Dragon Prince

My Rating: ♦♦♦♦♦

Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn showed me early on what a deep, involved epic fantasy world could be. Rohan becomes a ruling Prince when his father is prematurely killed battling a dragon for sport. Sioned (sh-ned) is a fiery young woman with magic skill in Sunrunning. The two meet and it’s love at first sight. Their story encompasses the entire country and is wrought with romance, political intrigue, and action.

I love the concept of Sunrunning. Certain people are gifted by the Goddess to be able to weave skeins of light. They view light in multifaceted hues, with each person having his or her own pattern, and they can manipulate it to communicate or observe from afar, thus making them powerful spies for the ruling princes, among other things. Their skills can also be used to summon fire and, with the Goddess’ Blessing, see their future as they enter different phases of their life.

The characters are a rather interesting set, too. They have various traits and personalities and as you read through the series, you come to know them well. There are several large families whose descendants are in holdings across the land, creating specific alliances through family bloodline. Yet they are individuals too and their loyalties sometimes shift when their own families harm them or if they strongly believe in a different ideal of “right”.

Some rather dark events take place in the story, too, and some of them are truly shocking. Where everything culminates at the end, sometimes you wonder if it’s a victory or if it isn’t. But of course it is. Isn’t it?

There are so many characters and due to naming conventions, where children tend to share aspects of a family member’s name, it is very difficult to keep track of them all. So in book two, the Star Scroll, Rawn includes a growing genealogy and character list, which she expands into book three, Sunrunner’s Fire, and into the second trilogy that tracks the next series of events.

The books are huge and I’m grateful for that because it means more time with the characters and the world. If you enjoy a full-world experience, then pick this up and read it through. Invest the time because there are many great aspects of the world and characters to enjoy.

This was the second major fantasy novel I read that influenced my interests and taught me to love the genre. To read about the first book that did so, Master of the Five Magics, check out my review here.

The Truest Magic

Magic always fascinated me. Move your hands like this. Say wacky words like that. And wham! A fireball shoots forth and lights the world around you. …Or something like that. Yet as cool as that would be, there is only one True Magic and my friends are lucky enough to join the ranks of those of us who know it: Love.

We all love things. Maybe you have a movie that melts your soul. Perhaps your cat or dog take all your day’s pain away and you know you’re fuller and healthier for it. Perchance you found another person who fits you so well you couldn’t imagine being without him or her. Perhaps you’re working on loving yourself more right now. Life exists on love. It is everywhere, even on the dark days, and not always in the ways we expect.

There are times when I write a story that I envision the love between two characters to be a certain way. They just fit without any major drama. Or perhaps their relationship is built on sarcasm, or the situation they’re in, or wherever it stems from. Sometimes when I read it over, I wonder if these are true loves or if they’re only in my mind.

So many stories rip the lovers apart after working so hard to build them together, because it’s a … better story? I don’t know if I agree. Characters in TV shows split and recouple all the time, even when they were perfect together all along. Is it a better story that way? I don’t know. For me, I’d rather we get to live with their love and see what wonderful things they do together.

“But it happens!” some people cry out. There may be a tragedy, and I’ve seen those happen around me, and my heart has been ripped out. It takes a long time to heal from those moments, and for some it does become quite the story. (If you want a good cry, watch the movie P.S. I Love You.)

I shrug. That’s fine. Life can have terrible things or nonsensical things occur. I would rather not have every relationship I write about end in departure. Sometimes I do let the characters go their separate ways. 

But not always. Often, the love works. And today is no exception.

While my own heart is full and overjoyed, thanks to Kevin, it is always wonderful to be reminded of the True Magic around us. Our good friends, Leanne and Mark, just cast their own magic spell. It involved some fancy finger motions and a magic incantation while bent to one knee, and I assure you there was enough light and joy filling the sky that we could see it and feel it from miles away. Don’t just take my word for it; Leanne can tell you their tale in her own words if you just click here.

And in just a few days’ time, my best friend’s daughter will also be tying the knot! Joy to all!

Congratulations, my friends. You’re an inspiration and I’m overjoyed and thrilled for you both! Now I need to go write a new chapter somewhere…

Word Games

The advice I’ve often heard for writers is to write something every day. Sit for twenty minutes and just get something down. The reason for this is to keep the words flowing and to help the writer constantly produce something. Some of these snippets help prevent writer’s block, while others help with inspiration for story points. That’s all well and good but different things work for different people. I can’t just write all the time. I have to mix it up. That’s where today’s post comes in.

Playing word games can help to build vocabulary, if you make an effort to look up the new words you discover. I also like the puzzle quality among some of these where challenges change through the game. It keeps the games fresh but also adds a layer to the effort needed to play. We need to think about words differently sometimes and playing these games can help.

(First of all, the disclaimers: The games I’m about to mention are games I have found and have played. I am not affiliated with any of the companies. The screenshots are posted from my own iPad. Some of these games are free; others require an outright purchase; some have in-app purchases. The names are linked to the Apple App Store. They may exist on other platforms too. I intend no violation of TOS, so if I have, please let me know.)

In no particular order…

Spellwood.pngSpellwood (Free version) [SEGA]

Don’t let the cuteness of this game fool you; it’s a great challenge. You start as an apprentice trying to make your way through the Spelltower. The levels all have rules, like the letters disappear after one turn or two turns. It has some classic point tiles like double word or triple letter and some new ones like bonus points for odd-length words. You and your AI opponent also have equipment and power ups to help you out or to hurt your foe. You may have a wand that does extra damage if you have an ‘E’ in your word. There may be a penalty if you spell four-letter words, etc. To win, you need to deplete your enemy’s hit points before yours are gone. There is good difficulty here and the critters make for an amusing theme. I love all the puns! Give this one a try.

