Review: The Wolf Age by James Enge

The Wolf Age by James Enge
The Wolf Age by James Enge

The Wolf Age
James Enge (Twitter)
Pyr, 2010

James Enge’s The Wolf Age is the third novel to feature the hero Morlock Ambrosius. I read the first, Blood of Ambrose, back in April of 2009 though I skipped the second outing This Crooked Way. I read Blood of Ambrose long before I had heard of Black Gate Magazine, the periodical which has been the home to Morlock on multiple occasions, and I suppose I have (consciously or otherwise) set out to make sure I follow authors read in the pages of Black Gate in longer forms whenever possible. The Wolf Agepays tribute to the sword and sorcery stories of old without ever feeling stale.

Where in The Blood of Ambrose readers joined Morlock as he journeyed back amidst civilization The Wolf Age sees Moorlock on sort of self-imposed exile as his presence tends to draw the attention of his father Merlin. While traversing the wilderness Morlock discovers a raiding party from the werewolf city Wuruyaaria and though Morlock intercedes on behalf of the villagers under attack he finds himself captured and imprisoned. At the same time Morlock is being employed, without his knowledge, by forces far more powerful than he suspects; forces who see the destruction of Wuruyaaria and its mysterious founder as an absolute necessity.

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30 Day VGC Day 8: Best Soundtrack

I missed Sunday but I suppose everyone needs to rest a day.  Anyway, onwards!  Of course this is the easiest day to answer for me.  While I have listened to and enjoyed music from many games there is only one game whose music has stayed with me since Day 1.  Nobuo Uematsu’s score for Final Fantasy VI has been my long standing favorite for years and few, if any, soundtracks have come close to changing that over the years.  From the mournful sound of Gau’s theme, to the triumphant fanfare of Locke’s theme, to the epic Aria di Mezzo Carraterre I have listened to and enjoyed these songs countless times.  Hand’s down Final Fantasy VI is the best soundtrack of all time.

Aria di Mezzo Carraterre:

Locke’s Theme:

Cyan’s Theme:

Terra In Black (OCremix):

Aria di Mezzo Carraterre (Live @ Distand Worlds):

30 Day VGC Day 7: Favorite Game Couple

2 Way Tie!

Sten and Shale from Dragon Age: Origins.  They bond over their contempt of humanity.  It’s rather adorable.

The other spot belongs, oddly enough, to Master Chief and Cortana.  It was never something expressly explored in the series but there was a nice connection between the green armored Spartan and pink glowing lady.  I was smiling pretty hard after retrieving Cortana in Halo 3.

Runners Up:  Shepherd/Garrus (ME2, Romantic/Bromantic), Joker/Normandy (ME2), Locke/Celes (FFVI), Gordan Freeman/Alex Vance (HL2)

30 Day VG Challenge Day 5: Game Character You are Most Like

Given the punishment my lack of skills often forces upon characters I’m not sure I’ve ever wished I was a game character.  My answer as best as I can come up with is Sten from Dragon Age: Origins.  No, I don’t spout pseudo-eastern philosophy nor am I a bad-ass warrior.  Rather it’s Sten’s taciturn nature, his recalcitrance in sharing his past and thoughts with others that bears a similarity to my own tendency to keep to myself.  Of course, my tendency to respond to situations with comical despair and sarcasm is also similar to Alistair from the same game.

30 Day VGC Day 4: Your Guilty Pleasure Game

This is another tough one.  As my free time has decreased over the years and as multiple and changing interests compete for free time it has become rapidly apparent that all video games are my guilty pleasure.  Seriously.  My weeknights have, at most, about 4 hours of genuine free time.  Between reading, video games, friends, and various other activities (I do rather like to cook sometimes) how I decide to use that scant time is extraordinarily competitive.  When the weekend rolls around and I have an actual large chunk of precious time there is a part of me that longs to huddle around the flickering monitor and shut away the world as I explored the twisted landscape of The Zone, fight back the Blight, or prowl the decks of the Normandy but, inevitably, the questions start.  Isn’t there something constructive I should be doing?  So I power down and trundle out into life once more dreaming of other worlds.  This isn’t something I’ve been able to break.  It’s easier to avoid in the winter as “being trapped by snow” is an excellent excuse to do nothing, but in the spring and summer, it is extraordinarily difficult to feel content to have spent a sunny day ensconced in a darkened room but man, do I want to!

