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A Bloody Crown: Chapter 02

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You can find Chapter 01 here.

Chapter 2: The Month of the Sparrow, Ferisday the Twenty-Second.

Kaessekros on the Red Isles in Kellalh

Working cover for the novel A Bloody Crown: a castle wall in darkness

Rhona Trevean pinched the bridge of her nose. They had buried her father that day in a secret ceremony. He had long stood against Surraev, claiming to fight for a Kellei crown which no longer existed. She sat watching the Small Sea, to the west. The last rays of the sinking sun reached out, rising from the horizon, touching the sea over which lay Taulmeer and Kadetera. That was where most of the smugglers that sheltered in Kaessekros sold their goods.

The smugglers sheltered in Kaessekros because no crown could touch it. Fifteen years after the rest of Kellalh fell to it, Surraev still could not conquer the barony. In her heart, she knew that was because they had not tried. Not really. The Old Baron, her father—Argus Trevean—had a fleet of fast ships manned by fearless crews who knew how to fight on the water. Surraev had knights and cannons, and could crush most forces on land. At sea? That, they had not mastered. Her galleys protected the Red Isles on the sea, and on land, Selcost nestled in the Shieldlands—rocky hills and mountains cut through with rivers and glens but no real roads or open fields on which to array one’s cavalry or set up one’s cannons.

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Light From A Dark Lord 01: Right Place, Wrong Place

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I’m once again here posting my longform fiction. This time, it’s not from a completed work, but from my primary work-in-progress. I find it useful to have different WIPs with different voices as a kind of palate cleanser, and also because I generally have too many ideas banging around in my head.

This will not be presented as an e-book or in print any time soon. I’ve got to finish it first.

Temp novel cover: person with lantern in barren wood with dying trees and ash falling. "Light From A Dark Lord. A Novel by Fraser Ronald."

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1: Right Place, Wrong Place

I’ve been told it was my mother who named me Magastoris Algorist. Everyone just calls me Max. Though I found myself in a province on the outskirts of the Great Kingdom, that’s not where I was from. Not that it mattered. I wasn’t really from anywhere. There had been places I had lived, places I knew well, and places I might have even liked. I wouldn’t have called any of them home. I just didn’t have one.

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A Bloody Crown: Chapter 01

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The following is the first chapter in the novel The Cyclops Banner: A Bloody Crown. New chapters will be posted every second week. An ebook of the novel will be available in the near future.

Chapter 1: The Month of the Sparrow, Moransday the Eleventh.

Aneros in the Kingdom of Taulmeer

Deshan Caerral could not say what he should have expected when he opened that door, but the man before him was not it. Tall, his voluminous cloak—a bluish-green trimmed in gold and with gold embroidery of frolicking unicorns in a forest on its high collar—all but hid his fashionable doublet—this a lighter shade of blue, also high-collared, topped with a necklace from which hung a gold unicorn pendant with a ruby horn. From what Deshan could see of his gray-blue pants, they were unfashionably loose but almost certainly silk instead of linen and with gold piping. He had heard of this man and had expected someone heavily armed and perhaps even in armour, and while the man certainly could have hidden multiple weapons on his person, who would have the hubris to bear weapons into the royal offices and into the office of the Marshal of Taulmeer himself?

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Sharing is Caring

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I write fiction because I am compelled to write fiction. There is so much I have written that no one will ever see. I’ve completed a couple of novels and a couple of screenplays that will never get published and never get shared. I have untold pieces of short fiction that no one else will ever see. I don’t write to publish. I write because I must.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to share it. And this coming year, I will share it. I have completed the first novel of a planned trilogy. I’m calling the series The Cyclops Banner, and the first novel is A Bloody Crown. I’ll be sharing that online here and will also publish it as an ebook. Each two weeks, I’ll publish a new chapter. There are 34 chapters, so that’s about a year and a half of content.

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Disappointment of Man

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The thing with first run movies hitting streaming quickly or at the same time as theatrical releases, is that I see movies a lot earlier than I would. I highly doubt I would have seen Wrath of Man in the theatre. The last Jason Statham movie I saw in the theatre was The Transporter 2, and the last Guy Ritchie movie I saw in the theatre was Sherlock Holmes.

The bottom-line is that I would hesitantly recommend Wrath of Man for Jason Statham fans, and give it a 3 invincible armoured car guards out of 5 (would have been a 2 without Statham). There are parts of a fun action movie here, but additional storylines dilute it and actually ruin parts of the core for me.

Wrath of Man poster with Jason Statham looking sombre in a suit

I think I would have been upset if I had seen Wrath of Man in the theatre, specifically because of the cost. If I had paid good money for this specifically rather than for the streaming service that showcased it, I would have been kind of upset.

Now, if what you want is plenty of Jason Statham, you’ll get plenty of Jason Statham—though less Jason Statham than the grease fight in The Transporter. If what you want is a compelling story, good pacing, and strong characters . . . well . . . no.

Guy Ritchie has never been known for deep characterization, but his usual character shorthand—like in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, or Snatch—worked really well to actualize the characters in a very short period of time, allowing large casts of memorable characters. That doesn’t happen in Wrath of Man. I think there was an attempt to do it, but it failed. It could be that I was more forgiving of movies in 2000 than I am in 2021, but I didn’t find any of the characters in Wrath of Man compelling.

