Review: Dragon Age Tevinter Nights – Burn, Thedas, Burn

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Title: Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights
Author(s):
Patrick Weekes, Sylvia Fektekuty, John Epler, Lukas Kristjanson, Brianne Battye, Caitlin Sullivan Kelly, Courtney Woods, Ryan Cormier, Arone LaBray

Publisher: Tor Books
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy, Game-to-Novel
Subject(s): Gods, LGBTQ+

Release Date:
March 10th, 2020
Page Count: 496 (paperback)

Rating: 8.0/10

 

 

The Dragon Age games are dark, heroic, epic fantasy role playing games that have won legions of devoted fans. The first game went triple platinum (over three millions units sold) worldwide, and the second game was released in March of 2011 to solid reviews. This sixth book in the series is an anthology put together by the game’s writing staff and specifically follows the fates of various characters and events from the previous three games and the newly announced fourth game.

 

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So you thought your patience meter was pretty high with regards to DA4’s release? Thought “Yeah, sure, I can wait another few years for it”? Well, you can kiss that serenity goodbye, my friends, because that bar’s going to be bottomed out by the time you finish this.

Tevinter Nights just displaced The Last Flight as my favourite Dragon Age novel. Not so much in terms of prose and character work, but in terms of the breadth of content –walking you through the northern regions of Thedas, throwing you hints and speculation fodder, teasing you with storylines that will most definitely reappear in the next game (I’ll eat my stuffed nug if they don’t), and just re-immersing you and setting up the stage for everything that’s to come–Tevinter Nights is fantastic and a must-read for all fans of the series.

And here’s what the stage looks like: the Qunari invasion is well underway; Tevinter is being eaten up bit by bit even as the Magisters and the Venatori scheme from within; Nevarra is standing on a fracture line that cuts between the Mortalitasi and the royal family; Antiva is being forced to rely on the Crows as their main defense against the Qunari; and a bald overpowered heartbreaker idiot thinks he knows what’s best for the world and will stop at seemingly nothing to achieve it. And that’s just what’s on the surface and on this side of the Veil.

Things aren’t looking too great right now–and as this is THEDAS we’re talking about, that’s saying something.

A few general criticisms, though. Some of these stories are obviously a lead-in to side quests or the main quest in DA4, so their conclusions aren’t super satisfying; they serve more as teasers (though they’re pretty good teasers). Also, a lot of them follow the same plot formula: “x is killing y” or “x wants to kill y”, followed by “z has to step in to find out who and why.” It gets a bit repetitive, especially if you’re reading the book all in one go. And as with all anthologies, you’re going to get a mix of stories that you like and stories that just don’t work.

 

My favourites in order:

“The Wigmaker” by Courtney Woods
“The Horror of Hormok” by John Epler
“Eight Little Talons” by Courtney Woods
“Half Up Front” by John Epler
“The Dread Wolf Take You” by Patrick Weekes

(Courtney Woods and John Epler are really the MVPs of this anthology. Their stories are stuffed with interesting lore, they nail the balance of teaser and substance, and character-wise, they’re just more solidly crafted than the others)

As far as anthologies go, this was one of the best I’ve read in recent memory. And my furious obsession with the series has no bearing on that assessment. None whatsoever!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play Inquisition for the 50th time.

 

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Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review

 

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January & February 2020 Wrap-Up: Begone, Cursed Months! (Feat. Pretty Lights)

Happy March, everyone!

These past two months felt overly short and dragged out at the same time. And I’m torn between wanting to re-do them or wanting to stuff them into a burlap sack filled with rocks and hurl them into the nearest lake.

I ended up re-reading a lot of old comfort books, partly because of a two-month reading slump I was still shaking off, and partly because I’ve been in and out of a really bad mental place and trying to do my best to stay afloat.

And kind of jumping from that, here’s a little PSA for anyone with depression and suicidal thoughts: don’t wait until you reach the lowest of the lowest breaking point before calling hotline numbers or checking yourself in. I used to think those were things you only do when you’re in a really fucked-up mindspace, and it took me a while to learn otherwise. Do it before you start playing roulette with yourself. Sure, they’re not one-shot fixes; no one comes to you with a platter of solutions and a magic wand to neatly sprinkle them into your brain. But they do try their best, and they give you a safe place when you’re not in a position to trust yourself. Sometimes that’s enough, sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s always better than nothing.

Good? Okay, onto more fun things!

