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Friday, June 28, 2024

Cover reveal: House of Muir by Luke Tarzian




HOUSE OF MUIR—Shadow Twins Book 2

Release date: December 21, 2024

Amazon US Preorder: https://www.amazon.com/House-Muir-Shadow-Twins-Book-

ebook/dp/B0D6X2P3PM

Amazon UK Preorder: https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Muir-Shadow-Twins-Book-

ebook/dp/B0D6X2P3PM

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/214571839-house-of-muir

Paperback: https://silverstonesbooks.com/product/house-of-muir/

GUEST POST: The 8 Dragonslayer Myths You Didn't Know About by R. R. Virdi

 


This is day 2 of THE DOORS OF MIDNIGHT Virtual Book Tour, continuing on from yesterday's interview with R.R. Virdi. Today Ronnie will be telling us more about dragonslayer myths from around the world and especially ones which you almost might have never heard about. For more information about where to find Ronnie next, please be sure to checkout the bottom of this post for the tour info & next stops...

#1: Thor vs. Jörmungandr



This might be a myth you know, and possibly quite well, but I felt it best to begin with a familiar one because the myths that follow might surprise you.


This battle from Norse mythology is between Miðgarðsormr (the Midgard Serpent, also known by his name Jörmungandr, the giant oceanic sea serpent or dragon), and the most famous of Odin’s sons, Thor, the God of Storms (Thunder, lightning, sacred groves, and strength). Now, starting with a breakdown of this sea serpent’s name, we come to a reduction in two parts. Jorman which is something superhuman or vast—all-encompassing and large. The second half is Gandr which refers to several things such as: river or fjords, snakes, binding. These takes are going to be important later and come back, but for now, it’s fair to consider this monster exactly what his name implies: an all-encompassing serpent, one who encircles the waters of the world, which is quite literally what he did.


The battle between the Midgard Serpent and Thor happens during Ragnarök, the foretold events in where the Norse gods will perish and a series of catastrophic natural disasters will occur as well. It’s important to know that in the Norse legends the epic battle between Thor and Jörmungandr never actually happens. It is foretold and impending. It is predicted that in the last meeting, Thor will better the great sea serpent after it releases its tail from its mouth. Using his powers of lightning and his trusty hammer, Mjölnir, Thor is predicted to slay the great Midgard Serpent.


Only…it is also foretold that the great god of thunder will fall after nine steps due to being poisoned by the serpent’s venom.


Now, why was it important to lead with this myth, which you might already be familiar with, first? Because going into the second myth, we’re going to see something else familiar—a pattern within many of the earlier dragon slayer myths. Particularly in who the dragon slayers are. Usually storm gods in fact. But the similarities don’t just stop there often times.


#2: Indra vs. Vtrá (or Vritra)

 


Here we begin with Indra, the Vedic storm god who wields the mighty Vajra, a tool imbued with the properties of a diamond (indestructability) as well as a thunderbolt. Starting to sound familiar? Well, the word Vajra happens to be a cognate with the Persian word for club, and in fact has often been referred to as a proto club—at times interpreted as an axe or hammer because its relation to the Proto-West-Uralic word, Vasara, which translates to those. But in the end, it is a blunt instrument that has all the powers to hurl lightning bolts.


Now we have two storm gods so far with blunt instruments famed for their abilities to harness all the powers of a storm. (Side note: It’s important to know that Indra also has another name in the Vedas which is Parjanya (this will be important later)).


So let’s examine his opponent, Vritra, one of the Danavas (a part of the Asuras – who often oppose the Devas or traditional gods of Vedic and Hindu myths). In the battle between Indra and Vritra, it’s told that Vritra takes the form of a three-headed dragon who ends up blocking the all of the rivers, and this is fitting given that Vritra serves as the personification of drought. Vritra’s name literally means to cover or the obstacle – the one obstructing or holding back all the waters. Or, another take is the one encircling them. Now we’re seeing some similarities to Jörmungandr outside just the superficial of giant sea serpent fighting a lightning god. 


