Warner Holme Review: Lindt Lindor Dark Chocolate Truffles

Lindt Lindor Truffles Assorted Dark Chocolate Truffles 19oz 

By Warner Holme: One of the few near universal loves in the world is chocolate. Lindt Lindor truffles are among the more well known “fancy” chocolates available with ganache style filling for the truffles. While the traditional red wrapped classic are perhaps the best known, they have a delightful assortment of dark chocolates available in a 19 oz assortment.

Three varieties come in this selection. The first is a standard dark chocolate, in a nice blue wrapper. It tastes quite good, as expected, with a smooth flavor that suits it quite well, and the inner creamy center matching quite well. It is lighter than many other dark chocolate flavor options, but definitely Tastes more like a dark and smoky flavor compared to the standard Lindt truffle. Arguably less of a dark chocolate and more a “not milk” chocolate variation.

The second is A 60% Extra dark chocolate in a black wrapper with a silver label. There is a stronger lingering flavor to them, particularly in regards to the shell. While enjoyable, it isn’t the exceptionally dark taste one might expect given the label.

Finally there is a 70% extra dark chocolate in a black wrapper with a gold colored label. There is a definite dark and lingering flavor to the outer shell of this one, strong and with just a hint of bite. The cream inside is still smooth and lighter, at least compared to the shell, but not enough to instantly wash away the darkness of the harder chocolate. Aficionados of proper darker chocolates will find this one of their favorites produced by the brand.

Probably the most impressive thing about each of these is that the bitterness that most darker chocolates start to include never seems to come in force.

None of these are safe for individuals with milk allergies, as milk is among the listed ingredients. A similar though lesser warning is given regarding tree nuts however they are a “may contain” rather than being “Ingredients” which might cause some with minor sensitivity to take the risk.

The use of the blue bag is a slightly interesting choice as violet does denote dark chocolate, but two out of three of the chocolates in the bag are wrapped in black instead.

About 45 of the truffles come in a bag with an expectation three can be a serving. This of course will depend on the self-control of the person eating, as many will go over this amount at any given time and occasionally someone will be able to manage eating only a single truffle. I would recommend againt eating them all at once, simply because a pound of almost anything can lead to some gastrointestinal issues.

If you like dark chocolate, there’s a good chance that this will be right in your wheelhouse. The fact it comes in individually wrapped portions is very nice for someone wishing to just eat a little, as it both allows for the rest to remain safe while also making a good shot at preventing handful eating. If someone thinks they would like this they should pick it up, enjoying it alone over a fair period of time or with friends and loved ones.


Warner Holme Review: Knight’s Wyrd

Knight’s Wyrd by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald (Tor, 2023)  

Review by Warner Holme: Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald’s Knight’s Wyrd is a short medievalist fantasy book that makes a large number of unusual decisions. A short novel like this can slip through the cracks easily, and the focus Tor Essentials is giving it with this re-release shows someone thinks it’s deserved.

The story centers on a young man named Wil Oddosson.  He is betrothed, well intentioned, in line for a knighthood, and has a certain sense of honor. At the beginning of the story he is out with some others and an old lady’s pig is nearly stolen by outlaws. He ends up in a fight killing them and finds the whole thing uncomfortable yet a certain kind of necessary.

From this and to his knighting shortly afterward it becomes increasingly clear that there are any number of pitfalls that might happen to a young knight and his friends. Odd incidents of large creatures in the water, accidentally fatal sojourns through the woods, and dire portents follow wherever they go.

While Will is not the only character of note on the story, focusing on them heavily ignores that the story is not focused on that material. Instead this is a plot and atmosphere that serve as greater pillars, feeling more medieval than most fantasy yet maintaining a steady unnatural and off putting ambiance that draws the reader deeper page by page through the journey the young man goes through.

The introduction, while well written, does much to subvert the ending, so spoiler fearing individuals would do well to skip it. On the other hand for an experienced reader of this story, or merely one who is not concerned about such matters coming to light, it is a well written introduction that helps to illustrate the many ways in which this story can grab a reader.

For most of the book the narrative feels very much out of the medieval storytelling tradition. Wizards rarely have big flashy powers, fights against strange monstrosities are heard about second or more hand and likely mere fanciful tales, and honor is met with treachery. In spite of all of this the idea that there are innately worthwhile acts is put into place and generally holds. The chief separation from medieval texts tends to be the permeating and deliberate air of uncertainty, of worry and precarious existence that holds throughout the text.

