While the weather wasn’t as brutal as Whatthefuckoween in 2014, tonight featured a lovely fucking bastard of a snow and rain mix, and only a small handful of Trick or Treaters; my son, who has been talking about Halloween ceaselessly for weeks, tapped out after about ten houses. I kept my usual vigil in the driveway; while we no longer have the dogs to lose their damn minds every time someone rings the doorbell my anxiety issues are still juuuuust strong enough that I’m not interested in hearing the damn thing at random intervals all night long and I’d rather just brave the cold and be outside.
Total former student count: three. Level of joy at seeing the look on a kid’s face when you utter the words “you can take the rest of it” to them at 6:57 PM: infinite.
Here’s the thing, though: the last time we had shitty weather on Halloween it just snowed and left an inch or so of accumulation on everything. Today it has been raining steadily all day, it is going to continue raining for another three hours or so … and it’s then going to immediately dip below freezing and the temperature is forecast to be twenty-seven degrees at 7:00 in the morning tomorrow.
In other words, all of that water is going to freeze. And it’s going to stay frozen overnight. And the city of South Bend does not have salt trucks ready on October 31 or November 1. They are the same trucks that are currently kitted out for picking up leaves, and they aren’t going to be able to flip them all over overnight for one day of spreading salt on roads coated in black ice.
I would call even odds on whether we have school tomorrow, is what I’m saying. Because as slippery as the roads are looking to be, with no salting, it very well may be too dangerous for the buses to run. And as someone who has been advocating formally moving Halloween to the last Friday or Saturday in October for years, it would not bother me one tiny little bit to lose the day after Halloween to an ice day.
Right around exactly a year ago, Kingdom of Ash, the final novel of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series released in hardcover, and I found that a bunch of my friends were reading it and talking about it, and talking about it with the sort of reverence only due to the end of a major, major series. And I’d … never heard of it. I eventually bought the first book, though– any time more than a couple of my friends start talking about a book at the same time I’m going to check it out; I’m predictable that way– although I didn’t get around to actually reading Throne of Glass until February.
That was seven books and five thousand and eight pages ago. The final book came out in paperback a couple of weeks ago; I’d been spacing out my reads so that I didn’t finish the series too far away from the last book’s release, but if you click through my Monthly Reads you’ll notice I’ve read a book or two from this series most months since reading the first one in February. And I finished the final book, the thousand-page Kingdom of Ash, perhaps fifteen minutes ago.
I need y’all to understand something.
Fantasy literature is in my damn blood, kids. I first read The Lord of the Rings— the entire trilogy, plus The Hobbit— in second grade. I have been reading epic fantasy for my entire life. I am fully and entirely qualified to make the statement that I am about to make.
The fact that Sarah J. Maas’ name is not spoken among the fantasy literature community with the same reverence as Tolkien, or Eddings, or Brooks, or Sanderson, or Jordan, or Rothfuss, or Martin, or any of those motherfuckers is a Goddamned crime, and I can attribute said omission to nothing other than the purest sexism.
In fact, I would go farther: Throne of Glass is better than a lot of these men’s magnum opus megaseries are. It is, for example, undeniably better than Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire, although I admit no individual book is as good as A Game of Thrones. It is better than Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. Better than, if not, perhaps, as beautifully written as Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind.
And because Sarah Maas is a woman, and because the series was (criminally, incorrectly) slotted into YA, a designation that I think probably hurt a couple of the early books until she was selling enough to be able to write whatever she wanted, I had never heard of the Goddamned series until my (entirely, incidentally, female) friends told me about it.
George Martin is taking literal entire generations to produce individual books. Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear released in 2011, four years after The Name of the Wind, and the third book has no release date. Sarah J. Maas released the first book of Throne of Glass in 2012 and it is 2019 and the series is done. Or, to put it another way, the entire five thousand page series has been released since A Dance With Dragons or Wise Man’s Fear came out.
When these long series come out, the tendency is to go to filler early and painfully. The entire second book of the Wheel of Time series could have been reduced to a prologue chapter of the third book. Martin’s tendency to pad out his work until it is completely out of control is legendary. And a certain other series that just launched recently managed to feature unnecessary filler material in its first book.
The series comprises six main books, a three-novella prequel novel, The Assassin’s Blade, that should be read second, and a “side novel,” Tower of Dawn, that should be read in between the fifth and sixth main-sequence books, and in that entire time the only time I felt like the series was spinning its wheels was in Heir of Fire, which spends a lot of time doing plot work before blowing a hole in the entire series and upending everything you thought you knew in the last hundred and fifty pages or so. There’s no fucking filler.
I am prone to hyperbole, I say that all the time, and I nonetheless cannot overstate what an amazing achievement this series is, and how grateful I am that so many people made sure I had seen it. If you’ve ever read a fantasy megaseries in your life, you owe it to yourself to read these. They are a highlight of an extraordinary year of reading. Go get started; it’ll take you a while.
