Thursday 30 August 2018

Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb

Fifteen years have passed since the end of the Red Ship War. FitzChivalry Farseer is believed dead, with only a few knowing the truth that he survived and helped end the war and the threat of the cruel King Regal. Living a comfortable life as a smallholder with his wolf Nighteyes and an adopted son, Hap, Fitz occasionally has strange dreams. He dismisses these, until his old friend the Fool visits with news: Prince Dutiful, the son of Queen Kettricken and the late King Verity, has vanished in a very strange manner. Reluctantly, Fitz returns to Buckkeep and a life he thought he'd left behind.

Fool's Errand is the fourth novel featuring the adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, picking up after the events of the original Farseer Trilogy. It's also the seventh novel overall in the Realm of the Elderlings setting, which now extends across sixteen books. It's a bit of a fresh start in the series, as although it follows up on events in the Farseer books (and a brief mention is made of the Liveship Traders trilogy), it also introduces new characters and new storylines.

Fool's Errand is a slow book, at least to start with. The first 200 pages - more than a third of the novel - are taken up by Fitz's home life and routine, with lengthy ruminations on chicken-farming. Fitz's main concern isn't war, death or assassinations, but instead raising enough coin to find his adopted son a good apprenticeship. Some may find this sequence interminable, but Hobb uses this sequence to establish Fitz's good, comfortable and quiet life away from the mayhem of the court, and what it means when it is taken away when a new crisis erupts.

The rest of the novel is more familiar: a prince has gone missing, the Witted people of the Six Duchies are rebelling against the persecution and murder of their kind by forming an armed resistance and a new peace treaty between the Duchies and the Outislands is in jeopardy. Keen for people to not realise he's survived, Fitz adopts a new identity (the uncouth Tom Badgerlock) and undertakes clandestine mission for the crown. This results in some splendid, classic epic fantasy elements such as an awkward cliffside sword fight against superior enemy numbers, the experimental use of magic and the gradual teasing and unravelling of a labyrinthine conspiracy.

This doesn't mean that Hobb's straying too far from her established tropes. When in doubt about what to do next, she just makes Fitz's life more miserable and horrible than ever before, killing off loved ones and finding ways to put him in as awkward and painful a situation as possible. It's all vaguely depressing, which is an odd juxtaposition given that the second half of the novel is as lively and swashbuckling as Hobb has ever gotten.

Still, if you're in the mood for a beautifully-written, somewhat melancholy fantasy where the focus is firmly on the characters rather than magic or battles, Fool's Errand (****) is a very fine novel. It's also surprisingly stand-alone: you'd definitely miss a fair amount if you hadn't read the Farseer trilogy, but the plot is focused on a new story and situation. Also, whilst the story clearly is set to continue after the final page, there's no major cliffhanger ending. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Massive gameplay demo for CYBERPUNK 2077 released

CDProjekt Red has released a massive 48-minute gameplay demo for their upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077. Previously shown behind closed doors to journalists and industry figures at video game conventions, CDPR decided to release the video due to overwhelming public demand. They caution that this is an early build of the game and many things may change before the final release.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a vast, open-world SF RPG set in Night City, California. The game allows players to go wherever they want in a huge world and pursue a vast array of storylines, activities and jobs, as well as customising their characters significantly. There is also a complex, detailed main storyline that can be followed.

The game is being made by some of the same team who worked on the Witcher trilogy of video games and is based on the Cyberpunk pen-and-paper RPG system created by Mike Pondsmith, who is closely collaborating on the video game.

Cyberpunk 2020 has no official release date, but I'd be surprised if we saw this before 2020 at the earliest.

MR. ROBOT to conclude with its fourth season

The USA Network has confirmed that the fourth season of Mr. Robot will be the last. The season is currently shooting and is expected to debut in early 2019.

Mr. Robot began airing in 2015, with its first season airing tremendous critical acclaim. The second season met a cooler reception, but Season 3 (which I have still to watch) was praised as a return to form. The show was renewed for an 8-episode fourth season a few months ago with a view for a short fifth season to follow, but creator-producer Sam Esmail decided that it made more sense to finish the story as soon as possible. Season 4 has therefore been extended to 12 episodes to found off the story.

The news makes sense as the talent involved in the show has started finding itself in demand elsewhere. Sam Esmail is executive producing Homecoming, a new psychological thriller starring Julia Roberts, which is set to launch on Amazon TV in November. Star Rami Malek is also picking up advance positive noises for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and is already in demand for other projects.

Mr. Robot's final season is due to air in early 2019.

New Guy Gavriel Kay novel announced

Guy Gavriel Kay has announced his new novel: A Brightness Long Ago.

From the blurb:
In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count--and soon learned why that man was known as the Beast.
Danio's fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one autumn night--intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger--and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.
Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more, two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.
A Brightness Long Ago offers both compelling drama and deeply moving reflections on the nature of memory, the choices we make in life, and the role played by the turning of Fortune's wheel.
A Brightness Long Ago will be published on 14 May 2019.

Tuesday 21 August 2018


Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was my favourite game of 2016, an excellent stealth game featuring a band of sneaky samurai and ninjas (not to mention a somewhat disturbingly murdery teenage girl and an old geezer with a sniper rifle for a leg) doing special missions for the shogun. Now the same team are back with a similar title in a new locale, this time taking their brand of sneakery to the Wild West. This is appropriate, as the Western Desperados game was a key inspiration for Blades of the Shogun (as well as the WWII-set Commandos series). Even more happily, thanks to the actual licence-holders getting in on the act, this will be the official third game in the Desperados series.

The original Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive (2001) was a very good stealth game, heavily-inspired by Commandos and its sequel but also doing its own thing. Spellbound Entertainment made an entertaining game starring grizzled hero John Cooper. Desperados 2: Cooper's Revenge (2006) was rushed out by the publisher before it was ready and was not a very good game. The developers made an unofficial third game, John Cooper: Helldorado (2007) (as they didn't have the rights to the Desperados name) before the company was dissolved.

Desperados 3 will pick up the story with another adventure for John Cooper and his band of, er, desperados. You will be once again robbing trains, assassinating people and stealing stuff, hopefully with no-one else noticing anything at all. This game will differ from the previous Desperados games with the introduction of towns and public areas where you characters can hide in plain sight, a bit like the Hitman series.

