Extended Thoughts: Child of the Ghosts

 

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A double post on the first day I’m back? Amazing! Or totally predictable, since I hinted that I’d be doing this in the last post, the shorter version of this review. And I follow through with my recently-made promises! Because then I won’t have the chance to up and forget…

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: Child of the Ghosts

Series: (Book 1) The Ghosts

Author: Johnathon Moeller

Genre: Fantasy (Sword-and-Sorcery)

Release Date: January 2014


 

 

…Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts

I added that in for continuity’s sake before beginning this Extended Thoughts session, just to keep things relevant. Unlike my original review this one’s going to be a bit more ramble-y as I talk about not only Child of the Ghosts, but the fantasy genre as a whole.

Oh, and spoilers, naturally. Including a very old Harry Potter spoiler too, I guess.

 

Characters and Their Lack Thereof:

There were no characters worth getting invested in, frankly. The story was so uncomfortably fast and slipshod that I, by the end of the book, didn’t remember most of the characters names, anything about their pasts, or their personalities. And unfortunately, most of the characters who I did remember I did not do so fondly. The primary characters, Caina, Halfdan, and Maglarion, all fit neatly into clichés, rendering them totally indistinguishable from the hundreds of other flat fantasy characters I’ve read. The only potential exception to this rule is Laeria Armalas, Caina’s mother.

To summarize: Caina is the clichéd broken young woman who tries to piece her life back together and change her ways when it’s plot-convenient. Otherwise, she’s totally content to slaughter her way through her fellow human beings without a thought, only to lament for a couple of sentences a few paragraphs later. Rinse and repeat. I was originally going to write, ‘…piece her life back together and change what she doesn’t like about herself.’ Except then I remembered that I have no idea what Caina thinks about herself, if she likes herself as a person, or if she’s concerned with how others see her. Caina, by and large, is a vessel to propel the plot forward and to throw knives. So to be honest, whatever trouble she finds herself in (which isn’t much, creating a dry, arid feeling throughout most of the plot) isn’t particularly gripping because I don’t care much about Caina or what happens to her.

Villain’s-wise Maglarion essentially Voldemort, though he’s opposed by a gaggle of assassins collectively holding the idiot-ball instead of a well-organized grassroots movement of concerned, well-fleshed-out individuals. That’s really about it— he desires eternal life and the death of everybody in Malarae for reasons never explained beyond it just being the evil necromancer thing to do instead of going into retirement. Lord Haeron, the walking, ‘hate me, I’m a scumbag with no redeeming qualities,’ character and painfully obvious sacrifice-to-be in Maglarion’s plans, is precisely as described. I mean, when you make a deal with the devil, you end up either getting through into hellfire or fiddled to death. Either way, it’s a predictable (and thus, largely unsatisfying) end.

However, we can turn to Laeria now after quickly poking fun at Halfdan: I actually thought he was dead, considering how clichéd the rest of the book was, I finished the book and quickly forgot what his ultimate fate was so I just assumed he had gone the way of Obi-Wan and Dumbledore. He did not, however, his entire character and fate just escaped my mind mere days after finishing the book.

So, the character of Laeria Armalas, who is, again, Caina’s mother, represented one of the few potentially deep and interesting character-to-character interactions. Being Caina’s mother, who is none-too-happy with her daughter (for reasons unknown, honestly), brings up the potential for an interesting dynamic with the heroine. For some background, Laeria is a magic-user but is singularly untalented. She, according to Caina, had trouble making a goblet float via her own power, so she appealed to Maglarion in order to boost her strength. Furthermore, Sebastian (Caina’s father) fathoms that the reason why she married him was because Laeria had been kicked out of the Magisterium for generally being terrible at magic; she suspected that Sebastian would rise above his current status and become a lord strong enough to force the Magisterium to accept her back.

It was at this point (less than 5% through the novel), that I thought Laeria could be an interesting character: her lack of power, weak sense of self (due to her seeking approval from her magical betters), and tumultuous relationship with husband and daughter opens up an avenue rarely seen in fantasy, especially sword-and-sorcery. It’s all too common for the antagonist to wield some kind of tremendous power and be totally unrelated to the hero aside from the, “You two must fight because one is the hero and one is the villain,” idea of fantasy. Yes, that was a subtle stab at the character of Maglarion. But, for Laeria, what kind of emotional and psychological barriers could we see her overcoming and battling with or even using as a shield against Caina’s eventual revenge? Will Laeria eventually conclude that Maglarion isn’t the master she thought he’d be, creating a parallel between him and Sebastian and causing Laeria to go her own way and become a recurring element of humanity to Caina’s life?

