Thursday, 30 September 2021
Monday, 27 September 2021
Sunday, 26 September 2021
Saturday, 25 September 2021
Friday, 24 September 2021
HBO has announced more castmembers for its Game of Thrones spin-off prequel series House of the Dragon.
The big news is official confirmation that Scottish actor Graham McTavish has joined the cast as Ser Harrold Westerling of the Kingsguard. McTavish will be familiar to genre audience from roles in Outlander and the Hobbit trilogy, though old-skool SF fans will recognise him from the eighth season of Red Dwarf way back in the day.
An amusing bit of casting is that Jefferson Hall, who briefly played Ser Hugh of the Vale in Season 1 of Game of Thrones, has been cast twice in House of the Dragon. He will be playing Lord Jason Lannister of Casterly Rock and his twin brother Tyland Lannister. Meanwhile, David Horovitch will be playing Grand Maester Mellos, the king's trusted advisor.
Gavin Spokes has been cast as Lord Lyonel Strong, Lord of Harrenhal and Master of Laws on the King's small council. Ryan Corr will be playing his eldest son, Ser Harwin "Breakbones" Strong, whilst Matthew Needham will be playing his younger son, Larys Strong. The Strongs are a powerful and influential family at King Viserys' court.
The newcomers are joining already-announced castmembers Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen, Olivia Cooke as Lady Alicent Hightower, Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen, Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon, Rhys Ifans as Ser Otto Hightower, Eve Best as Princess Rhaenys Velaryon, Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole and Sonoya Izuno as Mysaria.
House of the Dragon begins almost 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, with the Targaryens as the undisputed rulers of the Seven Kingdoms. King Viserys Targaryen has ruled peacefully and well for many years, training his young daughter Rhaenyra to succeed him. However, a late second marriage and the arrival of more children muddles the line of succession, as does the reckless behaviour of the king's brother, Prince Daemon. Despite the king's best efforts, the threat of civil war seems to grow...at a time when House Targaryen and its allies control no less than seventeen dragons.
House of the Dragon is currently shooting in the UK and is expected to wrap before the end of the year, to debut in the spring or early summer of 2022.
Thursday, 23 September 2021
Ian Cameron Esslemont, the co-creator of the Malazan universe with Steven Erikson, is enjoying his own level of success. According to his UK publishers, Transworld, he has passed one million books sold, and according to the Edelweiss Catalogue, he has three new Path to Ascendancy novels under contract.
The sale sheets for the next three Path to Ascendancy books - following on from Dancer's Lament, Deadhouse Landing and Kellanved's Reach - are as follows:
Book 4: The Jhistal
This volume develops and details the Malazan expansion into the Falari Peninsula region. Kellanved and Dancer, impatient with the slow and methodical consolidation of the continent of Quon Tali, are up to no good and embroil the Malazan forces in an uprising against the ruling Theocracy of Falar.
These priests have maintained power over all the many islands through the threat of their terror-weapon: the dread 'Jhistal'...
Here readers will discover just what this weapon is, meet a younger Mallick Rel and find out just how the Malazans took the region into their grip.
ETA: 17 March 2022 (subject to change)
Book 5: tbc
Here we will be documenting and following the emerging Malazan Empire's first landings and foothold in the region of the Seven Cities. Central to this account will be the monumental and notorious attack on the Holy City of Aren.
The emergence of Dassem Ultor, his rising influence and popularity among the military of the empire - together with Surly's growing wariness of it - is all suggestive of his death before the walls of Y'ghatan.
Another path of this story will follow Kellanved and Dancer's exploration of Shadow and beyond, and further steps towards the former's ascension as Shadowthrone.
ETA: 3 November 2022 (subject to change)
Book 6: tbc
Kellanved and Dancer and company have become ever more powerful and elevated, and are now distant players as we dig down to follow Bridgeburners themselves: Whiskeyjack, Fiddler, Hedge, Trotts, Mallet and others. Yes, the gang's all here and readers will relish being in their company once more!
Battles and encounters in Mott Woods and Black Dog Forest abound and all of this leads readers up to to the point at which this extraordinary multi-faceted, multi-layered epic fantasy saga first began: Gardens of the Moon.
ETA: 9 November 2023 (subject to change)
In addition to the Path to Ascendancy books, Esslemont is also the author of the six-volume Malazan Empire sequence: Night of Knives, Return of the Crimson Guard, Stonewielder, Orb Sceptre Throne, Blood and Bone and Assail. He is the co-creator of the universe explored by his friend Steven Erikson in his ten-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence, the Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach novella sequence, The Kharkanas Trilogy and The Witness Trilogy. Steven Erikson has sold over 3.5 million books since his first fantasy novel, Gardens of the Moon, was published in 1999.
Thanks to Jussi at the Westeros.org forum for spotting these figures in the wild.
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Amazon's Wheel of Time television adaptation has recast one of the major roles for its second season. Barney Harris has left the role of Mat Cauthon and has been replaced by Irish actor Dónal Finn.
Harris had completed shooting of the eight-episode first season, which shot over an extended period of twenty months due to repeated delays during the COVID pandemic. Shooting began on Season 2 earlier this year after only a short break.
The reasons for the recasting are unknown at this time, although other shows have been adversely affected by COVID delays to shooting causing scheduling conflicts with other projects that otherwise would not have taken place.
Although unusual, the situation is not unprecedented: Aml Ameen shot the entire first season of Sense8 for Netflix, but had a falling-out with showrunner Lana Wachowski at the table-read for the second season and was replaced at short notice for Season 2 by Toby Onwumere. Game of Thrones recast the role of Daario Naharis from Ed Skrein, who played him in Season 3, to Michiel Huisman who played him in Seasons 4-6. The role of Ser Gregor Clegane, the Mountain, was also repeatedly recast with three actors ultimately playing the role.