 

Scrabble (Free version) [Electronic Arts]

This was the first word game I remember playing as a kid. We sat around the kitchen table taking turns, making up words and trying to pass them off as real. We used house rules like free swapping of tiles if you had more than two of the same letter. We also traded blanks on the board for their intended letter, thereby keeping the blanks in play. This electronic version doesn’t allow those things, of course, but it’s still great fun. I like to play against the AI with the option of letting it show the best move after each turn. It’s a great way to learn some obscure but playable words. You can also play against real people too.

 

W.E.L.D.E.R. [Ayopa Games LLC]

Swap two adjacent tiles to make words. It sounds easy enough but the challenges grow from there. Because the words are taken away as soon as they form, it is important to strategize before attempting to make long words. For instance, if you were trying to create WELDING, you would want to get the WEL and the ING in place before trading in the D. Bring the D in earlier and the word WELD is taken instead. There are plenty of special tiles too, including blanks you can carve into any letter you need, rusted tiles that don’t fall when tiles vanish below them, and so on. You also have some power up tiles that let you swap two non-adjacent tiles or reverse a sequence of tiles, etc. The challenges increase as you complete the boards and it’s when you make progress that you unlock the new tiles and power ups.

 

Boggle [Electronic Arts]

Here is another classic family pastime that made its way to the electronic age. It’s your standard four-by-four grid of letters. Form as many words as possible in the time allotted. At the end of the round, it gives a list of all the possible words and shows where they are, which is a great addition. Every time I play it, I tell myself that for an added challenge I will only create five-letter words or greater… then the clock is ticking and I want to populate that list of words on the left side and the excitement gets the better of me, and I start hacking away at every three-letter word too.  Good times.

 

 7 Little Words [Blue Ox Technologies Ltd]

This a great little crossword puzzle clue app. You’re given a set of clues and a set of letter clusters. The premise is simple enough; answer each clue by tapping the letter tiles in the correct order then hit submit. There is no timer, no score keeper, no stars. It is just purely a word challenge game without any gimmicks. There are free puzzles and puzzle packs to pay for, and there are varying levels of difficulty. Some puzzle screens have themed clues. One I saw had a clue “Spain in Spanish” and the other clues were of similar vein. This is one of my go-to games when I just want a quick challenge or if my mind is constantly ruminating on the same idea I need to get unstuck.

 

Words With Friends [Zynga Inc]

A nice twist on Scrabble, Words With Friends added the ability to play with friends over the Internet. (The Scrabble app also lets you do this now.) There have been numerous improvements to the game since its release, including my favorite feature, the auto-dictionary. For every word played, its definition automatically shows onscreen. Sometimes we play words we know are words but don’t know what they mean. Now it’s even easier to find out. It’s automatic! The biggest difference now as compared to Scrabble (in terms of gameplay) is that the bonus tiles are in different positions. If you’re a big Scrabble fanatic, give this a try because adjusting to those tile differences adds a new challenge.

 

Languinis [Tilting Point Spotlight]

I will admit, I only found this game this morning and so I have not played it past level five yet. However, it was the impetus for this post in the first place. Languinis takes a spin on the Match-Three genre by adding a word component. Each time you match 3, the tiles turn to letters. When you see a word among the tiles, you tap them in order to spell a word and then submit when you’re ready. If you run out of letters, you have to match more tiles. Like other Match-Three games, there are bonuses for matching four or five. A cute story is interwoven into the game, giving you a reason to play beyond simple matching. There are power ups too in case you get stuck. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this one.

 

Hooked on Words [Plasmaworks LLC]

This looks a bit like Boggle, but it isn’t. Here, you form words and the tiles disappear, causing tiles to slide down as new letters come in from the top. If you form longer words, the last letter turns into a special tile and remains on the board for future use. It could be a point bonus for a letter or a word. There are different modes in the game, too, so there is an option to play against the clock or to match up a certain number of tiles, among others. There are also special bonuses for creating the keyword pictured at the top of the screen. It isn’t easy to do, either. Without the ability to swap or move letters around, getting those letters to line up just right takes some work. It also requires a bit of luck for the letters you need to fall in the right place. Of course, as I say that, I realize the quick game I started this morning before writing this post allows me to spell the keyword right after I make one other three-word play. Can you find it in the picture?

 

Words On Tour [Zynga Inc]

Here is a challenging game with a number of twists to it. Like other games, completing words causes the tiles to fall down. However, if you reorient your iPad, you can control from which edge the tiles fall. That is just one innovation. When you’ve used ten letters to form words, you create a special tile that wipes out a row if you use it in a future word. The direction it shoots depends on how you formed the word that includes that tenth tile. Going through some stages is a real challenge and can sometimes depend on a lot of luck, but most stages are well-balanced if you take your time and think about it. Sometimes you just need to use a certain number of tiles before the move counter expires. Other times you will need to collect stamps or get a token onto a bus. Later levels add special tiles that have specific characteristics, thus adding their own challenge. The tour takes places around the world, with level sets themed for their location. Level sets have to be unlocked, but there are options for how to do so. You can ask for help from your Facebook friends, use tokens that are either earned or bought, or you can simply replay levels and aim for higher scores to earn more stars and then use those to pass on through. The stage I’m on now is really tricky, but I’m determined to continue my tour!

And there you have a smattering of the word games I have enjoyed. If you have any others that you like, please let me know in the comments. I would love to give them a try!