I’ll give you a hint; it’s none of those things. She’s killed before the 10% mark when Caina hits her with a fire poker. And come the end of the novel, there’s not a single character that could replace Laeria and be a new character with some actual potential.

And I had hinted at it before, but I want to make it explicit now— the Ghosts, as an organization, are really almost frustratingly stupid. Though, they’re more of a casualty of the plot than they are of bad characterization (though that is also an undeniable factor). For instance, it’s known early on that Maglarion’s bloodcrystal is a huge source of power and is fed by Maglarion’s rituals, implying (even without it having to be explicitly spelled out) that it will continue to grow in power. So, rather than try to kill Maglarion with the deus ex machina spear-of-magic-killing, destroying the bloodcrystal would rob Maglarion of his power and render him easy to kill, provided he didn’t just die on his own from the shock of his power leaving him.

I remember having figured this all out before the ghostsilver spear even showed up— and once it did appear, I spent the next few chapters flipping (metaphorically/electronically) through the next few chapters just to see if I was right.

I was. I wished I had been proved wrong.

And I had hinted at it before with Maglarion and Lord Haeron, the villains in Child of the Ghosts are just so painfully villainous. They don’t behave like human beings with human wants, desires, histories, pain, hope, and joy. I found myself thinking of the two main villains as mustachioed bandits twirling their long black whiskers just because they were that one-dimensionally evil. Which is boring and uninteresting, by the way.

Plot, Tension, and Questionably-Done Stakes: Okay, here’s the thing— oftentimes these heroic/sword-and-sorcery fantasies function on a very simple kind of plot device, the end of the world (or a close equivalent). Most people would rather the world not end, particularly in the myriad of painful ways dreamed up by fantasy authors. However, most people think that way because the world is worth living in and their lives are worth living. And yet, if a story doesn’t instill in us, the readers, a love for the people and place, why should we care about the fate of the world? Starting off a series with the, ‘World is at stake,’ plot device means that there’s really nowhere else to go from there— no villain will be more powerful than the one that threatens all life. So, the character of Maglarion is even more wasted when one considers that The Ghosts is a very large series, and I predict that the villain of each book will wield a similar, ‘destroy all life,’ kind of power. And yet, because we’re being scrubbed clean of the last villain just to have the new one replace him/her, we never get the chance to really learn about the world and its people. Thus, no matter what villain appears and no matter what power he/she is wielding, it’ll never actually make us care.

To wrap that up: We’re never given time to just examine the characters and see them just being people. Ultimately, we come to know these characters as assassins, fighters, necromancers, etc. but never as simply human beings. And yet, even that feels very bland and malnourished. I know I said I wouldn’t reference Mistborn in this, but I think it needs to be said that Mistborn had a similar cast of characters, but its world and magic system were what set it apart and kept it entertaining. Meanwhile, in Child of the Ghosts, I hardly even know anything about the world (a map may have helped) beyond what’s strictly and immediately plot-relevant. And, with no magic beyond the fantasy clichés of necromancy, telepathy, and blood magic, I was never even invested to see what came next out of that aspect of the story.

This all culminates it something I’ve been writing and stewing about for the past year or so: positive and negative tension. I wrote extensively on the subject for my thesis work at the end of undergrad, and this book helped me to realize that I hadn’t just been blowing smoke that whole time. Positive tension, essentially, is the feeling created when an author (usually in fantasy, but it’s conceivably applicable to any genre) capitalizes on a kind of aura of invincibility around a character which keeps him/her safe from harm. For a variety of reasons, characters (usually the main protagonist) can become invincible in all but name. As in, they will never die and never become wounded or crippled in a way that cannot later be healed. As a side note, Caina’s inability to have children, curtesy of Maglarion’s ritual, doesn’t count as it does not consistently hamper Caina’s physical or mental health. Fitting of a character like that, when danger does come knocking, the tension created isn’t based out of the question, “Will this character make it out in one piece?” as much as, “What new trick or clever idea will the character use to get out of this?”