In the Rig Veda (an ancient collection of Indian Vedic hymns in Sanskrit), it’s mentioned that our evil serpent here kept all the waters of the world held hostage until he was killed by Indra, which earned Indra the epithet Vṛtrahan, or the slayer of Vritra and or the slayer of the first bond of dragons). It’s important to note this distinction because as we evolve our dragon slaying myths over time, our style of dragons that we choose also began to change. Our earliest dragons in myths and epics were not the traditional European variant we see often dominating fiction today.


No.


They were colossal oceanic serpents large enough to encircle the world and in fact hold all those bodies of water hostage, whether quite literally, or simply by the fear of their size and wrath lurking in all that water. Who would want to approach any bit of sea or ocean knowing such a monstrosity lay within?


Our earliest dragon slayers were storm gods battling sea serpents, and it’s quite the popular trope you could say. Because many other cultures have their stories of slaying dragons well before we get to the idea of knights on horses. So let’s get to another one.

 

#3: Hadad (or Baal, or Iskur – man/god of many names) vs. Lotan, the many headed dragon

 


Alrighty then. Stepping into the ring at a set of unknown but mythological proportions is Hadad, the Sumerian and Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian storm and rain god (seeing a theme here) of the Baal Cycle (also the Epic of Baal…also known as Hadad. Still following? Because it’s almost as if not only did storm gods vs. dragons become a popular trope, but that their mantles/names traveled and were adopted/co-opted, shared as well).


And his opponent, coming in at no surprise hopefully by this point, yet another giant sea serpent, Lotan! Now, Lotan is a servant of the god Yam, a god of the sea whom had problems with Baal/Hadad on account of the latter having a feud with his father, El. So, we see the repeated theme as well of the seas (and its creatures – creature, singular in these cases, a serpent) being in conflict with the sky (or the one who presides over it and the rest of the heavens and storms). 


Lotan’s name is most commonly associated with the word coiled, or the coiled one. However, the same beast has some epithets as well that usually translate to: the wriggling serpent, and the might one with seven heads – or seven headed serpent. There isn’t much between the battle of Baal/Hadad vs Lotan except for records that it happened in the myths, but still, as far as the history of serpents goes, it seems they usually get the short end of the stick.


Blamed for seducing humans in many stories, temptation, and riling up storm gods who end up smiting them.

 

#4: Zeus vs Typhon

 



Zeus probably doesn’t need much introduction to any of you. What, famous from his loving and wondrous (see wondrously inaccurate) portrayal in the animated Disney film from 90’s, to recent popular portrayals in retellings or works like Lore Olympus.


Chief of the Olympians. Dudebro. Probably always skips leg day. And of course, another sky (see storm as well) father. Hurler of lightning bolts. Likes smiting things. Lots of family issues. This probably stems with having to fight members of his family.


A good and fitting example of this? Well, Typhon, who, depending on which iteration of the myths you’re considering is Zeus’: uncle (via birth through Gaia and Tartarus), or a brother sired by Zeus’ father, Cronus, and oddly enough, a step son in one accounting that says Typhon was birthed by Hera (Zeus’ wife) alone.


Anyways, Typhon wanted to overthrow Zeus and rule the heavens all for himself. That’s a scary proposition considering that Typhon is noted in the Hesiod to be terrible, lawless and immensely powerful. From his shoulders sprouted one hundred snake heads that spew fire and every kind of noise and destructive things. He is also referred to as a fearful dragon. He would roar from these draconic heads with the voice of a lion, but also a furious eagle, and that of a bellowing bull, and every kind of noise imaginable to form ungovernable fury. And did I mention he could breathe fire? He took the dragon bit very seriously from all the heads and flame, and let’s not forget his gargantuan size, being said to stand so tall his head (in his human esque form) brushed the stars.


So, how did Zeus slay him? You guessed it. LIGHTNING BOLT. Lightning bolt. And just for good measure, another lightning bolt. Interestingly enough, his own son (Apollo) would go on to have a similar battle (though he’s not a storm god but rather a solar deity) with the monstrous serpent, Python.