I did manage to get to a few new/upcoming releases, so here are some of the highlights:

⚔️= Fantasy; 🚀= Scifi; 🐺= Paranormal; 👻= Horror; 🔍= Mystery; 🌺= Contemporary; 🗝️= Historical; 🌈= LGBTQ+

 

The Best

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The Poet King (The Harp and Ring Sequence 3) by Ilana C. Myer ⚔️🌈:

I adore this series and sometimes I have a hard time explaining why except to say that it just speaks to me. The characters. The aesthetics. The texture of the world and how music shapes it. The Poet King is the end to a saga that started with Last Song Before Night and I loved it. I mean, it’s got some glaring conclusion issues, but I still loved it.

The “Sequence” part makes me wonder if there’s going to be more stories set in the world. It confuses me (and gives me false hope) when authors don’t come right out and say “trilogy” or “duology.”

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow (Watchmaker 2) by Natasha Pulley 🗝️🌈:

I was nervous about this because Watchmaker on Filigree Street was kind of a disappointment, especially after reading Bedlam Stacks, but Pepperharrow shows how much Pulley is growing as a writer. It’s got everything I adore about her stories–the whimsical seeping into the everyday normal, love that’s portrayed by its negative spaces–plus a lot of the issues in the first book addressed.

 

The Great

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Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus 👻🌺:

The worst and also the best alien abduction story I’ve read in a while. Daniel Kraus has no chill. [Review]

Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights ⚔️:

Tevinter Nights is the first Dragon Age novel since 2014 and the first major romp through Thedas since 2015, and my god, I was stupidly excited. It’s an anthology, and while I’m not the biggest reader of anthologies and definitely not someone who finishes them in one go, make it Dragon Age and I’ll read dozens of them in one month. DA has been my number one game world obsession for the past 10 years. By far. And there’s a running joke–which isn’t really a joke–that when my friends and I play through the series we spend half the time playing the game and the other half combing through pixels trying to catch every bit of information about the world and compiling dossiers. Save the world? Sorry, that’s gotta wait; I have to stare at some statues for the next two hours and cross-reference them with these texts. And sometimes the sleuthing is even more fun than the actual gameplay.

Okay, I’m being told I need to stop before I diverge into full tumblr mode.

But yeah, the stories? *chef’s kiss* They were (mostly) a joy to read through, and I’m back with my tinfoil hat on. The review is going to be horrendously biased and I don’t even care.

 

The Good & Fine

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Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore 🗝️🌺⚔️:

My first venture into Anna-Marie McLemore and I wasn’t disappointed. Story-wise it’s nothing amazing, but I love McLemore’s style of writing and the way she approaches certain details. I’ll be working my way through her other books this year. [Review]

Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 🌺:

This was, uh…..fine? Pleasant? More of a quiet experience than a story that I want to shout from the rooftops about. Review to come!

 

The Could Be Better, Could Be Worse

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The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood ⚔️:

This wasn’t really up to the hype and expectations, but I do like the protagonist–a lesbian orc fighter/merc who tries her best–and I’m hoping the sequel irons out some of the problems. [Review]

 

 


Life Things

I sprained my neck during a hike a few weeks ago which meant little to no drawing or painting (another reason to chuck February to the bottom-most depths), but it’s mostly healed now and I’m eagerly getting back into it.

Also, we got our first winter snow in January! There’s a lake-that’s-more-of-a-large-pond outside my apartment complex and it’s host to a lights festival during winter–creative light sculptures and light-strewn trees winding all around, everything from Christmas themes to Canadian-centric stuff (lots of beavers and maple leaves).

They look gorgeous on any normal night. But when it snows? It’s like you’re moving through these little pockets of magical worlds. Kind of ethereal. Kind of eerie. And super, super neat.

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Tell me how your winter months went and what you’re looking forward to in spring!

Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Friend Groups #Squadgoals

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s topic is: Favourite Friend Groups.

Me: *Muttering* I will not make this post all about Dragon Age and Final Fantasy and anime. I will not make this post all about Dragon Age and Final Fantasy and anime. I will not–

Me #2: Oh, please. You know you want to.

Me: …….I will not–

Me #2: C’mon. Just do one.

Me: ….

I’m weak and it’s late (why oh why do I keep writing these posts at 1 AM??), so I added one Dragon Age to the list. But the rest are examples from books and you’re spared from having to scroll through a 5000-word essay on how much I love Bioware and Final Fantasy games. For today, anyway!