The difference between those two is that the latter is wholly unrealistic, turning life-or-death combat into a magic act; we all know that a magician, if he or she is sufficiently skilled, will pull of the trick at hand with no real danger, no matter how realistically the magician may be sawing the assistant in half. Instead, we as the audience, are merely standing by the see how spectacular it all is. Positive tension makes the reader want to see how entertainingly a situation can end, whereas negative tension makes us as readers hope that the situation will unfold devoid of catastrophe.

Child of the Ghosts is made up, down to the genetic level, of positive tension. Even if Caina’s plans and adventures deviate from their original goal (being discovered and having to fight her way out of a tight spot seems like an already-old favourite), there’s never a sense of real danger, merely a short-lived inconvenience that serves to set up the next bit of action. It’s after revelations like this that I’m happy the book was so short, otherwise I likely would have never had the patience to finish it.

As an extension of that last point, I had figured Alistair, Caina’s noble lover, would meet his bloody end— his involvement in Caina’s life would have made it too complicated and would take emphasis away from the constant stream of action that makes up the lifeblood of the novel. So, perhaps undulling cynically, I knew he would have to die, lest he complicate the straightforward-as-an-arrow plot.

Ultimately, the Ultimate Ultimatum: So, we come to the rambling end again. And my position is still unchanged— Child of the Ghosts is too boring, narrow, and devoid of joy for me to recommend. But it’s not offensively bad and is free on Amazon. So I guess there’s that.

Oh, and what I mentioned in my shorter review about the writing still holds up upon a re-examination. Every other line has to be extenuated with a heavy bass note and a martial-arts movie zoom-in just to show how incredibly dramatic every drab, predictable turn of events was.

I’m also reading the next book in the series now. Spoiler alert: the writing style is much the same.

 


 

 

This series was started in January 2014 and there’s already at least 17 books out for it? Christmas crackers, I’ll be reading these from now until Judgement Day…

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folks!

 

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Rabble Review: Child of the Ghosts

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Well. Here I am again. It’s not flash fiction, it’s not Lorequest, it’s a book review! I’ll be doing more of these in the future. I did a few in the past, mostly about the SomnAgent series and I want to continue doing them, mostly on indie fantasy and science fiction. Because I’m a rabble-rouser and I want to make sure I want to pick fights with works I know how to talk about extensively!

Speaking of ‘extensively,’ I’ll be doing an Extended Thoughts to all of my reviews so I keep myself from babbling on further than what’s warranted.

 

Anyway, once again and as always, have fun~

 


 

 

Child of the Ghosts, the first novel in Johnathon Moeller’s The Ghosts series, is Mistborn minus anything worth reading. But don’t worry, I won’t be referencing Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn throughout this, I just thought it was the most pithy and condensed way I could sum up my feelings for Child of the Ghosts.

But okay, let’s get a little more specific.

Pros: I liked the little bits of voice we heard from the narrating main characters— it helped to outline their personality (tiny bits of it anyway) and made for entertaining little tidbits.

The action scenes were quick, coherent, and got the job done.

It was short. Which, given the list of cons, is a blessing.

Cons: The characters were, by and large, one-dimensional, uninteresting clichés that are already rampant in the fantasy genre. Nothing new is brought to the table in terms of character.

Unfortunately, nothing new or interesting is brought via plot, either. It proceeds in one strictly defined direction and lacks for interesting or thought-provoking twists and turns that would otherwise engage the reader outside of simply experiencing a string of plot-driven events. Combined with the lackluster characters, it makes the entire experience a singularly uninteresting read.

The world, people (meaning, the culture of the population at large, not individual characters), and system of magic is, at best, vague and sparse in details, or, at worst, clichéd. For a non-spoiler example of the latter, necromancy and blood magic are the prime evils in this novel, which has been done by some many, many other fantasy series (virtually every one that springs to mind which employs said magic).

The writing itself is often stilted and clumsily constructed. Too often will a small ‘twist’ happen in a chapter and, judging by the formatting and pithy writing employed, it will be played off as being of tremendous import, practically warranting a ‘bum bum bum!’ sound effect. Which seems campy to say in a review, but it was campy to read many times over in a book, as well. It gave everything a strange aura of silliness that was hard to shake.

Overall: I can’t say that I liked Child of the Ghosts, nor would I recommend it, though it is generally inoffensive. Which may just be a more diplomatic way of saying, ‘bland, drab, and generally dull.’

