Bookshelf show off: The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

Look what I got in the mail! 

*happy dance*

I’m about to finish Gardens of the Moon, expect my review of this beauty next!

Quint von Canon’s illustrations are so stunning. The map is superb, too. 

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My Writing Soundtrack – Part 4

Here comes the long awaited part 4 of my writing soundtrack -after an awfully long time! Sorry about that- featuring some gems from Faun as well as more game soundtracks and instrumental collections.

Part 1 can be seen here.

Part 2 can be seen here.

Part 3 can be seen here.

Steampunk & Victorian Music Collection

Lindsey Stirling – Dragon Age

I’m a big fan of Lindsey Stirling’s music, it got me through awfully boring night shifts for months back int the day. This is from her official channel, I ordered some songs from her new album from itunes and I highly recommend checking it out. She makes amazing melodic songs which make great background music for writing sessions.

Faun- Ne Aludj El

I wrote many a chapter with this haunting Hungarian song in the background.

Faun – Arcadia

One of my all-time favorites, this Faun song is in Finnish, the lyrics are a poem from the Kanteletar, the lesser known collection of Finnish folk poems (Kalevala is the famous one.) The poem talks about a golden woodland king, which reminds me of Thranduil, which might as well be Tolkien’s inspiration for the character. The way he’s described in Hobbit is somewhat similar to this poem. Tolkien has drawn quite a bit of elements from the Kalevala, it would be no surprise if he was inspired by the Kanteletar also. Anyway, I love this song, it’s flamin’ great.

Faun – Königin

Faun – Egil Saga

Faun – Lupercalia

This one’s lyrics are from an Ovid poem, describing Pan. Ovid was one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature and this song lead me to grabbing a copy of the book, Fastorum Libri Sex, where this poem is taken from.

In the song/poem Pan runs downhill naked, followed by his ministers, in spirit of Lupercalia. At least that’s what I understood 🙂 Here is the Google Books link (scroll a bit for the English translation) for the curious.

Medieval II: Total War – Teutonic Campaign Soundtrack

Medieval Orthodox Byzantine Chants

This will sound weird, but I listen to Byzantine Orthodox chants for getting in the mood for certain parts of the story. It’s heavily inspired by the medieval Byzantine culture and they have produced some of the best religious music of the era. I am not a Christian, but I love the Orthodox chants.They are quite haunting and puts me in that certain atmosphere.

Ancient Greek Music: Spirit of Socrates

This one has some reconstructed (from archaelogical findings) and original music featuring ancient Greek instruments. Pretty darn cool stuff.

Book Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

The Wheel of Osheim

Genre: Dark Fantasy
Series: Red Queen’s War
Author info: http://www.marklawrence.buzz/

This book picks up the adventure where The Liar’s Key left it, with a bang -quite literally! This book is one of the best conclusions of a series I have ever read to date and it answers all of the questions in the most brilliant way with mind blowing twists and reveals. No question was left unanswered for me and the climax was brilliant.

And, if you are a Jorg fan, you will get a stunning scene featuring Jorg and Jalan’s dialogue with Jorg is one of my favorite parts in this book. Jalan’s desert scenes were splendid, but his journey through Hell with Snorri was even more so. Snorri is one of the best fantasy side characters ever and the emotional depth in Snorri’s character arc is incredible.

I am not a fan of battle scenes featuring the zombie/undead enemy armies, those bore me to death but the battle scene in The Wheel of Osheim was an awesome read with ingenious twists and turns. The prose is amazing and the flow of the story is smooth as usual. Jalan’s change and the way he gradually leaves his old life behind along with old Jalan is one of the best parts of the entire series. So is his relationship with Snorri, it’s something only a master wordsmith could write so beautifully.

Red Queen, Silent Sister and Garyus are superb minor characters, I enjoyed their scenes in The Liar’s Key and they get their awesomeness show in this book. The other great thing about this book is the way the answers to all of the questions raised in Prince of Fools and The Liar’s Key are revealed one by one, sometimes with a bang. The major reveals are the sort no one will see coming.

This book, like the previous two, is peppered with hilarious moments and clever quotes, the dialogues are damn good as usual and the action doesn’t let up. One thing I love about Mark Lawrence’s books is that there is always the great philosophy and the reflections of the characters which make you stop reading and think, without letting up the action and the thrill one bit. That is one hell of a feat few authors can accomplish.

If you are a fan of journeys you will love this book and series, there are quite a number of different journey arcs, some featuring just Jalan, some with Jalan and Snorri and some featuring the whole gang (Jalan, Snorri, Kara, Hennan) in different lands, with all kinds of crazy stuff happening along the way.

