Friday, 25 December 2015

Review: Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon adaptation by Timothy Truman, Thomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia

Robert E. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon is one of his most impressive tales of Conan the Cimmerian in his later life as the king of Aquilonia. It has been reinterpreted in comic form before, but the latest adaptation by Timothy Truman, Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarruba published by Dark Horse is undoubtedly the definitive edition of the tale in comic form - and it even improves upon some aspects of the original.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Review: The Wild by Whitley Strieber

Whitley Strieber's The Wolfen (1978) is often mentioned as one of the best werewolf novels, taking the basic concept into a new direction. I wasn't that excited about the novel or the movie that was based on it and thus it took me a long time to pick up Strieber's other werewolf novel: The Wild (1991). But I'm happy to say that my fears proved unfounded and I enjoyed this novel more than I ever expected.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Review: Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson is one of the legends of science fiction writing and he is known for coining many terms in his fiction that are in general use these days, such as android, terraforming and genetic engineering. His enthusiasm with science fiction is also apparent in his so-called werewolf novel, Darker Than You Think (1940), in which the the plot and existence of shapeshifters is heavily based on genetics.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Review: The Girl King (2015)

The Girl King, a film by Mika Kaurismäki, tells the story of the Queen Christina of Sweden - or, rather, the story of her years in Sweden. It was filmed mainly in and around the city and castle of Turku in Finland, while the actors are from Finland and Sweden. I wrote about the film and its props earlier, so I will now focus more on the film and the way it depicts the queen and the era. And when you are done reading with my review, please take a look at my wife's opinion as well, over at the Wrestles with Words blog.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: The Wolf's Bride by Aino Kallas

Aino Kallas' The Wolf's Bride is an early werewolf novella, written in 1928 (during the author's London years). Luckily, while the title is one that you could imagine seeing on the cover of one of those horrible werewolf romance novels these days, The Wolf's Bride draws heavily from the old Estonian werewolf myths and - for a large part - delivers those myths to the readers in the form of a story.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Review: The Wolf-Leader by Alexandre Dumas

The further back you go in the werewolf genre literature, the less and less similar they are to the modern Hollywood-influenced genre stereotype. Alexandre Dumas was a prolific author who wrote The Wolf-Leader some time after he got into financial troubles and ended his cooperation with one of his most important collaborators, Auguste Maquet - with whom he had written the famous d'Artagnan Romances. I'm not enough of a Dumas scholar to say whether my disappointment with The Wolf-Leader might be the result of Dumas having worked alone this time, but I cannot but wonder if there's a connection.

Monday, 23 November 2015

My Susiveri novella published in the Portti magazine 3/15

Last year, my werewolf novella Susiveri (Wolfblood) received accolades on the biggest and oldest SF/Fantasy story competition in Finland, organised by the Tampere Science Fiction Society. I wrote about the prize in my blog at the time and you can find the original article here. Now, the novella has been published in the latest Portti magazine (3/15) and I'm very happy to share with you a look at the illustration that goes with the story.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Review: The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore

Vampires have their renown classic in Bram Stoker's Dracula, but werewolves do not have a similar widely acknowledged classic of their own. Or do they? Guy Endore attempted to write just that with his The Werewolf of Paris that was published in 1933. It succeeds for the most part, but there are some problems with the novel that diminish its claim for the title of a true werewolf classic.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Top Five Werewolf Novels for Halloween

What is a Halloween without some good werewolf fiction to read an enjoy? I've read many a werewolf story over the years, some good, some bad, and wished to give a few pointers to those looking for something good to read over the Halloween holiday. So, here are the Top 5 werewolf novels, but I should say that it was very difficult to put them in any order whatsoever, so they are in no means in any order of preference. Whichever you pick to celebrate the holiday, you will NOT be disappointed!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Review: Blue Moon by Pol McShane

Sometimes taking a risk has its rewards. I usually take care to only download Kindle samples of books that have a respectable number of reviews and I especially avoid books that have only a handful of reviews and they are all five star ones. However, the description of Pol McShane's Blue Moon awakened my interest and I decided to give it a try despite the warning signs. And I'm glad I did: it is clearly one of the better werewolf stories I've read.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Review: The Musketeers Second Season

