Erotic Fiction isn’t really my deal. I’ve never dabbled in it outside of some really lame urban fantasy romance novels, and it is not a genre that interests me at all. But Stjepan Sejic, yes, I’m a huge fan of the artist. I got into his work through Artifacts for Top Cow and that quickly spiraled into an obsession with his work on Witchblade with all those gorgeous covers of his most of all, and then this year into full-blown fan-gasming with his original series Death Vigil from Image Comics, the fifth issue of which I put up as my top comic of 2014 just last week.
When I heard that Stjepan was putting out another OGN, Sunstone, a BDSM erotica that dealt with the lives of two young women, I was initially hesitant. I love Stjepan’s work, but erotica, not my cup of tea at all. But I decided to give the book a try anyway, to see what kind of a story and characters Stjepan had cooked up. Sunstone has seemingly been a huge hit for him on his Tumblr, one of the many reasons why it has eventually gotten a print release, and having read it, I think I can see why. Stjepan deals with the subject matter in a very natural way that puts you at your ease and is never discomfiting. The characters are superb, the story is superb, the art is absolutely gorgeous.
Sunstone is the story of Lisa and Ally, two young women, both professionals and single, who are looking for something to spice up their sex life and then they meet each other on the internet, leading to some major life changes for the two of them. Ally is a domme, and her love life has been rather… fractured because of her sexual interests, interests which have led to trust issues between her and her previous partners since BDSM is an extremely sensitive and private activity that depends on trust and faith between two partners. Lisa on the other hand is the opposite, she is a submissive and her tastes lean that way, though she has been equally frustrated with her love-life/sex-life, which lack a certain spark for her to really care about them.
The meeting between these two however, it changes everything.
What I really loved about this story was that Stjepan dealt with this highly sensitive matter in a very matter-of-fact and natural way. He didn’t make a big deal out of Ally and Lisa being bisexual and that’s exactly the kind of attitude that people generally need to have in real-life as well. Everyone has his or her own tastes when it comes to sex and to consider one more… negative than the other or even… unwholesome, is just wrong. So that was immediately something that pulled me into this story. Both female leads act pretty natural with each other and since they have had some great sessions online, they are ready to take things to the next level by meeting in person and having some fun.
Sunstone is a story that progresses in stages. We meet the characters, the characters meet each other in person. They hang out, chill out, have a lot of fun. They come back to each other again and again. Their shared sexual experiences eventually develop into something else. Stjepan takes each stage as it comes, spends enough time with it to get the reader really comfortable, and then he moves on. Since he is both the writer and the artist on this, he has a very strong and cohesive vision for how to proceed with each stage, and it comes off rather flawlessly.
The pacing of the story is pretty much perfect, and so is the core concept itself. Again I come back to the word “natural”. I can’t stress that word enough when it comes this OGN. You never really feel at odds with the characters and there’s always this sense at the back of your mind that what they are doing is perfectly natural. Stjepan presents everything as it is, without any embellishments or without any male-gazing or visual abuse. Of course, this being an erotica comic with two bisexual leads, there’s a fair amount of sex scenes and much of the OGN is absolutely NSFW, but that’s no big deal....more
Anthony Reynolds has been writing for Black Library for quite a good while now. I first came across him with his Word Bearers novels, which proved to be a most fascinating and weird read, and then continued on with some of his other work as he branched out of writing Word Bearers for 40K and delivered some occasional Horus Heresy stuff as well. I haven’t checked out his Warhammer Fantasy stuff however outside of a novella he did a few years back, The Questing Knight, which proved to be a good decent read. But, he hasn’t had a full novel published in a while, I don’t think, which was slightly disappointing as I consider him to be one of the better writers writing for Black Library.
And then came Khârn: Eater of Worlds, a post-Horus Heresy novel that looks at how the XIIth Legiones Astartes, the World Eaters, are degrading down into warbands, how the Legion has changed in the aftermath of the failed Siege of Terra, and the other changes affecting it now that Angron has gone and become a mighty Daemon Prince of Khorne, leaving them all behind to do whatever it is they will. Anthony writes a pretty typical World Eaters novel, with all the gory violence you’d expect from it, and it also presents some intriguing characters, especially Khârn himself, the most infamous World Eater character ever, and also a major lore character. Suffice to say, I loved this novel.
The Horus Heresy introduced Khârn to us as a simple officer, Captain of the Eighth Assault Company and equerry to Primarch Angron, being the only one who could head off his gene-father’s darker moods. It was an interesting look at a character who for years has borne the title of Betrayer, Khârn the Betrayer, most famous for annihilating a force of fellow World Eaters and Emperor’s Children single-handedly on the world of Skalathrax soon after the Horus Heresy. He is a mainstay of Khornate lore in M41, and has been so for years, but for a long time, we didn’t get a chance to see how he became that crazed berserker who was the most exalted of Khorne’s mortal-ish followers.