 

Child of the Ghost’s Amazon link for those who are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Child-Ghosts-Jonathan-Moeller-ebook/dp/B0052Q9WFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458623012&sr=8-1&keywords=child+of+the+ghosts

 


 

 

Not sure how I feel about this new post-constructor page on the site. Too big, white, and open-ended. It’s like starting a new piece of writing and realizing that your mind is completely blank. Except, that never happens to me, because I still never get writer’s block!

Ha! Anticlimax!

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Daily Prompt 10: “Non-Regional Diction”

 

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It’s a two-post day today? How very strange. The moons must be in alignment. And there must be two moons… both are disturbing to consider.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: Non-Regional Diction

Prompt: “Write about whatever you’d like, but write using regional slang, your dialect, or in your accent.

 

 

So, Iveardtha we from Cheecago don’t really hear out own aixcent. I, personally, try to undo the most nasally part of the aixcent. At the very least, I don’t pronounce Cheecago as “ChicAHgo.” I think that just kinda sounds stupid. And yet, I really like learning mor’abou other regional differences in language across the US. And elsewhere I s’pose. Fr’instance, we Cheecagoans refer t’eh tennis shoes as “gym shoes.” I guess because we were always using them in gym class back in school. Also, dijuknow that only Illinois people think it’s right to end sentence with, “with?”  My friend Alec, hoo’sfrom Michigan,  thinks its kinda weird that weecan’ask people if they’d wanna, “come with,” if we’re goin’ somewhere. Instead’ov asking, “do you want to come with me?” Jus’seems wordy to me, honestly.

And I wa’sexperimenting earlier today with m’new microphone. And I think I remember pointing out just how strange my voice sounded sometimes. And I thin’kthat comes from my weirdly gravely voice that’still somehow high-ish pitched. Like I swallowed a cheese grater. Also, there’s one parta’my-mouth that doesn’t really fully open all the way, which makes it’sound like I’m slurring or mumbling more than I usually do.

Som’than-tawork on, I guess.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/non-regional-diction/">Non-Regional Diction</a>

 

I would have gone on further but even those one-and-a-half paragraphs took me about half an hour to do. Which is just too long to dwell on one post!

 

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Flash! Friday: “May-Born”

 

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Well, with the announcement that this is going to be Flash! Friday’s last entry, I figured I’d make something a little referential to that fact. I’m sad to see it go, even though I’ve only been writing for it for a few months. It was a very unique (if a bit stressful) challenge. Ah well, here’s to an ending.

 

Have fun~

 


 

 

Title: May-Born

Character: Twins Fated to Die at the Same Instant

Theme: Magical Realism

Word Count: 200

 

Inspiration had a cold. He has such a poor immune system. Ambition can’t sit still, and she certainly can’t see to her twin brother’s needs.

Outside their windows, Chicago lays sleeping with its eyes open. The snow’s falling is just a ploy; a pale attempt to smother the city.

“Come on,” Ambition said, sitting at her computer. “This story won’t write itself.”

Inspiration rolls over on the sofa. He covers his greening body in a thick white blanket. He coughs, exhaustingly. “Do we have to?” he whines.

“Yes,” Ambition says. Her hair is tangled— Medusa’s defanged. “We’re running out of time. Look outside. This can only mean the end is coming.”

Inspiration wraps himself up further, like he’s spinning a cocoon. His form is beautiful, like a winter bay-blue with moonlight.

Ambition stands up, in a huff. Fleet-footed Mercury runs through her as she walks and fumes, a curse of her May-time birth.

“This is our rambling end, huh?” she cries, slowly stopping and her hand on the cold windowsill.

“Looks like it,” I said. I add a bit of self-insertion at the end, just for completion’s sake, and walk away to stare out my window at the falling snow.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

 

And yes, it IS snowing outside right now. Quite a lot, actually. It’s freaking beautiful. And I actually live outside of Chicago, right where suburbia meets the country (typical of me, May-born Gemini that I am).

 

Yes, the Ambition and Inspiration from above are actually mine. And yes they both suck.

 

 

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

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Daily Prompt 6: “Million-Dollar Question”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Million-Dollar Question.”

 

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I usually don’t write during the daytime but doing blog stuff then instead of at night when I’m doing my novel-writing really seems to help me get out of bed and start making the most of my time.

Oh hey, it’s a Daily Prompt about why we do blog writing! How fortuitous!

 

Have fun~

 


 

Title: Million Dollar Question

Prompt: “Why do you blog?”

 

 

Interesting question, Paranoid Guy, whoever that is! In an attempt to be more candid and outwardly honest in my life, I’m going to be as frank as possible.

