Monday, November 20, 2017

Interview: Pelycosaur24

I'm taking a small break from my Riordan Retrospectives.  I've just gotten a major break with my writing career, and I need to focus on that for the moment.  However, I'm not going to leave you guys empty-handed.  I've got another interview today.  We've having a brief chat with Pelycosaur24 from DeviantArt.  She's made some really nice commissioned art for me, which I'll hopefully get to share with you guys soon.  So, without further ado, let's get started.

1) In your own words, tell us who you are

I am someone with a lot of different interests - which has led to four different university studies (I am currently working on my master’s thesis). My hobbies include experimental archaeology, archery, sword fighting and of course drawing.

2) I understand that you're from Austria. Can you tell the readers a bit about what life is like in Austria?

It is very different than life in America, I imagine, but I am very happy to live in Austria, what I love most about this country is the great balance between modern times and historical presence. Most cities have existed at least since the middle ages and there are a lot of old houses everywhere. But of course, we have a lot of nature too, mostly mountains and forests.

3) What got you into art?

I used to write short stories and wanted to get a better picture of my characters, so I started illustrating my stories

4) Is there any story behind your user name?

I just love mammal-like reptiles, but there is no particular story behind the name

5) What is a typical day like for you?

Since I joined the army 2 months ago, a typical day for me now begins at 6 am and consists mostly of marching and combat training.

6) What historical era is your favorite? Relatedly, what historical figure do you most admire?

That is a tough question, but I think I go with the roman republic. Corresponding with that one of the historical figures that fascinates me most is Tiberius Gracchus. The historical figure I most admire would probably be Archduke Charles, a 19th century Austrian military commander.

7) What is your favorite prehistoric creature and why?

My favorite Dinosaur has always been Iguanodon (also because I love the history of paleontology and the story of how Iguanodon was discovered), while my favorite prehistoric mammal is the cave bear (the most common prehistoric animal in Austria - 30.000 have been found in one cave near where I live).

8) Are there any works of fiction that you're a fan of?

I generally really love Pixar and DreamWorks movies (especially Kung Fu Panda), and I also really like the show Primeval.

9) Any advice for aspiring artists?

Just always keep practicing, and from time to time you can compare your drawings and reflect on your progress.

10) What are you working on at the moment?

I had a rather big drawing project where I drew lots of people from the Chalcolithic and now I am working on some backgrounds for them, and of course I have my Stone Age movie reviews that I write every other week.

11) What does the future hold for you?

Right now, I just want to get through basic training and finish my master’s thesis at the same time.  Then I will see what I do from there.

12) Any closing remarks, and where can the readers find you?

You can find my drawings at my DeviantArt page or on my Facebook page. I appreciate every like and favorite.  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Riordan Retrospective: The Demigod Files

Welcome once again to the Riordan Retrospective.  For those of you just joining the fun, I'm taking a look back at the works of Rick Riordan, collectively known as the Riordanverse.  That means the Percy Jackson series, its sequels and its spin-offs.  Last time, we took a look back at The Battle of the Labyrinth.  This time, we're taking a look at The Demigod Files.

Now, this time is going to be a bit different; since we're looking back at a short story collection rather than a novel.  As such, this retrospective might run a bit shorter than the rest, but there's still lots of fun to be had.  Let's get started by talking about the stories themselves.  As per usual, beware of potential spoilers beyond this point. 

Our first story is entitled “Percy Jackson and the Stolen Chariot”.  Percy is at school when he looks out the window and sees Clarisse La Rue being attack by feather-shooting birds.  After getting excused from class, Percy learns that Clarisse is on a mission to retrieve Ares missing war chariot.  It's been stolen by her brothers, the gods Phobos and Deimos, who have hidden it at the Staten Island Zoo.  Percy and Clarisse have until sundown to get the chariot back to Ares temple, aka the USS Intrepid.

Overall, I thought that “Stolen Chariot” was a great way to expand on the worldbuilding of the Riordanverse.  We get the sense that Percy is having adventures even when he isn't at Camp Half-Blood.  This is also the first time that minor gods have played a major role in a story.  Granted, Janus appeared in Battle of the Labyrinth, but this time minor gods are front and center.  Also, this story confirmed a theory I'd long suspected: Percy can walk on water!  Albeit, it takes an extreme amount of concentration on his part.  The fact that the gods still have temples, of a sort, has...interesting implications.  We'll touch more on this when we get to next retrospective.

We also gain some interesting insights when Percy and Clarisse confront their greatest fears.  Not so much what their greatest fears were; Clarisse fear being a disappointment to Ares, and Percy fears that his friends would get hurt and he wouldn't be able to save them.  No, the interesting part is that Percy apparently counts Clarisse as one of his friends.  It really says something about how far they've come since the series began.  Rick Riordan originally posted this story, in three parts, to his blog back in 2007 to help hold readers over until book four came out.  So, chronologically, I'd say this story takes place between The Titan's Curse and The Battle of the Labyrinth.

