Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas Drabbles

I took part in a Christmas Drabble competition organised by The Cult of Me blog. I've never considered drabbles - stories of 100 words, no less, no more - my forte, but Christmas was a topic that drew me in to try what I could do. One of my drabbles, Memories, was chosen as one of the 12 Drabbles of Christmas, but I thought it might be a fun idea to share all my entries with you - especially since the winning entry is related to one of the focus areas of this blog and all of them could be seen as historical fiction.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Review: Ten Years Later by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas' d’Artagnan Romances consist of three novels: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. The last of these is a problematic novel because it has been published in several vastly different editions that divide to novel into separate books in different ways. I recently started reading the Project Gutenberg version, which cuts the novel up into four parts. I reviewed the first part, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, some time ago, so it is now the high time to move on to the next instalment: Ten Years Later.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Review: The Musketeers First Season

The Musketeers is a BBC series based on the characters of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers, but taking the story to new directions and re-imagining the characters and history itself with relatively free hand. But, what could have been a confused mess and as uncomfortable to watch as the similarly envisioned Young Blades from ten years ago, actually turns out to be rather a decent adventure series. For a history enthusiast, it has quite a few problems, of course, but - then again - every film and TV series set in historical era usually does.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Review: Wolves (2014)

Werewolves have been somewhat out of fashion in the movies for a long while, but they have howled their howl every now and then from the chorus of zombie screeches and vampire... snarls. David Hayter's Wolves is the latest attempt to bring back the weres and while its early minutes are somewhat unpromising with the Twilight overtones, the story has a bit more up its sleeve than your average teen romance.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Accolades for My Werewolf Story: Susiveri

Since I've been using this blog to review several werewolf-related novels and short stories, I hope the readers will excuse me for tooting my own horn when it comes to my very own werewolf short story. Last summer, I saw an advertisement about the biggest scifi and fantasy short story competition in Finland, one that was organised for the 29th time by Tampere Science Fiction Seura (~ Tampere Society of Science Fiction). I hesitated only for a moment before I started translating my unpublished werewolf story into Finnish in order to enter the competition.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Review: Black Vulmea's Vengeance by Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard is best known for his Conan Cimmerian and Solomon Kane stories, but he was an astoundingly prolific writer and visited many genres from Westerns to... pirates! Black Vulmea's vengeance & Other Tales of Pirates is a collection of three pirate stories: "Swords of the Red Brotherhood", "Black Vulmea's Vengeance" and "The Isle of Pirates' Doom".

Friday, 14 November 2014

Review: Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf is a very traditional werewolf story: a small town suffers from monthly attacks by a blood-thirsty monster that the police are unable to identify or catch. Told in twelve chapters - one for each full moon in a year - the story introduces an extensive cast of characters, but shows kindness to the reader by cutting their numbers down in splashes of blood and intestines.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Review ‘Sadan miekan mies’ (1951)

Sadan miekan mies (‘The man of a hundred swords’) is a Finnish adventure comedy from 1951, set in the year 1634, two years after the death of Gustavus Adolphus in the battle of Lützen. It tells a story of a captain who is conducting a never-explicitly-stated mission for the King as he roams the countryside of Eastern Sweden (i.e. Finland). Even though it has its weaknesses, it also has its fun moments.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Review: The Bleeding Land by Giles Kristian

Giles Kristian's The Bleeding Land delves into an interesting period in history: the England's Civil War in the 17th century where the Parliament rebelled against the King and the land was torn apart - and sometimes even families - as everyone took sides in the following battles. The novel explores the effects of the war on a family of landed gentry: the Rivers. Two sons are separated by a tragedy and find themselves on the opposing sides of the war.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: The Beast Within by Jane Jensen

Jane Jensen's The Beast Within is a novelisation of the 1990's video game Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within. Game tie-in novels are known to be rather low quality reads, but - to my utter surprise - The Beast Within ended up being the exception to the rule. The story takes place in Bavaria, Germany, where Gabriel has moved to live in a castle that he's inherited from his uncle alongside the title of Shattenjager - Shadow Hunter.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Power of a 17th Century Cannon

An interesting research project is taking place in Sweden at the moment, as researchers have recreated a 17th century cannon and are test firing it at wooden constructions, modelled after period ships, in order to find out how cannons were used in sea battles: the distances used, how powerful they were and what kind of damage they caused.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Travelling back in time – if only for a day

The 17th century has been one of my favourite historical eras for a long time now. I’ve always been interested in musketeers, rapiers, the early age of sail and exploration - and they all existed in pretty much the same historical period. I’ve tried my hand at writing historical fiction set in the era and participated at the Hakkapeliitta event (commemorating the Finnish men who participated in the Thirty Years’ War) for the past several years. I even wrote the speech for the invited speaker once.