Time for another dragon slayer myth. Can you guess who the next hero might be? That’s right, another storm god! Who’d’ve thunk?

#5: Marduk vs. Tiamat

 



Marduk is a Sumerian storm god (as well as solar) from ancient Mesopotamia, particularly favored and worshiped by the city of Babylon. He came to be associated with the planet Jupiter (which if you know your myths, you know is the Roman association and name for Zeus – wow, another similarity).


When Tiamat, who is often considered a primordial dragon/serpent of chaos decides to wage war against a younger generation of gods (which includes Marduk) which leads to Marduk eventually slaying her by harnessing the four winds and the storms as his weapons, and then fashioning the world from her corpse (the city of Babylon being the center and jewel of this creation).

 

#6: Perun vs. Veles

 



If that name sounds familiar, you might just be a Wheel of Time fan. Yes, Jordan’s loveable, reserved at times, hardworking blacksmith was inspired by the Slavic god of sky, thunder, lightning, storms, war, and oak trees. His weapons were the hammer and axe and bow. And as you can guess, this storm god slew the chimeric being, Veles, who is often depicted as a dragon. It’s important to note that Slavic dragons are chimeras (and in this case a specific combination of bear and serpent).


Interestingly enough, Veles shares close connection through etymology and myths with Vala (another Vedic dragon/serpent being), and other characters of Baltic mythology such as Velnias (a devilish and destructive being in Lithuanian mythology and the enemy of their storm god Perkunas).


Remember the name Parjanya? Well, it’s theorized they are cognates (as we’re seeing with the storm god vs dragon motif and gods whose names are similar sounding – this can turn into a etymology class and the history of Proto Indo European mythology and a particular sky father though, so let’s avoid that and stick to the main topic).


Next up, we travel as far east as east goes.

 

#7: Susanoo vs. Orochi

 



Sorry Naruto fans, we’re not talking about that Susanoo. Put away your sharingans and hand signs. Though, that technique was certainly inspired by the Japanese god of storms and younger brother to Amaterasu, goddess of the sun.


Once there was an elderly couple living in the land of Izumo who had seven of their eight daughters taken and eaten by the monstrous serpent known as Yamata no Orochi (translated as: the eight-forked serpent). Turns out, this giant sea serpent (also noted that it is recorded in Kojiki – an ancient Japanese text as a dragon specifically) wanted a meal (daughter) for each head. After taking a daughter each year for seven years, one last serving remained for the final head.


Feeling sorry for the couple over their losses, and wanting to spare them another, Susanoo transforms their daughter into a wooden comb he places in his hair for safe keeping. He then tricks Orochi into drinking strong sake, getting the beast drunk, before he kills it and finds a magical sword within its tail.


Notably, while being a storm god, Susanoo did not employ the powers of thunder and lightning to slay his mythical dragon opponent, but instead relied on trickery, alcohol, and the use of a katana to chop the beast into many pieces.


Still, it seems no matter where we venture across the world, if we go back to the old myths, storm gods and serpents do not get along. And it might just be why in so many video games (looking at you FromSoftware titles), giant serpents and dragons are often displayed weak to the sundering and sky-splitting power of lightning!

 

#8: How come you haven’t said St. George vs the Dragon?

 Hush, that’s why.


We’re going somewhere else now. Follow along as we go to the Hittites of Anatolia. Picture it, we are in the Bronze Age. There is no Wi-Fi, or hit shows like Tiger King. So, what’s entertaining?


How about the story of the Tarḫunz, an Anatolian storm god of the Hittite people, and his battle with the, surprise, surprise, serpent/dragon Illuyanka (a compound name formed of two words that mean snake, or eel, and is a cognate to the Sanskrit ahi – another serpent).