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun was an underrated masterpiece of a game, so the same developers working on a similar game is great news, although it's a bit of a shame that they couldn't keep using their Shadow Tactics brand name.

Despearados 3 will be released in 2019.

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

North Genabackis. Karsa Orlong of the Teblor tribe sets out on a raid that will go down in infamy among his people and their neighbours. He plans to carve his name in blood and chaos across the north, and succeeds far beyond his original aims. But Karsa's journey also opens his eyes to a world that is far stranger than what he thought it would be.

Months later, the Malazan 14th Army arrives in Seven Cities to crush the rebellion known as the Whirlwind. Newly-appointed Adjunct Tavore Paran is untested, and so are most of her troops. Only a few key veterans can be found to hold the force together. Ranged against them are veterans of years of raiding and war, the Dogslayers and the formidable sorcery of the Whirlwind Goddess herself. The seeress Sha'ik's victory appears inevitable, but internal divisions threaten to tear her army apart. As the 14th Army marches on the Holy Desert, the Seeress chooses to wait. Elsewhere, a new threat has arisen: strange ships bearing powerful warriors sailing out of the western seas, seeking the Throne of Shadow on remote Drift Avalii. The god known as Cotillion seeks champions to defend the Throne, whilst one of those strange warriors - the disgraced Trull Sengar - turns traitor to redeem his honour, and that of his entire race.

For the three previous books in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, Steven Erikson adopted a similar structure: the introduction of multiple plot threads which proceed in apparently isolated tandem for many hundreds of pages before meeting in an almighty final battle at the end. This structure didn't entirely work for Gardens of the Moon (due to a somewhat confusing opening) but was spectacularly successful for Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice, two of the finest epic fantasy novels published this century so far. For House of Chains, Erikson decided to change things up.

This is more of a collection of two separate novels rather than one long narrative. The first 270 pages or so form a continuous, self-contained story focusing on Karsa Orlong (think of Conan the Barbarian dialed up to 11) and his quite spectacularly bloody journey of self-realisation across Genabackis, a bit like The Pilgrim's Progress if the pilgrim was a psychotic ten-foot tall barbarian warrior wielding a sword so massive it would struggle to get into a Final Fantasy game. Karsa is the favourite character of many Malazan readers, for his clear character arc and growth (from psychopathic murderer to philosophical warrior-savant), his straightforward approach to solving problems (destroying them utterly), his clear nod to fantasy antecedents (like Conan and Fafhrd) and his cool action scenes. However, it's also worth noting that in his origin story, he's also a bloodthirsty maniac, repeat rapist and murderer. Erikson himself has noted that Karsa is a problematic character and was intended to be so. Karsa's odyssey is fascinating, well-written (Erikson's growing confidence in his prose skills from book to book is impressive to behold) and raises important questions, such as interrogating Robert E. Howard's old notion that barbarism is the natural state of humanity with civilisation as a brief interregnum which will end as soon as natural resources run out. There's plenty of black humour in the sequence as well, and it does explain at least part of what on earth was going on with that ship in the Nascent (a plot thread that's been running for three books now), but it's hard to entirely enjoy a story which relies so much on human suffering.

The remaining 750-odd pages of the book return to a more traditional format, with multiple story threads unfolding in tandem: Trull Sengar and his rescue from the Nascent by a band of T'lan Imass; the misadventures of a Tiste Liosan warrior party (who learn that their overwhelming arrogance is not helpful when asking others for help); scheming and backstabbing in the Whirlwind camp; Crokus, Apaslar and Kalam being recruited by Cotillion for various missions; and the march of the 14th Army towards Raraku (a sort-of reverse Chain of Dogs, except we spend far fewer pages on it). The shorter page count for this sequence requires greater focus from Erikson, which he achieves admirably: each story unfolds with verve and pace, and there's less long-winded moments of moral reflection as Memories of Ice occasionally threatened to unleash. The shorter page count does occasionally mean that some story arcs are sold a bit short, and the occasional Gardens of the Moon-esque moment of total confusion (such as the introduction of a new pack of psychotic magical hounds who are not the same pack of psychotic magical hounds as those who appeared in the three previous books, but are very similar) does threaten, but is mostly averted.

The book is also something of an anti-epic fantasy, and indeed, an anti-Malazan novel in structural terms. When I first read the book fifteen years ago I regarded it as a massive anti-climax, as the novel builds and builds to what appears to be a huge conflagration which never quite arrives (we do get it in the sixth volume, The Bonehunters, instead, which makes me occasionally wonder if Erikson could have restructured things so Karsa's arc was removed to its own novel and the Battle of Y'Ghatan was moved into the end of House of Chains; I suspect this would not be practical). On rereads the reasoning behind the far less epic (although still very bloody) ending is much clearer, and more laudable. House of Chains is a dark book in a sometimes very dark series, but also a series where compassion and shared humanity are key themes. These themes are explored further in this novel and given greater weight, contrasted against the dark insanity of characters such as the loathsome Bidithal. This is good, but it can make for hard going at times.

House of Chains (****½) is not operating on quite the same qualitative plain as Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice. It's a faster and more concentrated read, but it's also a darker and much murkier one, where the reader has to follow some very unpleasant characters for large stretches of the book. It's also the most philosophically and intellectually stimulating book in the series so far, asking big questions and refusing to offer pat answers. For some readers House of Chains marks a shift in the tone and feel of series which they don't much care for, away from a epic fantasy narrative and more towards musings on the human soul (which threaten to overtake later books in the series altogether), but for others it's the moment that Malazan grew up and started staking a claim to being the most literate epic fantasy ever attempted. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

Monday 20 August 2018

The Wheel of Time Franchise Familiariser

Amazon have confirmed that they are making a Wheel of Time TV series (or they are at least developing one and ordering scripts). Lots of people on the Internet are excited. Others are a bit apprehensive. Some are dismissive. But that if you haven’t got a clue what the Wheel of Time is? May I suggest a brisk franchise familiariser course?

The Basics

The Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy series written by American author Oliver Rigney Jr. (1948-2007) under the pen-name “Robert Jordan.” Jordan completed eleven novels in the series before his untimely passing; the remaining three books were completed by Brandon Sanderson using Jordan’s notes, outlines and dictated cassettes. The Wheel of Time was, until this year (when it was overtaken by George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series), the biggest-selling post-Tolkien fantasy series, with over 85 million books sold worldwide.

