Rabble Review: Ghost in the Flames

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I’m back. With another entry of Johnathon Moeller’s Ghost series.

Brace for impact, children.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

 

Title: Ghost in the Flames

Series: (Book 2) The Ghosts

Author: Johnathon Moeller

Genre: Fantasy (Sword-and-Sorcery)

Release Date: December 2, 2013

Amazon Score: 1 Star (would have liked to give it 1.5)

 


 

 

Johnathon Moeller’s Ghost in the Flame, second in the Ghosts series, has committed the ultimate sin of sword-and-sorcery/adventure fantasy literature: it’s boring.  I apologize for being potentially overly-frank with just my opening statement, but I feel it’s within prospective buyer’s best interests to know the real crux of the opposing argument as early as possible. But let’s get more specific.

 

Pros: Ark, a series newcomer, is much more interesting than Caina or anybody else has been up until this point. Take that for what you will.

Like the last entry, the action scenes are all fluid, easy to follow, and quick. Although, they do wear out their welcome about midway through the book.

 

Cons: Caina, an ultimately flat and uninteresting character, is the only perspective in this book. This is a change from the previous installment in the series. I got tired of hearing her voice very early on.

The plot is essentially the same three events happening in a loop until the heroes are smart enough to realize the very obvious answers in front of their faces. Once you see one fight in a street or dinner with a noble, you’ve seen the next eight to come.

As an extension of the above, the heroes are even more staggeringly dim-witted when it comes to missing key and obvious plot details.

The novel has very little beyond its action scenes, which do get old quickly because of the slogging plot.

 

In short, and this is the worst offender of them all, this book is simply boring. It does little to nothing on an emotional level, instead preferring to focus almost entirely on the surface-level events like those previously mentioned. The writing isn’t particularly flawed or difficult to read, it’s that it’s so painfully serviceable in a plot that doesn’t so much go forward as it makes ever-expanding circles until it eventually reaches the end as a result.

A lot of my previous complaints from the last entry in the series are present here, too. The world is malnourished and underdeveloped, and the characters are lackluster, oftentimes being shockingly one-dimensional. Even Ark, the series newcomer, isn’t enough to salvage the novel. Perhaps if every character had his level of development, Ghost in the Flame would be a little more interesting, perhaps even worth a tentative recommendation.

As it stands, though, this is a step backwards from the already-underwhelming first entry.

 

Overall: The first one was better; it’s not a good thing.

 

Ghost in the Flames‘ Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Flames-The-Ghosts-Book-ebook/dp/B005G69H5C

 

 


 

 

I feel like I want to give this series one last look before burying it (and possibly myself) for good. I can’t tell if that’s just my inherent optimism getting the better of me or if I’m slowly becoming a masochist. God help me if it’s both!

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer (and reader) folk!

 

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Lorequest: Shadow of the Colossus Part 7- “Avion”

 

BEGIN TRANSMISSION.

 

You don’t want to read me make a long-winded introduction, you want to read a long-winded piece about Shadow of the Colossus!

And so,

 

The Quest begins~

 


 

 

Avion, Colossus #5, otherwise known as the Alpha Hunter- the patron god of lakes and their misty banks. Avion's bird of prey appearance but gentle nature gives it a bit of a two-sided personality. 1.

Avion, Colossus #5, otherwise known as the Alpha Hunter- the patron god of lakes and their misty banks. Avion’s bird of prey appearance but gentle nature gives it a bit of a two-sided personality. 1.

 

After a break from Shadow of the Colossus Lorequest that I really didn’t intend to take, we’re back to talk about my favourite Colossus, Avion.

 

Dormin’s Advice

 

Thy next foe is…

It casts a colossal shadow across a misty lake…
as it soars through the sky…
To reach it is no easy task…

 

There’s not a whole lot to read into with this one. It’s actually pretty helpful information since it lets Wander know that he won’t be able to just climb up Avion like he’s done with the previous four Colossi. However, it does confirm that Avion is perched above a natural lake and not one designed for the sole purpose of placing Avion in it. This may be even more supporting evidence to Avion’s role as a god of lakes in the Forbidden Lands.

