Infinity Blade II

Infinity blade – sakura garden

Another game given away for free on the fifth aniversary of the Apple app store is Infinity Blade II. Infinity Blade is a sword-fighting game, but its striking feature is the ridiculously gorgeous graphics. This is a game that runs on my mobile phones, but whose screen captures would make acceptable desktop pictures.

Infinity Blade II
Epic Games
iOSGame available on the Apple App Store

The game itself is not to bad, controls are pretty rough, all actions, parrying, striking, dodging, blocking and casting spells are done by taping or swiping the sword. The fight system is pretty classic: drain down the hit-points of the adversary and you get a finishing move sequence which is nearly as over the top as in Bayonetta. Besides the fights, there is a bit of moving around and clicking on boxes, enough to give some depth to the game, but not enough to make it a real exploration / puzzle game.

All in all a nice game, in particular when you consider it is now pretty old (it was released in 2011), and free.

Eternal Vows

A young woman in a white dress wearing a red glowing ring

While I use technology a lot, I have only started using ebooks, mostly because my backlog of paper-book is sufficient to keep me busy for some time. Pretty randomly, I discovered that Eternal Vows by Chrissy Peebles was for free, so I gave it a try [spoiler alert, but hey!]. I read it on three devices: my laptop, my nexus 7 tablet, and my iPhone 5. The Kindle application on those various devices is not very advanced, lacking even basic copy-paste, but it works, the text, including the reading position in the book was synchronised between the devices. I had the feeling that screen pixel density has a very large impact on the reading experience, larger that the screen size. My laptop has 50 pixels per centimetre, the tablet 85, the phone 128.

Eternal Vows

ISBN: 978-1-4841-3167-1

I read quite a lot of fantasy books when I was younger, and the archetypical story is that a random young guy gets projected into some fantasy world, where he has various adventures. Eternal Vows follows the same basic structure, but the main character is a woman, pretty early in the story she puts on a magical ring that give her magical powers, but that she cannot get rid from, and she looks for a way back to her own universe.

The book is described as Paranormal romance and fantasy adventure on amazon, personally, I would describe this as non-geeky fantasy: while the text has all the superficial bits of fantasy, the fantasy part is quite secondary: neither the character not the author seem to actually care for it. After reading the book, I cannot really say much about the world the heroine entered, it is medieval, people speak and understand modern american, there is some kind of church, and there is some magic, reserved to an immortal elite.

Clearly I’m not the intended readership of this book, quite the opposite in fact, but it is pretty interesting to see this variant of the archetypical fantasy story. The main character, Sarah, is a scientist, but she does not work on something that would be mentioned in the American Scientific, instead she is looking for the Bigfoot, science is not really a driver for her, in fact she is just looking for her lost sister. Readers can rest assured that the book is pretty devoid of sciency bits after chapter 1.

Sarah is supposed to be the leader of a team, but her leadership skills are pretty low: she basically says no a lot, rolls her eyes, and tells reminds her team-member that she is paying them, while they are in another dimension with no way back. Besides that, she mostly agonises about the situation and does what the male character tell her to do.

The core plot point of the book, and I suspect the following ones, is that Sarah weds Victor, some immortal lord and puts on a magical ring that makes herself immortal and capable of magic. Her decision to do this is not of her own devising, but rather an idea of her sceptic journalist ex-boyfriend, Frank, who also got projected into this world.

While Frank is presented as a jerk, he seems to be the only character with some skills, he asks questions about the universe they are in, and organises a rescue for Sarah, and generally tries to do things. The central plot is basically Sarah being torn between Frank who is, as his names indicates, the honest good guy™, deep-down, and Victor, who is basically the immortal, century old, über-winner. Both guys are of course hot, but Victor more so.

Once the story went over the dimension rift and the wedding, it is just a sequence of chases with some interludes of bickering between Sarah, Frank and various members of her team, a lot of emoting is involved. They are helped by various locals, luck and the magical ring, which is a good thing, because Sarah and her team have the general skill level of lost US tourists, even when the author conveniently whisked away the whole language issue.

On the other hand, Victor, who is supposed to be a century old tyrant is not very good at recovering his runaway wife, once she puts on the magical ring, he is quite smitten over her, and tells her telepathically that he admires the fact she stood up against him (by accepting to marry him after less than a day in dungeon). So he basically follows her remotely in the pretty random quest Sarah sets herself up to at the end of the first book.