The books are set in a fictional version of our world in the distant future (but, due to the circular notion of time in the books, also our remote past). The books are set in the Westlands, a collection of fourteen kingdoms and assorted city-states, and depict a struggle between the forces of the Light, led by the Dragon Reborn, and the Dark One, led by the Forsaken. A key theme of the series is duality, particularly the dichotomy of male vs female, expressed in the fact that men and women use differing forms of sorcery (known as the One Power in the books). The male form of sorcery is tainted and any who use it are doomed to go mad and die. Women therefore hold the magical balance of power in the world when the series opens, but prophecy states that a male channeler will be needed to unite the world and save it from the Shadow…but in the process he will go mad and destroy it.

The titular Wheel of Time is based on the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of time as a circle ever tuning and returning, with reincarnation a recurring (if minor) theme.

As well as the fourteen-volume main series, Robert Jordan wrote a prequel novel and co-wrote a companion volume. A second companion book was published by Robert Jordan’s widow and writing assistants after the series concluded.

Adaptations of the series have been somewhat limited, with a comic book, video game, CD soundtrack and pen-and-paper roleplaying game being released in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Last year it was confirmed that Sony Television was working on a TV adaptation of the series. This year it was confirmed that they were developing the project for Amazon Studios, with Rafe Judkins (Agents of SHIELD) and Amanda Kate Shuman (The Blacklist) on board as writers.

The Canon

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

  1. The Eye of the World (1990)
  2. The Great Hunt (1990)
  3. The Dragon Reborn (1991)
  4. The Shadow Rising (1992)
  5. The Fires of Heaven (1993)
  6. Lord of Chaos (1994)
  7. A Crown of Swords (1996)
  8. The Path of Daggers (1998)
  9. Winter’s Heart (2000)
  10. Crossroads of Twilight (2002)
  11. Knife of Dreams (2005)
  12. The Gathering Storm (2009, with Brandon Sanderson)
  13. Towers of Midnight (2010, with Brandon Sanderson)
  14. A Memory of Light (2013, with Brandon Sanderson)

Short Stories
  • The Strike on Shayol Ghul (1996, online; later published in The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time)
  • New Spring (1998, in Legends ed. Robert Silverberg; later published as part of New Spring: A Novel)
  • River of Souls (2013, in Unfettered ed. Shawn Speakman; a cut chapter from A Memory of Light, canon)
  • Journey into the Ways (2019, in Unfettered III ed. Shawn Speakman; a cut chapter from A Memory of Light, non-canonical)

Companion Works
  • The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (1997, with Teresa Patterson)
  • New Spring: A Novel (2004)
  • The Wheel of Time Companion (2015, with Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk & Maria Simons)

Ancillary Material
  • The Wheel of Time (1999, video game by Legend Entertainment)
  • A Soundtrack to The Wheel of Time (2001, album by Robert Berry)
  • The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game (2001, by Wizards of the Coast)
  • The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game: The Prophecies of the Dragon (2002, by Wizards of the Coast)


The backstory of the Wheel of Time is long and extensive. More than 3,400 years before the events of the novels, humanity had achieved a level of utopian civilisation in a golden period known as the Age of Legends. The memory of war had been eliminated, famine and suffering was unknown and almost all diseases had been cured. This golden age had been achieved through science and technology, but also through the use of the One Power.

The One Power allowed great feats to be accomplished through the manipulation of the five elements (earth, wind, fire, water and spirit). Injuries could be Healed, vast distances could be Travelled in the blink of an eye and illusions conjured. For all its potency the One Power was limited by the True Source. Both the Source and the Power are divided into two halves: saidin, which only men can use, and saidar, which is only accessible by women. The origins of the One Power were obscure, originating in the remote First Age, the age before the Age of Legends.

Channelers of the One Power in the Age of Legends were known as Aes Sedai, the “Servants of All.” The Aes Sedai spent their lives in the service of humanity, working as doctors, teachers, scientists and in many other fields. Although they achieved stupendous feats, they were limited by the division in the Power. Uniting the two halves, or finding an undivided source of the Power, became the obsession of certain Aes Sedai researches. Finally, they succeeded. Detecting an undivided source of the Power, the Aes Sedai drilled a dimensional hole – or bore – straight into it.

This proved unwise. The undivided source of the Power they had detected was actually a prison containing the primeval force of evil in the universe: Shai’tan, known as the Dark One. The Dark One’s influenced seeped back into the world, unleashing chaos. Murders, bloodsports and depravity, crimes unknown in thousands of years, became commonplace once more. In the space of a single century, the peace and tranquillity of the Age of Legends was shattered forever. Finally, those sworn to the service of the Dark One, aided by monstrous creatures created by genetic engineers, made war in an effort to free the Dark One freely from its prison. They were opposed by the Aes Sedai, now led by Lews Therin Telamon, the man history calls “the Dragon.” After a brutal ten-year war, Lews Therin finally found a way of sealing the Dark One’s prison. His plan was too risky, so he was only supported by male channelers in a final assault on the volcano known as Shayol Ghul, the early connection to the Dark One’s prison. The plan succeeded, the Dark One’s prison was sealed and victory achieved.

But, in the last possible moment before the seal came crashing down, the Dark One tainted saidin, placing a rotting curse on the male half of the One Power. Every male channeler of the Power went insane on the instant, channelling uncontrollably (including Lews Therin, who immolated himself). In their insanity, the male channelers destroyed the world, plunging entire continents beneath the waves, tearing up new ones from the ocean floor and killing millions. The Breaking of the World almost destroyed humanity altogether, but a small number survived, reduced to a pre-technological state.

A small number of Aes Sedai, now all women, also survived. They killed or “gentled” (cut off from the Power) every male channeler they could find. After three centuries of chaos and destruction – the Breaking of the World – the chaos finally subsided. Humanity recovered from the ashes, under the guidance of the Aes Sedai. After a thousand years it appeared that mankind might rise again to great heights, but hordes of Shadowspawn attacked out of the far north in a massive war engulfing the continent known as the Westlands. Humanity rallied and drove them back, but the effort almost shattered the human kingdoms altogether. Centuries later, the High King Artur Paendrag Tanreall arose and united the entire continent under his leadership, creating the greatest human empire since the Age of Legends. The civil war that followed his death was unrelenting and brutal, plunging the continent into anarchy for over a century.