 

Avion, otherwise known as Avis Praeda by the community, is the fifth Colossus Wander will encounter in the Forbidden Lands. It is, through my own investigation, the first god of water (of four) and the first airborne god (of two) in the Forbidden Lands. Avion’s domain is medium-depth water, such as lakes. Avion seems to be in the form of a bird of prey and its lake is misty and tranquil, so it could very well have the role of being a caretaker and guardian of natural lakes and similar bodies of water.

Avion is the first Colossus so far to have an arena boasting a structure that is certainly a temple. The structures are mostly categorized as high, thin towers. This plays well into Avion’s supposed role as a watcher of the skies, particularly over bodies of water. Nearly every structure could conceivably be used as a kind of perch for Avion to rest on. Of course, when Avion was merely a statue, the towers would have just served more of a symbolic role rather than something for Avion to actually set atop. Of course, as we see during Avion’s battle, it will perch on the many towers, far out in the water.

The nature of Avion and, as we’ll examine later, the other flying Colossus, Phalanx, is worth noting. Avion is perhaps the most peaceful Colossus after Phalanx. Their abilities to fly factor into this peacefulness. While it may seem that being an enormous flying rock monster would give Avion a huge advantage in battle, it is not the Colossus’ objective to destroy their enemies. Instead, the Colossi are merely supposed to keep Dormin’s soul fragments from escaping. In other words, their goal is to stay alive. So, it simply makes sense for Avion to sit atop its distant perch and simply observe Wander rather than attack it. In fact, if Wander swims right up to the pillar where Avion is sitting, it will still not attack. Instead, it will hardly acknowledge that Wander exists, sending scornful metaphorical daggers from its eyes. Thinking about it logically, the only way for a flying, nigh-invulnerable creature to be killed is to open itself up to a counterattack. More aggressive Colossi such as Cenobia and Gaius show the danger of opening up oneself to attack.

Wander taking aim on Avion far in the distance. From where its perched, its essentially unassailable by the Ancient Sword. 2.

Wander taking aim on Avion far in the distance. From where its perched, its essentially unassailable by the Ancient Sword. 2.

It is only after Wander attacks Avion first using his bow that Avion will swoop down to attack. Fun fact: I always thought that Avion’s method of attack shows off just what a sea bird it is since it rises itself up high and then swoops downward as if it was diving for fish.

A closeup of Avion's face as it attacks. The bump on the end of its beak always seemed reminiscent of a seabird.

A closeup of Avion’s face as it attacks. The bump on the end of its beak always seemed reminiscent of a seabird. 1.

Anyway, once Avion knows that it is in danger, it will attack. Otherwise though, it will keep Dormin’s soul fragment at a safe distance from all intruders. As an extrapolation point, I always found it interesting that Wander is, for all intents and purposes, a swordsman. And yet, he has virtually no skill with a sword whatsoever. It is mostly his skill with a bow, riding skill, and almost suicidal drive to succeed that makes him so dangerous. So I always liked to imagine a knight in shining armour riding into the Lands with the Ancient Sword aloft only to find that he had no way to get Avion to fly down and attack him. In short, the Colossi never expected Wander, somebody willing to cling on top of them rather than cut them down and somebody who uses their brain more than their sword arm. And so, Avion displays what may be a lapse in judgment as it moves to attack Wander from the sky.

Avion's swooping attack. Note how its talons are opened up as if to grab Wander. It makes me think that if Wander didn't latch onto Wander as soon as he did (and if it was programmed to be possible), Wander might have gotten picked up in Avion's claws like he was a fish. 1.

Avion’s swooping attack. Note how its talons are opened up as if to grab Wander. It makes me think that if Wander didn’t latch onto Wander as soon as he did (and if it was programmed to be possible), Wander might have gotten picked up in Avion’s claws like he was a fish. 1.

