Review: The Art of Blizzard Entertainment ~ Blizzard Entertainment

art of blizzardISBN ~ 9781608870271
Publisher ~ Insight Editions
No. Of Pages ~ 376 pages
Links ~ Insight Editions, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Over the past two decades, Blizzard Entertainment has had a tremendous impact on the world of games and global pop culture. From its humble beginnings as a three-person console-game development studio in 1991 to the creation of the blockbuster Warcraft®, StarCraft®, and Diablo® series, Blizzard has a history of crafting stunning worlds of science fiction and fantasy. The company’s distinctive gameplay and storytelling styles have captivated an international audience numbering in the tens of millions whose passion cannot be quelled.

Twenty years after Blizzard opened its doors, the company’s World of Warcraft® boasts the title of the world’s most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and the studio is widely recognized as one of the leaders in creatively driven game development.

An epic volume of art and behind-the-scenes insights, The Art of Blizzard® celebrates the studio’s genesis by examining the creative forces behind these games and showcasing their artistry through more than 700 pieces of concept art, paintings, and sketches. Commentary on the art is provided by Blizzard Entertainment’s own Nick Carpenter, Sam Didier, and Chris Metzen, who’ve each played important roles in shaping Blizzard’s game universes over the years.

5 Thumbs-UpWeighing in at 8lbs, this is a coffee table book in the true meaning of the word; my knees went numb as I was reading it on my couch.  Although, if you use the links above, it is hard to find a copy of this book for under $50, I found mine in the bargain priced section at Barnes & Noble, and if you want to splash out more money Insight Editions are selling a specially bound version.  However, if you already own all of the Collector’s Editions of Blizzard artwork books, this is probably not a purchase you will want to make, as many of the illustrations featured in it are in the previously mentioned books.

With over 700 illustrations this book covers the artwork from such iconic Blizzard games as Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft, with accompanying commentaries by the artists themselves.  It gives the reader a fascinating insight into the creative talents of the company as well as providing a visual history of Blizzard games.  What I found particularly interesting about this book was how clearly apparent the evolution and refinement of the artists techniques became as time passed, it was almost as if I were seeing physical proof of their confidence in what they were doing growing before my eyes.  Another aspect of the book I liked was the fan art submissions and how some of them were actually recruited into the Blizzard team.  This book covers everything from the early sketches right up to the completed box artwork; one of my favourite in the Diablo section was the Mistress of Pain.

Full of magnificent scenes and characters, what little text there is in this book has been thoughtfully placed so as not to intrude on the main stars of its pages, in fact in some places the writing is rather quite difficult to find and read.  This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book in any way, but for anyone who has a visual impairment and wants to read the text for the back story to the images it may prove to be a challenge.

However, this book does not just focus on the well know side of the company, in this book there is also a section with conceptual art for games that never were as well as a spoof chapter containing holiday themes using the more well-known characters.  In reading this book you actually get a sense that you are in the same room with the creators, listening to them discuss, accept or reject ideas for the next project whilst also sharing with them a trip down memory lane.

I would highly recommend this book whether you are a fan of Blizzard games or just a lover of fantasy art; this book touches all the bases..

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Review: The Legend of Drizzt Collector’s Edition, Book I (The Dark Elf Trilogy #1-3 omnibus) ~ R.A. Salvatore

DrizztISBN ~ 978-0786953707
Publisher ~Wizards of the Coast
No. Of Pages ~944 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Drizzt Do’Urden made his first mistake the moment he was born: he was a boy. In the rigid matriarchy of the dark elf city of Menzoberranzan, that makes his life forfeit. But when his own mother tries but fails to kill him, Drizzt’s path is set. He must find a way to escape the treacherous Underdark, even if that means setting out alone into the no less dangerous World Above. 

This trilogy is the first three books in the story of Drizzt, and as such they can be read as standalone books.  In this review I will be writing about the first in this trilogy ‘Homeland’, as to review all three books in one place would lead to an almost novel length piece of writing in itself.

The male protagonist is a study of contradictions and unanswered questions; why do certain things happen to him that he either does not react to or goes completely over the top?  Despite the huge holes in his back-story I actually quite liked Drizzt and his intent, be it on purpose or just by accident, of not wanting to conform to what was expected of him.  This side of his personality gave him depth and an almost lifelike quality.  However, as I said earlier there are, in my opinion, so many question about this character that remain unanswered I did feel at times as if I were walking in fog, constantly losing my direction.  The way in which this Author portrays the female characters in this book was interesting to me, as he endows them which what could be seen as being primarily male traits.  They are cruel to the point of making the reader wince, ambitious and powerful; they are the main force behind any battles that takes place and are not at all reticent at showing their disdain for the males in their charge.  I found this to be a refreshing take on the female role in a fantasy novel, and it added considerably to the book.

The book moves along at a steady pace, and the Author has taken some time with his world building, and the description of the lead characters home provides the reader with a sweeping vista in which to place him.  Again though, as in the character development, I felt as if there were something missing here, almost as if pages were missing from my copy of the book.

