Saturday, July 30, 2011

SampleSunday EXCLUSIVE: Never-Before-Seen excerpt from the MATHION Appendices

A Brief History of Ánovén, up to the Birth of Mathion

This book chronicles the early years of Hâr-Mathion Mavonduri, last king of the ancient realm of Ánovén, the southern continent of the Lands of Émae, in the days when myth was history, and legend was lore. This has not been so for over ten thousand years, since Émae was swallowed by the earth as payment for the treachery of Azgharáth, Lord of the Kânín, or Werewolves.

Before Hâr-Mathion there were thirty-nine kings of Ánovén, and Mathion was the fortieth. There was only one High King: Etheôn the Renowned, father of the Seven Royal Lines. His eldest son, Eredôn, was meant to receive the Wolf-crown after his father’s eventual death, but he, having a large degree of foresight, and grieving for the loss of his father in the Kemmar Degoso Enatho, handed the crown to Erios, his younger brother, and Eredôn decreed that his line would receive the kingship last. Erios appointed his brother Dúrevon to be the Regent of Ánovén. That office was abandoned when Hâr-Málašir, a descendant of Kir-Dúrevon, became the first king of the Line of Dúrevon in the year AE 1098. It was not until the reign of Hâr-Quarios, in 4303 of the Second Era (Amaviya Enkâro in Old Cénárol), that the line of Kan’hadjion was given the office, and a Second Line of Regents was begun.

The Council of Elders, or Methir Edaeron in Old Cénárol, was established by Hâr-Valaxor II in AE 4615 with the outbreak of war on the eastern borders of Kôvudén. As king, Valaxor was obligated to ride to war if he was in good health. This he was, but there was no law indicating whether or not the Regent of Štélue would be given lordship of Ánovén, since his son was then too young to rule. Thus, Valaxor called to assembly the eldest living members of each of the clans of Etheôn, and decreed that when the king rode to war, the elders and the Regent would hold dominion over Ánovén, until such time that either the king or one of his successors returned to Ánovén. However, the Council’s power grew when Hâr-Etharon, first King of the line of Athion, ascended to the High Throne in AK 3094.

Etharon had inherited the pride and ambition of his ancestor Athion, and he desired to be remembered forever in song and history. He led mighty campaigns against the Kânín of the North, most notably against the costal city of Padakis on the Bay of Tisîr. Many Cénáre were lost on those campaigns, but this did nothing to quell Etharon’s aims. Finally, in Etharon’s three hundred and eighty-first year on the High Throne, two hundred Sentárin were lost on a failed sack of Ak’horokaš, and the Council finally acted. They decreed unanimously that the King’s power would be restricted so that it could not be abused; one of these being that the King would need the approval of the Council in order to attack enemy territory. This was marked as the first time the power of a King of Ánovén had ever been checked.

Many lives of kings passed before the Elders intervened again. During the reign of Hâr-Mežolo, a dispute arose between him and the Elders of Kôvudén. The Kânín had once again attacked Kôvudén, this time the costal city of Taqár. Mežolo sent a great force of well-trained Sentárin to the region to aid Peledos the Kôvudénean king, and they fought the most against the Kânín. But the Kânín kept attacking, and eventually the small battle became a war that lasted for half a century and scarred Kôvudén for many centuries after. Peledos was slain before the gates of Kalendu, and Mežolo claimed by right the overlordship of Kôvudén, declaring it to be “a protectorate of the South-realm”. This did not sit well with the elders of Kalendu, and the Methir Edaeron agreed, judging that Mežolo had, like Etharon, abused his power as King. Eventually, the rule of Kôvudén was committed to Peledos’s great-nephew Kathiru, and it is from him that the Kings of Kôvudén in Mathion’s time are descended.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Five hundred and eighty-three years after the Battle of Ak’horokaš…
Hâr-Tharion, Ser-Mathion, and Ser-Mathios were riding along the Red Mountains, returning home after holding council with Belevâk, the Mountain-lord of Hádakaš. Belevâk was now very old. Having been nine hundred and six years old during the time of the Great Alliance, he was now eleven years shy of his fifteenth century, and there was far more grey to be seen in his hair than when Mathion first met him. Mathion had changed as well. No longer counted among the “young people” of Ánovén, Mathion had only the year prior reached the age of one thousand, during the course of which he had garnered many victories against the Kânín.  