So, there you have it: all video games are my guilty pleasure.

30 Day VGC Day 3: A Game that Is Underrated

OK, now things get interesting!  How do I pick from the list of games I’ve managed to eke enjoyment out of?  My friend Rick covered the glory that is the 007 Agent Under Fire.  Sure it was no GoldenEye but the host of customization options and gadgets in multiplayer matches made for countless memorable sessions: grappling hooks, jetpacks, low gravity, increased speed each made the game far better than it had any right to be.  But, like I said, Rick already covered that.  Instead I’m going way out into left field and picking: Star Wars: Clone Wars on the Nintendo Gamecube.

The most frustrating of the Star Wars prequels turned out a rather entertaining video game.  Well, at least in multiplayer I don’t think I ever played a second of the single player.  It is the game that gave birth to “Jedi Bob” the most frighteningly generic character model I have seen.  Two specific multiplayer modes sucked up several hours of entertainment with friends.  The first was an arena mode (Academy) in which you and several friends would face off against seemingly endless hordes of aliens storming the arena.  Every few waves would result in a Duel Mode in which you could betray your friends.  Silly, mindless, and quite satisfying.

But the real fun, for me at least, was a vehicle based action/RTS hybrid not unlike Activision’s 90s remake of Battlezone.  As either the Rebpulic or the Separatists you would build up your base and assault your opponent’s base.  The options were limited but it was a multiplayer mode that the then-current generation of consoles had yet to see.  It was 2v2 match that was suprisingly entertaining and had some of the finest and most responsive vehicle controls I’ve seen in any video game to date.  I would have loved to see a console based game that took this “Conquest” mode and ran with it whole hog.  Alas, it was not to be.  The action starts at about 1:22

And you can see “Jedi Bob” on the left at the start of this video (subsequent gameplay is sped up):

Review: The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

The Dragon's Path
The Dragon's Path

The Dragon’s Path
Daniel Abraham
Orbit, 2011

Daniel Abraham is the author of the Long Price Quartet (of which I have one volume left to read) one of the most underrated, under-promoted, and just plain under-read series to have seen publication. Thankfully Abraham is back at it again, this time for the folks over at Orbit, a new book in a new series. The Dragon’s Path marks the first opening of The Dagger and Coin series a somewhat more traditional epic fantasy when compared to Abraham’s previous work.

The Dragon’s Path follows four main characters Marcus, Cithrin, Dawson, and Geder. Marcus, a war-hero turned merchant guard struggles with the memories of his past while attempted to forge a future. Cithrin, an orphaned girl raised by a bank seeks to define herself through action. Geder, a nobleman’s son raised far from the seat of political action suddenly finds himself thrust into the midst of his nation’s politics while Dawson is an old guard nobleman struggling against the rising younger nobles. Each of these characters are on a journey of self-discovery and the novel spends a lot of time carefully exploring who each of these characters really is. Of course, those explorations have ramifications far beyond our character’s personal spheres.

I tried to be as spoiler free as possible, be warned!

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30 Day VGC Day 2: Your Favorite Character

This is a tough one to pick.  Really.  There are quite a few memorable characters out there both iconic and obscure.  However one character stands head a shoulders above the rest.  A man who loves his miniature giant space hamster perhaps a bit too much.  Yes, my favorite video game character of all time is none other than Minsc.  Loud and a little unhinged Minsc is one of those characters that has stuck with me for the long haul.  A simple character that served as a bit of comic relief and one who stayed with my son of Bhaal from the beginning to the end across hours and hours of gameplay.

Honorable Mentions: HK-47 from Knights of the Old Repbulic and Luis from Left 4 Dead (Peeeeels over here!)

30 Day Video Game Challnege Day 1: First Game

OK, I don’t often participate in memes but a number of my Facebook friends have been participating in this one  (which is around in various incarnation across the net).  I figured it might be worth a spin.

Day 1:  The First Game You Ever Played

This is a tough one.  The first game I really remember playing was The Legend of Zelda on the NES.  This doesn’t make sense since  my NES came with Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet.  We got an NES late and my parents got the package with the triple cart, light gun, and power pad.  I remember cheating at the long jump in World Class Track Meet (jump off the pad).  I also have non-specific memories of my parent’s Atari.  All that said I’m sticking with the Triple Cart from my NES as the source for my first game.