But last weekend was perhaps the most special amongst all of my 17th century experiences. Our family was invited to take part in the filming of the introductory film for the new Accessible Exhibition of the Olavinlinna Castle in eastern Finland. The film includes snippets of castle life from several time periods, but our task was to bring life to the 17th century and the year 1649 specifically.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: Bad Wolf by Tim McGregor

Tim McGregor's Bad Wolf is the first part of his Bad Wolf Chronicles, but works very well as a stand-alone novel. Set in Portland, Oregon, the story follows Homicide Detectives Lara Mendes and John Gallagher as they try to track down an apparent serial killer who uses dogs to bring down his victims.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Reviewing novels: One, Three or Five Stars?

The question arises every now and then whether one should review a novel if one cannot say something good about it and give it at least a three star review. I usually find myself in the opposite side of the fence in these discussions, urging people to use the full rating scale. Why? Let me try to explain in the following.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Review: Buccaneer by Dudley Pope

Dudley Pope’s Buccaneer shows promise on the surface, but doesn’t really deliver as a novel. Set in the 17th century, it tells the story of a royalist plantation owner in Barbados who finds that he will have to flee the island or face the Roundheads whose fleet is coming over from England to subdue the Caribbean settlements. The protagonist, Ned Yorke, snatches his neighbour’s wife and makes his escape only to find that it is not so easy to decide what to do afterwards.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Review: Marvel 1602: Spider-Man by Jeff Parker

The fourth and final instalment of the Marvel 1602 series features Spider-Man, my all-time favourite Marvel hero. Whereas none of the sequels can compete with Neil Gaiman's original, I feel that Spider-Man comes close but loses to Fantastick Four due to a couple of grievances.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Review: House of Corruption by Erik Tavares

Erik Tavares' House of Corruption is a great find to any fan of werewolves or the horror genre in general. Set in the 1890's, the protagonist is Reynard LaCroix, a werewolf, who has been able to avoid his curse for the past few years with the help of a silver bullet that is lodged inside his chest. Rather than focussing solely on werewolves, House of Corruption adds other more or less traditional horror genre creatures; undead demons.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review: The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

Glen Duncan's The Last Werewolf is one of the quintessential needles in a haystack - unless you know where to look for them, you'll find yourself grasping at straws most of your time. Good werewolf novels are drowned in the sea of bad ones. In my case, my eyes happened upon this book quite by an accident at a bookstore. It was a translation, which already told me that this was worth looking at (they don't just bother to translate just _anything_ into Finnish) and I soon got the sample and then the full book onto my Kindle (the English language version, of course).

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Review: 1632 by Eric Flint

I've never been much interested in alternate history series, but when I found one set in one of my favourite periods - the setting of the 30 year war - I could not help but give it a chance. Unfortunately, to put it bluntly, I was disappointed both by the quality of the story and the depiction of the historical era.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: El Cazador by Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting

El Cazador is one of the rare pirate themed graphic novels that I have had the luck of getting my hands on. It is also one of the best depictions of the golden era of piracy that I've had the honour of reading. It's only downside? The story was never finished.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon

Robert McCammon was a prolific horror writer before he turned to historical fiction. His Speaks the Nightbird is set in 1699, squeezing it just barely into the century of my greatest interest. In essence, this is a "Who did it?" type of mystery novel set in the Carolinas, in a small town called Fount Royal.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Although the novel is set in my favourite era (c. 17th century) I got my hands on this book mainly because of the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was "suggested" by this book. Admittedly, I was intrigued when I learned that "On Stranger Tides" also likely inspired the "The Secret of Monkey Island" and other Monkey Island adventure games in the 1990's, which, in turn, inspired the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Quite a circuitous path of inspiration and influence, if you ask me, but the important thing is that they are all stories about pirates mixed with a bit of magic and voodoo.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four by Peter David

Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four is the third part in the 1602 series begun by Neil Gaiman in Marvel 1602. Whereas the second instalment was a grave disappointment, Peter David's entry to the series actually manages to entertain.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Review - The Hunter from the Woods by Robert R. McCammon

The Hunter from the Woods is the long-awaited sequel to McCammon's The Wolf's Hour, which is - to date - the best werewolf novel I've ever read. However, pretty much the only reason why The Hunter from the Woods doesn't surpass it is the fact that it is an anthology of short stories and novellas rather than a novel.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Review: Marvel 1602: New World by Greg Pak

Marvel 1602: New World is the first sequel to the 1602 by Neil Gaiman. And, unfortunately, you can readily see that Gaiman is no longer involved with the series.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Short Story: When the Moon is up

This past month, The Cult of Me ran a short fiction competition with the theme of full moon on a night sky. This naturally evoked thoughts of werewolves and other night activities in my imagination and simply I had to send in an entry. I didn't win, but thought that I must share my rather silly story at least somewhere - this blog being the obvious victim.