More than a thousand years have passed since the time of the High King. The battered Westlands are in decline. Fourteen human kingdoms now exist, but they are less than the great nations of the past. Even the Aes Sedai are less powerful and influential than they once were. But time grows short, for the Prophecies of the Dragon state that the Dark One was only defeated, not destroyed. The seal on its prison is failing and the Dragon shall be Reborn to lead humanity in the fight against the Shadow. But the Dragon, as a man who can channel still-cursed saidin, is doomed to go insane and destroy humanity in the process.

The Wheel of Time is the story of the search for the Dragon Reborn, his discovery and his struggles to unite the nations against the Dark One in the face of opposition from both enemies and supposed allies, including the Aes Sedai who are divided on whether to use him, gentle him or kill him.

 The world at the time of the Wheel of Time novels (click for a larger version).


The setting for The Wheel of Time is our world at a remote point in the far future, many thousands of years from now. The Breaking of the World has altered the world beyond all recognition. The primary setting is a continent (or subcontinent) known as the Westlands (a name Jordan doesn’t seem to have been too keen on, but was the only official name he ever gave to it). Other continents are known to exist and play a tangential role in the story, particularly the enormous western continent of Seanchan and the mysterious eastern land of Shara, but the Westlands is the setting for almost all of the action in the saga.

The Westlands contain fourteen notable kingdoms. At the outset of the story the sagas are as follows:
  • Andor, ruled by Queen Morgase Trakand from Caemlyn.
  • Cairhien, ruled by King Galldrian Riatin from the city of Cairhien.
  • Tear, ruled by a council known as the High Lords of Tear, from the city of the same name.
  • Illian, ruled by King Mattin Stepaneos den Balgar from the city of Illian.
  • Murandy, ruled by King Roedran Almaric do Arreloa a’Naloy from Lugard.
  • Altara, ruled by Queen Tylin Quintara Mitsobar from Ebou Dar.
  • Ghealdan, ruled by Queen Alliandre Maritha Kigarin from Jehannah.
  • Amadicia, ruled by King Ailron from Amador (at the sufferance of the Children of the Light).
  • Tarabon, ruled by King Andric and Panarch Amathera Aelfdene Casmir Lounault from Tanchico.
  • Arad Doman, ruled by King Alsalam Saeed Almadar from Bandar Eban.
  • Saldaea, ruled by Queen Tenobia si Bashere Kazadi from Maradon.
  • Kandor, ruled by Queen Ethenielle Cosaru Noramaga from Chachin.
  • Arafel, ruled by King Paitar Nachiman from Shol Arbela.
  • Shienar, ruled by King Easar Togita from Fal Moran.

 Also of note are several independent city-states:
  • Tar Valon, location of the White Tower, the seat of power of the Aes Sedai.
  • Falme, an independent port located on Toman Head at the far west of the continent.
  • Far Madding, a trading city located in the south, noted for the inability of anyone to channel in its environs.
  • Mayene, a great trading city located at the very south-eastern tip of the continent.
  • The Seanchan Empire also plays a major role in the story, but its homeland on a distant continent to the west is only briefly visited in the series.

The Wheel of Time and the One Power

The word “magic” is never used once in the entire Wheel of Time series. The One Power is instead treated like a science, with carefully set-out and logically-worked-out rules which are expanded upon in every novel. The One Power is one of fantasy’s most deeply-thought-out “magic systems” and is a primary influence on the numerous magic systems worked out in Brandon Sanderson’s novels.
The One Power is drawn from the True Source, the energy that drives the Wheel of Time. Time is a wheel made up of seven spokes, each spoke representing one of the seven Great Ages. The Wheel weaves the Pattern of the Age from the lives of everyone who lives through that age; when the Wheel completes a revolution and the same Age comes again, the same lives are woven, but they have free will and can change things if they wish (although such changes are minor from one turning of the Wheel to the next). Those who are so gifted can read the Pattern and sense (if imperfectly) future events. Once every few centuries special people known as ta’veren are born, people who can warp chance and probability around them. They seem a self-correcting mechanism, spun out of the Wheel when it appears that the Pattern of the Age is going off-course.

The Creator and the Dark One both exist outside of the Pattern, with the Dark One striving to influence events so it can break free from its prison and remake all of time and space in its own image. The Creator plays no role in events, having started the turning of the Wheel and stepped back to let each world live and die on its own.

The True Source and the One Power are divided into two halves, saidin and saidar. Ostensibly only men can use saidin and women saidar. According to most, the link to channelling is genetic (and possibly, at least originally, artificial). However, at a key moment in the series a woman who is the reincarnation of a man is able to channel saidin, suggesting that the link is more spiritual in origin.

There are two types of channeler: those with the inborn talent and those who can learn. Those with the inborn talent will start channelling whether they want to or not. Learners will never tap the Power unless shown how. Those with the inborn “spark” seem to make up between one-quarter and one-third of the potential channelling population.

Both men and women can vary wildly in how much of the One Power they can channel safely. Each channeler must discover the limits to their power: draw too much and they risk “burning out,” destroying their ability to channel, or even killing themselves.


During the original War of the Shadow, the Forsaken, the most powerful Aes Sedai who defected to the side of the Dark One, created monstrous creatures to fight against the forces of the Light.
These creatures include: Trollocs, bestial blendings of humans of animals; Myrddraal, eyeless humanoids created in the same fashion as Trollocs but considerably more dangerous; Draghkar, winged creatures which can suck out people’s souls; Darkhounds are lethal wolves corrupted into something far darker; Grey Men are humans stripped of their humanity to such an extent that they become almost unnoticeable, making them near-perfect assassins; gholam are shapeshifters; and jumara are monstrous, worm-like creatures.

Conception and Development

I previously provided a very detailed account of the genesis of the Wheel of Time series here.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. The Cities of Fantasy series is debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read it there one month before being published on the Wertzone.