There are so many things I could say but I can’t say any more for the sake of keeping my review spoiler free. I can’t recommend this book enough, in fact I can’t recommend Mark Lawrence enough.

My Writing Soundtrack – Part 3

Here comes the long awaited part 3 of my writing soundtrack with featuring even more eclectic goodies.

Part 1 can be seen here.

Part 2 can be seen here.
 

Rolandskvadet Harald Foss version

I featured the Medieval Trio version of this great medieval classic, but my personal favorite is the longer version performed by Harald Foss.

2 Hours of Fantasy Music by Derek Fiechter

I discovered this amazing indie gem on /r/Fantasy subreddit and it has been one of my favorite all day loop pieces for some time now. Created by a very talented indie musician, this sweet instrumental collection has all kinds of fantasy themes (each track featuring a beautiful fantasy art piece) including forest fairies, elves, pirates, dwarves and mermaids. I highly recommend this, well it’s not exactly suitable for writing grimdark but I did write some gritty scenes while listening to it. I can’t recommend this artist enough! He has several albums on iTunes and also a spotify channel. I’m planning to buy all of his albums since the songs here are such great inspiration for my writing, I could definitely use more great tracks.

2-Hours Epic Music Mix by various artists

This is a big compilation of instrumental cinematic music. It fits all kinds of fantasy themes, especially epic fantasy but not so much grimdark. I have this on loop quite often.

Acherontic Dawn – Defending Gaia

Great piece of battle and action scenes. One of my all time favorites of this genre.

Colossal Trailer Music – Memoria Invictus

This album is full of heroic and epic stuff, one of the best writing background tracks ever.

Cybertribe -Cry Of The Earth

How I discovered this one is rather funny. When I was on vacation with my metalhead BFF, we went to this badass cafe one night on this mountain village in the Aegean coast of Turkey and they were playing this song and the other one below. She totally fell in love with the songs and asked what they were called and who the artist was. It was sone random radio stream, the owner had no clue at all, so my BFF pulled all kinds of apps and found the songs. This and the below track have been our vacation music ever since. She drops the youtube links when the winter becomes unbearable, as a reminder and flashback trigger for the nice summer days.

WATERBONE – TIBET – AUGUST MOON

Same as above 🙂

Seikilos Epitaph – Song of Seikilos

This beauty is an ancient Greek song, the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition. It’s about 2000 years old. The notes and the lyrics have been excavated on an ancient Greek burial in the Aegean region of Turkey. The following text was carved on the tombstone:

I am a tombstone, an icon. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance.

Translation of the lyrics:

While you live, shine
Don’t suffer anything at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll.

Ancient Roman Music by Musica Romana – Pugnate II

This is a double track featuring “Risus Sativus” and “Hymnus Dianae” from Pugnate album. This is apparently what ancient Roman music sounds like and I love it. The whole album is one of my regular ‘put it on the loop and write’ things.

A rather philosophical excerpt from my book

I was supposed to finish this book last winter but a lot of things like illness got in the way so it’s still not done, but getting there.

In the meantime, I will share an excerpt to show the folks who have been patiently waiting (and those who have been quite rightfully bugging the hell out of me for new chapters and release info) a tiny bit of insight into the main protagonist of this book. I appreciate comments and feedback as usual. WP editor screws up my nice indents, so you will have to excuse me there.

Here it comes:

***

“Master Rogatus is here to give you the report you requested, your majesty.”
“Send him in,” Thalios said. Silence fell upon the air as the imperial physician walked in with slow, even steps. The man stood tall and firm despite his advanced years. Devoid of the weariness of the others, his eyes alight and alive, as if the long march through rough lands had been a pleasant walk in the woods for him.

Thalios didn’t need to ask the question, Rogatus’ gaze told him as much. “Lord Liberius is doing well so far, your majesty. I removed the arrow and treated the wound. It was quite deep but not bad enough to lame his leg. Now we must wait and pray it doesn’t fester.”

“Many thanks, Master Rogatus.” The physician’s eyes were calm but Thalios didn’t miss the hint of concern they held. Men who survived the arrows died from the festering wounds more often than not. He said nothing else, giving a slight nod. Rogatus held his gaze for a moment, then gave a bow and walked out with the same slow, calculated steps. The man’s presence was so strong, Thalios felt like a weight lifted from the air when he walked out of the tent. It was getting dark in the tent, with the sun sinking beyond the horizon.