Last year, I had a few words to say about the first season of the BBC series, The Musketeers, and since I've now seen the second season, I thought that I should say something about it as well. In short, on its second season, the series continues with its free interpretation of history and Dumas' characters. But, given that Dumas himself bastardised history with relatively free hand, this is not something that we can blame the series very much for.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Review: The Whole Wide World (1996)

Robert E. Howard was a troubled author and many have heard of how he shot himself soon after his mother died - stopping only to write a final poem on the way to his car and the gun he kept there. Scholars have long tried to understand what kind of a man Howard really was, but one point of view comes from the woman who knew him close to the end of his career. In late 1980's, fifty years after Robert E. Howard's death, Novalyne Price wrote a memoir based on her diary, One Who Walked Alone: Robert E. Howard, The Final Years. Based on this, Michael Scott Myers wrote a screenplay and Dan Ireland directed the film, The Whole Wide World.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Wolfshead by Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard was a prolific writer perhaps best known for his Conan the Cimmerian and Solomon Kane stories, but he wrote a lot of other stories as well, including westerns and horror stories. In the Forest of Villefère and Wolfshead are his two short stories dealing with werewolves, first published in Weird Tales in 1925 and 1926. They were therefore written in a time when werewolf stories were still in their infancy and manage to take a refreshing look at the genre and steer away from the kinds of tropes that more modern stories tend to be riddled with. Although Howard never specifically sets the stories at any particular time period, it can be assumed from the references to rapiers, arquebusiers and slave trade that they are set in the 16th century.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Review: The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Arturo Pérez-Reverte's The Club Dumas was used as the basis of the 1999 Roman Polanski film The Ninth Gate, but the two have very little to do with each other. So little, in fact, that I only became faintly aware that the two might be connected when I was reading the novel - but I only checked and verified the connection after I had finished the book (out of unnecessary fear of spoiling the story). Whereas the film was a slight disappointment to me back in the day, the novel is one of the best I've read in a long time. Perhaps because what it actually is: a treat to all those readers who love the old serial novels, such as Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. And, if you've ever taken a look at this particular blog, you'll know that I'm just such a person.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review: The Skin Trade by George R. R. Martin

It's been a while since I read something related to werewolves and it occurred to me that it was the high time to do it when I learned that there was such a story by George R. R. Martin that I had not yet read. The Skin Trade is a very long novella that has been published in numerous collections, the latest one being the easiest to find: Dreamsongs, volume II by the author himself. It has also been adapted into a graphic novel by Daniel Abraham and Mike Wolfer. I got my hands on both versions and read them back-to-back in order to really see how the adaptation had succeeded.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas

The long journey is now over. I had planned to save the last part of Alexandre Dumas' d’Artagnan Romances until later in the year, but somehow, after reading the previous part, I decided to finish off the series. The Romances consist of three works: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. The last of these has been published in several different editions that divide the novel into separate books in different ways. I was reading the Project Gutenberg version, which separates the novel into four parts. You can find the reviews of the first, second and third part here, here and here.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Review: Louise de La Vallière by Alexandre Dumas

I've been slowly reading through Alexandre Dumas' d’Artagnan Romances that consist of three novels: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later. The last of these has been published in several different editions that divide the novel into separate books in different ways. I am reading the Project Gutenberg version, which separates the novel into four parts. You can find the reviews of the first and second parts here and here.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Review: D'Artagnan: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers by H. Bedford-Jones

H. Bedford-Jones' D'Artagnan: A Sequel to The Three Musketeers is a fast-paced adventure set after the events of The Three Musketeers, in the year 1630, when Cardinal Richelieu was fighting for his position against powerful enemies - and eventually solidified his power. The novel features all the familiar musketeers and several new characters in a relatively simple but fun adventure. The author uses the traditional gimmick of the time, claiming that the story is based on Dumas' lost papers, just like Dumas based his story on earlier documents.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Review: Memoirs of a Cavalier by Daniel Defoe

Daniel Dafoe's Memoirs of a Cavalier relates the story of an unnamed cavalier who left England in search of an adventure in the early 17th century and ended up fighting in Gustavus Adolphus' army against the Holy Roman Empire. After the Swedish king's death, he returned to England and took part in the civil war. These two wars form the first and second half of the novel. As it is, this review only concerns the first half of this novel, because that is the part of history that is the focus of my interest.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Video Footage of the New Exhibition at the Olavinlinna Castle

It is not too often that one gets to dress up as a historical figure and star in a movie (even a short one). So, I beg of you to forgive me if I use this chance to express my elation about such an opportunity.