Sunday 19 August 2018

Steven Erikson releases original MALAZAN maps

Over on his Facebook page, Steven Erikson has begun releasing images of his original Malazan maps, including maps created for the novels and for the original roleplaying campaign (beginning in 1982) where the world was created. That map and a cleaned-up version I created are as follows (click for larger versions):

First up is his original world map. This map was created some time before work on the novels began in earnest (so probably late 1980s/early 1990s) and does not reflect some changes made for the books. The major differences are as follows:

  • Quon Tali is much bigger on a east-west axis. This was reduced for the novels.
  • Korel and Stratem were given over to Ian Esslemont to redesign in greater detail, hence why Korel doesn't look much like the map in Stonewielder.
  • Similarly with Assail and Jacuruku, also though they at least kept their general shapes (the cities noted on Erikson's map are not present on the book maps though).
  • Genabackis, especially in the north, was significantly redesigned for the books, and may have already been redrawn by this time (as noted in the errata section on the right).
  • Jacuruku appears to be too close to the east coast of Kolanse, and probably should be more central in the White Spires Ocean.
  • Reacher's Ocean was moved to the stretch of sea between NW Assail, SW Genabackis, NE Korel and eastern Quon Tali (where "Seeker's Deep" is marked now).
  • Seeker's Deep was moved up to between Genabackis and Seven Cities.
  • The Ilbain Ocean was renamed the Dryjna Ocean.
  • The Bager Sea was renamed the Sea of Kaltepe Kadesh.
  • The Cragg Sea was moved north-east to near Falar. The Horn Ocean was introduced in its stead.
  • Drift Avalii in the books is much, much smaller.
  • Lether appears to have been stretched somewhat on an east-west axis. There isn't enough room for the Wastelands and the Glass Desert on this version of the map.
  • Spelling: Shal Morzin became the Shal-Morzinn Empire, Cabil became Cabal, Leathers became Lether and so forth.

New and probably still-canonical information from this map:

  • There is a south polar continent, with a possibly-habitable extension moving up towards Assail.
  • The location and shape of the island kingdoms of Genostel and Umryg.
  • The shape of the far south and west coasts of Seven Cities.
  • The location of Shal-Morzinn, Perish, Nemil and Cabal.

Erikson has also posted the first map he used for a roleplaying campaign involving the Bridgeburners. This campaign took place in north-west Genabackis, in and around Blackdog and Mott Wood.

More maps are to come. It is interesting to note that the world maps D'rek created for the Malazanempire forum (and modified by myself) are very close to the original:

I recently covered the Malazan world in a series of maps over on Atlas of Ice and Fire. I get the sense I'll have to revisit these maps very soon.

Friday 17 August 2018

HBO greenlights Damon Lindelof's frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN TV series

HBO has greenlit Damon Lindelof's frankly unnecessary Watchmen TV adaptation, having been impressed by an internal pilot filmed earlier this year.


Lindelof's new take on Alan Moore's graphic novel is actually a sequel to the original graphic novel, catching up on the world in the wake of the events of the original story. However, this TV show will not have any relation to Zack Snyder's faithful (possibly too faithful) 2009 feature film version, with new actors taking up the roles from the graphic novel and new characters coming on board.

Although Snyder's film had some merit to it, such as solid casting and some good imagery - it's still easily his best film - it was also slavishly overly faithful to the graphic novel but also revelled in the violence. If anything, a fresh adaptation that was both slightly looser and also had more time to tell the story properly might have some merit.

As it stands, a TV show set thirty years after the events of the original story, presumably with the original characters missing or very old, feels a bit pointless.

It might be that the show has merit: Lindelof, for all the much-deserved criticism he gets for his handling of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies and Prometheus, did write some very good episodes of Lost (even if the last season had some issues) and his recent HBO project, The Leftovers, had an excellent critical and popular response. But it does feel that either an original, deconstructionist take on superheroes could have been attempted, or maybe a superhero property that hasn't had a relatively recent adaptation (such as Wild Cards).

As it stands, the purpose and appeal of this project remains somewhat head-scratching. HBO seem to planning on hitting the ground running on this project though, with the show planned to hit the screens before the end of 2019.

Wednesday 15 August 2018


Star Trek: Discovery has cast its own version of Mr. Spock, announcing that Ethan Peck will be playing the role in the upcoming second season of the show.

Peck will be the third actor to play the role in a major way, following Leonard Nimoy's 49-year-stint (from The Cage, filmed in 1964, to Star Trek: Into Darkness in 2013) and Zachary Quinto's portrayal in the J.J. Abrams-produced reboot movies starting in 2009. Quinto was expected to reprise the role in the upcoming fourth movie in the reboot series, but pay issues have put the future of that project in some doubt.

It was unlikely that Quinto was going to reprise the role in Discovery, partly because being set in different timelines may confuse audiences if the same actors play the same role, but mainly because the film and TV rights were split between Paramount and CBS over a decade ago and the two companies have been in competition ever since. With Quinto contracted to play the role for Paramount, it was inconceivable that they would release him to work for what they see as potential competition (especially as their movies have struggled financially, whilst CBS All Access has credited Discovery with a large boost in their subscribers, with Netflix also reporting solid international numbers). This was seemingly confirmed when Anson Mount was cast as Captain Pike, a role played by Bruce Greenwood in the reboot movies.

Peck is the grandson of Gregory Peck. His highest-profile role to date was playing Patrick Verona on 10 Things I Hate About You. He has also appeared on Gossip Girl, That '70s Show and Madam Secretary. To win the role of Spock, he had to meet with and win the approval of Leonard Nimoy's family, including his director son Adam (who is also married to former Deep Space Nine actress Terry Farrell).

Star Trek: Discovery's second season will start airing in early 2019.

Cover art for KELLANVED'S REACH, the next MALAZAN novel

Bantam Press have released the cover art for Kellanved's Reach, the next novel in Ian C. Esslemont's Path to Ascendancy series, set in the Malazan universe he co-created with Steven Erikson.

The book is the third in a prequel series, so far consisting of the well-received Dancer's Lament (2016) and Deadhouse Landing (2017). Esslemont and Bantam signed a three-book contract for the series but have indicated it may go longer, especially since the titular Ascendancy doesn't happen until around 100 years after the events of the next book and the series has sold very well.