While set in a medievalist society complete with obvious class divides and confusing mixtures between the real and Fantastical this book is not one to simply rest on assumptions. There are few women as major characters, but the ones who appear are as well thought out as many of the men. The supernatural events and tasks, weather dream like visions or happening in the present, serve to illustrate a world filled with grays.

Knight’s Wyrd is a short and strange novel. It is also utterly brilliant. A carefully constructed combination of realistic and fantastic elements for a level of society create an atmosphere that shifts from disturbingly mundane to dreamlike on a pin yet never seem out of place. Thoroughly recommended to all (even curious) parties.

Warner Holme Review: Ellen Datlow’s Body Shocks

Body Shocks. Edited by Ellen Datlow
Tachyon Publications, 2021

Review by Warner Holme: Ellen Datlow’s Body Shocks is a collection of stories in, as the title implies, the body horror genre. This can be a difficult genre for many readers, and short and long the stories in this book definitely are not for the faint of heart. More than two dozen stories, it’s a pack collection with a relatively wide variety of material.

Cassandra Khaw’s “The Truth That Lies Under Skin and Meat” is a series of priced statements relating to a woman considering her life and the obsessions which meat brings to mind for her. There are very short sections, each headed by a good or service and associated with a particular cost (although a number of the costs are “free”) and the objects themselves each lead into the following text exploring the situation more thoroughly. 

While there are brief sections questioning the issue of nature versus nurture, it is a minor element in this story. Instead the study twisting development of a woman’s homicidal impulses, and how they relate to the possibly supernatural aspects of this story. Specifically, on a number of occasions the lead is described as transforming physically, and while this is not the main aspect of the story it most definitely creates an additional atmosphere of oppression and instability. The way that the situations are described, and the mention of triggers early on, bring interesting questions of control to this tale.

“The Old Women Who Were Skinned” is Carmen Maria Machado’s addition to this anthology. Told matching the same manner of a fairy tale, it details the lives of two elderly women who cannot help but use skins to their advantage, and attract the attention of an emperor. Like most good fairy tales it includes its share of the impossible, including the presence of fairies themselves.

While taking the form of a fairy tale, it is very much an old-style one. There is visceral gore and unambiguous sex within a brief word count. There is a clear and explicit message related to vanity involved, although there are certainly other themes which might be extracted. Nobility get away with crimes they should not, and the ending happens to be anything but happy. It is a nice little story, likely to turn the stomach and twist the heart.

In addition to a wonderful introduction by the author, wearing a she explains her logic and thought processes in creating this collection, each story is preceded by a nice little paragraph discussing the author. These are always appreciated, simultaneously giving a little context to the story and providing an easy jumping on point for readers who want more material from that writer. 

A special note should be given on the interior design by John Coulthart. In addition to a gorgeously disturbing cover, everything from the table of contents to the pages following each story feature images of and related to the human body which remain anywhere from unsettling to downright nausea inducing. Given a certain lack of unity can exist in any anthology regardless of theme, this design work and art is an excellent tool to help connect the pieces to one another.

Overall Body Shocks is easy to recommend to readers who enjoy this kind of horror. There are a large number of pieces with a great variety of style. One shouldn’t enter it with a weak stomach, nor a faint heart. Still for fans of this subject matter, or those who enjoy Ellen Datlow’s work and can handle trying the material, there is bound to be enjoyed.

(Tachyon, 2021)

Warner Holme Review: Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson

Call Me Joe (The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson)
NESFA Press, 2009

Review by Warner Holme: Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson strongly starts off a NESFA Press series of volumes covering the work of one of the key 20th century writers of Science Fiction, Poul Anderson.

In the introduction, the editor, Rick Katze, states “This is the first in a multi-volume collection of Poul Anderson stories. The stories are not in any discernible pattern…” The pieces of fiction are an eclectic mix of early works in his oeuvre, mixed with poetry and verse that range across his entire career.