His son Mathios was now four hundred and twenty-eight years old, and a perfect replica of Mathion himself at that age, save for Mathios’s red hair. For much of the last ten years, Mathios had spent his time in Kôvudén, joining the Watchers guarding King Lehadi X. As a result, he had adopted many Kôvudénean customs, and now rode with his sword sheathed behind his back.

Tharion, by the grace of Ka’én, was now one thousand, five hundred and twenty-four years old, the oldest King of recent memory. Not only was his sheer age a rarity, but Tharion succumbed to neither senility nor dementia, two maladies which often plagued many of the Elders in their waning years, as had been the case with Mahavir of the clan of Úrevos. Tharion was neither crippled nor bent with age, but tall and proud as ever, save that his hair had now become as white as Elekan’s fur. Some said that it was not simply by the grace of Ka’én that Tharion had lived for so long, but that Mathion’s Wolfstone had blessed his entire family.

“Do you think Belevâk will send more Red Guards northward as you requested?” Mathion asked his father.

“Of course,” Tharion replied. “I have not asked anything of Belevâk for over two hundred years.”

“I know, because I have,” said Mathion. “The Kânín are pressing further and further into Ánovénean territory, Father. We are being worn too thin. And without the last Wolfstone, Hádakaš is still blind.”

“I have sent Kir-Belevâk report of everything that has been said through the Stones,” Tharion retorted. “The last stone will be acquired in time.”

“We don’t have a lot of time left, Father.”

“What about all those stories I’ve heard of you two?” Mathios asked.

“You are here to learn, not speak, Mathios,” Mathion said sternly.

“Oh hush,” Tharion interjected. “Council is over and done, let the boy speak as he may.”

“You’ve certainly changed since I was young.” Tharion smiled.

“Grandchildren have that effect on you, my son.”

Ic óm atar? said Elekan.
(What is that?) Mathion turned his head this way and that, but saw nothing, though he smelled a sweet fragrance from the flower fields south of their path.

“I don’t see anything, Elekan,” he said.

Ondóv naerogé.
(See with your mind.)

Mathion closed his eyes, and the Wolfstone shone as bright as the noonday sun above their heads. Mathion had long since become used to the sensation of soaring out of his body, over the trees and high above the mountaintops, seeing the world as if from a bird’s-eye view. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and scratched Elekan’s head.

“Maybe age has finally caught up with you, my old friend,” he said. Elekan merely snorted.

“Please, Father,” Mathios said. “Elekan’s going to outlive all of us!”

Mathion laughed, “He very well may, my son.”

“Mathion,” said Tharion, “there are matters that we need to discuss when return to—”

(Look out!)

Out of nowhere, a ravenous werewolf leapt upon Tharion. The King fell from his horse, and with a howl the Kânai ripped it in half, spilling blood and entrails on the verdant grass. The werewolf leapt onto Tharion and snarled viciously as it raised one of its great paws and held Tharion’s head down. Mathios leapt off his horse, unsheathing his sword with such speed that it may have well been summoned, but it was too late. The werewolf opened its jaws wide and sunk its fangs deep into the king’s flesh. Tharion cried out in such pain that Mathion felt it as his own.

Bé-tathálij ktildo! Mathion had no sooner thought the command when his great sword Aelak’ra flashed into his hand. Elekan bared his teeth and let loose a terrible howl that flung the werewolf aside. Mathios pounced forward between the beast, his father, and his grandfather. He widened his stance and held his sword at the ready. The werewolf rose onto its four powerful legs and crouched, primed to pounce on the king and this little warrior standing between them.

“Mathios, get back!” Mathion roared.

“I can fight!”

“I said now, ictola!” But it was too late. With a roar the werewolf bolted at Mathios, gnashing its jaws violently. Mathios crouched and leapt in a great arc over the beast, slicing its back. Wounded, the werewolf fell to the ground. Mathion stepped forward and Aelak’ra shone with a brilliant golden light. With one motion Mathion stabbed the werewolf’s neck, and the Kânai was consumed and destroyed in flames. Mathion said nothing as he recalled Aelak’ra, and immediately ran to his father’s side.

