Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fun Fact:

The Gladius, the short sword that became the signature weapon of the Roman legions, was designed for stabbing and thrusting and only weighed between 25 and 32 ounces—only 1.56 to 2 pounds! That's less than most laptops! Even my lovely new machine (a Macbook Air, which is absurdly light) weighs 2.96 lbs, almost a full pound more than a Roman legionary's sword.

For some interesting gallery images, visit Roman Legions' Military Equipment page, here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Raven, by Dean Whitlock

I picked up this book at a used book store for maybe two dollars. It turns out it was a two dollars well spent indeed. Raven, by Dean Whitlock, is a fantasy romp through an industrial revolution-adjacent land where the rivers dictate power, the ruling class is composed of land-holding Barons, and magic is stronger the higher you climb into the reaches. Raven is a headstrong girl and a bird mage, hence her nickname, and she is one of the most unwitting heroes I've ever come across, which only adds to her charm, really.

It's worth mentioning that this novel is also one of those rare gems where two out of the three main protagonists identify as women and are noted to be women of color. To see that kind of representation in a stereotypically male and often whitewashed genre is refreshing, in a big way. Equally as important, the characters are really well written. Their slang and curses aren't quite as easily recommendable to everyday speech as Scott Westerfeld's "Barking spiders" and "clever-boots," courtesy of the Leviathan trilogy, but I wouldn't be surprised if I caught myself saying "blazing mages" a time or two.

Another aspect worth noting is that Raven is, technically speaking, the sequel to another of Whitlock's novels, Sky Carver. From what I can tell, Raven also appears in Sky Carver, though not as the main character, and Raven takes place four years after the events of its prequel. That I didn't realize this fact until after I began filling out an entry on Goodreads says a lot. This book stands on its own, which strikes me as both unusual and skillful on Whitlock's part.

If you're a fan of fantasy, mages, ravens, cranky anti-heroes, and steam boats, you should probably give this a read.