Our next story is “Percy Jackson and the Bronze Dragon”.  Percy Jackson and Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus, are on the same team in capture team in capture the flag.  Things are not looking very optimistic.  Athena Cabin and Ares Cabin are playing on the same team and kicking everyone's butts.  Things only get worse when Beckendorf is captured by a swarm of Myrmekes when trying to retrieve a bronze dragon head from their nest.  The head belongs to a mechanical dragon the used to help guard the camp.  Percy's going to have to team up with Annabeth and Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite, to save Beckendorf and put the bronze dragon back together.

In every series there's always a few ensemble darkhorses, as TV Tropes would put it.  They're those character who, even though they don't necessarily play a major role in a given work, but you love them anyway.  Everyone has their personal ensemble dark horse, but to me, it's always been Beckendorf and Silena.  I can't really explain why, but I've always been fond of them.  So, I was very happy that they both played starring roles in this short story.  These stories might seem like fun little side adventures, but they have actual relevance to the overall plot of the series.  The titular bronze dragon becomes incredibly significant in The Heroes of Olympus

In terms of chronology, I'd say that this story takes place between The Titan's Curse and The Battle of the Labyrinth.  It a plot point that Beckendorf wants to ask Silena to the Fourth of July fireworks show, the biggest dating event at Camp Half-Blood.  This is significant because Silena and Beckendorf didn't officially become a couple until the end of Battle of the Labyrinth.  Then again, that doesn't necessarily work out know what?  Don't question it, it's a story with Beckendorf and Silena, enjoy it for that alone.  It was also really nice to have a story set a Camp Half-Blood where the fate of the world wasn't at stake.  As with “Stolen Chariot”, it helps to expand the worldbuilding.  

Our third and final story is “Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades”.  It is set between The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian.  Percy, Thalia and Nico have been summoned to the underworld by the goddess Persephone.  Hades new sword has been stolen by a demigod working for Kronos, and it's up to the children of the Big Three to get it back.  This is especially important because the Keys of Hades have been forged into the sword.  The keys allow anyone to enter the underworld, or free any spirits in the underworld, anytime they please.  

This is another story that winds up having huge significance in The Heroes of Olympus.  This is when we first meet the titan Iapetus, or as he's known after falling into the River Lethe, Bob.  Thalia and Nico have always been very popular ensemble darkhorses in their own right, and I like to think that this story made a lot of fans very happy.  In fact, Nico gained such popularity that he'd later go on to play a major role in The Heroes of Olympus.  I loved that the story included an appearance by Melinoe, goddess of ghosts.  She's definitely not a goddess most people would know off the top of their heads. 

Fun fact, Rick wrote this story for World Book Day back in 2009.  I gotta say, I did not see the end of this story coming.  Turns out it was Persephone who made the sword in hopes of bringing balance of power among the Big Three.  Hades had not clue, and wasn't entirely happy about what Persephone was up to.  That actually brings up an interesting point.  Zeus has his thunderbolt, Poseidon has his trident, but Hades doesn't really have any iconic weapon.  He has his Helm of Darkness, and his two-pronged staff, but nothing with any offensive capabilities.  

Now that's we've talked about the short stories, let's talk about the character interviews.  Well, actually, let's talk about the introductory letter.  From this letter we learn that Rick Riordan himself is a character in the Riordanverse.  Specifically, he's apparently the head scribe of Camp Half-Blood.  The Kane Chronicles would later reaffirm Riordan's existence as a character in the Riordanverse.  This is certainly interesting, but it does raise the question of why Percy never mentioned Rick in any of the books.  

Okay, now let's talk about the interviews.  They're a collection of fictional interviews with Percy, Annabeth, Grover, Clarisse and the Stoll Brothers.  Overall, I thought they were pretty fun.  My favorite bit was when the Stoll brothers recalled the time they tossed a golden mango with the words "To the Hottest" into the Aphrodite Cabin and then laughed their asses off as all the Aphrodite girls fought over it.  Of course, it was the Aphrodite girls who ultimately got the last laugh.  Also, their names are Conner and Travis Stoll, and their dad is Hermes, god of thieves (amoung other things).  Funny, but it should be noted here that one of Rick Riordan's former students really is named Travis Stoll.  Also, I'd like to take the opportunity to point out that, contrary to popular fan belief, Conner and Travis aren't actually twins.   Rick has stated this multiple times, as has Percy in various books. 

The Grover interview was also pretty fun.  I especially liked he part where he asked his story about meeting wood nymphs in Upsate New York to be retracted.  He wouldn't want to upset his girlfriend Juniper, after all.  I did find it a bit disappointing the everyone said their favorite god, besides their parents, was Zeus.  That just seemed too predictable.  I like to think they said something else, but then they heard a clap of thunder and changed their answers.  

There a few bonus features including a crossword puzzle, a word jumble, a look inside Annabeth's camp trunk, and a sneak peak at The Last Olympian.  There's also a map of Camp Half-Blood, but it has since become out of date.  

There's not much to say about the cover, as there's just the one.  We see a sword, presumably Percy's sword Riptide, in front of a glowing trident symbol. This is accompanied by a swirl of bubbles and set against a blue background. As per usual, you know I'll take this moment to plug the excellent audiobook version.

Well, I think that wraps up this retrospective of The Demigod Files.  Join me again next time when we take a look back at The Last Olympian.  Until then, I will see you guys next time.