Generally this book reminded me of Alexia Tarabotti story I read (in French), and while I cannot claim that Gail Carriger’s writing is good (I read a translation), I found the style of Chrissy Peebles very weak. The plot, the character and the universe are pretty shallow, and even the emotions are underwhelming, a lot of them are thrown around, but given the uninteresting the characters are and how little they actually do, it is difficult to care, by the end of the first book, I really wanted Sarah to move with Victor and get over with it all… In conclusion an interesting read in the academic sense, but a pretty lame book.


Three characters in front of an ornate ring, a man with glowing fire in his palm, a red-haired woman in armour holding a spear and a black haired woman with the same spear, but with wings a a glow on her brow.

I recently bought the first volume of the comic book Ravine by Stjepan Šejić, aka Nebezial and Ron Marz. This purchase was a bit curious for me: my interest in fantasy has waned with the years, and I tend to be picky about the drawing style. I had been following Stjepan Šejić on deviantart for some time and I really love his drawings, he has a style that is both detailed and energetic, his pictures reminded me of the art by or , basically the good covers of Dungeon and Dragons modules. Except Stjepan Šejić has this level of quality throughout each page of the whole album.

Ravine Book 1
Text: &
Illustration: Stjepan Šejić
Top-Cow Production
ISBN : 978-1-60706722-1

The universe seems like a mix of classical fantasy fare: a founding drama, lots of dragons, many humanoid races, a falling empire, a growing religion, and of course a malediction. The book starts with a map and there is a glossary at the end of the book, along with character and race descriptions. While this sounds very much run of the mill, this was clearly done with both passion and skill, the art is just gorgeous. More importantly, the story with its two chaotic main character is what makes the whole thing tick. Usually fantasy is extremely predictable, but this story seems to have the level of chaos of a RPG session but few of the conventions, making the story very interesting.

All in all a very interesting first book, and I’m curious to see where the second one will go, the sneak peeks on deviantart look promising.


Cover of the Terry Pratchett Book 'Snuff' – Commander Vimes at the wheel of a paddle-boat in a storm with a bunch of chicken fleeing.

Yesterday, I took the day off an spent the day at the Badi in Wollishofen. Badis are bathhouses on the lake of Zürich, with showers, lockers, a cafeteria, a nice taal tree and a box full of books. Although the box contains some Terry Pratchett books (Diggers, if I recall correctly), I had brought my own: a copy of “Snuff” that was lent to me by a friend. So I bathed and finished reading the book in the sun, and managed to get some sunburn, which is very astonishing because the weather was quite cloudy.

Snuff is a new adventure of Commander Vimes, of Ankh-Morpork fame, this time he goes on holiday in his wife’s country-side house, of course, there is a crime, and then something bigger, so the holidays are far from dull. While most of the action happens in the country-side, part of the action happens in Ankh-Morpork, so all the characters of the guard make at least a token appearance.


Double Day
ISBN : 978-0-385-61926-4

The book basically follows the classical recipe of recent Disk-world books, it is well written, and gripping and I enjoyed reading it. I found the shift of Vimes becoming old and respectable interesting, but the story basically fell appart once I put down the book.

First one can feel that Terry Pratchett is getting really old, I felt more dramatic tension in one posh dinners than in the fights, this reminded me of “A Civil Campaign” by , where the most dramatic moment was a family dinner going quite wrong.

Second, the character of Vimes is starting to collapse on his own weight, he now has a bazillion titles, he is the protégé of the Patrician, and since the book Thud! he has magical powers. All this power undermines the dramatic tension, as no-one really believes that anything really bad can happen to him or his family. A small part of the book is devoted to Vime’s internal struggles, but it is minor and felt like an afterthought. I think Sir Commander Vimes is starting to be way to much of a Mary Sue for Sir Terry Pratchett. I also found that the way Vime’s child is described feels a bit to much like an introduction, that we are soon going to get the adventures of Vime’s son.

Third, the parts of the story besides of the country-side where Vimes resides feel hollow and artificial. The whole Sergeant Colon sub-plot should either have been the center of the story or been removed, it just feels like some filler to justify having the other characters coming around. This also seems to be a trend with older authors, everything needs to become some kind of family reunion. Even Nobby Nobbs finds a girlfriend in the last chapter.

In summary Snuff is a pleasant read, showing that Terry Pratchet can do his usual tricks quite well, but it probably won’t leave any lasting impression once you finished reading the book. This is certainly not him at his best, the writing is good: but the story below it feel increasingly hollow.