Tharion’s throat and shoulder had suffered traumatic damage. Dark red blood flowed from several large, deep gashes caused by the Kânai’s fangs and Tharion was wide-eyed, struggling to breathe.

“Wolfsbane,” Mathion said, and Mathios rushed through a bag hanging from Mathion’s horse. Mathios pulled out a small bundle of pungent blue leaves and stems and handed it to his father. Mathion chewed the lot and packed it into the deepest cuts on Tharion’s neck. Taking a strip of cloth and wrapping it tightly around Tharion’s wounds, Mathion removed his Wolfstone and placed it around his father’s neck.

“Stay with me,” he said as Tharion’s eyes fluttered. Mathion turned and glared at his son. His eyes flashed angrily, but Mathios held his ground.

“I said I could fight, and I did.”

“Now is not the time,” Mathion shot back.


Every comic book fan knows or has heard of the 1990 Captain America film starring Matt Salinger as Steve Rogers, with an Italian Fascist Red Skull. And that brings a sour taste to their mouths. Thankfully, Joe Johnston's Captain America: The First Avenger, starring former Johnny Storm Chris Evans, is not that movie. The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe along with Iron Mans 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk and most recently Thor, this was probably the most important film for Marvel to make, not just to build momentum for next year's second-best superhero epic, Marvel's The Avengers (sorry Marvel fans, but The Dark Knight Rises will rule all next year!) but as a viable stand-alone franchise. And for once, I have to give it to them: Marvel delivered.

The First Avenger is a joyous World War II action film with awesome pulp-scifi elements and only subtle ties to the other films in the MCU. Without going into spoilerific specifics, we begin in the modern-day Arctic before flashing back to 1942, when the story really kicks in. The period sets and costumes are fantastic, and though the film is NOT propagandically patriotic, the patriotism in this film is beautifully handled by blending it with nostalgia.

The most significant of thoseaforementioned MCU links is Johann Schmidt's search for the Tesseract (aka the Cosmic Cube for comic fans), an artifact that supposedly adorned Odin's throne room, and a source of nearly unlimited power. We're then introduced to Steve Rogers, a skinny asthmatic kid from Brooklyn desperately trying to enlist in the 107th. One thing I have to say is that the CGI used to make the super-ripped Evans into a short, skinny twerp is superbly well done. Steve's buddy James "Bucky" Barnes (his middle name is Buchanan, hence "Bucky") has already successfully enlisted, and is a real hit with the dames, contrasting with Rogers' introvertedness.

The story moves along at a brisk pace prior to all the popcorn-action elements, introducing us to the future Iron Man's old man Howard Stark (by the way, Dominic Cooper looks eerily like a younger Robert Downey Jr.), Hayley Atwell's Agent Peggy Carter, and who could forget the wonderfully aloof ex-German scientist Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci? Tucci is an actor I hugely admire for his talent, and this was one impeccable piece of casting. But that's nothing to say of the relationship that forms between Erskine and Rogers over the course of his training under Col. Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones).

Once we see Rogers in full Cap glory post-enhancement, the ball really gets rolling. There's too much to say here, because there is a lot that happens, but the story moves along very satisfyingly and really invests viewers in Rogers as a person, not just a guy in a suit. Not an easy task, this is a comic-book adaptation after all. It's very easy to get lost in the action and the effects when you have a film of this scale, but Johnston proves that he can take those same elements and infuse them into a character-driven story. And when you take the audience on that kind of a ride, you can bet that they'll pay attention the whole way through to the bitter end.

It's a breath of fresh air that Captain America and the Red Skull aren't just arch-nemeses, they're antitheses of each other, very much like Batman and The Joker. However, unlike The Joker, Johann Schmidt has very clear goals, and very clear motives for those goals. One of the things that Dr. Erskine tells Rogers is that his serum doesn't just affect the subject's physical state, i.e. bring them to the peak of human perfection, but brings out and amplifies the subjects best or worst characteristics. Essentially, "Good becomes great, bad becomes worse." And that is exactly what we have, a psychological dynamic between hero and villain who have no personal history, but are drawn together by fate and choice.