The competition degrees that the stories must not exceed 500 words. I present to you here a slightly longer version. I hope you enjoy it at least a bit!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Review: Moonstruck by Graeme Reynolds

Graeme Reynold's High Moor was a bloody werewolf horror story, where the horror was mostly based on gruesome descriptions of werewolves killing and devouring children.

The second part of the trilogy continues directly from where the first one left off. The Pack works hard to hide the existence of the werewolves from humans, but that fight is proving more and more futile as the story continues.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Review: Caribbee by Thomas Hoover

Thomas Hoover’s Caribbee is a historical fiction novel set mainly in 1640’s Barbados. It presents an in-depth look at the island’s society, the introduction of sugar industry and the move away from indentured servants to slavery. There are many characters from different layers of society, including two strong female characters and the aim is clearly to show the reader what life in the Caribbean was like in the early 17th century.

Friday, 2 May 2014

All for one, one for all OR 3 against 50

Not exactly historical swordsmanship, but the three against many so clearly points towards the Three Musketeers that I simply have to share this one. The video shows three Olympic level fencers going up against fifty novices. Neither the masters nor the novices seem to have any training in how to fight as a team, but the masters use the crowd against itself very nicely.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Review: Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series consists of twelve novels, supposedly written by the hero himself, Harry Flashman. Set in the Victorian era, they show a protagonist who is set apart from the usual British hero formula of the period and shows that Brits can be bastards too.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Review: High Moor by Graeme Reynolds

Graeme Reynold's High Moor was a surprise addition to my werewolf reading list and I'm happy for it. The author manages to combine old werewolf horror movie themes with some more modern ideas. On the one hand, there are utterly savage and bloodthirsty werewolves who kill whoever they can when the full moon comes. These are called "the moonstruck", werewolves who are bestial animals taking over their human host bodies. Then there are the "Packs" that teach people to accept their werewolf selves and learn to live with them - allowing them to turn at will and not lose themselves while they are in their werewolf form.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

With a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you kind of expect the novel to be tongue-in-cheek, action-adventure in the historical fantasy/fiction genre. However, what you get is a pretty dry textbook of an imagined alternate history that relates Lincoln's life but inserts vampires into the mix.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review - Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

This is a surprisingly enjoyable "What if?" storyline in the Marvel universe. Set at the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign in the year 1602, we discover a version of Europe where familiar characters from the Marvel universe have born our of their own time and place. Nicholas Fury is the Queen's eyes and ears. Certain Mr Murdock is an accomplished blind spy and Peter Parquagh is but a servant boy for Nick Fury. The members of the fantastic four are explorers.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Firing a musket with and without armour

An interesting field test of musketeer armour. Historically, musketeers did not wear armour, because it would have got in the way of the musket butt when aiming. But the officials of Jamestown apparently tried to find a way to modify the existing armour in order to protect their musketeers better. Check out this test run by Jamestown Rediscovery group to find out how it goes.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review - Wolf Hunt by Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand's Wolf Hunt is an entertaining ride with two thugs who make their living breaking people's thumbs. Their latest mission, however, turns out to be the transportation of a man believed to be a werewolf to a crime boss. Not believing in such monster tales, the duo quickly find themselves in trouble.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review - The Wolfman by Nicholas Pekearo

The Wolfman by Nicholas Pekearo offers an interesting protagonist: a Vietnam veteran who returns to his homeland as a drifter, is generally not liked by anyone he meets and curses a lot. He is also a werewolf who cannot control himself very much during that special time of month. Delightfully written, the language makes you laugh on several occasions.

Review - The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber

The Wolfen is one of the classics of werewolf literature and was turned into a movie sometime in the 1980's, if I recall correctly. I saw the movie, thought it pretty mediocre and was not interested in reading the book for a long time.

Review - The Wolf's Hour by Robert R. McCammon

While looking for the ever elusive "good" werewolf novel, I heard about McCammon's The Wolf's Hour. And, what I read of people's opinions of it, I was immediately intrigued. A sample soon led to a purchase and I was devouring the novel at a speed I rarely achieve these days.

Review - The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

I have a weakness for werewolf stories, especially the ones where werewolves are not depicted as all-out evil monsters/killers. Therefore, I picked up Anne Rice's The Wolf Gift with somewhat elevated expectations, even though I had been warned that it was not that great a story.