“Pass the word to all the commanders to get their men ready to march at dawn. I doubt the battle will come to us tomorrow, it’s time we go to it.”
A silent supper followed the quick council. Mathen’s scouts didn’t return, Thalios and his advisors didn’t know what to make of it. Agros thought Anseth was being craven and refusing to come out of hiding. Valkar said Anseth may be plotting a surprise attack. Mathen speculated the men might have deserted, for the tension of uncertainty and the word about half of the army missing wore everyone’s nerves thin. Everyone made a different assumption, but in the end there was even more uncertainty than before, souring their moods.

Thalios went to bed early but sleep didn’t come. He got out of his tent to get some fresh air and walked towards the palisades facing the hills with a band of guards in tow. Countless stars twinkled from horizon to horizon in the moonless night. The night air was not crisp as it was in the mountain passes, only a little less sultry than midday. In another time and another place he would have enjoyed watching the stars.

“Go out into the desert and watch the myriad of divine lanterns in the sky, for their beauty shines brighter than your feeble lamps” one poet had written in a long forgotten age. He was from the bygone desert kingdom in the south where Xil Dhara stood today. The kingdom had crumbled away many centuries ago, names of its kings erased from the memory of men, but the words of the poet were still remembered today.

That many stars in the sky, that many leagues away from civilization, made one question his place in the world, even under the strain of the impending battle. The words inspired by the endless field of stars above would live on, even after the Empire itself became history. No empire ever lasted longer than the wisdom of the poets. Why then am I fighting? Who will remember my name after five hundred years?

Everything seemed so meaningless and paltry all of a sudden, under the unnumbered stars shining there in the black firmament since the dawn of time long before men walked on earth. The moment froze right then and there, shorter than the blink of an eye, when the dreadful battle cries tore through the stillness of the night and the enemy arrows fell upon the camp like a hailstorm.

My Writing Soundtrack – Part 2

I finally have the energy to write the second part of my writing background music list. This part features Icelandic and Finnish folk music, game soundtrack compilations and some instrumental pieces.

Part 1 can be seen here.

Peaceful Jeremy Soule Compilation

This is one of my top 5 most frequently played pieces since it has all my favorite tracks from Oblivion and Skyrim. It includes Morrowind tracks too. I never played Morrowind but I love the music all the same. I am not a fan of the battle music and enemy warning music, so this compilation is just perfect!

Alls Well – Oblivion

This is my ultimate all time favorite in Oblivion game and the reason I spent countless hours shopping in town cause that one plays mostly when you are in the shopping districts. Beautiful harp and medieval tune.

3 Hours of Epic & Powerful Fantasy Music: Legendary – GRV MegaMix

This mix is epic and powerful as the title states. It features cinematic style music by different artists. There’s all kinds of great stuff here fitting every sort of mood and atmosphere, from desert treks to battle scenes. This is one of my top 5 most frequently played favorites. The artworks features in the video are awesome too, I play it as background music but take a look at the artwork every now and then for inspiration.

Icelandic Folk Song – Völuvísa

Harald Foss – Stilla

Another great medieval piece performed by Harald Foss.

Loituma – Kun Mun Kultani Tulisi (Finnish folk music)

Lyrics and translation here. Beautiful and haunting as typical Finnish folk music.

Auðn – Þjáning Heillar Þjóðar (Atmospheric Black Metal from Iceland)

I have no idea how to pronounce it but it’s a damn good piece. Great for sorcery scenes or anything dramatic and grimdark. I love this song.

Medieval 2 Total War Arabic Battle Theme

Since I’m writing some battle scenes in the desert, this piece is quite fitting. I never played Medieval Total War (not my kind of game, I’m more into fantasy roleplaying stuff like the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age games) but I love its soundtracks.

My Writing Soundtrack – Part 1

A lot of people showed interest when I asked if I should share my writing soundtrack, so here comes part 1. It’s a rather massive collection of playlists giving my the inspiration while I type away, so this will be a series of posts.

This part features the medieval ballads with lyrics, each one has a rather interesting background story. Of course not all of the songs have such extensive stories, a lot of them are instrumental, including video game and movie soundtracks. But the background stories of the medieval ballads are full of great stories which could inspire fantasy writers out there so I’m including them in this post.

Here goes the list:

Rolandskvadet – Norwegian version of Roland’s Song

This is the Norwegian retelling of the famous French epic from the 12th century AD. It’s a rather sad story of a heroic martyr. The events in the legend take place in the 8th century but the poem was written much later, in the medieval times.