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1. The Raven Cycle Kids

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I’m only halfway through the series right now but I’m already very much in love with the Blue + Raven Boys dynamic. These kids could not be more different from one another, but they still somehow manage to fit together perfectly. And I love how Gansey is the one who holds them all together.

 

2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Carmen, Bridget, Tibby, Lena

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I have no idea how the Travelling Pants series holds up as an adult but I adored it when I was 12-14 years old. These girls supported each other unconditionally in every way, regardless of the distance between them, and I found that to be so inspiring and moving. It offers such a positive depiction of female friendships that we always need more of in YA.

 

3. Kings of the Wyld – Saga

Kings of the Wyld

Saga used to be a mega-famous mercenary group back in the day and now, decades later, they’re a bunch of retired middle-aged men with families, beer guts, and confidence issues. And I love them to bits–especially their willingness to drop everything to help out one of their members.

As individuals they were each of them fallible, discordant as notes without harmony. But as a band they were something more, something perfect in its own intangible way.

 

4. The Gentleman Bastards

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The dynamic of Locke, Jean, Calo, and Galdo (and later, Sabetha) is one of the main things that make The Gentleman Bastards series so addictive and compelling. They may drive each other crazy, but their love runs deep and wide and they’ll do just about anything–kill, rob (well, more so than usual), sacrifice–for one another.

“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.'”

“Rivalled only by ‘Locke taught me a new trick,'” added Galo.

“The only person who gets away with Locke Lamora games …”

“… is Locke …”

“… because we think the gods are saving him up for a really big death. Something with knives and hot irons …”

“… and fifty thousand cheering spectators.”

 

5. Dragon Age 2 – Hawke and Co.

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I will defend this game until the day I die because, among other things, DA2 is the “found family” trope at its finest. In this ensemble we have a lady guard captain, a pirate captain, an elven blood mage, a storytelling dwarf, a former slave, a would-be revolutionary, plus Hawke the protagonist and their sweet sister/asshole brother. While calling them “friends” might be a bit of a stretch–half of them hate each other and the other half just want some peace and quiet in their lives–they’re most definitely family. A weird, dysfunctional family who go on murder sprees adventures together.

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And there you have it! Tell me about your favourite friend groups! (I’m gonna take a wild, wild guess that one of them’s Harry/Ron/Hermione)

July Plans – Sci-Fi, Gerblins, and Discworld

One day–one day–I will do a monthly TBR post right at the start of said month and angels will weep in joy (and flood the world and usher in a post-apocalypse). But alas, today is not that day.

These are the books that I will 100% get to by the end of this month, either because I have to or because I really, really want to. I’m on a bit of a sci-fi kick lately and that seems to be carrying into July, as there are 3 on this list! (Fantasy purist teenage-me would be flabbergasted)

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Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers:
Currently reading through this one and I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s like a cross of Mass Effect and a cozy soap opera, and I can see why people call the series “hopepunk.” It’s my first experience with a Chambers’ novel and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness (Illustrated by Rovina Cai):
Moby Dick but flipped upside-down, with whales hunting a mythical man. I just finished it the other day and it’s weird but it works. And I just adore Ness’ stories in general. If the guy announces one day that he wants to write an Austen-esque anthropomorphic animal erotica, I’ll just nod and say, “When can I preorder?”

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Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky:
A high fantasy novel that I know very little about (the blurb is rather vague), but I liked Tchaikovsky’s previous books and I’ve heard good things about this one from Susy, so I’m looking forward to diving into it.

Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio:
I’ve been craving a large, sprawling scifi epic and this looks to hit all the marks. It’s been compared to The Name of the Wind and from what little I’ve seen, the prose is just my kind of flowery.

Temper by Nicky Drayden:
Drayden’s debut Prey of Gods was a fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy, and Temper looks to continue that trend, albeit in a slightly darker direction. It features twin brothers, jealousy, and a whole lot of demons. Very exciting.

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Dragon Age: Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras

The Adventure Zone: Here there Be Gerblins

It probably says a lot about me that my two most anticipated reads of this month are a 72-page video game tie-in novelette and a comic book adaptation of a D&D podcast. Dragon Age and The Adventure Zone are two of my favourite things in the world and it is fairly ridiculous how excited I am for these books.

