Tag Archive: J.R.R. Tolkien


Review by C.J. Bunce

Prime Video’s much-anticipated, record-setting big-budget, eight-episode series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has arrived with not just one but two episodes available for its opening weekend.  Impossible not to compare and contrast with Peter Jackson’s six films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth and its characters, the most striking difference is the deliberate, steady pace of this new story.  Carefully introducing lead character Galadriel and using two entire episodes to build the first trilogy character’s backstory, the quick pacing of the movies is only echoed by distant Hobbit relation the Harfoots, who are every bit as spunky as the Bagginses of Bag-end.  Future Elf-king Elrond firmly establishes stoic Elfdom literally thousands of years before The Hobbit, and viewers meet a Dwarf who would make Gimli proud many generations later.  But the best of the series may be its characters new to those who know only the players in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

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A week after its teaser, Prime Video revealed a new trailer for its eight-episode series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.  This time the focus is on Galadriel, the character played by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s movies.  The series is a prequel, so the character is much younger, this time played by Swedish actress Morfydd Clark (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, His Dark Materials).

With more peeks into this Middle-earth, it’s hard to find much in common with Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning movie series.  The environments and effects don’t seem to keep up with the depths of the cinematic version of this world, despite its hefty budget.

Check it out for yourself.  Here’s the new trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:

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In post-production for its new eight-episode series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Prime Video revealed a new “teaser to a teaser” with a look at some of the series’ key characters.  Consistent with the idea of a “tease,” what has been billed as the most expensive series ever still hasn’t revealed much that ties the series to Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning movie series, but there are plenty of Elves, Ents, and a Dwarf or two.  It features a good look at star Benjamin Walker as Elf King Gil-galad.

Check out the latest teaser for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:

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Update: Check out our review of The Rings of Power here.  It actually exceeded our expectations despite not having the cinematic quality of Peter Jackson’s films.

The Lord of the Rings.  Vikings.  Game of Thrones.  If these shows define your expectation of cutting edge visuals for your favorite swords, armor, and fantasy property, you’re not alone.  In post-production for its new eight-episode series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Prime Video revealed 23 teaser posters for presumably the series’ key characters.  Consistent with the idea of a “tease,” what has been billed as the most expensive series ever made has opted to home in on the details of characters’ props and costumes rather than faces.  But the result is spectacularly… unspectacular.  Costume fabrics and trims look more off-the-rack than the hand-stitched costumes and individually-hammered and fastened scalemail of Peter Jackson’s movies.  And it is immediately obvious Weta Workshop didn’t make the props for this new series–the intricacy of that studios’ artisanal mastery in forging metal swords, armor, and jewelry could not be confused with what is featured in these posters, which at first blush is more like Legend of the Seeker, Shannara Chronicles, or The Tudors.  So what did the studio spend its money on?

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A Heart Divided

Review by C.J. Bunce

How often do you read a series that makes it to four volumes and each entry gets progressively better?  That’s exactly what awaits you in Gigi Chang, Anna Holmwood, and Shelly Bryant’s landmark English translation of Jin Yong′s Legends of the Condor Heroes novels.  This series, originally a serialized novel written and first published by Yong aka Louis Cha between 1957 and 1959, is in fact the worldwide best selling novel of all time, with a billion copies in print.  A 38 volume manhua comic was issued in 1998, and countless film and TV adaptations followed, including my favorite in 2017 (reviewed here).  In the spirit of Homer, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, Akira Kurosawa, and George Lucas, the series is among the world’s greatest fantasy novels and you should think of the fourth and final installment, A Heart Divided, as the Return of the King of the series.  Only it’s better than Tolkien’s finale–incredible subplots, powerful historical fantasy, dozens of major, important key characters, who, because of the stunning translation and Jin’s literary characterizations, will be easy for Western audiences to keep track of.  It doesn’t fall into the trap of many major fantasy series: losing the steam built up in the earlier installments.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Forgotten Realms have never been more fun, as the familiar setting continues to expand and flesh out fun characters like warrior Minsc and miniature giant space hamster Boo, half-elf/thief/poet Krydle, cleric Nerys Kathon, halfling rogue Shandie Freefoot, and Delina, the young moon elf wild magesorcerer, all in the pages of IDW comics.  Writer Jim Zub is back partnering with artist Max Dunbar in Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides IDW Publishing and Wizards of the Coast have brought forward the best from the D&D game books and card games, and combined good fantasy storytelling with classic artwork like you’d find in D&D manuals and great humor fantasy like Mike Wieringo’s Tellos.  It’s also the closest thing to Don Bluth’s video game Dragon’s Lair since Dragon’s Lair.  The latest D&D graphic novel and next adventure in Baldur’s Gate arrives in comic shops and online stores this week.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Come, let us be quick.  The crumbling world will not wait for heroes who pause.