Like Harris, Finn is a newcomer who has only been active in the business for a couple of years, having graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in 2018. He had a small role in the second episode of The Witcher as Nettly (the peasant who hires Geralt to deal with a devil), and has also appeared in the stage play Albion, the film How to Build a Girl, the short film Love Have I Known and the TV shows SAS: Rogue Heroes and Cursed.
The first season of The Wheel of Time will debut on Amazon Prime on 19 November. Season 2 is expected to air in late 2022.
Monday, 20 September 2021
Sunday, 19 September 2021
There has been a murder in Ankh-Morpork, which at first glance is not unusual. But the nature of the murder intrigues Commander Sam Vimes and Captain Carrot of the City Watch. Their investigation of the case, aided by new forensics expert Cheery Longbottom, exposes an ambition that could plunge the whole city into chaos. Once again, Sam Vimes and his officers are the thin blue line between order and chaos in a city where it's hard to see where the one ends and the other begins at the best of times.
Feet of Clay is the nineteenth Discworld novel and the third to focus on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, following the excellent Guards! Guards! and Men at Arms. Once again, the City Watch must rally to solve crimes and stop a threat to the safety of the city, through a combination of Commander Vimes's cynicism, Carrot's good-natured optimism, Colon's stoic experience, Detritus's massively impractical siege weaponry, Angua's nasal intuition and, er, whatever it is Corporal Nobbs does. The Watch is here reinforced by new arrival Cheery Longbottom, a dwarf forensics expert with something approaching a secret.
You might expect the novel to be predictable - the City Watch sub-series is, at least in potential, Pratchett's most procedural sequence of books - but as usual Pratchett takes some delight in wrong-footing expectations. This is still a funny book, as Colon's close encounter with a psychotic lunatic of diminutive size and then a very angry bull can attest, but there's more of a serious side to it as well. Existential debates on the rights of sentient beings when no one can agree if they're sentient form a key part of the story as well, as Pratchett introduces the Discworld's golems, here used almost as robot slave labour until it turns out that they can think and feel, after a fashion, which raises thorny ethical questions.
The book is also marvellously, intricately constructed. Some other Discworld books feel like Pratchett has aimed an Idea Cannon at a wall, blasted out whatever came to mind and then assembled the resulting narrative morass into something resembling a coherent plot. That worked extremely well for some novels and not as well in others, but Feet of Clay definitely feels more pre-planned and structured. There are more distinct character arcs, not just for Vimes but for Carrot and Angua's relationship, new recruit Cheery whose quiet confidence over gender expression rapidly sparks a cultural revolution among the city's dwarfs, and even for series stalwarts and standbys Nobby and Colon. The former gets drawn into what feels like a Game of Thrones subplot, whilst Colon - distressingly several weeks from retirement - has a solo mini-adventure that he was not expecting.
There's even foreshadowing at work here, as Vimes visits his childhood neighbourhood and we get the feeling of unspoken secrets about his background. These will, eventually, give rise to one of Pratchett's great masterpieces in Night Watch, but that's still quite a few books off.
Feet of Clay (*****) is one of the best Discworld novels, if not quite at the absolute-best tier of Small Gods and Night Watch. It's well-constructed, naturally funny whilst supporting more serious ideas, and as marvellously characterised as Pratchett at his best. It deepens the worldbuilding of Ankh-Morpork, the Greatest Fantasy City of All Time™, and sets the stage for intriguing developments to come. The novel is Pratchett at his best: erudite, thoughtful and smart, creating a work where fantasy, satire and detective elements meet perfectly. The book is available in the UK and USA.
Friday, 17 September 2021
Thursday, 9 September 2021
Aspyr Media are working on a full remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, arguably the greatest and best-regarded Star Wars video game of all time*.
Knights of the Old Republic, developed by BioWare in association with LucasArts, was released in 2003. Set roughly 4,000 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, the game tells the story of a war being fought between the Galactic Republic and its Jedi defenders against a Sith army and fleet led by Darth Malak. The player takes on the role of a character of their own creation who is roped into helping rescue a Jedi Knight named Bastila Shan from the city-planet Taris. As the game continues, the player acquires a large array of allies, such as the murderous and meme-generating assassin droid HK-47, and learns a shocking secret about themselves. Events culminate in a final battle between the Republic and the Sith Empire.
The game was immensely successful on release, generating both critical acclaim and high sales. It was followed by two sequels: the more ambitious but more divisive sequel, Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (2004) from Obsidian Entertainment; and MMORPG The Old Republic (2011) by BioWare themselves. Although set in an original universe, the later Mass Effect trilogy (2007-12) draws on some structural ideas from Knights of the Old Republic.
It is unclear how thorough a remake this will be, since no gameplay footage has been shown. The "remake" title and the age of the game and engine suggest that it'd have to be a much more thorough reworking of the game from scratch, possibly in a new engine, rather than the "retexture-and-polish" style of remakes like the Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
Knights of the Old Republic Remake is "early" in development and no release date has yet been set. So far, it has only been announced for PlayStation 5.
* Arguments for TIE Fighter, Republic Commando and Jedi Outcast can be heard at a later date.
Tuesday, 7 September 2021
Monday, 6 September 2021
Thursday, 2 September 2021
Amazon have - at last! - revealed the first trailer for the Wheel of Time television series.
The Wheel of Time's eight-episode first season arrives on 19 November this year with the first three episodes, then one episode will air weekly from 26 November. Season 2 is already in production.