Tag: sherlock holmes

Latest reads


The Masks of Wielstadt, by Pierre Pevel (French): Pierre Pevel is more known to Anglophone readers as the man who wrote The Cardinal’s Blades (aka a mix of fantasy and adventures à la Dumas). This is a much earlier work, first published in 2002 and the second book of a trilogy (the first book appears to be out of print, sadly). It is 1623, and the Thirty Years War is spreading throughout the Holy Roman Empire, forcing everyone from the burghers to the knights templar to choose their sides. The city of Wielstadt, protected by its dragon, has so far avoided the worst of the conflicts. But no more–for a demon in human guise has come to Wielstadt, determined to put the city upside down for its own nefarious purposes. It falls to Sir Kranz–a man who has already died once–to foil its plans.

It reads very much like Dumas, transposed to the Holy Roman Empire and with a side dash of magic. The tale actually follows several characters in addition to Kranz–his aged friend who owns a bookshop, a ruffian in the service of a few too many people, and a few more besides. It moves at a good clip with the requisite number of fights, murders, dashes across the countryside, and so on. But the universe is really well depicted, with a bite I all too often find lacking in a lot of fantasy; and it’s really refreshing to have a devout man like Kranz as a main character: for him, religion is an integral part of his worldview, and he makes the appropriate space for it in his life. Again, not something I often see in fantasy. And there are lots of cool ideas in there–the sacred blade that can only be drawn by those that have died once, the demon assassins with pitted metal masks, and the interplay between the various societies, from the Knights Templars to the beggars. All in all, a pretty good read, and I’m curious to track down the other books.

And I have to say it’s only in a French book that you’d have lengthy footnotes about historical accuracy; and whole chapters of exposition on various subjects (Renaissance cryptography, history of secret societies). Kind of refreshing, actually, if a little surprising.

Acquaintance: the first episode in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, mixing elements from A Study in Scarlet and The Speckled Band. This was much more fun to watch with the BF by my side: he couldn’t understand more than snatches of the Russian, but he was quick to point out to me all the places where the movie either made fun of foreigners or fell into propaganda (a scene in particular, barely changed from its original in A Study in Scarlet, has become a scathing indictment of Sherlock Holmes as a capitalist materialist–as opposed to the stalwart and dreamy Watson). Again, pretty interesting, albeit I guess not in the way the original makers intended it.

Meanwhile, in writers’ land, crits are coming in for Harbinger. Some stuff looks to be broken, and some not. I’ll have to draw a battle plan for how to revise the book, but right now I’m soaking it all in (and working simultaneously on non-fiction and two short stories).

Recent stuff (series)


So, in order:

-Avatar, the last Airbender:
Coming late to the bandwagon on this one, I know… Set in a pseudo-Asian continent divided in four nations, each with their own element of predilection (earth, water, fire and air), it follows the adventures of Aang, the goofy titular character, last of his tribe and destined to restore balance to the world. Complete with flying bison, a fabulous supporting cast which includes a compassionate girl from the Water Tribe, an emo Fire Prince and his tea-loving uncle[1], and all sorts of awesome beasts and lovely settings. There’s some atttempt to differentiate between nations, with the Fire Nation being more or less an explicit parallel for Japan, the Earth nation strongly inspired by the more stagnant eras of Chinese history, and the Water nation by Inuits (we see very little of the Air nation, which has been wiped out, but it brought Tibet to mind as far as I’m concerned).[2]
It’s actually pretty darn good, striking a very good balance between independent episodes and a larger story arc. Bonus points for making efforts to actually get it right culture-wise (not an expert, but I recognised a bunch of customs from Chinese history), and for having a very strong female cast on both “good” and “evil” sides.

I have seen there’s going to be a movie, which I’m not impatient for. It looks like the humour and self-deprecation that was so much a part of the series went through the window–meaning I’m afraid this is just going to be one big old “Chosen One” movie, heavy on the cool martial arts and light on actual characters. And while I’m not necessarily gunning for 100% racial representativity… seriously, guys? You needed to cast pale-eyed, pale-skinned actors everywhere you could? (except Zuko, who just looks weird). I’ve seen the trailer, and I was traumatised big time by all those pale faces in pseudo-Inuit costumes.

-The adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson:
AKA Sherlock Holmes, Russian style (made in the 70s or 80s). Apparently for afficionados. Only watched a bit of the first episode so far, and it looks to be freakishly faithful to the books. We shall see.

Started on Charlaine Harris: read the first Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Until Dark. Not wildly original, but well done; the book equivalent of comfort food. I’ve gone on to the next one while I was at it.

Also finally reading the Miles Vorkosigan books in sequence. They are made of awesome.

[1]Yup, my fave characters are Zuko and Iroh. How did you guess?
[2]Yeah, a small niggle… Not a big fan of how they played this whole nation business out, which was “everyone with their own kind” (there was only one trans-nation couple, and it formed way too late for them to do anything about it). Would have been nice to have the occasional mixed-nation character in the 70-odd episodes of the show. But I quibble. It was still very good