Writing

Chronicles of the Ageless: The Enslaved – Prologue

I am P. A. Wilson, the greatest of all the Ageless, mind reader and espionage expert. Yet as all the Ageless that came before me and all who shall come to be, I’m trapped. My actions are not my own, and never will be. I am enslaved to a tyrant that lives within me; one whose watch never wanes, who is quick in anger and vengeance.

As a mortal, you possess free will…

So why are you still reading? Here are some useful alternative suggestions:

Throw this book out a window. Push it page by page through a paper-shredder. Send it down the river in a boat. Set it on fire. (Everyone loves setting things on fire. I can relate.) Tie it to a rocket and send it to the stars, or at least as high as your model rockets will go. I promise you, this will be the most fun you’ve ever had.

Just don’t read it.

I’m not picky about how you dispose of it. You could just push it far back on a shelf and never touch it again. Put it on a to-do list that you never plan on finishing. Dump it in the library return pile. Return it to the bookstore or casually dunk it into a garbage can.

I presume you are wondering what it is that makes this book so dreadful that the author pleads with you to choose another. So I will tell you, in the hopes that you will heed my words and make the right decision.

It is the maker of prophecies, the one who created the Ageless and monsters to inhabit the Earth, and to rival the native people, the mortals. No matter how wicked any villain may appear in this book, it is inconceivably worse. Remember that.

As Ageless, we do not choose if we are villains or heroes. We do not have the right. Our every move, thought, and ultimately our fates, are meticulously controlled. Our master is known by a simple, one-syllable word.

Phi.

Can you detect the utter hatred with which I wrote that single word? (Oh. I forgot that mortals do not have that ability. Never mind.)

I am being forced to do the Phi’s will; in this case, conveying a message to you mortals. To do this, I have to take on a mission collecting information on four so-called “heroes.” Many Ageless would be honored to undertake such a quest, and perhaps I would be too if it were not for one small detail:

I have to spy on a bunch of children! With all my unique capabilities, I’m stuck…how do you mortals say it? Sitting on babies! If the Phi thinks I’m going to do such an undignified task as this without a fight, it has something coming.

(Like a silent protest.)

Nevertheless, the Phi has its reasons. Clashes between monsters and Ageless have become more prevalent. Some Ageless believe that we are being tested, and that only one race will survive in the end. Yet we are aware that this has happened before. And at that time four heroes rose from the ashes of their previous lives to change the tide of battle, forever locking away the most dangerous races of monsters in a mountainous prison, as the prophecy demanded.

This would be great, except that recently those nasty beasts have been escaping. So much for “forever.” True, it lasted sixty years or so, but that isn’t very long.

The heroes that will rise to fight them are none other than the children I am…sitting on. (I dislike your odd mortal sayings, but the Phi insists that I adapt to the nuances of your language.)

This is not my story. As I am destined to, I will write an account of the lives of our heroes.

Still, any prophecy contains loopholes. If you venture past the prologue you will endure unceasing aggravation, confusion, and chapters where you will leap off cliffs. I mean hang on cliffs.

Hmm.

Anyway, I will offer you some words of advice, in the form of a familiar mortal saying. For your sake I hope these three words knock some sense into you.

Ignorance is bliss.

There you are. In order to achieve happiness, you must achieve ignorance. If you put this book down, you’ll be taking a tremendous step in the right direction. Just keep on doing the normal mortal things that normal mortals do.

Which is…you know…well…you can stop reading this now.

I am only required to publish their doings in this meager tome to appease the prophecy.

I am not required to have you read it.

So seriously, quit now.

This is a serialization of my novel Chronicles of the Ageless: The Enslaved. For all the entries in order, follow this link.

Anime, Shows

A Flawed Character Worth Rooting For: Wandering Witch Season 1

Anime Review:

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Season 1

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Entertaining, flawed main character
  • Good storytelling
  • Some strong, impactful episodes
  • Beautiful animation and art style

Cons

  • A little hard to get into at first
  • The episodic feel made it seem a bit plotless and like it was going nowhere

Observations

  • Almost all of the character development focused on one character

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review

This anime is about a young traveling witch who visits various countries, cities, and towns.

When I started watching this anime, one of my first impressions was that I didn’t like the main character. I simply hadn’t considered her value to the show as someone with obvious flaws yet capable of change and development. It was a simplistic way of approaching the anime and I wish I had thought more carefully about it, because that attitude left me dissatisfied with the first few episodes.

As a writer, I should have realized the reason that Elaina grated on my nerves was not because she was a bad character, but because she was well-written and had a set of flaws composed of ones that annoyed me more than most other flaws would. It’s okay to have a character that is not likable as the main character, as long as she is well-written and has strong narrative purpose. And it took a reminder from my sister and a friend to help me see it that way.