Now, as for the romance that blossoms between Peggy and Steve, all I can say is that it is a love story both with and without an end, and is heartbreakingly good to see play out.

But the real treat here is the final setup to The Avengers, which is what this is really all about, bringing the four (five if you count Hawkeye's cameo in Thor, and I do) of Marvel's biggest heroes together along with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. By the way, it's a real treat to see Evans and Jackson as Cap and Fury share a scene together.

I have to say that, even as a DC fan, Marvel took the cake this year with Thor and Captain America. Great action, on-the-ball casting, and smart directing gives these films some weight, and I'm positive I'll be seeing Captain America again before it hits Blu-Ray. Oh, and that shield is freaking sweet!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: GATEWAY by Glenn G. Thater

Glenn Thater's HARBINGER OF DOOM series kicks off with GATEWAY, the tale of Brother Claradon Eotrus as he endeavors to find out what happened to his father, Lord Aradon, after he mysteriously vanishes along with his men while investigating an unearthly fog.

Drawing from Medieval, Nordic and Greek mythology, the world of Thater's Midgard feels as if set in a forgotten era of the Dark Ages, full of elves, dwarves, gnomes, wizards and heroes of a rich yet shaded past. The Foreword to the book proper contains a very convincing excursus on the author's "research" of the legendary figure Lord Angle Theta. Joining Claradon on his quest is the hero Gabriel Garn, the House Wizard of Dor Eotrus Par Tanch, and a delightfully persnickety gnome named Ob, as well as the mysterious Theta and his manservant Dolan.

The plot moves along at a satisfying pace, with the more expository parts of the tale executed very well that gives the reader a time, place and in-world precedent for the events transpiring in the story. What starts out as a mere rescue mission quickly becomes one of vengeance and darkness, and without spoiling any future readers, the tale becomes delightfully gory as it reaches its climax. I found myself wanting to know more about Lord Theta and his origins, and I was sad that one of the more important characters got the shaft before being fully fleshed out but what makes this story great is the great distinction between all the characters, and the bond that grows between them at the end.

Some of the dialogue gets a little arduous, and has a distinct older English folktale flavor to it, and some of the descriptions are a little vague and out there, but in spite all that GATEWAY is a solid work of fantasy that was a real treat to read. I'm sure it only gets better from here, as I've already begun reading volume 2, FALLEN ANGLE.

GATEWAY is available on Amazon Kindle, and comes highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lord's Prayer in Old Cénárol: Translation & Analysis

One of the major elements in THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY is the ancient language of the Wolven, which I refer to as "Old Cénárol". In the books, it is described as a language of "formality, war and prayer," used by priests, leaders and loremasters on occasions of importance and study. For those who have read MATHION: BOOK ONE OF THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY, they will know that the character of Elekan, the White Wolf companion of the protagonist, uses this speech in his communications with Mathion. Because he, and all White Wolves, are held sacred by Mathion's people, the use of Old Cénárol in the manifestation of his thoughts serves to impress the importance of his nature to the reader. So that one may better understand this unique language, I have translated the Lord's Prayer into it and provided a detailed analysis of the vocabulary and parts of speech. I hope this will prove both informative and enjoyable to all fans of fantasy literature and conlanging alike.

(Hakto Dâron)

1. Ariv hakto dâron ik Váravénahya
Our father who art in Heaven

2. Cadimat u thare uver
Hallowed be thy name

3. Em daetekt u véné uver
Thy kingdom come

4. Em axtel un télan uveron
Thy will be done

5. T'em ramar Cendimuha té araya Vénahya uver
On Earth as it is in Heaven

6. Beo tharav dâkten lévo i ceor
Give us this day our daily bread

7. Al em gast'la dor un nécyanil té gastade kyor ik tel'thayadh néca dâkten
And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us

8. Beo em et-tath'va žehletæ
Lead us not into temptation

9. Ne firóv dor Ak'horosava
But deliver us from the Evil One


1. Ariv- v. "you are" (similar definition to Spanish "estas", i.e. in terms of location); hakto- n. Father; dâron- pronoun "our"; genitive case (nominative "we, us"); ik Váravénahya- "who (is) in Heaven" Váravénahya "Heaven": lit. "High-realm", locative case