(Français) Sans Âme : Une aventure d’Alexia Tarabotti

Une jeune femme en corset bleu tenant une montre gousset par le cordon, devant la tour de Londre et la pleine lune

Cela faisait un moment que j’entendais parler de et j’étais assez curieux de voir à quoi cela res­semble, pensez donc : une sorte de fantasy-urbaine avec com­me public cible des fem­mes. Lorsqu’une amie m’a pro­posé Sans Âme : Une aven­ture de d’Alexia Tarabotti j’ai sauté sur l’occa­sion, c’est un peu comme faire le test du Elle, « quelle genre de femme êtes-vous ? », même si je ne suis pas le public cible, le résultat est souvent amusant. Attention, le contenu de ce billet risque de révéler des secrets sur l’histoire.

Mon impression générale est celle d’une mécanique efficace, quoique peu subtile. L’hypothèse de base du monde n’est pas très originale : un monde parallèle où existent Loup-garous, vampires et autres créatures surnaturelles. Ces êtres se sont intégrés dans la bonne société de l’Angleterre victorienne, jusqu’à son gouver­nement. Partant de là, les idées sont plutôt bien ex­ploitées, mais ce n’est pas réellement le propos du livre, je pense. L’aspect central du livre est la relation entre l’héroïne et le prince charmant.

L’héroïne est une vielle fille bibliophile, dont le père est mort. Sa mère s’est remariée et elle vit avec deux demi sœurs qui la méprisent car elle a le teint mat et un nez prononcé. Son apparence, son caractère et son âge avancé (26 ans) font qu’elle est considérée impropre à marier et donc un cas désespéré. Le héros exclu et victime au début de l’histoire est un grand classique de la Fantasy, mais je dois dire que j’admire quelqu’un qui utilise quasiment littéralement l’ouverture de Cendrillon et calque l’héroïne aussi bien sur ses lectrices. Avec une mention pour avoir donné à l’héroïne qui adore lire le prénom d’une maladie qui rend la lecture difficile et comme nom de famille celui d’une vénitienne, écrivaine qui fut envoyée au couvent faute de dot : Arcangela Tarabotti.

Le prince charmant se doit naturellement d’être beau, fort, riche et puissant. Dans cet univers cela se traduit en un Lord loup-garou, fort musclé, écossais d’origine, et mâle α de tous les lycanthropes de Londres. Là encore, peu de subtilité dans le nom : Conall signifie loup fort et Mac Con est un roi légendaire d’Irlande qui doit son patronyme (fils de chien) au fait qu’il aurait allaité par un chien. Évidemment c’est un homme bourru et peu subtil, mais au cœur d’or.

Une grande partie du récit implique donc les soirées, diners, promenades, entrevues et autres conversations mondaines où officiellement on enquête sur le complot qui s’ourdit dans l’ombre, mais ou surtout se trame la relation. Il l’embrasse à peu près au tiers du livre, ils se marient dans l’épilogue. La scène d’action de la fin permet d’avoir des situations croustillantes, c’est à dire d’abord l’héroïne entravée (outre le corset et la tournure) et ensuite le prince charmant tout nu, vu que naturellement c’est la pleine lune. C’est l’occasion aussi pour l’héroïne d’enfin utiliser son pouvoir spécial, qui est de calmer la bête, naturellement.

Il y a bien sûr l’enquête concernant le complot sus-mentionné. Elle suit assez fidèlement le schéma d’enquête des films d’action : l’enquête piétine, tout le monde se retrouve kidnappé dans la base secrète remplie de zombulateurs et la bagarre générale permettra de trier les bons des méchants. Bon, à ce stade de l’histoire, le lecteur est de toute manière plus intéressé par les frasques amoureuses du couple que par l’enquête, qui en arrivent au point ou seul un deus ex machina majeur permet de sauver les meubles à la fin de l’histoire. Clairement, ce n’est pas l’héroïne qui peut faire progresser l’enquête : entravée par les conventions sociales, elle ne peut tuer des vampires que dans la bibliothèque avec une ombrelle, et si elle a censée avoir beaucoup (trop) lu, ses connaissances ressemblent plus à une celles d’une femme normale du XXIe siècle qu’à celle d’une intellectuelle du XIXe: elle ne sait pas le latin, et si elle est censé discuter des nouvelles sciences, cela est soigneusement fait hors du récit, ce que j’ai trouvé dommage. D’un autre côté, les descriptions de ses toilettes sont faites par le menu.

