Learning the Language of the Dothraki, thanks to Living Languages

Every now and again a package rocks up at my doorstep, completely unasked for, and completely awesome. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does happen, it definitely makes my day.

So last week, after unwrapping Terry Pratchett’s new non-fiction anthology, I picked up the second parcel and, low and behold, what did I find?

living-language-dothraki-a-conversational-language-course-based-on-the-hit-original-hbo-series-game-of-thronespaperback-book_500The “Living Language Dothraki” package, a “conversational language course based on the Hit Original HBO series Game of Thrones”.

Now, for those wondering, Living Language is a genuine foreign language self-study publisher, who provide very popular language packages for the more boring languages, such as Japanese and Russian. That they had branched out into fictional languages is completely new to me, though I should have known better.

The pack contains a book to help you as you work through the 5 separate lessons provided on an accompanying CD: dealing with Pronunciation, Basic Expressions, Grammar, Vocabulary, and Dialogue.

In much the same way as any language learning tool, the Living Language Dothraki takes you from the small, and then builds up as you go. I’m not an expert at languages – in fact, I have proven multiple times my inability to learn anything other than English – but this proves to be a lot of fun for fans of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”, as well as “The Game of Thrones”.

You can find out more about the Living Language package by heading on over to their Dothraki website, for more reviews, the app, and more.

Fantasy / science-fiction book name crossword

Fergus found himself with some spare time on his hands so he set his deviously Moriarty-like brain to creating a crossword where all the answers are very well-known fantasy and science fiction books. See how you get on, the answers will be published tomorrow.



  1. Working for Jimmy ‘The Tulip’ Tudeski (19)
  2. A sunny remembrance (14)
  3. Against living, restraining Order (12)
  4. A building is constructed well on this (10)
  5. A period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline (8)
  6. I’m trip’n (6)


  1. Gemmell’s first novel (6)
  2. Character forgets his handkerchief and is most worried (9)
  3. Copperfield and Houdini are one of these (8)
  4. Alloy-ticker (10)
  5. The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, Track 4 (7)
  6. Skinny sleep-giver (11)
  7. Mirror, taraba (6)
  8. The Tattooed Fellow (13)
  9. Parent of the piglet (12)
  10. Finisher of Sports (10)
  11. Wyvern aviation (12)
  12. To Er is to leave (6)

Sandman Slim Nursery Rhymes

Send your child to bed the right way!

As you lay your head to Sleep (Metallica, Enter the Sandman inspired)

When I lay my head to sleep,

I pray to Samuel, my soul to keep.

Beast below the things that bite,

No more day, no more light.

Beneath my bed, eternal night, Dream of hands griping tight,

What’s that noise behind door,

Speak his name dead forever more.

Sandman Sandman, I see you there,

Sandman Sandman, have a care,

Sandman Sandman, my life you take,

Sandman Sandman, I must awake.

One , Two, Sandman is Coming for you! (Freddy Krueger inspired)

1, 2, The Sandman is coming for you,

3, 4, lock your door,

5, 6, grab your crucifix; rocket launder; tactical nuclear warhead; WHATEVER,

7, 8, better stay up late,

9, 10, never sleep again

Sleep baby Sleep (Inspired by an old nursery rhyme)

Sleep, baby, sleep, Sandman guards your dreams tonight;

His Kiss blessed arm holds the door, Gun and knife and a lot more.

Rest your head on dreams shore;

The Sandman is going to count to four.

Sleep, baby, sleep.

Review: Asterix and the Picts by Ferri and Conrad

For those of you who don’t know how the book review-gig goes, it’s pretty simple. Each publishing house generally has their own specific method of going about things, but in essence, every month or three an email will go out with a list of books being published. You can then request those which meet your specific genre or tastes, and hope for the best.

A few months ago, such an email came through, and my mind was immediately cast back to my childhood when I saw the title ‘Asterix and the Picts’.