2. Cadimat v. "it is blessed", passive voice u thare- n. "name", accusative case (nominative thari); uver pronoun "your" (nom. uve "you")

3. Em daetekt v. subjunctive future "may it come" (infinitive daetim "to come, arrive"); u véné acc. "realm" (nom. véna)); uver

4. Em axtel v. subjunctive pl. "may they be done"; un télan uveron your deeds (singular téla "deed")

5. T'em ramar verb phrase "as they might be"; Cendimuha n. "on Earth" locative case; "as"; araya v. "are", present tense plural; Vénahya n. "realm", locative case "in (your) Realm"; uver pronoun "you", genitive case

6. Beo "please"; tharav v. "(you) give"; dâkten pronoun "us", dative case i.e. "to us" lévo n. "bread", accusative case (nom. lévae); i ceor "this day"

7. Al "and"; em gast'la v. subjunctive "may you forgive" (inf. gastim); dor "us" accusative case plural; un nécyanil n. "wrongs" dative plural; té gastade kyor "as we forgive those (i.e. "them","; ik "who"; tel'thayadh v. Present Perfect "have done" (inf. telim "do") néca n. "wrong"; dâkten "to us" dative

8. Beo "please"; em et-tath'va v. subjunctive "do not lead (us)" (inf. tathej "lead, summon, make come"); žehletæ n. "(towards) temptation" (nom. žehletue)

9. Ne "however"; firóv v. "(you) lead (lit. "take away", inf. firur); dor "we, us"; Ak'horosava n. "away from Ak'horos" ablative case (motion away)