The contents include: Call Me Joe, Prayer in War, Tomorrow’s Children, Kinnison’s Band, The Helping Hand, Wildcat, Clausius’ Chaos, Journey’s End, Heinlein’s Stories, Logic, Time Patrol, The First Love, The Double-Dyed Villains, To a Tavern Wench, The Immortal Game, Upon the Occasion of Being Asked to Argue That Love and Marriage are Incompatible, Backwardness, Haiku, Genius, There Will Be Other Times, The Live Coward, Ballade of an Artificial Satellite, Time Lag, The Man Who Came Early, Autumn, Turning Point, Honesty, The Alien Enemy, Eventide, Enough Rope, The Sharing of Flesh, Barbarous Allen, Welcome,Flight to Forever, Sea Burial, Barnacle Bull, To Jack Williamson, Time Heals, MacCannon, The Martian Crown Jewels, Then Death Will Come, Prophecy, Einstein’s Distress, Kings Who Die, Ochlan and Starfog.

The introduction is not quite correct, in that the reader can find resonances between stories, sometimes in stories back to back. There are plenty of threads, and a fan of Anderson and his Nordic viewpoint might call it a skein, a tangled skein of fictional ideas, themes, ideas and characters. The same introduction notes that a lot of the furniture of science fiction can be found in early forms here, as Anderson being one of those authors who have made them what they were for successive writers. In many cases, then, it is not the freshness of the ideas that one reads these stories for, but the deep writing, themes, characters and language that put Anderson in a class of his own.

The titular story, for example, Call Me Joe, leads off the volume. It is a story of virtual reality in one of its earliest forms, about Man trying to reach and be part of a world he cannot otherwise interact with. Watchers of the movie Avatar will be immediately struck by the story and how much that movie relies on this story’s core assumptions and ideas. But the story is much more than the ideas. It’s about the poetry of Anderson’s writing. His main character, Anglesey, is physically challenged (sound familiar). But as a pseudoJovian, he doesn’t have to be and he can experience a world unlike any on Earth:

Anglesey’s tone grew remote, as if he spoke to himself. “Imagine walking under a glowing violet sky, where great flashing clouds sweep the earth with shadow and rain strides beneath them. Imagine walking on the slopes of a mountain like polished metal, with a clean red flame exploding above you and thunder laughing in the ground. Imagine a cool wild stream, and low trees with dark coppery flowers, and a waterfall—methanefall, whatever you like—leaping off a cliff, and the strong live wind shakes its mane full of rainbows! Imagine a whole forest, dark and breathing, and here and there you glimpse a pale-red wavering will-o’-the-wisp, which is the life radiation of some fleet, shy animal, and…and…”

Anglesey croaked into silence. He stared down at his clenched fists then he closed his eyes tight and tears ran out between the lids, “Imagine being strong!”

 Reader, I was moved.

That’s only part of the genius of Anderson’s work shown here. Anderson has many strings in his harp and this volume plays many of those chords.

There is the strong, dark tragedy of “The Man who Came Early” which is in genre conversation with L Sprague De Camp’s “Lest Darkness Fall” and shows an American soldier, circa 1943, thrown back to 11th century Iceland and, pace Martin Padway, doing rather badly in the Dark Ages. Poul Anderson is much better well known for his future history that runs from the Polesotechnic League on through the Galactic Empire of Dominic Flandry, but this volume has three stories of his other future galactic civilization, where Wing Alak manages a much looser and less restrictive galactic polity, dealing with bellicose problems by rather clever and indirect means.

 And then there is his time travel tales. Time Patrol introduces us to the entire Time Patrol cycle and Manse Everard’s first mission. I’ve read plenty of his stories over the years, but this first outing had escaped me, so it was a real delight to see “where it all began”. A wildcat has oil drillers in the Cretaceous and a slowly unfolding mystery leads to a sting in the tail about the fragility of their society.  And then there is one of my favorite Poul Anderson stories, period, the poetic and tragic and moving “Flight to Forever”, with a one way trip to the future, with highs, lows, tragedies, loss and a sweeping look at man’s future. It still moves me.

And space. Of course we go to space.  From the relativistic invasion of “Time-Lag” to the far future of “Starfog” and “The Sharing of Flesh”, Anderson was laying down his ideas on space opera and space adventure here in these early stories that still hold up today. “Time-Lag’s” slow burn of a captive who works to save her planet through cycles of invasion and attack, through the ultimate tragedy of “Starfog” as lost explorers from a far flung colony seek their home, to the “Sharing of Flesh”, which makes a strong point about assumptions in local cultures, and provides an anthropological mystery in the bargain. “Kings Who Die” is an interesting bit of cat and mouse with a lot of double dealing espionage with a prisoner aboard a spacecraft.