 

I blog is that I can hopefully drive more traffic to my books and other, much larger, creative works. There, I said/typed it and now it’s been breathed into the world. I think I actually started this blog to talk about NaNoWriMo, which I’m fittingly about to start doing again. Since then and since I started to write more books and get out there in the literary world, I wanted to turn my blog into some kind of useful marketing tool.

 

Now, that’s how it all started. And it still remains as part of the reason why I do what I do here on the blog, but I think I’ve come to realize that having people who look at blog posts doesn’t really equate to sales or even publicity. I remember talking to an alum from my school, Illinois Wesleyan University, and he said that even though he has a blog that gets thousands of hits, a minuscule percent (no exact numbers given) of those who visit actually buy this books.

 

So that dream, like many others, is heavily sleeping or hovering somewhere near death.

Anyway, onto slightly more cheery things!

 

Such as how my blog gives me a place to stretch my literary legs. I find doing flash fiction and short stories to be relatively cathartic and a kind of writing challenge that I wouldn’t normally partake in. I’m a novel-centric kind of person who also dabbles in video games and screenplay writing, but flash fiction and short stories never quite appealed to me. So giving myself a challenge in this way, especially when I also have a deadline (sometimes very aggressive ones such as with Flash! Friday), can be quite refreshing. There is something to be said about getting writerly fatigue when you’re working with a 100,000 word novel. Writing something short, easily digestible, but still creative can really free up the muscles of the mind and help you see things i new and imaginative ways.

 

I honestly do think that doing all of this flash fiction has helped me with having better control of my pacing in my stories, something that I oftentimes struggle with since I like spending so much time showing how my characters view the world, even if its stopping them from going out and seeing said world. Besides, if I can turn my writing skills to new avenues and reach more people, even if it doesn’t get me any more sales or publicity, there’s certainly no harm in that. I’m actually working on my grad school applications to become an assistant teacher as I type this and I think what I mention in there, such as how writing can not only be very liberating and illuminating for the writer but when ideas transcend the pages and start to influence other people’s lives, it can really show just how much power a collection of scribbled shapes on paper can really have.

 

Do I think that my flash fiction, so easily and quickly consumed and forgotten, can really change people’s lives in the same way that a novel can? Nah, not really.

 

But that’s why I’m still a novelist!

 

And then there’s Lorequest.

I decided to accidentally make my most (by a huge margin) viewed section of content almost entirely out of mass speculation and guessing at the inner workings of fictional worlds. How ironic that I decided to start Lorequest completely for fun and just for my own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of the passing enthusiast of whichever game I happen to be talking about and then it went on to become a huge percentage (over 1,000 views in this year alone) of the amount of activity I get on my blog. Even stranger is that its totally unrelated to any of my own fiction writing since I’m more of an archaeologist when I do Lorequest than any kind of storyteller.

 

But hey, I like it and people seem to like it so why stop? So long as I don’t get the pants sued off of me for talking about the vidjagames, I shall keep on questing for the lore!

 

And I might as well keep doing the other stuff too since it always does my heart good to hear people enjoying my stuff. Literature can bring people together, even from across our social-media-maze of a world. And that’s really kind of awesome.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/million-dollar-question/">Million-Dollar Question</a>

 

 

Boy I really should get onto doing those NaNoWriMo posts… I have to stop writing my NaNoWriMo story first though. And that’s just unreasonable.

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

 

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Daily Prompt 4: “By the Dots”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “By the Dots.”

 

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I think I’ve been meaning to do one of these for a while but nope, just getting to it now. I really wanted to do that magical creature one but decided that extrapolating on a fantasy magic system I devised surrounding the power of words in a novel being transformed into real spell power (nepotism, you say? What’s that?!).

 

Maybe one day!

 

 

Have fun~

 


 

Title: By the Dots

 

Prompt: “We all have strange relationships with punctuation — do you overuse exclamation marks? Do you avoid semicolons like the plague? What type of punctuation could you never live without? Tell us all about your punctuation quirks!”

 

It’s really no surprise that I love dashes. These “-” and these “—” are brilliant little buggers. I always just use them as a kind of escape mechanism to make any kind of sentence I like- for instance I can just fashion other sentences onto earlier ones to make them seem like they’re conjoined but semicolons are far too rare for my liking. Besides, “-” lets me make snide remarks whenever I feel like it. Given that’s how I talk, just with more stuttering while my brain tries to find the right words and more mumbling as I make said remarks, it just seems natural to me. And I love to write as I talk because it lets me be unrealistically accurate with what I’m trying to say in conversation and I get to reach an audience where I won’t constantly be interrupted by the world around me as I’m wont to be!