The cover blurb:

The incessant war between the bickering city states of Quon Tali rages. So engrossed are the warring lords and princes in their own petty feuds that few notice that an upstart mage from Dal Hon has gained control of the southern seas. But some powers are alarmed. And in the meantime, as Purge and Tali indulge in what seems like a their never-ending game of war, a mercenary caught up in the fight between the two states suddenly refuses to play along and causes all sorts of chaos. Simultaneously, a pair of escapees from Castle Gris make their way across this ravaged landscape of flame and butchery. Their intention to seek out the legendary Crimson Guard.
And then there's Kellanved who could not care less about any of this petty politicking or strategy or war. Something other and altogether more mysterious has caught his attention and he - together with a reluctant and decidedly sceptical Dancer - traverse continents and journey through the Realms in pursuit . . . But this ancient mystery that has so captivated Kellanved is neither esoteric nor ephemeral. No, it is of an altogether darker and more dangerous hue. It involves the Elder races themselves, and more specifically - certainly more alarmingly - the semi-mythic, and universally dreaded, Army of Dust and Bone. 
Surely no one in their right mind would be so foolish as to embark on a journey from which none have returned? Well, no one except Kellanved that is . . . 
Returning to the turbulent early history of what would become the Malazan Empire, here is the third awesome chapter in Ian C. Esslemont's new epic fantasy sequence.

Meanwhile, in other Malazan news, Steven Erikson is working on The God is Not Willing, the first novel in The Witness Trilogy, which is set after the main Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence and focuses on what happens when Karsa Orlong finally returns home to northern Genabackis, along with following up events in Darujhistan. I'd wouldn't expect this book much before 2020.

In the meantime, The Second Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach will be released on 20 September (yes, next month). This collects the Malazan novellas Crack'd Pot Trail, The Wurms of Blearmouth and The Fiends of Nightmaria into one handy volume.

Monday 13 August 2018

RIP Michael Scott Rohan

News has unfortunately broken that Scottish fantasy author Michael Scott Rohan has passed away at the age of 67.

Related image

Rohan was born in Edinburgh in 1951, apparently in the house next door to one where Robert Louis Stevenson resided. He attended Oxford University, where he started reading English but switched to Law, and got involved in an SF group. His first published work of genre interest appeared in the group's SFinx magazine. His first published story was "Fidei Defensor" (1977) in the anthology Andromeda 2 (edited by Peter Weston), which attracted praise from no less a personage than Ursula K. Le Guin ("an absolute knockout!"). A writer with widely varying interests, he co-wrote (with Allan Scott) a nonfiction study of the Viking era, The Hammer and the Cross (1980), and also wrote reviews for Opera Now. He also developed an interest in the home computing scene and wrote an introduction to the field, First Byte (1983), and sang and played guitar in a folk band.

His first novel was Run to the Stars (1983), a hard SF story, which was followed by a switch to fantasy with The Ice King (1986, with Allan Scott). The same year he published The Anvil of Ice (1986), the first in the Winter of the World series, which remains his best-known work. Five additional novels in the sequence followed.

Rohan returned to SF with The Spiral, a four-volume series set in a series of interconnecting parallel worlds, featuring such ideas as computer programs that can be used to empower magical spells.

Possibly Rohan's finest novel is The Lord of Middle Air (1994), a stand-alone which melds the history of 13th Century Borders Scotland with a fictional faerie realm.

Rohan's writing career was abruptly curtailed after the publication of the sixth Winter of the World novel in 2001, after he had been diagnosed with an incurable disease. He decided to dedicate the rest of his life to his family and to travelling, including visiting both Antarctica and the Arctic. Occasionally his publishers hinted that he was writing another fantasy novel, but alas none appeared.

This is sad news. Michael Scott Rohan wrote with skill and a poetical flourish, and showed an enviable proficiency across the fields of criticism, science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction. He will be missed.


Run to the Stars (1982)
The Ice King (1986, with Allan J. Scott)
A Spell of Empire (1992, with Allan J. Scott)
The Lord of Middle Air (1994)

The Winter of the World
The Anvil of Ice (1986)
The Forge in the Forest (1987)
The Hammer of the Sun (1988)
The Castle of the Winds (1998)
The Singer and the Sea (1999)
Shadow of the Seer (2001)

The Spiral
Chase the Morning (1990)
The Gates of Noon (1992)
Cloud Castles (1993)
Maxie's Demon (1997)

The Hammer and the Cross (1980, with Allan J. Scott)
Fantastic People: Magical Races of Myth and Legend (1980)
First Byte (1983)

Saturday 11 August 2018

New STAR TREK movie in difficulties over pay

The fourth film in the Star Trek reboot movie franchise (which began with J.J. Abams' 2009 film) has hit a major snag in development. Star Chris Pine - who plays Captain James T. Kirk - and guest star Chris Hemsworth - who played Kirk's dad in the first film and is returning in this one, presumably as part of a time travel story - are both claiming that Paramount has reneged on their previously-agreed pay deal and have refused to commit to the project until their previous pay package is honoured.

Chris Pine and Chis Hemsworth are part of the current Chris Movement in American cinema, a period exemplified by a profusion of Chrises in major blockbuster film franchises. Peak Chris began in 2018 when Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt co-starred in The Avengers: Infinity War and will conclude when its sequel is released in May 2019.

To rewind, the reboot Star Trek franchise began with Star Trek in 2009 and continued with Into Darkness in 2013 and then Beyond in 2016. Even before Beyond was released, producer J.J. Abrams (despite being busy working on the Star Wars movies) had apparently pitched and won early approval from Paramount for a fourth film featuring Kirk meeting his father, and early deals for the regular cast and Hemsworth were put in place.

However, a major snag then developed: Star Trek Beyond, despite positive reviews and being widely credited as the best of the reboot movies (and possibly the best Star Trek movie since the release of First Contact in 1996), did not do well at the box office. It returned $343 million against a budget of $185 million, a drop of $120 million compared to Into Darkness (which had an identical budget). It only just scraped into profit via home media sales and streamings.

Paramount's interest in a new film cooled - possibly not helped by Abrams' decamping from the franchise to work on The Force Awakens (2015) - and they began exploring other takes on the series, including possibly an R-rated film directed by Quentin Tarantino, to the bemusement of fans.

However, with Abrams making himself available again after The Force Awakens and Tarantino deciding to fit in another film before the Star Trek project, Paramount decided to push forwards with the fourth Star Trek film earlier this year, possibly buoyed by the success of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access. Abrams' 2016 pitch was dusted down and put into development with new director S.J. Clarkson on board.