DISCWORD READ-A-THON

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For those who have missed the original announcement post, Nicole and I are launching our Discworld Readathon this month, starting with The Colour of Magic! Each month we’ll read through one book in the Discworld series and post our reviews on the last Monday. You can join in for any month and stop at any time.

It’s my first official foray into the Discworld universe and I’m very excited to get to know all the characters whom I’ve heard so many great things about.

If you haven’t yet signed up for July and would like to join in, leave a comment below and we’ll add you to our list!

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What are you most looking forward to reading this month?

Most Anticipated Scifi & Fantasy: May – July 2018

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I’m back! The good news is that the anxiety has subsided with the help of good books, sun, and my decision to start drawing art again. The not-so-good news is that the anxiety has morphed into abdominal issues, a light fever, and the possibility of an ulcer or appendicitis. Which is…fun. So I need to be monitoring that for the next few days. Meanwhile, I’ve really missed writing blog posts! So here’s one that I probably should have posted a week ago.

For those who haven’t seen my first Most Anticipated posts, I decided to split my lists into genre and months because if I were to fit them all into one giant post you’d be scrolling down this blog for days. This one covers Scifi and Fantasy releases from May to July.

MAY

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The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (May 1st)
I’m reading through this right now and it’s very good. The hype is well-deserved.

The Rig by Roger Levy (May 8th)
I already sampled the first couple of chapters and it’s as wonderfully strange as I’d hoped it would be. I can see why Ladie Tidhar was asked to blurb it–it’s very reminiscent of Central Station.

Armistice (Amberlough Dossier 2) by Lara Elena Donnelly
(May 15th)

The sequel to Donnelly’s dazzling art deco debut, Amberlough, which featured strippers, smugglers, spies, fascism, and a whole lot of heat. Here’s to hoping Armistice isn’t quite as heart-shattering as the first. I’m not opposed to some shattering, but the glue that’s holding together the pieces of my heart from the last shatter still hasn’t fully dried yet. So be gentle, Lara. Please.

JUNE

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 The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence 1) by K.D. Edwards (May 8th)
I already read and adored this, so here the “most anticipated” equates more to “I can’t wait to get my hands on multiple physical copies so I can annotate the hell out of them. And snuggle them. And have candlelight dinners with them.”

Ravencry (Raven’s Mark 2) by Ed McDonald (June 14th – UK; August 21st – NA)
I loved the Noir-feel of Ed McDonald’s grimdark debut, Blackwing, and the world he created manages to be bleak and wondrous at the same time. Suffice to say, I’m very much looking forward to seeing where the story goes from there.

Witchmark by C.L. Polk (June 19th)
A historical fantasy set in Edwardian England with exploration of queer relationships against a World War I backdrop. I mean…what more incentives do you need?

 

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The Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (June 26th)
A Native American urban fantasy. Enough said.

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe by Alex White (June 26th)
A Borderlands-esque world and a plot that features treasure hunting and two women on the run from space cops? And an f/f romance to boot? Hell yes.

JULY (AKA Hello-Bankruptcy Month)

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Empire of Silence (The Sun Eater 1) by Christopher Ruocchio (July 3rd)

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (July 10th)

Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne (July 17th)

 

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One of Us by Craig DiLouie (July 17th)
Claire North calls this book “The Girl with All the Gifts meets To Kill a Mockingbird.” Well, sign me up.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (July 17th)

This is a graphic novel based on the McElroy brothers’ The Adventure Zone podcast and I am super stoked to see these beloved characters and their shenanigans in illustrated form. For those who are unaware of the podcast, I highly, HIGHLY recommend you go check it out. Even if you don’t know who the McElroys are. Even if you don’t know a single thing about D&D or RPGs. These guys have created an unforgettable journey chock full of silliness and poignancy, and their characters will stay with you for a long, long time.

Annex (The Violet Wars 1) by Rich Larson (July 24th)

 

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Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras with Mary Kirby (July 31st)

Does this count? This is a book that exists in the world of the Dragon Age games, written by one of its characters Varric Tethras and thus written by Mary Kirby, who is Varric’s writer. Very meta. Despite what the title might suggest (Varric has a tendency to assign risqué titles to his crime/adventure books and serious titles to his romance books), this is a crime story featuring the city guardsmen of Kirkwall. Dragon Age is my favourite game series of all time and I’m super excited to add this to my collection of DA swag.

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Top 5 Wednesday – Favourite Sci-Fi & Fantasy in Other Media

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme, currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes, where you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic. This week’s theme: favourite Sci-fi & Fantasy in other media.