The main reason Elaina bugged me at first was because she is so full of herself, especially as an adult. At the beginning and/or the end of most episodes, she describes herself as beautiful or amazing. For example, at one point she says she is so brilliant, the sun squints involuntarily upon seeing her. At another time, when asked about her specific talents, she says “I’m good at pretty much everything.” Sure, she’s right. She is a prodigy who became a witch in record time. But man, that gets annoying pretty fast.

She was apprenticed to a witch named Fran, who tried to teach her the power of failure by overwhelming her. That was a lesson she wouldn’t really internalize and learn until later, however, when she failed in more significant ways than just being defeated in a duel by a powerful witch.

Her parents have her make three promises when she leaves them to travel the world.

First, to run away from danger. She doesn’t do that very well. Even though she is apathetic most of the time and tries not to get involved in the conflicts and problems of everyday people, she gets in danger plenty of times without running away.

The second promise is not to think of herself as anyone special. I laughed upon thinking back at that one. She failed that promise with style.

The third promise is that she will come back someday and tell her parents about her adventures. She doesn’t do that, either, at least in the first season. She writes and publishes a book about her adventures, if that counts for anything. Perhaps her parents will read it.

She basically fails at all three promises.

It takes a botched mission to make her realize that she is not perfect, and what she experienced during that mission traumatized her. In episode 9, A Deep Sorrow From the Past, Elaina is the Clock Village of Rostolf. She is low on money and must take on a job.

The Lavender Witch Estelle offers her a job. Estelle had a close childhood friend, Selena, whose parents were murdered by a burglar. After their murder, Selena is sent to live with her uncle, who was abusive. Eventually she turned on her uncle and killed him, afterwards becoming a serial killer. She kind of reminded me of Toga from My Hero Academia. Estelle was eventually order to kill Selena, and she did it by beheading her. This traumatic event left Estelle obsessed with finding a way to go back in time and change her friend’s terrible destiny.

When Estelle tells Elaina this story, Elaina appears to be completely apathetic. She is truly only in it for the money.

Estelle reveals that she has found a way to time travel. She has been sacrificing her own blood to get enough magic to prep the spell. She wants Elaina to come with her since she will be drained of magic after the spell. Estelle gives Elaina a ring that allows them to share magic power.

When they go back in time, Estelle convinces Selena’s parents to leave the house so they will not be murdered. Meanwhile, Elaina watches the house so she can catch the burglar. The burglar never shows. Eventually, Elaina notices from the ring that Estelle is using her magic power. She follows the source of magic to find that Estelle is bloodied and lying on the ground next to Selena’s murdered parents.

Selena is standing there with a knife. It turns out she was originally the one who killed her parents, not a burglar. Her father had been sexually abusive and her mother had gotten jealous and hit her repeatedly.

Estelle rises to her feet and starts to strangle Selena with magic. Elaina is horrified that a friend is killing a friend and tries to stop her by taking off the ring. Estelle sacrifices all her fond memories of Selena in order to get the remaining energy necessary to behead her.

Once they return to the present, Estelle has no memory of Selena. Elaina holds herself together until she gets outside, and then breaks down into tears. She recognizes her own failures and is devastated from having watched love turn to hate and from seeing a child brutally killed. She admits to herself that she is inexperienced and occasionally helpless to stop bad things from happening.

The extent to which this experience impacted her is revealed in a later episode, when she enters an enchanted place in which there are multiple versions of herself. One of these versions is violent and exhausted, deeply hurt by what happened with Estelle and Selena. The true Elaina must come to terms with all the versions and aspects of herself before she is able to escape that place. This offers her a sense of closure and helps her move on.

Those were my two favorite episodes, although there were many other good ones. Those were one of the few that seemed strongly connected as well. Most of the season felt somewhat plotless, with Elaina wandering aimlessly to various destinations. Each episode was like a vignette, a piece mostly independent of the others. The episodic feel was interesting, though not always satisfying.

In conclusion, I would recommend this anime to anyone who appreciates somewhat dark anime with an interesting lead character.

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Books

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson Focuses on Dalinar’s Backstory

Spoiler-Free Book Review:

The Stormlight Archive: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Multiple intriguing points of view
  • Gripping character backstories
  • Different lifeforms than in any other series
  • Unique magic system
  • Richly developed cultures
  • Objects unique to the realm of this book
  • So many quotable moments
  • So much research put into this
  • Illustrations and other worldbuilding snippets between sections of the book
  • Quotes that introduce chapters are interesting and relevant
  • Phenomenal ending with twists
  • The interludes could be books of their own

Cons

  • No noticeable cons

Review

This series is without a doubt the best one I have ever read. From character development to worldbuilding, Sanderson knows how to weave a compelling story. Oathbringer is the third book in The Stormlight Archive. With this book, my favorite character has shifted from Kaladin to Shallan.