The new Accessible Exhibition has just opened at the Olavinlinna Castle, located in Savonlinna, Finland. Last year, me and my family were invited to take part in the production of the video footage that is a part of this exhibition (read all about it here). Although you will have to travel to Savonlinna to see the entire 10 minute video, the Finnish National Museum has released two trailers of the video that you can enjoy anywhere you may want to.

The first of these is a so-called short trailer and you can spot yours truly at around the 12 second mark, walking down a castle hallway.

The second one is a so-called long trailer, featuring quite a lot of scenes not seen in the short one. You can spot me and my wife and daughter at around the 30 second mark. I'm standing in the background while my wife and daughter are seated at a table, playing a historical board game.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Review: The Pyrates by George MacDonald Fraser

The late George MacDonald Fraser is perhaps best known for his hilarious Flashman stories, one of which was also turned into rather a funny film, starring Malcolm McDowell. Towards the end of his career, he wrote two somewhat different comical novels, the first of which is The Pyrates. In his afterword he describes his love for golden era pirate films and novels and therefore it is with great expectations that a reader begins to read the first pages.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Queen Christina of Sweden - a Swordswoman

Queen Christina is arguably one of the most intriguing queens in history. She was born in 1626 and her father, King Gustavus Adolphus, died on a battlefield when she was only 6 years old. Nevertheless, Gustavus Adolphus had time to have a great influence on her, as he raised her more or less like a boy (from the perspective of the 17th century world) by, for example, taking her to see soldiers firing cannons when she was very little. Later in her life, alongside diplomacy and culture, she continued practicing her skills in hunting, swordsmanship, cannoneering and horseback riding.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Review: Birds of Prey by Wilbur Smith

Wilbur Smith's Birds of Prey is one episode of his long Courteney Adventures series that relate the tales of several members of the long line of adventurers in different times and places. While I've not read the rest of the series, I picked up Birds of Prey, since it is set in the 17th century.

Before I go into the story, I must note that, for a historical fiction enthusiast, the novel has one glaring problem: Wilbur Smith actually uses the foreword to tell the readers that he did not even attempt to use period-accurate names for the ships or firearms in order to make the story more "approachable" to the modern reader. I'm not sure if I'm alone here, but I rather imagined that people read historical fiction partly to actually learn something about the period. But, onto the story and some spoilers that mostly affect the very beginnings of it...

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Review: The Heir of Buckingham by Paul Féval, fils and M. Lassez

It is time to take a look at the fourth and last part of Paul Féval and M. Lassez's The Years Between series, called The Heir of Buckingham. The series stars the famous characters originally penned by Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Rostand: d'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac. The events of the series take place in-between Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, in 1641.

As this is a four part series, this review will necessarily spoil some of the events taking place in the first three parts. However, I try to keep these at minimum. Feel free to jump to the last paragraph if you are worried.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Lego - King's Musketeers and Cardinal's Guards

A while ago, Lego sold a nice minifigure of the classic King's Musketeer in one of their minifigure series and I - a known fan of all things 17th century - could not keep my hands off of them. Later, they also released a swashbuckler figure, but I was dismayed by the lack of a nice set of Cardinal's Guards to face off with my Musketeers.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Review: The Secret of the Bastille by Paul Féval, fils and M. Lassez

I've now progressed to the third book in my read-through of Paul Féval and M. Lassez's The Years Between series. This is a 4-part series where they take the famous characters (more or less loosely based on real historical people) created by Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Rostand, namely d'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac. The events of the series take place in-between Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, in 1641.

The third novel continues directly from the events of the second novel and thus the following review will contain spoilers for those not familiar with the story. If you don't want to be spoiled, you can jump directly to the last paragraph.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Review: Martyr to the Queen by Paul Féval, fils and M. Lassez

In my previous blog entry, I reviewed the first part of Paul Féval and M. Lassez's The Years Between series of novels where they take the characters created by Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Rostand, namely d'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac, and bring them together in a new adventure that takes place in-between Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After.

