perfectionist so I rarely consider something “finished” but oh well.

Here are a couple of fan art pieces that I drew once upon a time. (Once Upon A Time. Get it? 😀 Like… fairytales and fantasy and… Ahem. Nevermind… :P) (Also I hope it’s not cheating to not actually draw/make something this week? I really wanted to but had no inspiration and no time. *sadface*)

AchanChamFanart
Achan Cham from The Blood of Kings Trilogy (By Darkness Hid, To Darkness Fled, From Darkness Won) by Jill Williamson

As you can see, I sketched this from the cover of the third book, From Darkness Won, just as a sketching exercise, and didn’t spend too much effort on it. (Which is why there seems to be something wrong with his nose, in particular…? Also my scanner seemed to decide it would be a great time to act up and not scan properly… 😛 My apologies.)

Achan is the hero of the Blood of Kings trilogy and just for the record he’s one of my favoritest heroes EVER.

Like… ordinarily my favorite character in a book tends to be some side character who doesn’t get much screen time page time. But I think I can honestly say that Achan is my favorite character in the trilogy. He’s just great and has this dry sense of humor and makes mistakes but keeps trying and you just gotta love him. Best main character ever! (Or one of, at least.)

I seriously need to reread those books… They’re really fabulous Medieval Fantasy! And if you haven’t read them, they’re definitely worth a read. 🙂

RakketyTamFanArt

Rakkety Tam MacBurl (from Rakkety Tam by Brian Jacques in the Redwall series)

Slightly cartoonish, but I had a lot of fun with this one — not to mention it’s an oddity in that it’s one of my few drawings that actually has color!

For those who don’t know (you’re missing out!) Rakkety Tam is an awesome squirrel warrior in one of the Redwall books, and he (obviously) wears a kilt and has a Scottish accent and is basically one of my favorite Redwall characters and one of my favorite Redwall books. Though I admit I haven’t actually READ it… in that I listened to the audiobook (several times) because of the fabulous full cast and all their glorious accents. Seriously. So much awesome. Anyways he’s a fabulous warrior hero, and he’s Scottish, and he’s a squirrel, and basically what is not to love? ❤ (For those who are curious, my top favorite Redwall books are Mossflower, Taggerung, and Rakkety Tam. And they are all overdue for a reread… or perhaps a relisten?)

So there is my foray into some fantasy fan-art.

Make sure to check out the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge (I’ve read 2 on my list so far…), and also remember that February is Fantasy Month! Jenelle Schmidt is still having some fantastic (in more ways than one) posts on her site as well. Join the fun! 🙂

*happily twirls in all of the fantasy-ness*

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