Returning with a story at the very foundations of Dungeons & Dragons today is fantasy author R.A. Salvatore with the final novel in his latest Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy and his 34th Drizzt novel overall, Relentless.  In this third act everything is at stake for the friends of the dark elf ranger, especially for his mother, his father, and his wife, as Salvatore takes readers back to the very circumstances of Drizzt’s birth–and reaches far into his future.  The plot switches from skirmishes and battles to the careful ministrations of dark influences in the matriarchal society of Menzoberranzan and the reactions and responses of everyone to them.  Available here at Amazon today, the release is also nicely timed to the forthcoming 5th edition of Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden–Salvatore first presented Drizzt in the Ten Towns of that realm three decades ago.

Plus, bugbears, yochlolk, and glabrezu–oh, my!

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Steeped in the Dungeons & Dragons foundations of R.A. Salvatore′s new novel, the adventure becomes so much a journey of a thousand skirmishes inside the stories of Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms that the biggest surprise is no D&D branding graces the cover.  Although it’s accessible for anyone without reference to Timeless (last year’s first book in the series), Boundless is the next chapter in Salvatore’s trilogy of novels following his well-known hero of the genre Drizzt Do’Urden.  Boundless has everything you’d expect from the character and his world, from demogorgons to psionics, armored dwarves to unicorns–and humans.  It’s now available for pre-order here at Amazon and arriving in bookstores September 10.

Boundless′s breakneck pace is why fans of Salvatore will find themselves jumping in and holding on tight for the entire novel.  The only time it comes up for air is in a series of diary-like entries by Drizzt that begin the novel’s four sections.  As it turns out, the leads of the story aren’t really Drizzt himself but his father, the resurrected weapon master Zaknafein, and the wise mercenary Jarlaxle, both swashbuckling schemers with skills and political connections–characters that make you want to skip over the subplots to see what they do next.  Despite a few subordinate heroes, like Arathis Hune, the giant Wulfgar, the psionicist Kimmuriel, and the dwarf Thibbledorf Pwent, shifting the stakes from the shadows are the story’s female characters, with the priestess Dab-nay and the elf Dahlia as key players.

All the good fantasy tropes are here, a very Tolkien journey that may have readers plugging actors from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies into key roles, with the kind of twisty but grounded machinations you’d find in The Godfather, Part II and Amadeus, and dramatic evil queen-types as in The Huntsman.  Readers will find as much of the more comical-aside conversations of The Princess Bride school here as dead-serious high fantasy despite plenty of darkness.  The novel provides a favorable dice role for its heroes more often than not, but despite seemingly endless triumphs and last-second getaways by a half a dozen heroes, Salvatore leaves room for some real jeopardy for its characters, including serious carnage before book’s end.

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It’s Arbor Day, so let’s revisit three books we’ve looked at previously at borg that remind us of the fragility and wonder of the magnificent tree.

If the Scots abandoned Scotland to nature, it would be the birch that would be the first tree to seize its chance, and a birch forest would walk the streets of Edinburgh.

Thomas Pakenham was referring to a gigantic pioneer birch tree in Rothiemarchus, Scotland, but he may have well been writing about the Ents, the grand, wise, old leafed characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In his book Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Pakenham reproduces his real-life journey across continents meeting some of the oldest inhabitants of the planet, even if they never actually “walked” the Earth.  In beautiful photographs and stories, he introduces readers to the most noble of Earth’s elders, a chance to marvel in awe at their enormous height, or breadth, of their obvious beauty or strikingly twisted, meandering, slim, or expansive forms.  Pakenham, the 8th Earl of Longford, an Anglo-Irish writer, historian, and tree enthusiast, selected trees “mostly very large, and mainly very ancient, and all with a strong personality,” highlighting the unique qualities unique to each remarkable individual.  His folksy speech and storytelling is refreshingly regional, providing an herbivorous mirror to fellow Brit James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.