Psychologically, Shallan is a fascinating character. She makes alternate versions of herself such as Veil and Radiant, until she has trouble figuring out who she really is as a person. Even when she has a better grasp on who “Shallan” is, she wonders if she should discard her original personality in favor of one of the alternatives that is less broken. A big part of Shallan’s character arc is coming to terms with her own brokenness.

I should also say that I never liked the idea of Shallan and Kaladin as a potential couple. I won’t spoil who she ends up with, and I wouldn’t consider whichever choice she made to be a con for the book, but I thought I should mention that. And the reason is that I prefer Shallan and Adolin because they have phenomenal chemistry. Adolin wants Shallan, not her false personas. He is so sincere. I am not big on romance, but they are honestly cute together.

Also, Pattern as chaperone is hilarious.

“What,” Pattern said with a hum, “is a chaperone?”

“That is someone who watches two young people when they are together, to make certain they don’t do anything inappropriate.”

“Inappropriate?” Pattern said. “Such as…dividing by zero?”

The interludes between the sections of the book remain a testament to Sanderson’s solid writing skills. He made me care about characters who may only get a few pages of development here and there, but are nonetheless multifaceted and interesting. Two of my favorites are Rysn and Kaza. Rysn has been crippled from falling from a greatshell’s head and is now keeping ledgers. Kaza is slowly turning to smoke the more she uses her soulcaster. I love them both so much, especially Rysn.

The Windrunners are joined by new members, and I really appreciate the ideals that they must swear to.

Windrunner’s first ideal:

“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

Windrunner’s second ideal:

“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

Windrunner’s third ideal:

“I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.”

The Windrunners are my favorite out of all the orders of Radiants.

This really was more of Dalinar’s book, just like The Way of Kings focused on Kaladin and Words of Radiance focused on Shallan. We finally learn more about Dalinar’s first wife, which is honestly amazing. Dalinar really has a strong character arc, turning from a warmonger to a peacemaker. It is his tragic and violent past that influences him in this novel, although his softer side is involved as well.

The ending was everything I could have wanted. It did not disappoint, with ample twists and tons of suspense and tension. I was in awe.

In conclusion, you should definitely read this book. Read the first two books first, obviously, but this one was amazing too. This book would be best for lovers of high fantasy.

Anime, Shows

An OP Character Who Specializes in Defense

Anime Review:

Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense Season 1

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Fun concept
  • Good animation
  • Attractive art style
  • Nice music

Cons

  • Boring at times
  • Very low stakes
  • Not much character development
  • Unimpressive ending

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead!

Review

When I play dungeon-crawling board games such as Descent or Gloomhaven, I always choose a character people would refer to as a “tank”. The character with the highest HP and defense, capable of withstanding hordes of attacking foes–that’s what I always choose. It comes at the cost of low speed though, and many other stats that are minimal at best.

Kaede Honjō makes the same choice. Under the username Maple, she creates a character for a virtual reality game called New World Online and puts all of the points she gets from leveling up directly into defense, neglecting all other areas. It gets to the point that monsters that attack her die from exhaustion because their repeated attacks have an effect that is negligible.

She eventually develops immunity to effects such as poison and obtains ridiculously overpowered items. She becomes OP, which is anime talk for an overpowered character. It kind of reminds me of other anime with overpowered characters, such as One-Punch Man and The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

This anime is not as good as those two, however. The main problem is the low stakes. Character death results in mild penalties and a quick respawn. Not winning a challenge merely means losing the chance at the prize. At no point is there any suspense, especially since Maple and her friend Sally are consistently successful and lucky.

Maple is universally liked by the other characters, and becomes the face of the game. Even the moderators of the game are afraid to limit her power too much since that will provoke annoyance from her loyal fan base. She experiences very few setbacks, and her constant learning of new skills that make her increasingly powerful kind of gets old.

The characters other than Maple and Sally are poorly developed, and even Maple and Sally are not developed much.

I’ve seen a lot of people compare this anime to Sword Art Online. Sure, this anime involves a virtual reality game as well, but the similarities end there. In SAO, the stakes are high because a misstep in the virtual world can lead to death in the real world. In Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense, Maple becomes OP despite her lack of video game experience. She only thinks to max out her defense so she doesn’t feel any pain. In SAO, the main character Kirito is extremely powerful, but he also has had significant experience with the game.

To be fair, this anime was not meant to be taken seriously. But for shows such as this, comedy and fun should be what is given in return for low stakes. Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense is not amusing enough to make up for its lack of suspense.

Maple basically breaks the game, but it is permitted because of her popularity. She’s bland despite being mildly likeable, and she pretty much always gets what she wants. The ending was nothing special and is exactly what I expected. It was lackluster at best.

I can’t really say I recommend this anime to anyone in particular, except maybe as a show to put on in the background when you are doing something else.

Links

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