Finally, I had known that Anderson was strongly into verse and poetry for years, but really had never encountered it in situ. This volume corrects that gap in my reading, with a variety of verse that is at turns, moving, poetic, and sometimes extremely funny. The placing of these bits of verse between the prose stories makes for excellent palette cleansers to not only show the range of Anderson’s work, but also clear the decks for the next story.

The last thing I should make clear for readers who might be wondering if this volume truly is for them to is to go back to the beginning of this piece. This volume, and its subsequent volumes, are not a single or even multivolume “best of Poul Anderson”. This is a book, first in a series, that is meant to be a comprehensive collection of Poul Anderson. This is not the book or even a series to pick up if you just want the best of the best of a seminal writer of 20th century science fiction. This volume (and I strongly suspect the subsequent ones) is the volume you want if you want to start a deep dive into his works in all their myriad and many forms. There is a fair amount from the end of the Pulp Era here, and for me it was not all of the same quality. I think all of the stories are worthy but some show they are early in his career, and his craft does and will improve from this point.  While for me stories like the titular Call Me Joe, “Flight to Forever”, “The Man Who Came Early”, and the devastating “Prophecy” are among my favorite Poul Anderson stories, the very best of Poul Anderson is yet to come.

(NESFA, 2009)

Often shy and retiring Warner Holme has worn many hats over the years. He has worked in fields ranging from the medical to advertising, but always finds himself most at home among stories and words. He can usually be found in the mid-south, caring for some person or animal, and is almost never more than a meter away from a few books.

Warner Holme Review: Dark Gods

Dark Gods by T.E.D. Klein.
PS Publishing, 2021

Review by Warner Holme: T.E.D. Klein’s Dark Gods is a nice little collection of novellas by an author who has been anything but prolific. With a range of horrific tales within the pages, it is easy to see what attracts about the book.

“Children of the Kingdom” is a thoughtful update on ancient history related horror, with obvious nods to Lovecraft. Overall the narrator dealing with his grandfather and the man’s new surroundings work as an interesting story, and the oddities of ideas related two of them helped to build mystery amd horror.

Big city horror of this vein is not particularly common, and this volume does an interesting job of it. One certainly gets the feel for a dark and dingy place bordering upon the grotesque at times in this story, yet at the same time some details of the metropolis seem most enjoyable.

Naming the wife of the narrator Karen is somewhat unfortunate in light of the decades later reputation that name has gained. 

Some parallels to Lovecraft, like a fear of breeding with the unacceptably strange, are certainly handled better than by the aforementioned author. In this the horrifying possibility of breeding with a very different creature is presented in relation to rape, which combined with the relatively cosmopolitan setting makes it seem less a condemnation of miscegenation.

This story feels like it could have easily been expanded into a full novel, and certainly some of the less fortunate implications would not have been noticed then. By a similar token people of color are frequently described amongst the criminals of various areas, in a way that might seem racially-motivated. While this seems unintentional on the part of the author, and he indeed does describe relatively positive characters from multiple racial groups, it might very well be bothersome to certain readers.

Given the introduction features a quote by Lovecraft “The Black Man with a Horn” represents another clear homage. In this one can find the themes of a strange foreigner, old objects and horrifying revelations. It all begins with the narrator meeting the titular character on a trip, finding him amiable enough but quickly discovering that 

Throughout this story is the familiar creeping dread, a Stephen King like use of an author as the viewpoint character, and the sense of humor the figure starts out with a nice bit of levity. Mind, a story written before the year 2000 are doing it would be impossible to find a lost work is a little hilarious, however the proliferation of information even at the time was wide enough that the point was understandable.

Overall this is a very nice little collection from an author whom kept his work to a minimum. To anyone who enjoyed his novel The Ceremonies, it is a must-read. To other readers of horror and the horrific it is well worth a look. The newest edition does contain a number of revisions, effectively serving as an author is preferred text, making it in and of itself desirable for that reason. Still regardless the stories contained within are suitably good examples of their respective subgenres, and easy to enjoy.

Often shy and retiring Warner Holme has worn many hats over the years. He has worked in fields ranging from the medical to advertising, but always finds himself most at home among stories and words. He can usually be found in the mid-south, caring for some person or animal, and is almost never more than a meter away from a few books.