The second novel in the series continues immediately after the first one ended and thus the following review will contain spoilers for those not familiar with the story. If you don't want to be spoiled, you can jump directly to the last paragraph.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Review: The Mysterious Cavalier by Paul Féval, fils and M. Lassez

In my search of historical fiction set in the 17th century, I happened across the name of Paul Féval, fils and his series of stories, some of them written in collaboration with M. Lassez. What makes them especially interesting is that the authors quite freely took characters created by other authors - d'Artagnan and the familiar three musketeers and Cyrano de Bergerac - and wrote new stories about them.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Review: Sword of Skelos by Andrew J. Offutt

Andrew J. Offutt wrote three Conan stories that are often praised as the best Conan stories not written by Robert E. Howard. Having read Robert Jordan's adequate but not memorable entries into the saga of Conan, I have been reluctant to pick up any of the stories from other authors. However, when I realised that Offutt had written the original story for one of my favourite non-REH Savage Sword of Conan comics - Sword of Skelos - I simply had to take a closer look.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Comics Adaptations of Robert E. Howard's Queen of the Black Coast

Robert E. Howard's Queen of the Black Coast is one of his most memorable stories and it has - deservedly - been adapted several times, most famously by both Marvel and Dark Horse in their Conan comics. Both of them attempt to extend the story from the original: instead of a single quick short story, they add to it and attempt to show how influential it was to Conan's character. They both also moved the story in Conan's chronology so that it takes place in his youth. Howard's original told a story that spanned a long time of Conan's life in mere four chapters, so this attempt to expand upon it is very welcome. A third adaptation was made by Petri Hiltunen, a Finnish comic artist.

The approaches the adaptations took are very different. I'll use this chance to provide an overall look of all of them and will then continue to give the reasons why I think one of them is a far more successful retelling than the others.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Review: The Devil's Fire by Matt Tomerlin

Matt Tomerlin's The Devil's Fire is the first novel in a series of three, telling the story of Katherine Lindsay whose husband is brutally killed in front of her before she herself is dragged aboard a pirate ship. It is set in the somewhat over-used time period when Nassau was the pirate haven in the Caribbean. Forced to share a cabin with a pirate captain for several months, Katherine begins to get used to the life at sea. But the shadow of her dead husband is ever-present...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review: Black Sails First Season

Black Sails is a Starz produced series telling the story of events leading up to Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island. The protagonist is Captain Flint, the year is 1715 and the setting is mainly Nassau on the New Providence Island of the Bahamas - the historical pirate haven from 1713-1718. In addition to Stevenson's pirate captain, the show stars historical figures such as Anne Bonny, Benjamin Hornigold, Jack Rackham, and Charles Vane.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Review: Family Pack by Michael Jasper

Michael Jasper's Family Pack tells the tale of Tommy Rolins who has abandoned his studies in order to take responsibility of an unplanned child in a relationship that doesn't really work. As the parents are struggling with their money problems and their failing relationship, a bloody murder takes place in a nearby forest - a forest that Tommy considers his own territory and where he spends his nights prowling as a werewolf every full moon...

Sunday, 4 January 2015

My Top Five Reads of 2014

At the turn of a year, it is fun to look back at everything that you've read over the past year. The nice statistics offered by Goodreads tell me that I read a total of 76 books - including traditional novels, but also graphic novels and one or two short stories that were published on their own.

Picking out my five tops reads is not such an easy task, since quite a few of them ended up receiving 4 or 5 stars from me - and I also have an urge to avoid the obvious choices and pick out the ones that surprised me in a good way. So, although the books below are hereby selected as my 5 top reads, they are not necessarily the 5 best books that I read. If that makes any sense...

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Review: The Noble Pirates by Rima Jean

Rima Jean's The Noble Pirates is a tale of a woman participating on a booze cruise with her friends when a sudden storm removes her from her own time of 2011 and throws her through time in to the year of 1719 and into the hands of pirates. I did not expect much from a time travel pirate novel, which sounded suspiciously too much like a romance novel to boot, but I was very pleasantly surprised by what it turned out to be.