Good things: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

Royal AssassinHere’s a spoiler free part review, part enthuse about Royal Assassin.

You probably don’t need me to tell you how great this book is but I'm going to have a go anyway just in case. Royal Assassin is the sequel to Assassin’s Apprentice which I also rather liked.

There’s always a fear when reading the next part of a series you love, that the writer has already peaked and that it won’t be quite as good. No worries here though, Royal Assassin is an incredible work, in fact I enjoyed it even more than the previous book.

So why is it so good? It’s not like there are things here that have never been done before. It’s just that they’re rarely done so well. I loved the characters (except for the ones I hated but that was with such a passion it was its own kind of enjoyment). I worried for them (a lot). I delighted in their successes and felt sad for their losses.

The villains in the book are also a standout, terrifying and mysterious in one case and wonderfully despicable in the other.

I admired the rhythm of the book too, the sprinkling of humour and happier moments, both giving relief from the constant threat but also heightening it.

And that’s it really. Brilliant characters, incredible storytelling and a good degree of twists and turns.

Like its predecessor, I didn’t find it an easy read. The book is tense and a lot of bad things happen to good people everybody. I also found that even when I wasn’t reading it, a part of the book refused to let me go until I’d finished it.

If you haven’t read it please do so that the next time I see you we can jump up and down together about how great it is.

Thanks!

Tea and Jeopardy 30 – A chat with Francesca Haig

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The first episode of 2015 sees the brilliant Francesca Haig coming to the Tea Lair to discuss post apocalyptic ficiton, medicinal uses of P.G. Wodehouse and why a certain giraffe is going straight to hell.

Listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here.

 

If you’re interested in supporting Tea and Jeopardy and would like to join the Order of the Sacred Teacup, our Patreon page is here.

If you’d like to catch up on old episodes, there’s a full index here.

Enjoy!

The Vagrant has its own page!

The Vagrant has its own page on the blog! Go look!*

And it is now available for pre-order. Many thanks to those of you who have already signed up for a copy. I love you all.

 

*Please.

BristolCon Fringe Reading

On Monday the 19th of January, Emma and I are doing a reading at the BristolCon Fringe. It starts at 7.30 and includes bits from both of our new books* and a (hopefully!) nice relaxed Q and A session afterwards.

The event takes place at: The Shakespeare Tavern, 68 Prince Street, Bristol, BS1 4QD

There’s a facebook event page for it here if you like to sign up to things in advance.

It’d be lovely to see you!

 

*THE VAGRANT (Me) & PLANETFALL (Em)

Good Things – D&D 5th Edition PHB

Don't judge this book by its cover.

Don't judge this book by its cover.

Back in October I had a visit from the D&D fairy. He came, bearded and majestic into my house and presented me with a copy of the 5th Edition Players Handbook. I said thank you.

Then I read it.

Then I read it some more.

Then, well, then there was the Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar and Christmas, New Year etc. But now, now it’s time to talk about the book. Is 5th Edition any good? Does it work? Does it look like fun?

Quick answer: Yes.

The longer answer is going to spread over a couple of posts. This one is going to talk about the races and classes, the artwork, that kind of thing and the next post will focus on how things work in play. So, here we go…

General

The book feels nice and solid and well able to survive the rigours of adventuring on the train, bus or back of a car. The cover art is dubious but the general art quality is good and it was nice to see an effort has been made in terms of male / female representation. There’s a clear index and it was easy to plunge in. It’s also nice to see the recommended reading list in there as well. The 5th Edition world presented here is very generic but they give plenty of places to go for inspiration if you fancy a world off the beaten fantasy track.

Races

All the standard races are there: elves, half-elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, half-orcs and of course, those pesky humans as well as tieflings (half-demons) and dragonborn (half-gerbils*). I’m possibly showing my ignorance here but I always wondered why you didn’t get half-dwarves or half-gnomes or crosses between those races or, for that matter, orcs rather than half-orcs. But I digress. Each race has a set of unique benefits. Unlike previous additions the focus is positive, races getting bonuses and specials rather than negative modifiers, which I like.

Classes

Here we’re getting to the serious business and I have to say 5th edition excels. You can choose between: Barbarian, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, Rogue, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard. Each class has a cool trick or two up its sleeve and there are built in options for customisation. Most of the classes have three different types you can choose when you hit third level.

For example, the Paladin can become a Devotion Paladin (ie standard, chivalric sort), swear an oath of the ancients (nature paladin) or become a vengeance paladin (badass vigilante paladin).

Perhaps the most noticeable shift is with spellcasters. 5th ed makes them cool. No longer are they an extra bag to carried by the party until they hit fifth level, spellcasters are now capable from the start and, thanks to having infinite castings of their cantrips, always able to do something.

System

The system is solid and streamlined. Compared to 3rd edition it looks positively joyous to run. Numbers are much smaller (base attack bonuses go up to +6 at 20th level rather than +20) and multiple attacks use the same modifiers unlike previous versions where each attack had a different bonus to calculate with.

Stats are therefore more important and armour class much more significant, even at the higher levels.

Attacks, skills and saves all run off the same proficiency bonus and the system has a very neat advantage or disadvantage method for most issues so instead of dealing with lots of numbers, if your character ‘has advantage’, they roll two d20 and take the best result. If they ‘have disadvantage’, they roll two d20 and take the worst. Simple but widely applicable.

There’s also insight points, awarded for good roleplay that players can spend to get advantage when they really need it.

If I’m sounding overwhelmingly positive about this, it’s because I am. I think it captures the nostalgia of earlier editions but ditches a lot of the clunkiness.

I still think a Ranger is fundamentally not as interesting or potent as the other classes but that’s probably as much down to my personal preference as it is to the system.

If you’ve played D&D years ago and fancy getting back in, I think you’ll absolutely love 5th Edition. If you haven’t played before, this is the most accessible version of the game I’ve seen.

 

*just checking you're awake

Pete's 2014

2014 has been an odd year. There have been several bereavements, quite a bit of time doing hospital visits, several members of the family getting bad news and a load of stress in my general vicinity.

Personally though, I’ve been fine.

And the year was not without its highlights. Here’s a few of them:

 

The other joy was getting to meet so many new people at conventions and see familiar faces. This year has also seen a deepening of one or two relationships into really good new friendships, something I find increasingly rare as I get older.

 

*This is literally one of the BEST THINGS EVER.

 

Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar 2014 – Day 25

Mmmm Mmmmmmmm!

The last advent episode of 2014 is now live and it seems there is one last place to put a Christmas decoration…

Listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here!

To see the advent calendar page, click here.

And don't forget about the Tea and Jeopardy Christmas Competition

Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar 2014 – Day 24

Christmas lights can make anything look cheery.

Day 24 is now live! In this episode the superb N. K. Jemesin sends a gift to the Tea Lair and Latimer gets his own Christmas lights!

Listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here!

To see the advent calendar page, click here.

And don't forget about the Tea and Jeopardy Christmas Competition!

Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar 2014 – Day 23

There's always room for one more bauble…

Day 23 is now live! In this episode we receive a present and card from the awesome Drew Karpyshyn and Latimer gets a new bauble.

Listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here!

To see the advent calendar page, click here.

And don't forget about the Tea and Jeopardy Christmas Competition!

Tea and Jeopardy Advent Calendar 2014 – Day 22

It's like something from a Disney film.

Day 22 is now live! In this episode we receive a gift and card from the delicious John Horner Jacobs and Latimer is adorned with a plush snowman.

Listen to the episode on Geek Planet Online here!

To see the advent calendar page, click here.

And don't forget about the Tea and Jeopardy Christmas Competition!