When Khârn: Eater of Worlds starts off, we meet a stricken World Eaters legion that is being hounded across the void by Imperial Space Marines. Angron is gone off on his own, leaving the Legion behind, and the World Eaters are bereft of any strong leadership since Khârn fell on Terra and though his body lives, he is in a coma out of which the few remaining Legion apothecaries have not been able to rouse him. The Legion needs supplies, it needs some fresh blood to replace its decimate ranks. And so it is that that the Legion fleet arrives on a world near the Eye of Terror, a world that can serve as the base for it to grow again, only to find that the remnants of the Emperor’s Children have already laid claim to it.
Goes without saying that there’s going to be a batter here, one of the most brutal such battles in the Scouring era, and that though the novel might start off with Khârn in a coma, by the end he is most definitely going to be alive and kicking and hungering for some Emperor’s Children blood.
Anthony Reynolds established quite a few elements of the Word Bearers’ culture in his Word Bearers trilogy. He gave them an identity that was unique among all of the other Chaos Space Marine Legions, building on existing background and creating new one. In Khârn: Eater of Worlds, he doesn’t quite go the same route, but he shows very well how the Legion is changing from that of Nails-crazed berserkers with a tenuous grip on their lucidity to a Legion of blood-crazed warriors. Many among the Legion have already fallen to the service of Khorne, Lord of Blood and Skulls, but a few still cling to the old ways. Many have given up the white and blue of the Legion and have taken to dabbing their armour completely with blood to signify their new allegiance. Many among the fractured Legion want to leave the unity of the fleet behind and go their own way since there is no one at the top to restore order, no Angron and no Khârn....more
Garrosh Hellscream is perhaps one of World of WarCraft‘s most contentious characters. Introduced as part of a quest line that eventually saw the Orcs of Outland reuniting with their brothers and sisters on Azeroth, he is the son of Grom Hellscream, he who first partook of the Pit-Lord Mannoroth’s blood and paved the way for the curse of his race. And yet, he is also the son of Grom Hellscream, he who avenged his people on Mannoroth by slaying the demon. Garrosh has been torn between two extremes since we first saw him and in recent years, as he took on the mantle of Warchief from Thrall, he has slid further and further into his own games and illusions, leading to one of the most momentous moments in World of WarCraft history.
For towards the end of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, players were witness and participants to a raid on Orgrimmar itself, whether they were from the Horde or the Alliance, in a bit to stop Garrosh in another of his apocalyptic schemes. The insane Warchief was defeated and would have died at Thrall’s hand but for the intervention of none other than King Varian Wrynn. And now, in Mists of Pandaria: War Crimes, we are all witness to Garrosh’s trial, an unprecedented event that draws in all the leaders of Azeroth’s various races to Pandaria. Christie Golden recaps much of her previous WarCraft work in this novel, and goes to show that Garrosh is a far more complex than anyone believed him to be, and that contradictions are in his very nature. Needless to say, this was a most fascinating read.
Christie doesn’t waste time in getting to the heart of the matter in War Crimes. Garrosh has cheated certain death for now, but an even greater fate awaits him. The Pandaren have convened a trial for the former Warchief, for in his mad quest of power and vengeance, he desecrated one of heir most sacred sites and the crime is great indeed. The leaders of all the major factions of Azeroth are then called to witness and take part, with the jury of the trial being the Celestial, mystical beings revered by the Pandaren who have chosen to take a direct hand in matters. And to the dismay of all involved, the Celestials have decreed that since Garrosh is formerly of the Horde, his Defender will be from the Horde, while his Accuser will be from the Alliance.
Insanity ensues of course, since the leaders of the Horde hate Garrosh as much as they hate anyone in the Alliance, probably more. Garrosh insulted and sidelined Sylvanas and Lor’themar at every turn during his tenure. He bullied and forced Baine to do what he wanted. He nearly had Vol’jin assassinated. And his insanity nearly tore the Horde apart. And to add further salt to the wound, the Horde leaders are forced to choose Baine himself as the Defender, since despite his misgivings and his experiences with Garrosh, he is also the only one who can do the job with dedication and fairness. A hard task indeed.
So that then is the setting of the novel. There is an incredible amount of things going on here. Representatives of the Bronze Dragonflight are called in to help with the trial, presenting visions of Garrosh’s various mad actions, as well as to “prove” the statements made by the witnesses called in by Baine to defend Garrosh (poor Baine!) and by Tyrand Whisperwind to condemn Garrosh (go Tyrande!). This neat narrative trick allows Christie Golden to revisit some of the most defining moments of Garrosh’s life and also those of the people he has affected, on both sides of the conflict between the Alliance and the Horde.
What Christie does here is tell a really complex story as she explores all of what Garrosh has done, and the impact that his actions have had on the world of Azeroth itself. A world already suffering from the effects of the Cataclysm, literally torn at the heart, was further imperiled when he gave wholesale license to his shaman and warlocks to abuse it further. He destroyed an entire city and murdered uncountable people. He polluted one of the most sacred regions in all of Pandaria and unleashed horrors locked up for ages. He betrayed his allies and his people, had them killed and murdered. And yet, we never really learned his motivations for doing so. War Crimes goes a long way to address many of his transgressions in that way and show what drove this Orc hero, the son of a traitor and hero alike....more