Despite feeling confused at times whilst reading this, I will be reading more by this Author in the hopes that some of my many questions will be answered as the series progresses.  I would recommend this book to any lover of the fantasy genre.

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Review: The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry #1) ~ Guy Gavriel Kay

The Summer TreeThe first volume in Guy Gavriel Kay’s stunning fantasy masterwork.

Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the coming battle against the forces of evil led by the fallen god Rakoth Maugrim and his dark hordes.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s classic epic fantasy plays out on a truly grand scale, and has already been delighting fans of imaginative fiction for twenty years.

4 Thumbs-UpI need to say upfront that this is a hard novel to get into and begin to feel a connection to its characters.  More times than enough the reader will be overcome by the feeling that the contents are all too familiar, and they would be right as it gives more than a passing nod to some of the better known epic fantasy novels out there; it fully embraces themes, countries and characters, but this isn’t a bad mark that I can hold against this book.

In the beginning all the characters are portrayed as being rather one-dimensional, their conversation is stilted and they almost appear to be awkward appearing on the pages of the book, but as the storyline progresses and the reader begins to learn more about these people they visibly develop and grow into true three-dimensional characters before the readers eyes, and a connection is made.  With a skilful hand the Author is able to turn trite and shallow characters into fascinating, enigmatic people the reader takes a real interest in.

The book itself is full of the modern and classic, the mystic and mysterious, tragedy and victory all set in the flowing and expansive locations of a fantasy world that weaves its spell and stretches the imagination with each page.  It doesn’t matter if the locales seem familiar; it is the way the Author takes the familiar and turns it into something new that makes this book wondrous.

So why only four thumbs; it just wasn’t long enough and this will mean I will definitely be picking up other books in this series to continue the adventure.  Yes, I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of the fantasy genre, and those who are looking for a new, but at the same time oddly familiar read.

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Review: Warrior Crone ~ Jennifer Christopherson

Warrior Crone

Generations of Tirawan kings have laid the groundwork for King Johahn. The peasants fear the Gohmdae people and everything connected to them. Their children play games of hunting them and burning them at the stake. His plan to wipe the Ghomdae out and take over their lands will be unquestioned.

The Ghomdae, wishing only for peace and to live life their own way, have kept their distance for generations. However, when reports of soldiers in the forest and on the Taarook plains start pouring in, they must send their own into the very heart of the danger to act as spies. After many years and many deaths, they find out what is going on.

To-Shora, second household to Crone Jeh-Gah, is one of these spies. During her mission, she is raped and has a child for each rape. Tar-Reesh, the eldest of these children, befriends the magistrate’s daughter, Winaiva, and grows up playing games of hunting and burning Gohmdae.

Tar-Reesh, ever seeking acceptance, and Winaiva, ever searching for freedom, are taught the truth and are forced to choose their part in the conflict. But will they be able to live with their choice? Will they win the war to keep the Ghomdae free? What are the roles of the dragons and elves? What, exactly, does Fate have in store for these two girls, these two peoples, this peninsula?

2 Thumbs-Up

This is a debut work for this Author, and my spidey sense started twitching as soon as I read the summary of the book; not is a good way.

This was a very strange book that had me feeling it was the second instalment in a series.  I even put it to one side to search and see if I had missed the beginning of this tale; but no, this is where it starts. Despite this, I thought it may be one of those rare books in a series, that is perfectly happy standing all alone and making its mark as a solo act as well as part of a series; again that was not to be the case.  The Author had a great vision when writing this book, but for some reason it really didn’t translate well on to the page.

The characters, all of them throughout the book, seemed very underdeveloped to me and all spoke in the same formal manner, which made them very hard to separate from one another.  They had no back-story to speak of, which again made it hard to relate to them in any way.  Hence the feeling I had whilst reading this, of walking in halfway through a conversation and expecting to be able to successfully debate it.  The protagonist was immediately on my ‘I really hope something despicable happens to you’ list, as they are arrogant, rigid and refuse to accept anyone else but they could possibly be right.  The fact that this character provoked a response from me meant it was given at least a passing thought as to its development by the Author, as it managed to push all the right buttons when evoking that feeling of wanting to reach out and shake them.  It is such a shame I felt I had missed out on their life story and why they were like this, I like characters to exhibit a few believable flaws instead of them expecting me to believe they could walk on water.

There were some wonderfully descriptive aspects to this book which, if they had been explored in more depth could really have gone a long way to helping the plot along.  As it was they were dealt with in a rather perfunctory manner, as if they were of no import.  The few snippets we had of this complex fantastical world were the kind that starts an image forming in the readers’ brain, but as it was coming into focus it was snatched away.  This was the tone of the whole book for me; it was random and disjointed with bizarre little flashbacks happening that I had no clue as to where they came from, or what their purpose was.

This was a good fantasy read; that with a bit more tweaking and direction could become a great fantasy read. I would recommend it to lovers of this genre, but advise they go into not expecting an epic.  If the Author decides to write a prequel to this, that started at the very beginning, and gave back-story to all the happenings in this novel, I would definitely read it before trying this book again as I feel it would give a lot more sense and meaning to the book I have just reviewed.

 

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