 

Oh I love commas, too. Did I even need to put a comma in that last sentence? Who even knows!? I certainly don’t. But that’s part of the fun for me as a writer and for my editors. They have to work for their money to weed out all of the ill-placed and poorly-used commas! If they can survive the comma jungle then they can say they have edited something of mine.

 

Plus my drive to write dialogue in a such a way that it seems as realistic as possible helps, too. I really want to write a book one day where most conversations have at least one “um,” like,” or “er,” in them. Because that’s what we all talk like, right? Well, at least we young’uns do. And doing that in my medieval books would just seem weird if it was as prevalent as it would be in a more “modern” book. Even though people were far less educated back then, it just seems wrong to foul up their language- or I’m just overthinking it.

 

But I still managed to sneak that “-” in there after all!

Yeah, this’ll do.

 

 

THE OTHERS

 


 

I probably could have included italicizing and bolding as things I do way too often, too. But those technically aren’t punctuations, even though I use them to establish EMPHASIS. See how much more effective that was? The caps-lock was just added for special effect.

 

It may have also made you just read that in Josh Peck’s voice if you’re one of my contemporaries.

 

You’re welcome, by the way.

 

 

Pingback:

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/by-the-dots/">By the Dots</a>

 

Good luck, you brave writer folk!

 

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 

Lorequest: Shadow of the Colossus Part 8- “Barba”

 

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Yes, I’m back, slinking into my favoured fortress of Lorequest. Late, as per usual. But these walls are mine and I will defend them with mass conjecture to the best of my ability!

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 


 

 

Barba, Colossus #6, otherwise known as the Slumbering Gravekeeper- the god of protecting the dead and entombed underground. 1.

Barba, Colossus #6, otherwise known as the Slumbering Gravekeeper- the god of protecting the dead and entombed underground. 1.

 

So we finally come back to Shadow of the Colossus, do we? Well good, I was tired of lying to myself and saying I didn’t have time for this anyway. But to be honest, we’re going from Avion, my favourite Colossus, to Barba, my least favourite. So you can understand my hesitation.

 

Dormin has this to say about Barba:

Thy next foe is…

A giant lurks underneath the temple…
It lusts for destruction…
But a fool, it is not.

 

This one’s actually pretty interesting. Not very helpful at all to poor little Wander but still interesting nevertheless. We’ll get to that later!

Barba showing his bony ribcage-like outcroppings and his dappled skin. 1.

Barba showing his bony ribcage-like outcroppings and his dappled skin. 1.

Barba, otherwise known as Belua Maximus is the sixth Colossus that Wander will encounter in the Forbidden Lands. He, by my investigation, was a god of the dead and guarded over them in their eternal slumber. He’s the third of the five “humanoid” Colossi and represents the next stage in the craftsmen’s attempts to create a more realistically humanoid statue. Barba is also the second and final Colossus concerned predominately with death, as he presides over a large underground catacomb and sports many ghastly and boney appendages like Phaedra, the other Colossus of the dead.

Barba’s appearance makes it fairly obvious that he’s a god of the dead. His exposed spine and even what appears to be ribs near the armour on his waist are evidence of that (and are quite similar to the other god of the dead, Phaedra). What else is interesting through is that Barba is not only sporting a tremendous beard but also dappled skin. His skin, when combined with the long beard, actually makes me think of liver-spots and thus, old age. And what’s more ancient than death itself? Not a whole lot. So Barba’s not only a wizened old caretaker of the dead and their resting places but he also represents the timeless force that all those that live must eventually fall to. He doesn’t carry a weapon, either, being the only humanoid Colossus to not have one (Malus’ exploding-lightning magic counts as its launched from his hands. Also, that big lighthouse totally has huge claws. Just saying.). This may have been a design modification by the Shamans so Barba didn’t totally wreck up the place or it may have just been that, as a god, Barba embodied death so much that a weapon was unnecessary. Barba is a representation of death and entropy as a force, a largely unfelt passage of time slowly sapping life away from bones and body while leaving its marks on skin and the beards of old men.

