Monday, February 29, 2016

City Of Blades

The city of Voortyashtan was once ruled by the goddess of death, war, and destruction. Now the city is in ruins, and the goddess is nowhere to be found. General Turyin Mulaghesh has been reactivated. Forced out of retirement to find a secret agent who is missing.  The city of war is not an easy place to be. It is full of dangers to everyone. Mulaghesh must fight her own ghosts and the dangers of the city while looking for the missing agent. During her search, she begins to wonder what happened to all the souls trapped in the afterlife when the divinities vanished. Have they disappeared? Or are they making their own plans?

This is the second book in The Divine Cities series. I admit when I read City Of Stairs, I thought it was a stand alone book. I was intrigued that there was a sequel. I was eager to read more from this author. I enjoyed the epic battles with the gods in the first book and looked for more of that in this book. I do not think the sequel matched up to the first book. The first book was very original. I felt in some ways this was too similar to the first book only at a slower pace.

I do like the world that Bennett made. It is fascinating. There are many complex elements, so I was happy to return to it. I wish that he did not try to follow the first book so closely. I would have liked to see more of the world, which we did, but I wanted it to feel new and exciting as the first book did. I think a different angle could have been taken in the world with the characters so it did not seem like a repeat.

I did like that we were given good characters with some depth, and we did get to know some characters from the previous book better, which was a plus. The mystery was intriguing when the story focused on it. I sometimes felt the book got a little bogged down in the different threads. But if you push through those parts you get some really good parts.

If you liked reading City of Stairs, then I would recommend giving this book a try.

**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.**

*Receiving a free copy does not change my review. It simply provides me with a copy of a book sooner than I would have otherwise gotten to it, or provides me with a book I might not have heard about otherwise.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda also known as The Elder Edda, is a collection of poems about the Norse gods and mortal heroes. They were compiled by an unknown author in Iceland around 1270 and were based on earlier sources. The poems tell of Thor slaying giants, Brynhild the Valkyrie, Sigurth and Guthrun, The Prophecy of Ragnarok, Loki's taunts, and many more fascinating and moving tales.

I really enjoyed the variety of tales in this collection. There are amusing tales, tales of bravery and betrayal, interesting prophecies, and a dragon. This edition was a good one to read as it has a lot of information that helps the reader understand the context of each poem. There is a really good introduction with decent explanations about the book. Before each poem there is also a brief note that explains what it is about, who the main characters are, and why it is interesting/important. I found these notes helpful for being able to immediately jump into the poem and know what was going on. I think it helped me enjoy them even more. You do not have to read the notes if you do not want to, but I do think it will help readers who are not as familiar with Norse mythology to really understand what is going on.

I had a lot of fun reading these poems. It had been on my list to read for a while, and it was worth reading. I think some of my favourites were: Volupsa--The Prophecy of Ragnarok which is also interesting because Tolkien got some of names for his characters, mostly for dwarves here. Lokasenna--Loki's Taunts, Thrymskvitha--The Theft of Mjollnir, and the many poems of Sigurth and Guthrun. I enjoyed Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, so it was fun to read an original source for his later work. The Grottasongr--The Song of Grotti is about two giant women sold into slavery, and is very interesting. If you enjoy Norse mythology and the Viking Sagas, I highly suggest reading this book. It has a great variety, and some of the tales give us more information about some of the gods through taunts and questions they ask each other.

Here are a couple pictures from my trip to Sweden that go with some of the poems in this book:

This is a reproduction of the Sigurd Rock Carving(so details can be seen easier). It shows Sigurd plunging his sword into Fafner's belly and Sigurd licking his fingers while the birds talk, and then being able to understand them. And Regin with his head cut off.

Petroglyph showing a Valkyrie with a mead horn welcoming a man to Valhalla.

Baptismal font from circa 1200. It depicts Gunnar in the snake pit. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Feast Of Ice And Fire

A Feast Of Ice And Fire is the official companion cookbook to the series Game of Thrones. Using medieval cookbooks such as: The Forme Of Cury, The Compleat Cook, and Ein Bych Von Guter Spise the recipes are given the feeling they are really entering the world of Game of Thrones. There are guides on how to serve a proper feast, menus for each area represented in the cookbook, and an index if you know what kind of recipe you want to try.