Warner Holme Review: King Rat

King Rat by China Miéville. Introduction by Tim Maughan.
First published in 1998. Reprinted in 2023 by Tor Essentials

Review by Warner Holme: China Miéville’s King Rat is a fascinating mixture of the elements in late 1990’s urban fantasy. Coming out originally as the breakout volume for someone who would become a byword of the genre, this book deals with a hidden world outside of and beneath what is known, dealing with a focal point in London. 

Specifically it is about a man called Saul dealing with the sudden death of his father, as he is thrust into a strange underworld where King Rat, a human looking figure, who explains he has a hidden ancestry and great destiny, though he might be fighting against a mind controlling force. While this seems straightforward enough, the fact more is going on becomes obvious from the get-go.

A very nice new introduction attempts to give some background on the book, and in particular on the musical genre known as Jungle which features within it. This is a relatively small genre to be sure, and as a result a reminder for readers who are unfamiliar with it will be greatly appreciated.

The depiction of this strange underworld as centered around rats, spiders, and birds is a clever way to reference back to old mythologies and folk tales. It is also, however, somewhat arguably a slightly classist way to reference back towards the people of the streets in the process, almost treating them as vermin. Odd era-appropriate images of class, like some groups hating acoustic playing along with samples or people being suspicious of a cellphone user, are clearly finding the whole matter completely out of date. More than this, the clueless but legitimately honest and well meaning cops are an especially noticeable oddity in what is obviously a left leaning story, and this has only become more-so over time.

Class and race play roles in this book, although the elements of each are not what might be obvious. The use of music is clever and could easily be seen as an examination of the dangers and weaknesses regarding cultural appropriation. This is not to say that this was intentional, and indeed character dynamics mean that even the more socialist sentiments raise questions as characters often espouse them for personal reasons.

The similar subjects and release dates matching well enough means that for many Neil Gaiman’s Neverewhere supplants this book in memory. This is an unfortunate association as both are enjoyable but they do not approach the material from a similar philosophical point of view. While forgetting the homeless or strange is treated as unfortunate in Neverwhere, here even the powerful of the underworld are treated as a special example of privilege and desperate to maintain that control to which they are accustomed.

The Tor Essentials line has republished volumes both well known and obscure. This falls somewhat into a middle category, as it was successful enough on release and from an author who is considered one of the great names in the genre of fantasy. Certainly to be recommended to fans of the author, urban fantasy aficionados will undoubtedly like a look at this strange volume as well.

(Tor, 2023)

Warner Holme Review: The Green Man

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis. Introduction by Michael Dirda.
New York Review Books Classics

Review by Warner Holme: Kingsley Amis’ The Green Man is a strange little enigma of a book that features potential hauntings and actual alcoholic breakdowns, it’s somehow one of the most appropriately bizarre examples of the man’s work to be published.

As soon as the first proper story page, one can see that as much as Amis is respected as literary these days he references the likes of Brian W. Aldiss and Harry Harrison directly in his work. Both quality authors, and listed amongst other talented individuals, but people who are very much remembered as authors of genre fiction within their respected boxes rather than seen as part of the respectable literary movements of their time.

The subject matter is fairly simple, centering around a middle-aged man named Maurice Ellington who takes over running an inn after the death of his father and starts seeing the ghosts occasionally claimed to haunt the place. Fighting his health problems, disagreements with his family, and substance abuse he struggles to find a path through this strange new situation in a book that is not entirely a metaphor for middle age and death.

The casual way, initially in a advertisement for the inn by the title name, that the subject of hauntings and ghosts are broached in this book is actually fairly realistic. While authors regularly try to add a mystique to the very concept of hauntings when a story will deal with them on the whole, the simple fact is that stories about a haunting in one area or another are common. Old, quaint, rustic, or idiosyncratic places will attract stories of ghosts, fairies, or other strange phenomena. For some it becomes a primary selling point, and for many others and acknowledged amusing little aspect. This is true enough in the present day United States, and was if anything more so in the United Kingdom of the 1960s.

Like a fair amount of clever genre fiction, one of the hardest things to detail about this book is tone. With cute winks and absurd yet realistic situations punctuating throughout the story, the idea that it is intended as a outright comedy might be considered. On the other hand the concern about losing one’s mind, the strange interactions with old stories and ideas, lend themselves to not only horror but folk horror. Elements of surrealism and even absurdism slip into the text, and yet it is far too straightforward most of the time to be seen strictly in those terms.