Sunday, July 17, 2011



....“I can vouch for Lord Ktovoli and his men, Lord-Regent,” Mathios said to Dovosir, “they would be a valuable asset on the walls.”
“Good, good,” said Dovosir, “but now we must turn to those of you who will have the greatest responsibility of all: guarding the city from within.”
“We can surely handle that,” said a man who sat next to Kótahro, “Bóþaro, my Lord-Regent, Second Out-warden of the North-bounds of Kihar. While Lord Kótahro’s men are well-trained to handle the field, my men are the best hope you’ll have of defending the city. I should know: this year alone we have withstood a dozen attempted werewolf raids on Kihar from the Southern Highpeaks.”
“You fool yourself, Easterner,” said one Tavâñgos of Hádakaš, “no one has the stomachs of the Hádakašians. We will defend the city.”
“I think not,” said Ktovoli, “the Blue Contingent has defended the city of Mekelir for millennia. We will take on this task at the Regent’s pleasure.” The difference of moods began to overtake the unity of the table, and the Elders jumped into the fray, trying in vain to calm the men as their words got louder and louder until it rose to a clamor. Hóctar and Tavâñgos rose up in argument against Kótahro and Bóþaro, and Parótyas and Naekos exchanged words hotly with Ktovoli and Šihaktu. Only Ektiro of Štélue, commander of Dovosir's Regent-guard, sat in silence, sipping from his cup.
“Silence! All of you!” Mathios shouted.  At that moment all noise ceased, and even Dovosir stared at the young prince in astonishment. Mathios’s eyes were fierce and bright, yet they were not smoldered with anger, but the burning fire of a commander who commanded with respect. He leaned forward and rested his hands on the table, addressing the commanders both simultaneously and individually.
“We can not bicker amongst ourselves,” he said, “this time of crisis has too much hanging in the balance for that. You are all commanders, gentlemen, men who are respected by those in your charge and those whose charge you are in. And that means that you have my respect as well. You have all accomplished great feats in your time, adopted courage where your men might have abandoned all hope, and it is by those merits that you sit at this table tonight.
“I will not have the shadow that tore the Council asunder do the same to us. We are presented with a test of our will as a people and as a kingdom, and I for one will not have us fail that test by lowering our standards to those tyecun. I will be damned if I do, and you will be damned for allowing me to do so.
“Right now, as Kir-Dovosir has said, nothing is certain of what the Uprisers’ next move is. They could attack tonight; they might sit and fester for a thousand years before mustering up the courage to strike. Nevertheless, while they maintain their unity, we must maintain ours. Commanders, you have each brought men of specific skills, and we will use them where they will be the strongest. But as for those who will defend Avakaš itself from within, those men must truly represent how united we are. Kihar shall walk alongside Hádakaš, Mekelir shall stand next to Néktas, and we will be stronger for it, stronger than any Upriser that dares defy our King.”
“You’re learning to speak like a king yourself, for one so young, Ser-Mathios,” Hóctar nodded. “Your father would be very proud. What say you, Bóþaro?” Kótahro’s second in command said nothing, but nodded his agreement. Ktovoli and Šihaktu stood, and they inclined their heads to Mathios.
“Mekelir shall stand, fight, and if need be, die next to the men of Néktas,” Ktovoli said. “And we are honored to do so for our King and for you, young prince. Forgive our folly.”
Mathios smiled, and returned the show of respect to the other commanders. “We may be Cénáre, but we are still human, Ktovoli. Just don’t let the Kôvudéneans in on that secret.” This was met by an uproarious laughter from everyone in the room. Mathios relaxed his stance and drained his mug of ale.
“Now, if you will all excuse me, I must now attend to my mother. Kótahro, let’s walk and talk for a while, shall we?”
Mathios and Kótahro walked for a while in silence. Out of the corner of his eye, Mathios saw Kótahro arch his neck, straining to see the ceiling high above their heads. Mathios followed Kótahro’s gaze, just in time to see one of the Fúzilo corridors rotate as someone disembarked. Kótahro whistled softly in amazement, and the melody echoed off the walls of the obelisk.
“Is this your first time west of the Greatwater?” Mathios asked.
“It is,” Kótahro replied. “Although I’m sure it won’t be my last. I’m still young compared to your father.”
“But you’re still my elder,” Mathios countered. Kótahro glanced at the prince, confused. “I’ve been taught to show my elders the proper respect,” Mathios continued, “and yet my own stupid knack for propriety caused me to lose sight of that bit of common sense.”
“Is this an apology from a superior?” said Kótahro incredulously.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Mathios replied with a smile. “Your father fought and died for mine, even though they barely knew each other. Songs of Kedaer the Martyr are still sung in Avakaš, Kótahro. Your father is greatly respected for what he did that day.” Kótahro nodded, but Mathios sensed a deeper sadness in the Kiharian’s somber expression.
“At times, I’m angry at your father, truth be told,” he said. Mathios did not speak or react, but waited for Kótahro to continue.
‘Patience is the key to authority,’ Mathion had taught his son once, many years ago when Mathios was still considered a boy. ‘Authority is given by the respect you have earned, not by the fear you have wreaked upon those in your care. We are servants, Mathios. It is our duty to understand our people, and hear them out to the last word.’
Kótahro sighed deeply, “Angry at the fact that my father had to die, and that I would never know him, so yours could live. But when I came of age and entered into the Wardenship of Kihar, Lord Azadir told me exactly what happened that day, and why my father died. He spoke of your father as he spoke of the South-realm: we are all called to defend it one way or another. And if we must die, then so be it. There is no greater sacrifice.”
Mathios smiled, and placed a firm grasp on Kótahro’s shoulder, shaking him as he would a brother if he had one.
“Ser-Mathios.” Dovosir had followed them out of the hall. The council had long since adjourned, and the other commanders were filing out of the Citadel to return to their men. Mathios caught a curious expression in Dovosir’s eyes, and he knew that Kótahro had seen the same.
“Bóþaro, rejoin the others. Tell them I will be with them shortly. I need to speak with the Lord-Regent in private.”
“Yes, Out-warden,” Bóþaro replied, upon which he swiftly exited the Tower.
“You have an idea, Dovosir,” Mathios said with a smile, “a dangerous one.”
“Indeed,” the Regent replied. “Apparently your father’s influence has not waned in six centuries. "Nevertheless, we need to talk. Kótahro, who is your best infiltrator?”


Ten years ago, if you had asked me about the Harry Potter film series, I would have honestly said that, given the HUGE popularity of the books by J.K. Rowling, it was an easy money-grabber. Fast forward to July 16, 2011 at 1:36 a.m., and I can honestly say that it became SO much more than that. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is a seminal film. This sort of thing only comes along once in a generation, and I am proud to say that I got to see this through.