I was first introduced to this cookbook by another book reviewer who said I would love this cookbook based on my love of fantasy, Medieval history, and cooking. I promised to try it, but had reservations based on other experiences with cookbooks based on a series. Usually the recipes are just loosely connected to the series, and consequently, to me are less interesting. As soon as I began reading the recipes in this book, I knew it was different. I was thrilled to discover recipes from Medieval cookbooks. It gave a very authentic feel to recipes that are from the Game of Thrones world. I also liked that above each recipe was a quote from one of the books that specifically mentioned that type of food. The authors truly made an effort to come up with recipes that connect to the books which made me very happy.

The recipes are organized by region. The regions are: The Wall, The North, The South, King's Landing, Dorne, and Across the Narrow Sea. There are also pairing recommendations with each recipe so you can cook by region, or by the recommended pairings.

I was so excited about this cookbook, I decided to try a little bit of everything by having a Game of Thrones Feast. I carefully perused the cookbook to be able to try a little of everything offered while still having a feast that went well together. Here is what I made:

Mulled Wine

From the section: The Wall. I used the Medieval Mulled Wine recipe. I used Lex Petits Carreaux Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine. The recipe recommended just carefully ladling out the wine and not disturbing the layer of spice and fruit. If I made this again I would finely strain the wine. Even with careful ladling, the wine was very thick with occasional chunks. It did have a good flavour.

Crusty White Bread

I had originally planned on making Black Bread from the South, but ended up making the Crusty White Bread from The Wall because I had all the ingredients on hand. I made it the day before the feast to spread out some of the preparation and cooking. It made a light moist bread. The method of cooking is easy and makes it so the crust does not dry out. Will definitely make again.

Salad At Castle Black

I had wanted to make Sansa Salad from the King's Landing section, but it called for flowers, and those are easier to get in the summer. I will try it in the future. This salad is from The Wall and is easy to make with a lot of flavour. I roasted the chickpeas, which was an incredible addition to the salad and was a favourite part of the feast. I had requests to make this again. It is an simple way to dress up your salads.

Honeyed Chicken 

From The North, this recipe sounded incredible, and it lived up to my expectations. I might even try this on a turkey for Thanksgiving. It had good flavour, and made an excellent main dish. The chicken stayed moist and was not too sweet with the honey sauce. It went wonderfully with the other dishes that I made.

Baked Apples

Also from The North, I used the 17th century recipe for these. I used these for the dessert course. They made a quick and simple dessert that was not too sweet. It was really delicious spread over a slice of the White Crusty Bread.

Beet Soup, Salad at Castle Black, and Crusty White Bread

This was the first course, which was quite good. The Beet Soup comes from Across The Narrow Sea. It was rich in flavour. I would recommend using a blender to  puree it as mashing it did not work well. I really enjoyed this combination as the start to the feast.

Honeyed Chicken, Turnips in Butter, and Buttered Carrots

This was the main course. I used the modern recipe for the Turnips. It is from The North. This also should have been put in the blender(which was one of the options in the book)but I have a small apartment kitchen, and ran out of space.  The Buttered Carrots, are from the King's Landing section. I also used the modern recipe for this. It was quite easy to make and was delicious! I will make them again. The Chicken, as discussed before was delicious with the extra sauce poured over like a gravy.

While I was cooking my feast, I listened to the soundtracks of season one and two of Game of Thrones. While eating the feast, we watched Season 2  Episode 6. I thought this episode showed an interesting view of food. It has Arya serving Tywin in Harrenhal, and her identity is nearly revealed as she serves food to Tywin and Littlefinger. Joffrey is attacked by his starving subjects, and the Spice king refuses to let Daenerys use his ships as it is a bad investment for him. It was perhaps a little heavy on the theme, but it was a lot of fun! I highly recommend having a Game of Thrones Feast of your own.

There were so many more recipes that I want to try from this book. I really enjoyed this cookbook, and have added it to my list to buy. I loved both the Medieval and Modern versions of the recipes. I recommend making the delicious recipes from this cookbook!