For those of you who grew up under a rock (because I’m assuming that would be the only possible way to escape the sheer width and breadth of distribution the Asterix series of books enjoyed) Asterix (and his fat friend Obelix) is a French comic written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo that received massive popularity around the world. According to some numbers, 325 million copies of 34 Asterix books have been sold worldwide, making the pair exceedingly bestselling authors.

I’ll skip the rest of the history lesson, in lieu of sending you towards the lengthy Wikipedia entry, suffice to say, the moment I saw there was a new Asterix story had me feeling very nostalgic.

The story is exactly what you want from an Asterix story. Frozen Pict floats onto local Gaulish beach, discovered by Asterix and Obelix, soon the envy of all the women in the village, which inevitably leads to Asterix and Obelix being tasked with escorting the young handsome Pict back to his lady-love and the giant otter that lives in the local Loch.

As with every Asterix book, it’s all very short and to the point. 48 pages in length, and with obvious translation issues causing some at-times odd brevity. This would appear to be the first Asterix book not to involve either of the original creators – Goscinny having died in 1977 and seemingly finally passing on the baton.

I loved this. I genuinely did. I poured through the pages, reliving some very good Asterix art considering it was not illustrated by Uderzo (this time by illustrator Didier Conrad). The linework is just like it has ever been, with beautiful cartoon-style lines and shading, and the colours have always been brilliant, and are no different in this newest volume.

If you’ve never read Asterix, or if you’re a lifelong fan like I am, then Asterix and the Picts is an absolute must-read. Buy it for yourself, or buy it for your kids and then sneak a read – either way, it’s going to be enjoyed by anyone who picks it up.


Movie Review: Justice League – The Flashpoint Paradox

DVD cover of Justice League: The Flashpoint ParadoxUnlike many DC fans of the time, I allowed the crossover event ‘Flashpoint’ pass me by in favour of not having to read another mediocre DC crossover event. Many years of sub-par stories had left me wanting more – and I found more at Marvel, much to DC’s chagrin, I imagine.

Nevertheless, though a little late, I diligently waited for ‘Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox’ to be released as DC’s direct-to-video animated film franchise continued. And though a little sparse at times, I must admit I’m wondering whether maybe I should head back to the comic.

The premise is one of DC’s favourites – time travel by means of the Speed Force – which means our lead character is one of DC’s most beloved – the Flash. Barry Allen, to be specific, and in this story Barry’s life – and the entire universe itself – is turned upside down by Barry’s greatest threat – Professor Zoom.

Unsurprisingly, when Flash and Zoom tangle, things get complicated, and the appearance of Thomas Wayne as Batman is only one of many changes to the timeline that threaten the lives of everyone on Earth.

The artwork behind the DC direct-to-video movies has always been stellar, and Flashpoint is no exception. With hints of modern-day anime lending its influence to Batman, and some good old-fashioned Flash design, this movie looked beautiful from top to tail.

Sadly, however, the story was not as beautiful, feeling a little rushed and haphazard by the time we were done. I’m sure there was more to the story that the writers of the movie wanted to put in, but were forced to cut due to time constraints. It certainly felt that way, and I think it suffered as a result of this discrepancy.

As I have grown older I have grown more and more appreciative of good casting. A movie can be made or ruined by the right casting. Voice casting is as important, more-so even, given the extra work the actor has to go to in an effort to effectively convey emotions he or she cannot act. Andrea Romano has acted as casting director for all the DCU Animated movies (I think) and there is simply no one better.

Justin Chambers as Barry Allen/The Flash and C. Thomas Howell as Professor Zoom make a brilliant pairing. Kevin McKidd as Thomas Wayne and Dana Delany as Lois Lane fill out the alternative universe casting highlights, while everybody’s favourite Green Lantern was back to top and tail the movie – let’s just agree Nathan Fillion should be given a set-yearly salary to voice Green Lantern/Hal Jordan whenever he’s needed.

All in all, The Flashpoint Paradox was another strong addition to the DCU Animated universe, and a great telling of a pretty good story. With some minor issues, it won’t surpass the early days of ‘The New Frontier’ and ‘Wonder Woman’, but it fits in well nonetheless.