Overall the book is very much of its time. Libertine about sex and featuring a variety of people, it still goes out of its way on page 121 to be homophobic. On the other hand the lead character that the story focuses on, and thus takes on a certain level of his point of view, is himself deeply flawed at best. Whether this justifies the comments like this or not is quite up to the individual reader.

As with most releases from the New York Review of Books, this volume starts with a fairly thorough introduction. This particular piece is by Michael Dirda, who goes through everything from the influences that the author admitted to all the way to the aspects of this book which could have been argued as autobiographical. This includes material not only readily in the public record, but also amusing speculations by the writer of the introduction.

The Green Man is not the most traditional horror story, but is a definite example of that genre. Indeed featuring a man with substance abuse problems going through a breakdown and encountering ghosts while running an inn, one cannot help but suspect some forgotten influence on Stephen King. However there is more balance and rye and carefully constructed humor in this relatively brief book, and a general tone so unique to Amis that it has to be experienced.

(NY Review of Books, 2022)

Often shy and retiring Warner Holme has worn many hats over the years. He has worked in fields ranging from the medical to advertising, but always finds himself most at home among stories and words. He can usually be found in the mid-south, caring for some person or animal, and is almost never more than a meter away from a few books.

Warner Holme Review: George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Fairy Story

Animal Farm: A Fairytale Story by George Orwell. Introduction by Richard Blair. Illustrated by Omar Rayyan. Suntup Editions.

Review by Warner Holme: George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A Fairy Story is a classic of political allegory. And dozens of versions of the story exist, with even the print variations being noticeably wide. This particular edition, by Suntup, is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous and carefully planned ever put together.

There is a multipage introduction by Richard Blair in which he talks about the history of the book as well as its significance, including the text of a letter of rejection from none other than T.S. Eliot. Blair discusses his personal issues related to the volume, and the influence it had, as well as giving some biogaphical background on George Orwell.

A nice note on the text is included in which Peter Davison expounds upon the history of Animal Farm amd variations in the story, starting with the often removed subtitle of “A Fairy Story” and moving up to such esoterica as a radio version Orwell helped write. It is a delightful bounty of interesting meterial about the volume ajd it’s variations in multiple languages.

Unused prefaces and introductions are included, specifically a version from the Ukrainian Edition and a long lost one that was only recovered in the 1970s. More of Orwell’s writing on the book,  these rarely seen gems give a look into the way the author thought of the story he told.

A major selling point for this edition is the gorgeous new illustrations by Omar Rayyan. Each image is detailed and grotesque, the perfect mix of realistic minutia and exaggerated design creating a world that feel very much like what is written in the book. They illustrate, usually quite accurately, events from the book which allow for suitably disturbing imagery, whether due to overt horror or corrupt influence.

The use of pigs as the main antagonists of Animal Farm was always a stroke of genious. They are creatures that are well known to consume a great deal, all but indscriminately. They are violent and dangerous in the rigut circumstances, yet the public in general are very much not aware of that. Those.who do not think (f the creatures as cute usually, instead, merely see them as a useful source of meat. However the most important fact from this point of view comes from the simple detail that they are not kosher. They are not approved of by Judaism. As a result of this they are oftem used as an antisemetic symbol. For a novel published in 1945 (and written significantly before that) it is  especially appreciated as it was easy to accidentaly or deliberately seen as such.

As with all Classics there are a number of variations one can purchase for this volume. This one, from Suntup Editions, is not only the most gorgeous of them but one of the most complete. The additional material is gripping and fascinating, and while not quite exhaustive voluminous enough to be appreciated. Indeed one of the most obvious missing pieces by or will on the subject, from his correspondence with Dwight Macdonald, is quoted in the promotional material meaning it is arguably included as well. To anyone who collects high-end volumes, this book is a fantastic piece to add to your collection. To fans of animal farm, if they are willing to spend $200 or more dollars on a book, it is also highly recommended.

(Suntup, 2023)

Often shy and retiring Warner Holme has worn many hats over the years. He has worked in fields ranging from the medical to advertising, but always finds himself most at home among stories and words. He can usually be found in the mid-south, caring for some person or animal, and is almost never more than a meter away from a few books.