Story of the Song of Roland: Charlemagne’s army has been fighting the Muslims in Spain for the last seven years, and the last city standing is Saragossa, held by the Muslim King Marsile. Marsile fears the might of Charlemagne’s army and decides to surrender, sending messengers to Charlemagne promising treasures and converting the Christianity if the Franks leave.

Charlemagne receives the message and summons his nobles for a council, Roland and his stepfather Ganelon are among them. The emperor decides to accept the offer of peace and send an emissary to Marsile’s court to relay this message. Protagonist Roland nominates his stepfather Ganelon as messenger. Ganelon turns out to be a coward and traitor, however, thinking Roland nominated him to put his life in danger. He informs the Saracens of a way to ambush the rear guard of Charlemagne’s army, led by Roland, as the Franks re-enter Spain through the mountain passes.

The Saracens ambush the rear guard at Roncesvalles, and the Christians are overwhelmed. Roland’s comrades ask him to blow his olifant to call for help from the Frankish army; but Roland proudly refuses to do so.

The Franks fight valiantly but they are ultimately outnumbered, until almost all Roland’s men are dead. Roland finally blows his olifant to summon Charlemagne’s army, until his temples burst and blood pours from his mouth. He dies a martyr’s death, refusing to let the Saracens have his sacred sword Durendal, which has many relics of different saints embedded in it.

Charlemagne and his men reach the battlefield but find Roland’s men all dead. They pursue the Muslims into the river Ebro, where the lot of them drawn. Charlemagne and his barons weep over their fallen martyrs.

When Charlemagne returns to France, Roland’s fiancee asks where her bethrothed is. Charlemagne tells her with great grief that Roland has fallen in the battle, and he will give her his own son. She says she doesn’t want to live without Roland, and drops dead at the feet of the emperor.

The Franks discover Ganelon’s betrayal in the end and put him in chains. Ganelon argues what he did was for revenge on Roland and not treason. While the council of barons assembles to decide the traitor’s fate and get almost swayed by Ganelon’s plea, a man called Thierry stands up and challenges Ganelon’s claim. He points out that Roland was serving Charlemagne when Ganelon delivered his revenge on him, therefore Ganelon’s action is treason.

Ganelon’s friend Pinabel challenges Thierry to trial by combat, but Thierry bests Pinabel and slays him. The Franks are convinced that the divine intervention is at play, proving Ganelon’s treason. Justice is served in the end, Ganelon is torn apart by having four galloping horses tied one to each arm and leg and thirty of his relatives are hanged.

You can read the detailed version here: http://www.authorama.com/national-epics-20.html

It’s beautifully written, I highly recommend reading the whole thing and I think I will recycle this into a fantasy story, since I have a soft spot for flawed heroes and martyrs. In fact I think Tolkien drew inspiration from it too, if you recall the scene where Boromir dies after blowing the horn of Gondor. Roland talking to his named sword Durendal reminds me of Turin talking to his sword in The Silmarillion, the pattern is quite similar. Durendal has special powers due to the holy relics in it, which sounds a lot like the special named swords in Tolkien’s books. Tolkien also took the name olifant (modified as oliphaunt) to name the elephant like animals in the LOTR.

The death of Roland at the Battle of Roncevaux, from an illuminated manuscript c.1455–1460.

Here is the English translation of the lyrics:

Six men stayed behind
To guard their gold;
The other six in heathen lands
Brandished cold steel.

They rode out of Frankish lands
With spoils in their saddles.
Blow your horn, Olifant,
At Roncevaux.

They fought at Roncevaux
For two days, if not three;
And the sun could not shine clear
Through the stench of men’s blood.

They rode out of Frankish lands…

Roland placed the horn to his bloodied mouth
And blew with all his might.
The earth shook and mountains resounded
For three days and nights.

They rode out of Frankish lands…

Herr Mannelig

This is a medieval style Swedish ballad that tells the story of a female mountain troll who proposes marriage to a knight. There are Norwegian and German versions of it also. It has a haunting, sad melody.

The troll is trying to convince Sir Mannelig (Swedish: Herr Mannelig) to marry her. She offers him many great gifts but he refuses her, because she is not a Christian woman but a troll (a Pagan creature).