To visit these trees, to step beneath their domes and vaults, is to pay homage at a mysterious shrine.  But tread lightly. Even these giants have delicate roots.  And be warned that this may be your farewell visit.  No one can say if this prodigious trunk will survive the next Atlantic storm–or outlive us all by centuries.

Thomas Pakenham’s photograph of the great Fredville oak, named “Majesty” at least as early as 1820 when it was sketched by artist Jacob Strutt.

And, indeed, even some of the trees pictured in Meetings with Remarkable Trees are no longer around, having succumbed to storm or man-made destruction.  Pakenham’s tome is something profoundly sacred or spiritual.  It’s peppered with historical references, literary allusions to specific trees, and including some very famous trees, whether a thousand years old or more than 200 feet tall.  It seems preposterous humans travel the globe to see manmade creations when we could be on pilgrimages to commune with these ancient living beings.  Sixty trees are grouped by personality: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies, and Survivors.  Once you’ve met Pakenham and his craggy acquaintances in this book, you’ll want to move on to accompany the champion of trees on a year in his life in his book, The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest.

A different approach to individual trees can be found in photographer Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s Wise Trees (a preview is below).  Some ancient and many not so ancient, the trees in this book include 50 selected from five continents and identified for their historic or inspirational stories.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If the Scots abandoned Scotland to nature, it would be the birch that would be the first tree to seize its chance, and a birch forest would walk the streets of Edinburgh.

Thomas Pakenham was referring to a gigantic pioneer birch tree in Rothiemarchus, Scotland, but he may have well been writing about the Ents, the grand, wise, old leafed characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.  In his book Meetings with Remarkable Trees, Pakenham reproduces his real-life journey across continents meeting some of the oldest inhabitants of the planet, even if they never actually “walked” the Earth.  In beautiful photographs and stories, he introduces readers to the most noble of Earth’s elders, a chance to marvel in awe at their enormous height, or breadth, of their obvious beauty or strikingly twisted, meandering, slim, or expansive forms.  Pakenham, the 8th Earl of Longford, an Anglo-Irish writer, historian, and tree enthusiast, selected trees “mostly very large, and mainly very ancient, and all with a strong personality,” highlighting the unique qualities unique to each remarkable individual.  His folksy speech and storytelling is refreshingly regional, providing an herbivorous mirror to fellow Brit James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.

To visit these trees, to step beneath their domes and vaults, is to pay homage at a mysterious shrine.  But tread lightly.  Even these giants have delicate roots.  And be warned that this may be your farewell visit.  No one can say if this prodigious trunk will survive the next Atlantic storm–or outlive us all by centuries.

Thomas Pakenham’s photograph of the great Fredville oak, named “Majesty” at least as early as 1820 when it was sketched by artist Jacob Strutt.

And, indeed, even some of the trees pictured in Meetings with Remarkable Trees are no longer around, having succumbed to storm or man-made destruction.  Pakenham’s tome is something profoundly sacred or spiritual.  It’s peppered with historical references, literary allusions to specific trees, and including some very famous trees, whether a thousand years old or more than 200 feet tall.  It seems preposterous humans travel the globe to see manmade creations when we could be on pilgrimages to commune with these ancient living beings.  Sixty trees are grouped by personality: Natives, Travellers, Shrines, Fantasies, and Survivors.  Once you’ve met Pakenham and his craggy acquaintances in this book, you’ll want to move on to accompany the champion of trees on a year in his life in his book, The Company of Trees: A Year in a Lifetime’s Quest.

A different approach to individual trees can be found in photographer Diane Cook and Len Jenshel’s Wise Trees (you’ll find a 16-page preview below).  Some ancient and many not so ancient, the trees in this book include 50 selected from five continents and identified for their historic or inspirational stories.

Continue reading

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