In the age of Twilight, Deathly Hallows Part 2 reminds us of what is truly important: honor, duty, friendship, sacrifice, and love (no, I mean it--REAL LOVE, Twi-hards!). I left the movie theater on Friday night with the same feeling I had on December 25, 2003 when I went to see Return of the King with my cousin: a feeling of pure, unadulterated wonder (not to mention the feeling of "too many endings" by the time the words 19 Years Later faded in, a welcome bit of moviegoing deja vu). It would honestly not surprise me in the slightest if the Academy did for Potter what it did for Return of the King and honor it for what it is. It's not just a good summer fantasy film, it's a fantastic fantasy film, an exploration of the true conflict between good and evil, ripped straight from the pages of its origin, and told in such a way that only the shallowest person could not be impacted by it. It is certainly the best film I've seen all year, and it was one hell of a film to end the Summer Movie Season. Not even The First Avenger: Captain America (yes, THAT should be its title) will be able to slow this monster down.

First of all, credit and thanks are due to Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint for putting their childhoods on hold to see this series through to the bitter end. The reason their onscreen performances--not just individually but together--are so powerful is because they don't just play three best friends in the movies, they are best friends in real life. They have the kind of friendship that should have never worked: cast in these iconic roles at the ages of 10 and 11, people easily expected them to become consumed by the Hollywood machine and begin bickering and fighting amongst themselves to the joy of every tabloid newspaper and magazine on the planet. But no, these three actors bonded and grew up together and formed something much more unique, much more powerful than any sort of chemistry veteran actors could hope to achieve in any single film in their entire careers. I would like to pause this review for a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude to this truly inspiring trio of people. Thank you so much for allowing us to watch you grow up in these films, both as actors and as people. Good luck to all three of you no matter what you choose to pursue in the future.

Nevertheless, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are not the be-all end-all of this film. Or indeed this filmic saga. The supporting cast of (to name a few) Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman (who deserves a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award) Ralph Fiennes, David Thewlis, the brothers Phelps (who are now firmly embedded in my mind as Fred and George Weasley every time I read the books), Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, and Robbie Coltrane, served to mentor the young actors just as their characters did for the students of Hogwarts (with the exception of Fiennes, obviously). To retain such a stellar cast for ten years and eight films is more than just "sheer, dumb luck" as Professor McGonagall would say, it is just as monumental an achievement as the films themselves. From that opening shot of Alan Rickman as headmaster of Hogwarts to Julie Walters uttering the line many fans had been waiting to hear with bated breath, "Not my daughter, you bitch!", every single performance in this film was a sheer joy to witness.

Special consideration here needs to be given to Mr. Rickman, who does so much with such little screentime, and even fewer lines than he's had in any previous Potter film. His entire performance is conveyed through his eyes, and though they are black and cold, from somewhere deep within comes a sadness and anguish that brought tears to my eyes. Alan Rickman truly gives one of the greatest supporting performances of recent memory. Yes, even up there with Heath Ledger's Academy Award-winning turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

Finally, the filmmakers. These people promised to deliver a grand, epic finale and they did. And not just for fans of the films, but fans of the books will find nearly every one of their favorite moments from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ripped right from the page in this film. From the opening scene with Harry and crew making that deal with Griphook to the Epilogue at the end of the film, the filmmakers didn't try to reinvent the Wizarding wheel and took Rowling's words and gave them brilliant cinematic form. While for some David Yates may not have been the first choice for a film of this magnitude, or indeed even any of the Potter films in this franchise, he has proven himself to be a masterful director, and my hat goes off to him.

What makes this film so great is that Part 2 fits so perfectly well with Part 1, while being as unlike Part 1 as you can get in terms of tone and pace. If you were to splice these films together (which I'm sure Warner Bros. has already thought of doing for the eventual Ultimate Collector's Edition Harry Potter Blu-Ray set--which you can bet your ass I'll be getting!!), Part 1 becomes the slow, grinding upward slope of the rollercoaster that is Part 2. And what a rollercoaster it is. Once the trio (and Griphook) leave Shell Cottage, it's all action and none of it stops for one second to let you breathe, which is perfect storytelling and a great way for the audience to really tap into what the characters are being put through. How the filmmakers managed to put so much into this film and keep it all coherent is something I'll be toiling over for a long time (something tells me Yates took a few pages from Christopher Nolan's book of directing--but I digress) but the film moves along with spectacular pacing that allows you to keep track of what's going on, who's doing what, and how it all comes together.