I consume a lot of SFF media (especially video games and anime) and I wrung my brain out trying to pare the list down to five.

So here are the lucky winners:

 1. Dragon Age Series (Video Game)

Dragon Age Inquisition

Let’s start with my favourite video game series of all time.

Bioware’s Dragon Age franchise is not perfect by any means. There are many other games with tighter narratives and more dynamic gameplay. But there are two things that Dragon Age does better than any other game (including the Mass Effect series): character relationships and continuous worldbuilding. The combination of the fact that you can meet, befriend, and pursue relationships (romantic or otherwise) with these interesting, complex characters, and the sheer vastness of the history of Thedas–the knowledge that there is so much more of this world to uncover–makes for a series that is wholly consuming. I’ve probably sunk over 2000 hours into the three games and their DLCs, and every single one of them have been an absolute joy.

2. Hunter x Hunter (Anime)

Hunter x Hunter - Chimera Ant ArcAn adaptation of the manga created by Togashi Yoshihiro, Hunter x Hunter is, in my opinion, the best shounen manga/anime out there. Its cute, colourful artstyle belies a story that is extraordinarily complex and meditative of Eastern religions (most prominently Buddhism), while subverting classic shounen and hero’s journey tropes. The development of its character across 148 episodes is some of the best I’ve seen in any media, and the budding love and friendship between its two young protagonists brought me to tears more times than I could count. Its Chimera Ant arc, which spans around 70 episodes, is a masterpiece of storytelling and character building that everyone, regardless of whether or not you’re an anime fan, needs to experience.

3. The Witcher 3 (Video Game)

Geralt and YenThe Witcher 3 is the third and final entry in the game series adapted from/inspired by Andrzej Sapkowski’s highly successful Polish fantasy book series. It stars Geralt of Rivia–a “witcher” trained and mutated (via potions) from a young age for the sole purpose of fighting monsters that plague the world–and his ward/adopted daughter Ciri (not the woman pictured above).

There are many things that make TW3 a brilliant RPG. A fantastic cast of characters; a world that feels organic and populated (its cities actually feel like medieval cities–bustling and noisy and grimy); choices you make that actually lead to major, often unforetold, consequences. Most importantly, though? It’s got some of the best quests I’ve ever encountered in a game. You can star as the leading man in a play. You can help a troll pursue its dream of becoming a painter. You and your friends can get wasted and spend the night squeezing into dresses and making prank calls. These stories–small and large–range from funny to sweet to heartbreaking, and many of them have been forever etched into my brain.

Also, you can have sexytimes with your girlfriend on a stuffed unicorn. Enough said.

4. Pan’s Labyrinth (Film)

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Pan’s Labyrinth
is the film that introduced me to Guillermo del Toro and I think it remains, even with the release of The Shape of Water, his masterpiece. It’s everything that makes del Toro’s work so great combined and distilled into two hours of perfection.
A fairy tale unlike any other, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark, dark story of childhood innocence and selflessness and courage pitted against the worst of human evil.

Beautiful, horrific, and heartwrenching–it became a major inspiration to me during my teenage years.

5. Lost (TV Show)

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Bu-But the last season
–I know.

We still don’t know what the island–I know.

Character assassinations–Shhhh

I know.

I’m not blind to the many faults of Lost. But, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really care.

Beacuase Lost was years and years of my teenagehood. It was summers of rewatch-marathons. It was sitting down with my family every week concocting theories and staying up until 4 AM biting on nails. It was watching these broken characters find themselves and grow from stereotypes into more. No show before or after–Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones–has gripped me to a frenzy like Lost had. And you can’t wipe those memories away. In this case, the journey does triumph over destination.

I used to feel guilty whenever I had to defend the show to people violently proclaiming it as the worst in the history of television.

Well, fuck that.

Love what you love. And in the words of the McElroy brothers, don’t yuck someone’s yum.

~*~*~

And there you have it. Feel free to tell me some of your favourite SFF works and if any of the entries on my list correspond with yours! We can geek out together.

The Almost-But-Not-Quite: Alice Isn’t Dead (podcast), The Adventure Zone (podcast), Persona 5 (Video Game), The Last of Us (Video Game), Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Video Game), Magical Girl Madoka Magica (Anime), Cowboy Bebop (Anime), Penny Dreadful (TV Show), The Lord of the Rings (Film)