Warner Holme Review: Witch King

Witch King by Martha Wells
Tordotcom, May 2023

Review by Warner Holme: On the question of harder versus softer magic systems, Martha Wells has found a rare balance between the two approaches that is likely to please most readers with this novel, Witch King. This most definitely leads with a fairly magic heavy setting, and those strictly interested in low fantasy may be put off by that, but it is an extremely well-built world in regard to these differences.

Cultural differences, and how imperialism can affect them, add some unusual layers to the book that might not be expected by readers. These are not the primary focus of the book, nor the secondary focus, yet definitely serve as reminders of such issues. Furthermore, once again showing the skill Wells has, such questions do ultimately come into play at certain points in the narrative, quietly slipping into place in the foreground from their status as background detail at the appropriate time.

While the lead, Kai, is undoubtedly the most important figure in the book, supporting characters move in and out of it freely. Some are relatives close or distant of his, others so removed he barely has a conception of what kind of person they might be. While told through a close third person the world is nonetheless made fairly clear and the question of how different some people are from the protagonist is addressed well.

While there is most certainly something of an openness to the ending, the book nonetheless works quite well as a standalone. Major conflicts are resolved, important characters have made progress in their goals beyond what one might expect for a single chapter of a story, and instead merely acknowledging a continuation of events.

There is a deceptive comfortable nature to reading this book. The style of storytelling, even while switching between the past and present, will seem familiar to current readers. At the same time the subtle foreshadowing and clever world building will often only be appreciated not only after the payoff, but a little while later when readers have time to think about these connections.

Fans of Martha Wells should pick up The Witch King and read it immediately. Fans of young adult fantasy looking for something comfortable to read with more depth and impressive construction would likewise do well to grab it right away. To curious parties, it is well worth a read if any of the contents sound interesting.

(Tordotcom, 2023)

Warner Holme Review: Origins of The Wheel of Time

Origins of The Wheel of Time: the Legends and Mythologies by Michael Livingston
Tor Books, ISBN‎ 1250860520 (November 8, 2022)

Review by Warner Holme: Michael Livingston’s Origins of The Wheel of Time: the Legends and Mythologies that inspired Robert Jordan represents an interesting example of an adapted text. Originally a series of presentations given at conventions, for many who prefer a more homely environment or a quieter method of observing the material this will be their first opportunity to experience it.

A detailed if not thorough biography of Robert Jordan is included towards the beginning of the book. This is more in-depth than previously published biographical pieces, including references from his loved ones as well as quotations from his own personal anecdotes. This material ranges from quite early in his life all the way to years after his death when the completion of The Wheel of Time required bringing in Brandon Sanderson to work from his notes. All of these are well documented, a number of textual notes leading to citations later in the book. They are also immensely useful to those wishing to understand the man’s personal background or the background of the final three books in this series.

A distinct section of this book is devoted to the influence that The Lord of The Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien’s work in general had on Robert Jordan for The Wheel of Time. This is a wise decision as while it was a major work and influence, separating it out allows the material which provided influence in other ways to be guaranteed a suitable amount of time. Indeed some of the most fascinating material in this first section comes from quotations by Robert Jordan about the ways in which he chose to apply what the creator of Middle-earth did either stylistically or philosophically in his own work, and through that the many ways in which he would also choose to contrast the material.

Another large portion of the book deals with other influences, and it is greatly appreciated. Many obvious influences came from the Arthurian stories like Le Morte de Arthur, with a nice comparison of names provided in this very book to make that point. Still other influences such as Beowulf, one of the oldest surviving stories from the anglosphere if not the oldest, are discussed in detail. 

A large section is the book is taken up by an alphabetical cataloging of obvious influences of the real world upon the Wheel of Time book series. While this is all very interesting information the formatting as well as the nature of the information lends it to suiting better as a reference rather than strict continued reading material.

Towards the end of the book, Livingston comments that he sees this volume more as a beginning to examining the work of Robert Jordan and this world in particular. While it is definitely hopeful that more thorough and deep dives into this world will exist, this volume does make a very nice starting point. Details ranging from Robert Jordan’s time in the Vietnam War all the way to hood ornaments are brought up in connection to the man’s stylistic choices throughout this text, however few of them are fully interrogated. This book is well recommended to fans of Robert Jordan who are curious about the ways his work was influenced and shaped both during his life and after his death.

(Tor, 2022)