Sans Âme
Une aventure de d’Alexia Tarabotti

Traduction : Sylvie Denis
Livre de Poche
ISB : 978-2-253-13488-6

À noter que ce livre est probablement à déconseiller aux personnes ayant une âme historiquement sensible : outre, évidemment la présence de vampires et de loup-garous, la cohérence temporelle est très relative, le ciel est rempli de dirigeables, les bijoux en aluminium sont à la mode, mais personne n’a jamais vu d’ascenseur – Otis, fondateur de la compagnie éponyme est mort en 1861, les tournures étaient à la mode de 1860 à 1900. Mais bon, le Steampunk est à la mode…

Un dernier commentaire concernant l’écriture, j’ai trouvé le style assez maladroit, on devine derrière le texte français un anglais très spirituel, qui a mon avis a mal passé à la traduction, malheureusement tous les romans ne peuvent pas être traduits par .

En conclusion un roman très efficace, qui s’y j’en crois les commentaires de mes amies sur Facebook, est plutôt le haut du panier dans cette catégorie. Une lecture très intéressante si on ne connaît pas ce style de fantasy, mais si vous en avez les moyens, je vous conseillerait plutôt de le lire directement en anglais.

100 Fantasy adventure seeds

100 Fantasy Adventure Seeds by James 'Grim Desborough'

I could not stay in London without going to the Forbidden Planet shop. While I think the RPG shelf has seriously shrunk since the last time I went, I still found an interesting supplement: 100 Fantasy Adventures Seeds by James Grim Desborough. Meanwhile I realised it could also be bought in pdf format (with a different cover), still this is the kind of text I liked to have in a bound form.

The content can easily be guessed from from the title: each page contains a short scenario description, followed by three twists, an epilogue, and sometimes a few more notes. The scenarios in themselves are usually nothing special, and I could have though of most them by myself, but having them all together gives a very good source of inspiration. The idea of decoupling the core idea from the twists and the outcome is in my opinion very good, this helps clarify what is the narrative and what the characters can figure out during the game. As there a multiple twists per scenario, the game-master can even change his mind during the game, something I often do.

100 Fantasy adventure seeds
James ‘Grim’ Desborough
Cubicle seven / Postmortem Studios
ISBN : 978-1-907204-20-3

The setting used in the scenarios is fairly standard high fantasy, with a lots of magic and powerful gods, the back-cover contains the note: Warning: Mature Content, but there is not much to get excited about. I also suspect the author has something for undead creatures. References to non-human races (orcs and gnomes) are few, and thankfully there was nothing involving elves – for some reason scenarios that require elves tend to suck…

In conclusion, I found this an interesting read. If you are just after a few good ideas and don’t think of using this as a kind of reference, buying the online pdf would probably be a better option.

(Français) Terremer

Erdsee 4 Romane in Einem Band – Urusula K. Le Guin

Les habitués de ce blog auront remarqué que la légère schizophrénie linguistique qui hante ces pages. Aujourd’hui je vais parler, en français, d’une œuvre de science fiction américaine que j’ai lu en allemand. La raison principale est que j’ai la flemme d’écrire en allemand, et que mes lecteurs habituels sont plutôt francophones. Bref, j’ai acheté, l’année passée l’intégrale de Terremer d’Ursula Leguin dans la langue de Goethe pour 18€. Un achat plutôt avantageux lorsqu’on réalise à l’aéroport de Zürich qu’on n’a rien à lire pour un vol trans-continental. J’ai donc lu les deux premiers livres durant un voyage aux États-Unis, et les deux derniers durant mon périple nippon.

En commençant à écrire ce billet, ce qui m’a frappé, c’est que les trois livres précédents étaient eux-aussi écrits par des femmes. Je ne saurais dire s’il s’agit d’une simple coincidence ou d’une tendance. Curieusement, je n’avais jamais lu de roman complet d’Ursula Leguin, mais quelques nouvelles, éparpillées dans les anthologies «Histoire de…» en édition Livre de Poche. C’était donc une expérience un peu étrange de relire de la Fantasy classique avec vingt ans de retard.

Erdsee – 4 Romane in Einem Band
Urusula K. Le Guin
Serie Piper
ISBN 978-3-492-28523-0

Soyons clair, il ne s’agit pas du genre de médiéval fantastique dont le Boulet se moque fort bien, mais d’un cycle prenant et fort bien écrit. Pour quelqu’un qui aime la voile et la mer, le cadre est réellement sympathique et décrit avec soin. Les intrigues des différents livres ne sont pas particulièrement originales et les différents éléments on depuis été absorbés par la littérature fantastique, mais les personnages sont attachants et l’écriture élégante et efficace. En bref, un classique donc je recommande la lecture…