Part of me feels like reviewing this game is pointless, because it came out way the hell back in 2016, but I never pay attention to the year books came out before I write about them, so to hell with it: I first downloaded Salt and Sanctuary for my PS4 a couple of months ago, played it for a couple of hours, and for whatever reason it felt unreasonably hard and didn’t click. I jumped back into it for no good reason a week and a half or so ago, and it immediately proceeded to eat about 20 hours of my life between then and beating it on Sunday. So I’ve been playing quite a bit of it later, and watching videos about it when I wasn’t playing it. I don’t know why it didn’t hit at first, but maybe running a mage build made all the difference.
Anyway: S&S is a 2D Soulslike combined with a Metroidvania, which is an utterly impenetrable sentence if you don’t speak fluent Gamer Nerd, so let me unpack it for you: difficult combat, tons of different ways to build your character that will lead to you fighting with anything from magic and giant hammers to whips and guns and scissor-swords, difficult boss encounters, penalties at death, collecting materials (in this case, salt) from defeating enemies that you can use to level up and are lost if you die unless you defeat the beast that killed you, and an absolutely enormous map (that’s only maybe 2/3 of it, if that; I don’t think there’s a complete map on the internet anywhere yet, which is unreal) with tons of shortcuts and secrets and replayability and lots of backtracking. Combine all that with a seriously cool, unique art style and we have something I’m going to be very into:
It’s an interesting combination of cartoony with gory; killing enemies results in a surprisingly satisfying explosion of blood and body bits, and the overall aesthetic is just Lovecraftian enough that it never got old, although in general I found it a bit too dark a lot of the time– you will be lighting a lot of torches in this game, and there’s a particular enemy that lives in completely dark areas and keeps a light on its forehead like some sort of bipedal angler fish, and the way my build worked out I often had to choose between being able to see and being able to attack it, because you can’t hold a torch and a two-handed weapon at once, and all of my weapons were two-handed. Which got complicated.
Another thing the game does well is the addition of what it calls Creeds, which are basically your character’s religion; there are about seven of them, three or four of which are available at the start of the game. When you find a safe area in the game (a “sanctuary”, where you can level up and there aren’t any enemies) sometimes they are already dedicated to a creed and sometimes you can choose what creed to dedicate them to; you collect items throughout the game that can let you add things like blacksmiths and vendors and fast-travel points to sanctuaries, but you can only add them to sanctuaries that belong to your creed. Sanctuaries can be converted between creeds, too (and you can change yours,) but that can lead to violence if done too many times to the same creed. Connecting vendors to a collectible item leads to a bit of strategic thinking about where to place them, but if you find all of the guides you can put a guide at nearly every sanctuary, so it’s not as big of a deal: more important is that the vendors and such also add bonuses to areas, so you get a salt bonus if you add a Stone Leader at a sanctuary, for example.
I just finished my first run, and it’s distinctly possible that I’m about to dive right in with a second, although I’ve got my eyes on a couple of other games too. But any game I play through twice before heading off to something else is pretty special. If you’ve found that your tastes in games line up with mine in the past, check this out.
I slept last night, at least in the technical sense, and I vaguely remember even being pretty comfortable, so it wasn’t a tossy-turny sort of night, but hell if I didn’t spend the entire night having constant, vivid anxiety dreams of the sort of “I’m late for work/unprepared for class/can’t find my clothes/everything is going wrong” sort of genre, along with a handful of actual nightmares that I don’t remember as specifically. I still owe you guys a post about the training last week and I want to review a game called Salt and Sanctuary that ate a large chunk of my free time last week (and is about to eat an hour of tonight) but I’m going to bed early tonight and I’m going to hope I’m more of a human being at work tomorrow than I was today.
That said, briefly: I’ve had a couple of days recently where I know good and goddamned well that I’d have come home from work and immediately spent the entire evening stressing out and looking at want ads, and since I’ve been on the Effexor … well, the job and the kids aren’t better, but my reactions to them have been a hell of a lot healthier. Like, I can have a bad day at work now and come home and just lay the shit aside and have a nice night with my family. This shit is a miracle drug, which is not something I’d ever have said about Lexapro. I could be writing more fiction, but … well, that’s never not true, so meh.
…for the first time ever, I have found my books on a shelf in a bookstore. Now, granted, it was the new Half Price Books that just opened on Grape Road, and the book was signed already to someone named “David,” but still– every time I walk into a bookstore I look in the S section just in case somehow magically one of my books is there, and never once has that happened until today. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again for the sake of completeness: not everyone keeps every book forever like I do, so it’s not a hit to my ego or something that David sold my book off; he may not have liked it or he may have moved or maybe he just generally doesn’t keep books for long; one way or another it’s no skin off my back. But I had a strong enough reaction to seeing my book on the shelf that I had to explain myself to the dude who was standing next to me. He seemed to genuinely appreciate how happy I was about it, too, and gave the book a courtesy flip-through before putting it back on the shelf.
(Which was also kinda weird; I thought about pointing out the obvious, which was that I wasn’t going to worry about it if he put it back, but that might have made it even weirder than it already was. Either way, no buzz-harshing on my end.)
The place is planning on doing author signings in the future, and I got a copy of the manager’s card, so chances are I’ll be doing an event there sooner or later. I will, of course, keep everyone apprised once that comes to pass. Until then, I’m just going to have to go there three times a week until someone buys that book. 🙂