I have very little to complain about with this film, and the things I do have to complain about are mostly nitpicky things that had very little impact on the film as a whole. Certain cuts, specific takes, a few plot points that were left out (why didn't Harry repair his wand first?!?!), but on the whole, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 is a film to remember for, and share with, generations to come. Thank you J.K. Rowling. Thank you Harry. And long live the Boy Who Lived.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Special Excerpt from THE LAST ASCENSION

Azgharáth either loved or hated these moments. It had been over five fortnights since he had seen the sky, sitting and fasting in silence as he sought counsel from Ak’horos. Now he stood with his sons at the gates of Ak’horokaš, awaiting the arrival of General Yohukta. He had been charged with wiping out some of the less significant of the Watchers of Kôvudén, replacing them with men loyal to the High Lord. But Kalendu now held a Wolfstone, and it was unknown how this endeavor had played out until now.

Ecálos stood at Azgharáth’s right, while Ekannar maintained his place at his father’s left. A hundred years ago, Ekannar had tried to win his father’s favor by sending three hundred of his own men to their fiery deaths against the Wolven of Mekelir, attempting vengeance for his humiliating defeat at the hands of Oharion his captive. As a reward, his father had given him three scars that ran down the middle of his face and over his nose. His once-perfect visage, which Ekannar had prided above the rest of his possessions including his wives and mistresses, was now utterly ruined; and he was hard to look upon. Their defeat by the Wolven, on their own soil no less, over five hundred eighty years prior had driven Azgharáth nearly to madness. And though Ekannar still dared to defy his father, Ecálos knew better. He’d had over ten thousand years to learn from.

Azgharáth looked, and heard the trampling of a thousand Kânín and halfbreeds making their way towards their home. And before long with his powerful vision the High Lord saw them. Eight hundred werewolves accompanied by two hundred kânakáre in steel armor rushed en mass towards the Black City. At their head, untransformed, was General Yohukta, murderer of Ehóxar and by that right chieftain of the Northpacks. A pillar of a man with one eye and a shaved head, save for one black line that extended down his neck and braided at the end, he wore no armor and was covered head to toe in grime and blood, with an intricate patchwork of tattoos adorning his chest and arms and face. Azgharáth could only assume the majority of the blood was not Yohukta’s own.

The gates opened with a glance of the High Lord’s bloodred-golden eyes, and Azgharáth stepped out onto the barren terrain of the Freezing Plains to meet his general. Yohukta and his men halted simultaneously as if it were prearranged, and knelt before their lord and master.

“Rise,” Azgharáth growled. Yohukta avoided the High Lord’s eyes as he rose, and Azgharáth took notice of this.

“Why do you dishonor me, Yohukta?” Azgharáth inquired. Yohukta did not respond, and at this sign of disrespect Azgharáth growled deeply and rabidly. Quicker than any man’s eye could catch, Azgharáth grabbed Yohukta by the throat, squeezing the very life from the chieftain.

“Apologies, High Lord!” he gasped. “They were aware! Lehadi sent five thousand after us, we had no choice! I don’t know how he knew—”

“You lie,” Azgharáth growled. “Lehadi possesses the Wolfstone of Orú. You were careless! Be grateful that I don’t kill you where you stand.”

“I am, exalted one of Ak’horos,” Yohukta cowered. “But I am not without information, which I know the High Lord values.” Azgharáth rescinded his vise-like grip on the general’s throat.

“Speak,” he growled. Yohukta panted like a wounded dog as he spoke.

“We captured one of the Watchers and tortured him,” he said, “and he spoke of conflict within the Kingdom of Eredôn to the south. Two of the clans have turned their backs on their king, all but declaring open war on Avakaš.”

“And all the while, Tharion lies in the eyes of death,” Azgharáth smiled. “This is good news indeed, Yohukta, thank you for giving it to me. But nevertheless…”