English translation of the lyrics:

Early one morning before the sun ran up
Before the birds began to sing
The mountain troll proposed to the handsome young man
She had a false tongue
Herr Mannelig, herr Mannelig, will you be betrothed to me?
For that, I offer you gifts very gladly
Surely you can answer but yes or no
If you wish to or not
To you I wish to give the twelve steeds
That go in the grove of roses
Never has there been any saddles upon them
Nor bridles in their mouths
To you I wish to give the twelve mills
That stand between Tillö and Ternö
The stones are made of the reddest gold
And the wheels are silver-laden
To you I wish to give a gilded sword
With a blade of fifteen gold rings
And battle how you will [well or badly]
The battle you would surely win
To you I wish to give a shirt so new
The best you will want to wear
It [literally: she] was not sewn by needle or thread
But crocheted of white silk
Such gifts I would surely accept
If thou wert a Christian [or: pious] woman
However, thou art the worst mountain troll
The spawn of a Neck and the Devil
The mountain troll ran out the door
She shakes and wails hard
Had I got the handsome young man
I would have got rid of my plight
Herr Mannelig, herr Mannelig, will you be betrothed to me?
For that, I offer you gifts very gladly
Surely you can answer but yes or no
If you wish to or not

Villemann og Magnhild

This one is known as Harpans kraft, a supernatural ballad type, with many versions in various Scandinavian languages. Main theme is the magical powers of the harp.

Main plot (from Wikipedia): A bridegroom asks his betrothed why she is so sorrowful. At last she answers that she is going to fall into a river on her way to her wedding (as her sisters have done before her, in some Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish variants). The man promises to build a broad, strong bridge over the river, and he and his men will protect her. Despite precautions, the maiden’s horse stumbles (or rears up) while over the bridge, and she tumbles into the river. The man has his golden harp brought to him and plays so beautifully that the “merman” (Danish: trold; Swedish: neck i.e. “neck (water spirit)”) is forced to return his betrothed.

There exist Danish, Norwegian and Swedish variants where the water spirit restores the bride’s two other sisters (or however many) who had been previously taken by the creature.The Icelandic version has a tragic ending, and the hero only recovers his bride’s corpse.

English translation of the lyrics:

Villeman went to the river
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
There he wanted to play the golden harp
Then the runes promised him luck

Villeman went to stand over the stream
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
He could play the harp so skillfully
Then the runes promised him luck

He played it tenderly, he played it smartly
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
The birds went quiet in the trees
Then the runes promised him luck

He played it softly, he played it loud
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
He played to release Magnhild from the arms of a Troll
Then the runes promised him luck

Then the Troll rose from the depth of the sea
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
Mountains rumbled, and the clouds thundered
Then the runes promised him luck

Then he hit the harp with all his fury
To the most beautiful of all the lime trees
And so took his strength and power
Then the runes promised him luck

Palästinalied

This is an early 13th century crusader poem written at the time of the fifth Crusade by Walther von der Vogelweide, the most celebrated German mediaeval lyric poet. The melody of it was composed in the 14th century. I am a pagan, but I won’t dismiss a good song on the grounds of religion. I listen to plenty of Byzantine Orthodox chants for writing inspiration, since the melodies help me get into the Byzantine setting where I built my fantasy world.

Here is the link to the lyrics and translation: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/pal%C3%A4stinalied-palestine-song.html

Collection of Medieval Songs about Love And Loss

This is a very nice collection by Gilles Binchois I stumbled upon while surfing youtube. The haunting songs are excellent for writing the sad, tear jerker scenes and melancholy reflections of characters. Gilles Binchois is a Netherlandish composer from the early 15th century and one of the earliest members of the Burgundian school. His melodies are said to be the finest of that period.

Á Sprengisandi

This Icelandic folk song is dedicated to Sprengisandsleið which is a road that connects the north and the south of Iceland, going through a barren wasteland in the highlands. It had a rather bad reputation, since there was no fodder for the horses in the barren wastelands, people had to cross it as fast as possible. There are superstitions, ghost stories and rumors of bandits hunting there, which is evident in the lyrics. The elf queen mentioned in the song refers to the hostile supernatural creatures in the Icelandic folklore, not Tolkien’s elves 🙂

English Translation of the lyrics:

Ride, ride, ride over the sand
the sun is setting behind Arnarfell.
Round here there are many (dirty) spirits
’cause it’s getting dark on the glacier
Lord, lead my horse,
the last part of the way will be hard

Tssh, sssh! Tssh, sssh! On the (small) hill a fox ran
her dry mouth she wants to wet with blood;
or perhaps someone was calling
with a strangely dark male voice.
Outlawers in Ódáðahraun
are maybe rounding up some sheep secretly

Ride, ride, ride over the sand
There’s getting dark on Herðubreið.
The elf queen is bridling her horse.
There’s not good to meet her
My best horse I would give to
reach Kiðagil