In other words, Barba has quite a wizened and respectable air about him, perhaps feeding into his reputation great intelligence. Like Hades with a huge beard and made out of stone that can totally beat the crap out of you. Not to say that Hades couldn’t beat the ever-loving snot out of you. Barba will just be much more direct about it.

And I can respect that. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of his actual battle.

So let’s finally get to unpacking what Dormin said about the big bearded oaf.

A giant lurks underneath the temple. Well, it’s fairly obvious that Barba is a giant, so that’s clear as it stands. But what isn’t is that Dormin says that he’s “underneath the temple,” implying that the actual temple is not where he actually is. But the rest of Barba’s building is just one big path down to the crypts he’s guarding. So that must mean that the actual temple is somewhere above him and where you can’t get to. In other words, unlike most other Colossi which directly guard their places of worship and veneration, Barba is guarding the place underneath it. But, given that he’s a god of the dead, perhaps presiding over where the living tread is a bit out of his job description.

The entrance to Barba's arena. This may be his actual temple that he waits underneath. And yet, most temples have some kind of altar or location of worship. This one simply has a hall that leads right to Barba's catacombs. 1.

The entrance to Barba’s arena. This may be his actual temple that he waits underneath. And yet, most temples have some kind of altar or location of worship. This one simply has a hall that leads right to Barba’s catacombs. 1.

So, if where Barba is waiting isn’t his temple, what’s all that down by him?

I first want to look at the structure at the far end of the room which I’ll just call the scaenae frons from now on. For those who don’t have much of an interest in Greek and Roman history, a scaenae frons is 3D backdrop used in (predominately) Roman plays. They’re actually quite beautiful being constructed like facades of buildings to give the appearance of a real structure. They were also sometimes carved into rock walls to serve as a natural stopper to the structures. The structure at the end of Barba’s arena not only has the appearance of a scaenae frons in that it looks like the façade of a structure jutting out from a wall of rock, but it even hosts Romanesque Doric columns like said scaenae fronses (What do you know? “Fronses” is the correct way to pluralize “frons”).

A real-life in Bosra, Syria. Not the pillars and the illusion of a real structure being constructed. 2.

A real-life in Bosra, Syria. Not the pillars and the illusion of a real structure being constructed. 2.

SO since scaenae fronses were used in Ancient Rome as backdrop to plays… well, what if the people of the Forbidden Lands used that structure as a backdrop to perform plays about the life of a dead person or of some kind of celebration of the dead? Seems possible. Probable? Eh. Possible? Yeah, why not.

A view of the catacombs right from right above Barba's container. The Frons is in the far back with its many pillars. 1.

A view of the catacombs right from right above Barba’s container. The Frons is in the far back with its many pillars. 1.

Day of the Dead celebration in the Forbidden Lands? Makes sense to me! I had mentioned in the Colossus page, I mentioned that since the dead play such a huge role in the plot and in the Forbidden Land’s culture (Phaedra and Barba themselves are good examples of that), there may very well be some kinds of celebrations held in the dead’s honour down there in Barba’s tomb with Barba himself looming from the other side of the room. I have no idea how people would get down to the “theatre area” and the scaenae frons since it’s just a big ladder all the way down with no steps.

Well, I mean, somehow Dark Souls is lauded as having one of the best game worlds in recent memory and IT is totally illogically built with thin walkways and impossible terrain for work animals and construction materials.

That doesn’t prove my point so much as take a pot-shot at Dark Souls. Which I still consider a win. But anyway.

So I think that idea of the structure at the end of the tomb being a scaenae frons holds water, personally. Now, what those walls and urns in Barba’s arena is a bit easier to explain. The urns are likely burial urns containing the ashes or bones or the deceased and the walls seem to have gates or windows made up of metal bars installed in them that stop Wander from walking straight through them. I wager those were added later. Symbolically speaking, I see these walls as “gates” that the dead have passed through on their way to the afterlife. More materially, I see those walls as ways for people attending the plays and celebrations at the far end of the room to reflect on the lives and deaths of those buried there. The ways through the walls were probably sealed off one Barba was in order to keep intruders from defiling the scaenae frons.

That may also be why Barba doesn’t just smack the structure when Wander is hiding in it unlike how Argus smacks the fortress with his full force. Even if (Argus) doesn’t wreck the pillars he swings at, although he totally should, he will destroy the bridges running from the two sides of the fortress. So Barba’s taking real care not to totally ruin things.