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Dissing the Sea Peoples

I listened to a podcast on the Sea Peoples, because that’s something I do. And now you must all suffer! In case you were looking for context, it’s here.

Even though Sagas of the Sea Peoples won’t be happening, I remain fascinated with this period in history. I’ll read the occasional new article or listen to a podcast discussing the subject. I think I will stick to recent academic pieces, as I am a bit sick of non-critical acceptance of primary sources, like the inscriptions of Pharaonic Egypt.

I’m not going to name the podcast that set this off. It is generally entertaining and only because I have strong assessments of this period based on some strong scholarship did I find the particular episode on the Sea Peoples annoying. And, frankly, I could very much be wrong. Everybody could be wrong. We have so little actual evidence, how can anyone really know.

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Gunpowder Milkshake, a review

Gunpowder Milkshake seems like another attempt to adapt the John Wick formula outside of Wick-verse (is that a thing?). There is enough fun here for a light recommend. I’d give it 3 stoner van-mounted miniguns out of 5. Karen Gillan plays a credible bad-ass, Lena Heady can kill with a stare, and we need a modern Iron Mask re-telling with Angela Bassett, Carla Gugino, and Michelle Yeoh.

Poster for Gunpowder Milkshake including the main characters looking at the camera

The movie is about a woman whose mother—an assassin—abandoned her to a criminal cartel who exploited her greatest natural talent—violence. When I first saw the trailer, I was ready to buy in.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t live up to its potential. It meanders a fair amount, seems unfocused in many parts, and wastes an absolutely stellar cast with a movie that both tries to go to far with violence but doesn’t go far enough with the characters. Even while it has sparks of great fight choreography, it too often mistakes graphic violence for exciting action.

But a strong script with strong characters could have saved it. The cast is absolutely stellar, and was even able to squeeze some emotional investment out of this viewer, but the characters were nowhere near strong enough to balance out the deficits with the story.

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Black Widow, a review

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For those not interested in the all the blather, I recommend Black Widow especially to those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A great cast made me believe in the main characters, adding weight to even pedestrian lines. It made the movie immensely watchable. I give it 4 unstoppable machine-like assassins out of 5. I would argue the bombastic action set-pieces detracted from what could have been a very personal movie illuminating Black Widow’s past.

My family and I were able to catch Black Widow this opening weekend. It was at home, which is pretty much the only way that I will ever see a movie on an opening weekend. We’d be seeing this in the theatre if we considered that an option (we’re very careful in regards to the pandemic). In another time, we’d probably have seen it on the third or fourth week, when the initial rush had died down. Even when streaming is still an option, I’d rather put the extra $35 toward a theatre visit.

Black Widow movie poster

Black Widow occurs between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It follows an “on the run” Natasha Romanoff back to Russia as she seeks to stop the program that created her in the first place. We also glimpse the only family Natasha had before she met Clint Barton and joined the Avengers: a sleeper cell of Soviet agents while she was a child. Natasha learns that the leader of the Red Room project, which turns young girls into mindless assassins, is still alive and operating, and so she sets about to stop him.

This movie has the bones of an espionage thriller, not unlike Captain America: Winter Soldier and Civil War, so the less said about the various twists and turns the better. In the end, we have three new characters I would like to spend more time with, including Natasha’s sister—likely to be joining the MCU as the new Black Widow—and her father-figure, a hugely flawed but well-meaning Soviet-Captain America known as Red Guardian. Her mother—the brains of the operation—is a hero in her own right, being the one that ultimately is key to Natasha’s fight to stop the Red Room. It helps that all these characters are played by hugely capable actors who effortlessly inhabit their roles and make them likeable even when they are being unlikeable.

That’s what drove the movie for me. I believed in Natasha’s personal investment, in her need to complete her quest. I also believed—even when maybe she did not—in her connection to her fake family.

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The Tomorrow War, a review

My 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime (they keep offering me free trials, even after I’ve cancelled multiple times) gave me a chance to watch The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, and J. K. Simmons. I’m not going to say it was a total waste of 2+ hours, but it was mighty close.

Too long, didn’t read: I would only recommend The Tomorrow War to people who love Chris Pratt and don’t need their movies to make sense or have cool action scenes. If you just want Chris Pratt to be heroic, here you go. There’re some great J. K. Simmons moments, and the acting is generally good, but the writing is horrible. I give this 2 xenomorphs way smarter than people out of 5. I watched this so you wouldn’t have to.

The Tomorrow War official poster with Chris Pratt looking suitably heroic

Without spoiling too much, in The Tomorrow War, soldiers from the future come back to beg the modern world’s help to fight a war against aliens in the future which humanity is most definitely losing. A worldwide draft is instituted and Chris Pratt’s character—a former soldier and scientist—is conscripted for his seven-day tour of duty.

Yes. Seven. Days.

And that is just the start of the problems with this movie. Without getting into spoilers, it fits six pounds of stupid into a five-pound bag. That might be a bit harsh—though only a bit—but this movie is the ur-example of the idiot plot. This story only works if literally everybody—every. body—is an idiot.

People say “just turn off your brain and enjoy,” but the level of brain disconnect it would take for me to enjoy this movie would leave me comatose at best.

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