From the news reports, it sounds like Paramount wanted to renegotiate contracts on the basis of Beyond's underperformance. This would help lower the budget and reduce the cost of the movie compared to its forebears. Apparently the rest of the cast, including well-known (and healthily-remunerated) faces such as Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and Zachary Quinto, had agreed to the adjustment to help get the film made. However, Chris Pine has recently established himself in the Wonder Woman movie franchise and Hemsworth has starred in six of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films as Thor (including this year's $2 billion-grossing Infinity War) since his previous Star Trek appearance, and neither are willing to drop their price tag.

Negotiations are apparently now suspended, although the film's development is continuing, which is usually a sign that the studio expects negotiations to resume and the problems to be overcome. Solutions would include dropping Hemsworth's character from the film altogether and adjust the script, recasting Hemsworth (which may be viable as his character was in the first film for about five minutes), recasting Pine (much less likely) or simply meeting their pay requests, or making a new pay deal somewhere between the two stools, although this may go down badly with other actors who have already agreed to pay reductions.

Whatever the outcome, it is likely the Star Trek movie franchise will continue. In the meantime, CBS All Access has doubled down on the success of Star Trek: Discovery by commissioning a series focusing on Patrick Stewart's character of Jean-Luc Picard at an advanced age.

Tuesday 7 August 2018

Henry Cavill expresses interest in playing Geralt of Rivia in Netflix's WITCHER TV series

Henry Cavill, who currently plays Superman in the DC Universe movies, has expressed interest in playing the role of Geralt of Rivia in Netflix's upcoming Witcher TV series.

Fans are already on the case (Source: Bosslogic on Instagram)

Cavill has declared himself a huge fan of the franchise, having played the video games (recently completing a second playthrough of the enormous Witcher 3: Wild Hunt) and read the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Fans have put forward many names for the role of Geralt in the TV series, with suggestions ranging from Black Sails and The 100 star Zach McGowan (who has also expressed an interest in the role) to Mads Mikkelsen, possibly as an older version of the character. Given that Sapkowski is Polish, the mythology of the series is informed by Polish sources and that the show will shoot in Poland, Polish actors have also been put forward, most notably Marcin Dorociński.

With casting reportedly getting underway in the next month or two, Witcher producer Lauren Hissrich may find herself with a bit of a queue of known Hollywood names forming, which is an nice problem to have.

Sunday 5 August 2018

CBS All Access commissions STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION sequel starring Patrick Stewart

CBS All Access has commissioned a new Star Trek: The Next Generation sequel project starring Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard. This will mark the first time that Stewart has returned to the role since the film Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002.

Patrick Stewart with Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green.

Although firm plans have not yet been confirmed - such as the name of the series and if it will be an ongoing series or a one-off mini-series - CBS and Stewart himself have confirmed that the project is moving forward. The new series will be set approximately 20 years after the end of Star Trek: Nemesis and will catch up with Picard's situation at that point in time. This will also be the first project to revisit the Next Generation "era" (which also includes spin-off shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager) since Nemesis.

Stewart has indicated that Picard will no longer be a captain, which is quite likely as Stewart is now 78 and, assuming the new series is set exactly 20 years after Nemesis in the year 2399, Picard would be 94 (humans in the Star Trek universe live significantly longer than now). Previous Star Trek novels and TV episodes featuring glimpses of the future have suggested that Picard might have been promoted to Admiral, served in a mentorship or leadership capacity at Starfleet Command and then become a Federation Ambassador, or possibly left Starfleet to pursue his love of archaeology.

It is also unknown if other Next Generation actors may appear in the new series, although Jonathan Frakes (who played Commander Riker) is involved in the new Star Trek projects at CBS All Access as a director, and may return for this new series.

According to Stewart, the writers haven't yet produced a script and they are still at the brainstorming stage. On that basis we may not see this new series air until 2020.

Wertzone Classics: Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

A dark shadow has fallen across eastern Genabackis: the Pannion Domin, an empire of madness and death whose coming has been heralded by poison and chaos in the warrens of sorcery. The Domin's armies are now marching against the small city-state of Capustan, defended by an army of doubtful skill and the Grey Swords of Elingarth, a religious order of soldiers. Aware of this threat, the outlawed Malazan 5th Army - Onearm's Host - has allied with their former enemies: Caladan Brood's mercenaries, the Rhivi tribes, the Tiste Andii of Moon's Spawn and the city-state of Darujhistan. Their goal is to relieve Capustan and destroy the Pannion Domin. From the south comes another force, the punitive army of the Seguleh (consisting of an unprecedented three of the greatest warriors in the world). But the Pannion Domin is no mere mortal empire and three impossibly ancient, terrifying forces have joined together to spread its evil across the world, an evil which will challenge all that face it.

Memories of Ice is the third novel in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, returning the action to the continent of Genabackis, the setting of the first novel in the series, Gardens of the Moon and taking place simultaneously alongside the second, Deadhouse Gates. Memories of Ice is a direct sequel to Gardens of the Moon, so whilst is possible to start reading the Malazan series with Deadhouse Gates, it is not really possible to do so with Memories.

Like Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice consists of four major storylines proceeding in tandem. In the first, Onearm's Host has to ally with its former enemies to march against the Pannion Domin. This storyline follows the awkwardness of the former bitter enemies working alongside one another. In the second storyline, the entity Silverfox (created during the events of Gardens of the Moon) has summoned the undead T'lan Imass legions to undergo the Second Gathering, which will determine the future of the species and their endless (and increasingly pointless) war against the Jaghut, which has now spanned a quarter of a million years. In a third storyline, Toc the Younger and Onos T'oolan (both from Gardens of the Moon) find themselves on the other side of the continent, where they meet and ally with the Seguleh punitive army (all three of them) and the enigmatic sorceress Lady Envy. In the fourth, we join the Grey Swords as they strive to defend Capustan against utterly overwhelming odds. Numerous subplots - such as the fate of the Mhybe, Silverfox's mother whose lifeforce is inadvertently being consumed by her daughter; the journey of a T'lan Imass emissary with news of a desperate war on the distant continent of Assail; the misadventures of two necromancers and their long-suffering servants; and the story of Gruntle, a caravan guard who suddenly becomes something more - abound.