Movie review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey BluRay – Part 1

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on BlurayWhen I walked out of the theatre on Boxing Day, 2012, I was livid! I had almost walked out before the end of the movie – which would have been a first, for me – but I had held on, hoping that my troubles might end. They didn’t, at the time, and I was forced to watch what I immediately thought to be a bastardisation of one of the paramount stories of the 20th century.

Peter Jackson had ruined The Hobbit.

Or so I thought. I recently received the Extended Edition BluRay to review, and I promised myself I would go in with an open mind. Maybe I had been mistaken, and maybe the extended edition would help.

This is part one of my review – focusing solely on the movie itself – while part two will deal with the Appendices (loved by many, dismissed by even more, I suspect). So when I finished watching the movie, turned off the TV, and let myself think for a moment, I realised that Peter Jackson may not have completely ruined one of the most beloved books around.

To do these two reviews justice, I also took the time to read the relevant chapters of ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkien, in an effort to really gauge whether the changes made for the movie were necessary, or simply egregious.

Some of the changes made from book to movie are obvious and necessary. No matter how hard you try, dwarves with bright blue hoods and yellow beards tucked into silver belts just doesn’t work these days, just as Tom Bombadil would not have worked in the Lord of the Rings movies. Similarly the treatment of the dwarves’ stay in Rivendell is somewhat excusable, as it allows for an adult telling of the story, rather than the uncomplicated rendition found in The Hobbit – the reality is that there was bad blood between the elves and dwarves, as is seen in ‘Fellowship of the Ring’, and the tension portrayed by Peter Jackson adds an element which has continuity with Tolkien’s overall Legendarium.

Similarly excusable are the scenes within the Misty Mountains. While these scenes are absolutely beautifully crafted – specifically the dwarves and Gandalf’s race from the goblins over the intricately complicated network of bridges – they also combine to create a less-childish version of their capture by the Goblin King (who might have gone a little too Dame Edna Everage for my liking).

The fundamental issue I still have trouble accepting is the rewriting that allows for the inclusion of Azog, the pale orc who is supposed to have been dead 150 years. Having not had the time yet to sit down and watch the Appendices for An Unexpected Journey I am yet to encounter any reasoning for his surprising immortality, his inclusion, and the impact he makes on the movie – namely his confrontation with Thorin and the dwarves in the scene depicting the chapter ‘Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fire’.

The scene is a moving, tense, and beautifully choreographed piece of storytelling, amping the stakes and allowing Thorin’s distrust for Bilbo to be erased (an interesting shift in the story which I never really minded, given its execution and likeliness).

All in all, watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was a much more enjoyable experience this time around, leaving behind my literary rage and opening my eyes to the decisions that had been made. I am excited for the Appendices, and for getting a look into the storytelling decisions that were made, why they were made, and the behind the scenes look at how they were executed.

Unsurprisingly then, I would heartily recommend the Extended Edition BluRay of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It’s a beautiful package that looks really nice next to the BluRay collector’s edition of The Lord of the Ring.

2014 Book Illustration Competition winner announced

A Masters student at Camberwell College of Arts has won the 2014 Book Illustration Competition. Sean McSorley’s illustrations for Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad’s intensely visual masterpiece set in 19th-century Congo, beat hundreds of entrants from more than 30 countries. McSorley’s winning illustrations form part of a prestigious Folio Society commission, worth £5,000, to complete nine illustrations and a binding design for a new edition of Heart of Darkness, which is published by The Folio Society in October.

Sean McSorley illustration #1Sean McSorley illustration #2Sean McSorley illustration #3

© Sean McSorley, 2014

The annual Book Illustration Competition is open to student and professional illustrators, aged 18 and over, who have not been published by The Folio Society. The winner receives a highly sought-after Folio Society commission and five runners-up each receive £500 cash. Each year, three prizes of the six are awarded to student entries.

After intense deliberation, the winner was selected from a shortlist of six by a judging panel comprising artist, critic, curator and committee chairman for the Royal Academy Tom Phillips, independent curator and broadcaster and House of Illustration Trustee Kathleen Soriano, last year’s competition winner Finn Dean and Flora Craig from House of Illustration, together with The Folio Society’s Production Director, Editorial Director and Art Director.