And yet, if we look again at what Dormin says about Barba, he is known for trying to be intelligent and precise with his attacks. And truthfully, if you let Barba do it, he will beat the ever-loving snot out of you with nary a hesitation when some other Colossi stop and investigate Wander at first before trying to exterminate him. So perhaps that precision mixed with brute strength helped to give Barba his reputation for intelligence. Or it could just be that he likes to investigate the scaenae frons in the far back of the tomb with his big monster golem hand. Then again, Cenobia will knock down the pillars in his city and Argus will swing his weapon at you while you’re in the fortress.

Here's Wander clinging onto Barba's face. Note how the Magic Sigil is tilted onto the left side of his head- the left side of the brain is the one used for logical thought. 1.

Here’s Wander clinging onto Barba’s face. Note how the Magic Sigil is tilted onto the left side of his head- the left side of the brain is the one used for logical thought. 1.

So I guess Barba’s not that intelligent after all. Meaning, he simply must have an overly-long lore explanation for his supposed intelligence. Oh and I’m sure the Wiki (you know, that site that’s actually much better-constructed than what I’ve got ambling on here) will also tell you that Barba’s Magic Sigil on his head is on the left side of his head, that being the logical side of the brain.

The more you know (before a little mite of a man climbs up your head and stabs it out)!

But can we stop for a second to just talk about Barba’s door? What the heck is up with that thing? Firstly, it’s a door that’s intelligent enough to realize that there’s an intruder so it lowers itself to allow Barba out of it. So, the actual engineering skill of the craftsmen of the Forbidden Lands must have been quite impressive at that point if they made a fully operational door for Barba but poor Quadratus has to bash through a wall. And yet, I think his seclusion behind the wall has two-fold reasons for it. Like Cenobia, as we’ll see later, confining Barba behind a wall that only falls when an intruder enters could stop Barba from waking up and wrecking the place as he is front to do when you fight him. I chalk this up to another instance of the Shaman’s souls being at odds with Dormins’, causing a conflict in the Colossi’s personality.

Barba looking for Wander in the Frons. Instead of Argus and Cenobia who batter anything that gets in their way as they attempt to reach Wander, Barba will investigate first and then gently (relatively speaking) hit the Frons to try to scare Wander out. 1.

Barba looking for Wander in the Frons. Instead of Argus and Cenobia who batter anything that gets in their way as they attempt to reach Wander, Barba will investigate first and then gently (relatively speaking) hit the Frons to try to scare Wander out. 1.

I wanted to give this final section its own little place rather than spreading it out just so I can talk about it all at once— that being Dormin’s advice of, “It lusts for destruction.” Given that I’ve already established that Barba is likely some kind of tomb guardian, it really shouldn’t lust for destruction in its nature. And yet, it was locked behind its huge door in order (in theory) to keep itself from destroying out of rage what it was supposed to protect. But its intelligence should be able to keep those instincts in check unless somebody threatens the tomb as a whole or the safety of the seals keeping the piece of Dormin’s soul in Barba’s body. So what’s this “destruction” referring to?

Dormin may actually be referring to Barba’s role as a god, that being a god of death. If that’s the case though, Barba hardly seems like the kind of Colossus to “lust” for destruction. Instead he appears to just be more of a passive embodiment of it. So this may be Dormin’s own opinion here, adding a sideways insult at Barba’s expense due to his influence over the dead in the Forbidden Lands (at least from a religious/spiritual standpoint). Given that Dormin receives so much of Its power via death and rebirth, perhaps Dormin really is just letting a little bit of Its own anger show through here.

Then again, there is another Colossus that Dormin mentions having “a lust for destruction,” so we’ll examine that when we get there. A looooong time from now.

Because God knows I’ll be taking another two or three months to do another one of these! But hey, Hydrus is next! My 2nd favourite Colossus!

Like that helped me doing Avion after Phaedra.

 

 

Until we meet again (in the far future) Questers!

 


 

 

Hydrus is next, I swear! I might end up tackling Over the Garden Wall in a special November version of Lorequest. That show’s got more autumn in it than a room filled with pumpkin pies and maple leaves. So it’ll be a great way for me to close out autumn!

In theory But that’s just a theory.

A LORETHEORY.

Ha. Haha. Ugh. I’m so funny.

 

 

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

 

END TRANSMISSION.

 


 

 

 

1. Images from the Team ICO wiki.

2. Image from Wikipedia- “scaenae frons”