Furthermore, and this is just Team ICO thinking of everything, I think, but if Wander manages to fall on any of the ruins near Avion’s primary resting pillar (the Cloak of Desperation can help with doing so), Avion will eventually approach the ruins and start to flap its wings. The flapping will create gusts of wind that will, sooner or later, blow Wander off the ruins and into the water below. So, even when Wander is vulnerable, has nowhere to run, and is likely injured from the fall, Avion still will not attack him directly, choosing instead to remain at a distance. However, we’ll see a counterpoint to Avion’s intelligence through Barba when we get to him. What I mean by that is, Avion may just not be that smart. It’s the first Colossus to not have a major sigil on its head. Dormin makes a point to address Barba’s intelligence and his corresponding major sigil is positioned on its head to a slight angle where it hovers over the logic hemisphere of the brain. So, since Avion’s major sigils (the tips of its wings and on its tail) are more about terminating its skill in flight rather than its brain processes, it may just not be too terribly intelligent. This may be why it chooses to attack Wander after he hits it with his bow when the bow will never deal any damage to Avion; it doesn’t even have any minor sigils that Wander can break. Avion may just be living out its bird of prey instincts after all.

Avion, being the first of two airborne Colossi, represent an interesting question about the Colossi’s nature (there is also Basaran to consider but we’ll get to that when the time comes). If Avion and Phalanx can fly, couldn’t they just fly out of their arenas and wander the Forbidden Lands? Well, if we’re still making the big assumption that my Shaman-soul-inside-Colossus theory is still holding water, then I think it’s probable that the Colossi won’t leave their lairs because, as gods of the Forbidden Lands, they were not meant to. After all, is Avion, guardian of the misty skies, really the same god anymore if it ends up hovering over a desert or hill? Just as the Colossi were meant to be gods of specific aspects of the Forbidden Lands and its people, so too are they expected to stay at the posts they were built for.

Avion will always try to use its huge size, speed, and inaccessability to defeat Wander. Even though it can't be easily hit from all the way across the water, it will almost never stay still when on the attack- staying still means it will make itself vulnerable.

Avion will always try to use its huge size, speed, and inaccessability to defeat Wander. Even though it can’t be easily hit from all the way across the water, it will almost never stay still when on the attack- staying still means it will make itself vulnerable. 1.

For a little more on Avion’s shrine, it’s vaguely reminiscent of Gaius’ in that it is partially underwater. Where Wander stands to attract Avion’s attention is not a fully-connected walkway either, possibly implying a situation similar to Valus’ where adherents and pilgrims to Avion would need to subject their own bodies to a small trial of dexterity and finesse (It may not sound too hard, but I bet those stones are slippery!) if they wish to pay their respects. While the main body of the shrine is still above water, the amount of pillars and other buildings, some of which Wander can even land on, may hint that there have may have been more of the temple at one point. Then again, because Avion perches itself atop those pillars, those pillars and ruins may simply have been placed there for aesthetics as an artist reimagining of rocks that birds of prey usually perch on. Given that Avion is wrought by the hands of humans and was placed in that lake by human hands, it may not be too farfetched.

A shot of Avion's arena from the outside. The building seen is one of the first buildings we can see in the Forbidden Lands that is certainly a still-standing temple. 1.

A shot of Avion’s arena from the outside. The building seen is one of the first buildings we can see in the Forbidden Lands that is certainly a still-standing temple. 1.

I find that I’m ending a lot of my more adventurous points with “may not be too difficult to see if you really squint and tilt your head the right way.” That probably doesn’t speak well of my credibility.

 

 

Until we meet again, Questers!

 


 

 

Next time on Dragonball Z, more Colossus Lorequest! After watching the Last Guardian gameplay trailer and being resuscitated afterwards, I’m totally ready to tackle as much Team ICO stuff as my little, questionable-strength heart can handle!

 

Good luck, you brave writer (and gamer) folk!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 


 

 

1. Images from the Team ICO wiki.

2. Screenshots from the Game Grump’s playthrough of Shadow of the Colossus