“The aim of The Book Illustration Competition is to encourage and celebrate new illustration talent, and the consistently high standard of entries proves that there is a wealth of such talent out there – it was a pleasure to take part in the judging,” commented Kathleen Soriano, independent curator and broadcaster, House of Illustration Trustee.

“It was a real privilege to have been chosen to work on Heart of Darkness, and a real challenge too, since it was my first book illustration commission and I was juggling it around my MA work. I learnt a great deal throughout the process and I hope I’ve done some justice to Conrad’s complex and fascinating text,” added Sean McSorley, winner of the 2014 Book Illustration Competition.

The 2015 Book Illustration Competition will open for entries at 10am on Thursday 25 September.

Spotlight: Brand (The Book of the Fallen #1) by NC Thomas

Brand by NC Thomas book cover*** WARNING Explicit language and adult themes ***

A year ago Jenni was brutally tortured by the same creature that murdered her family. She fled to the bustling city of London in the hopes of disappearing amongst the masses of the capital. Her plan is simple: save enough money so she can escape further from the cursed British Isles which hold nothing but memories of the nightmare that still haunts her dreams every night.

One night whilst working in a club as a dancer, she meets Dylan who offers her an opportunity to advance her plan exceedingly – one week of her company for £25,000. However, events unfold that suggest their meeting is not just chance but connected to Jenni’s past and future.

N. C. Thomas can be found online at Goodreads and Facebook.

Special Feature: The Art of Greg Spalenka

The Art of Greg Spalenka cover imageGreg Spalenka graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design and has now been producing artwork for over 30 years. His selection of clients comprises of film studios including Warner Bros and New Line, magazines including Time and Rolling Stone, newspapers including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and numerous book publishers. Greg also gives lectures and seminars at art colleges across America.

“There has always been a yearning inside me to create art that has meaning. I desire to reflect this time and place in which I live, yet also to manifest that other landscape inside my mind and deeper still, inside my soul.”
Greg Spalenka

He is perhaps best known for his work on Neil Gaiman’s The Absolute Sandman and The Absolute Death, and his artwork has also adorned numerous books including Jennifer Johnston’s The Illusionist. Spalenka’s work has also been influential in the process of creating films such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, The Golden Compass and The Ant Bully.

The Art of Greg Spalenka (Titan Books, 26th September, £24.99) is a comprehensive collection celebrating his diverse career, ranging from commercial to fine artwork.

With instructional elements designed to inspire the reader, this book is perfect for art students interested in pursuing a career in both fine and commercial art, as well as art admirers everywhere.

Below is an image gallery of some of Greg Spalenka’s finest – and best known – work.

Astral VespertinaMind BlowMind PowerVoyage of the Dawn Treader 4Voyage of the Dawn Treader 5

ISBN: 9781781168844
26th September 2014

Spotlight: Hell On Earth by David Bowen

Hell On Earth book cover imageWhen staunch trade unionist Reg Hallsworth gets relocated to Hell few can imagine the trouble it will cause. Certainly not Death Third Class number 221 of the Human Transition Department, who hides him there to cover up his own clerical error.

Certainly not Norris who knows nothing of the afterlife, so much so that he doesn’t even know Jenny, the girl he’s currently dating, is an Angel. His Guardian Angel if you really want to put a label on that sort of thing.

And certainly not Jenny who is far too busy trying to help Norris get over his epiphany, his life changing liberation… his nervous breakdown.

But with Hell on strike and sinners queuing up to get in they soon will. With a disaster of biblical proportions just around the corner it is up to these unlikely heroes to save the day and find a suitable location to build a new Hell… on Earth.

If you had to build a new Hell somewhere on Earth where would you put it?

David Bowen was born, of that he is pretty much sure, although it was so long ago he can’t remember any of the specific details. He lives in Cardiff, Wales and describes himself as terminally single. He fervently denies ever being there and has no previous convictions. Hell on Earth is his debut novel.