As with Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice is an epic and sprawling novel but which benefits from rotating its storylines on a regular basis to give the novel an impressive sense of momentum, so that it's 1,100 pages fly past at an impressive rate of knots once the story gets underway. That does take a little while, though. Memories opens slow, with the various forces gathering, and there's perhaps a couple too many intense strategy meetings near the start of the book as characters gather and discuss the plot. This is quite refreshing - the primary criticism of Gardens of the Moon is that Erikson fails to explain what's going on, whilst Memories of Ice is lot clearer on the stakes and what's happening - but it does mean that it takes a while for the story to start picking up.

Once it does, things don't let up until the end of the book. The storylines build towards a convergence (to use a favoured term of the author) in the city of Coral and it's fascinating to see the players moving towards this meeting. It's also interesting to see how our protagonists deal with having an unusual preponderance of force on their side, unlike the previous novel where the Chain of Dogs is up against superior odds all the way through the book. The combination of the Tiste Andii, the Bridgeburners, Caladan Brood, the Rhivi, the Barghast and, later, the Seguleh and the T'lan Imass give them an immense advantage over the Pannion Domin. This is later reversed when see what other forces the Seer can bring to the field, not to mention infighting within the alliance that threaten to shatter it, but it's unusual in epic fantasy to see characters realising the overwhelming power they have at their command and the moral responsibility this entails.

The Malazan series has always excelled in sometimes avoiding or inverting epic fantasy tropes and sometimes playing them straight, but always interrogating them. There is a lot of blood-letting, duels, battles and sorcerous enfilades in the series, but the cost of such violence is always laid bare. The core themes of the Malazan series (and one that I think belies its occasionally-claimed status as grimdark) are compassion and the moral cost of whatever conflict is to be fought. Actions result in consequences, some of which can stain the soul, and Memories of Ice is the novel that most directly, painfully and tragically deals with this cost, particularly through the moving story of Itkovian, the soldier who volunteers to carry the guilt and trauma of thousands on his own shoulders. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a tragedy and Memories of Ice is perhaps the novel that most dramatically embodies that, through the awe-inspiring finale (still one of the finest in all of fantasy fiction) at the city of Coral.

There are a few minor issues. In terms of pacing, the book takes a little longer to get going, so in that sense it's not quite as tight a novel as Deadhouse Gates (which is a clear 200 pages shorter as a result). Whilst the central conflict - the battle against the Pannion Domin - is resolved in this novel, the book is also a little more plugged in to the story arcs that will span the rest of the series, most notably the saga of the Crippled God. It's highly arguable - fans have been arguing about it for seventeen years so far - but it's also debatable that a late-novel act of profound treachery was set up a bit too obviously and supposedly intelligent characters should have picked up on that earlier and stopped it, but this feels a little bit too pedantic a complaint and one reliant on hindsight.

Memories of Ice (*****) almost matches the dramatic power and intensity of Deadhouse Gates, perhaps falling a little short in structure and tightness but making up for it with the sheer scope of the tragic (and traumatic) final battle. This is a fantasy novel about compassion, forgiveness, war, peace, sacrifice and everything inbetween, related through a huge cast of interesting and sympathetic characters. (Very) arguably, the Malazan series will never quite reach these heights again, but will often come close. One of the strongest books in the series and one of the very finest fantasy novels published this century. The novel is available now in the UK and USA.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Cast list for HIS DARK MATERIALS: Season 1 released

Bad Wolf Productions and the BBC have released a cast list for Season 1 of His Dark Materials, which is now shooting in Wales. The cast is as follows:

  • Dafne Keen (Logan) as Lyra Belacqua
  • James McAvoy (X-Men, Split, Shameless) as Lord Asriel
  • Ruth Wilson (Luther) as Ms. Coulter
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) as Lee Scoresby
  • Clarke Peters (The Wire) as the Master of Jordan College (aka Dr. Carne)
  • Georgina Campbell (Black Mirror, Krypton) as Adele Starminster
  • Ariyon Bakare (Rogue One, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) as Lord Boreal
  • Ian Gelder (Game of Thrones) as Librarian-Scholar Charles
  • Will Keen (The Crown) as Father MacPhail
  • Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless) as Ma Costa
  • James Cosmo (Braveheart, Troy, Game of Thrones) as Farder Coram
  • Geoff Bell (Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Jack Verhoeven
  • Lucian Msamati (Game of Thrones) as John Faa
  • Simon Manyonda (Whitechapel, Doctor Who) as Benjamin de Ruyter
  • Matt Fraser (American Horror Story, The Fades) as Raymond Van Gerritt
  • Richard Cunningham (The Royals, Rogue One) as Gustaf
  • Philip Goldacre (The Bill, The Canterbury Tales) as Sub Rector
  • Lewin Lloyd as Roger Parslow
  • Daniel Frogson as Tony Costa
  • Tyler Hewitt as Billy Costa
  • Archie Barnes as Pantalaimon

  • Jack Thorne (The Fades, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) is the writer
  • Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Miserables) is directing Episodes 1-2
  • Dawn Shadforth (The Trust) is directing Episodes 3
  • Otto Bathurst (Robin Hood, Peaky Blinders) is directing Episodes 4-5
  • Directors for Episodes 6-8 have yet to be announced

It should be noted that the voice actors for the armoured bears are not listed. Whether this is because Season 1 won't reach their introduction to the story (with five seasons and forty episodes to adapt three books, the conclusion of Book 1 won't be reached until partway through Season 2) or because, as voiceovers, they will not be cast until post-production remains unclear.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Production of the BBC's HIS DARK MATERIALS series begins

Production is now formally underway on the BBC's His Dark Materials TV series, a planned five-season adaptation of Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy.

The BBC, Bad Wolf Productions and New Line Cinema are collaborating on the series,which will air on the BBC in the UK and on a still-to-be-decided American network (reportedly, Netflix and HBO are both in the running to secure the first-run rights). The plan is to adapt the three novels - Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass in some territories), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass - across five eight-episode seasons. Of course, if the show is a massive hit then we may see interest in also adapting Pullman's in-progress sequel/prequel trilogy, The Book of Dust (consisting of the published La Belle Sauvage, the completed-but-still-unpublished The Secret Commonwealth and a forthcoming third book).

James McAvoy stars as Lord Asriel, with Ruth Wilson as Ms. Coulter, Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby and Clarke Peters as the Master of Jordan College. The series is expected to start airing in late 2019.