Now, this is a main event fight because there isn’t just one round. Oh, no. In the first version of the story, the serpent wins, forcing the storm god to visit a goddess (Inaras) for advice in how to defeat his foe. She sets a trap for the dragon, convincing him to gorge on food and drink until, much like with Orochi, the beast is intoxicated from the booze. Once that’s done, the dragon is bound with a rope and left as easy pray for the storm god (along with help. He brought the crew of other gods to officially make this an epic beat down in total unsportsmanlike conduct) and as you can imagine, the storm god kills the dragon.


You might find it odd so many of these stories about ancient dragon slaying are similar. Well, that’s because that’s how a lot of religions and epics were. They were traded, traveled, inspired others, and it’s hard to trace them all back to the origin of origins (if that exists) because we’ve lost so much oral history (and Vedic stories for example were orally performed for far longer than we have written record of). But what it does say and show is the similarities of tales and humans loving them, sharing them, and spinning them anew.



Tales of Tremaine is built on this and as a love letter to the history of comparative mythology and storytelling, relying on beats and tropes that have existed forever and been plucked at will for stories throughout the ages.


But I suppose the simple lesson you can take away from this is, next time you’re facing a dragon, try praying to a storm god for help. I hear they hate those serpentine suckers, and they might just help you smite them.  


                                      *---------------------*---------------------*-------------------*



Pr-order The Doors Of Midnight over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's first review of The First Binding
Read Fantasy Book Critic's second review of The First Binding
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Doors Of Midnight
Watch FBC’s Video Interview with RR Virdi

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION:  R.R. Virdi is a two-time Dragon Award finalist, Nebula Award finalist, and USA Today Bestselling author. He is the author of the urban fantasy series The Grave Report and The Books of Winter, as well as the epic fantasy novel The First Binding. His love of classic cars drove him to work in the automotive industry for many years before he realized he’d do a better job of maintaining his passion if he stayed away from customers.

He was born and raised in Northern Virginia and is a first generation Indian-American with all the baggage that comes with. He's offended a long list of incalculable ancestors by choosing to drop out of college and not pursue one of three pre-destined careers: a lawyer, doctor, engineer. Instead, he decided to chase his dream of being an author. His family is still coping with this decision a decade later. He expects them to come around in another fifteen to twenty years.

This is day 2 of the TDOM virtual book tour organized by the fabulous Adrian M. Gibson and you can checkout all the upcoming stops in the graphic below 



Thursday, June 27, 2024

Interview with R. R. Virdi (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 

Pr-order The Doors Of Midnight over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's first review of The First Binding
Read Fantasy Book Critic's second review of The First Binding
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Doors Of Midnight
Watch FBC’s Video Interview with RR Virdi
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

SPFBO X: The First Update



The time has come to make choices. Not always comfortable, not always happy for all concerned, but such is the nature of this bloodbath competition. 


FBC Judging Process
Friday, June 14, 2024

Book review: All The Fiends of Hell by Adam Nevill


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Adam L.G. Nevill was born in Birmingham, England, in 1969 and grew up in England and New Zealand. He is an author of horror fiction. Of his novels, 'The Ritual', 'Last Days', 'No One Gets Out Alive' and 'The Reddening' were all winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. He has also published three collections of short stories, with 'Some Will Not Sleep' winning the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection, 2017.

The author lives in Devon, England. More information about the author and his books is available at: www.adamlgnevill.com

Publisher: Ritual Limited; 1st edition (April 2, 2024) Length: 393 pages Formats: audiobook, ebook, paperback Genre: sci-fi horror
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Review: The God and the Gumiho by Sophie Kim

 

Official Author Website
Buy The God and the Gumiho


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Sophie Kim has a penchant for writing stories that feature mythology, monsters, mystery, and magic. Her work includes young adult novels such as the Talons Series and books on the adult spectrum such as The God and the Gumiho.

FORMAT/INFO: The God and the Gumiho was published by Del Rey on June 4th, 2024. It is told in third person from Seokga and Hani's POV. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook format.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Kim Hani's barista job in Korea has a lot of downsides, but the worst is her least favorite customer, the arrogant Seokga the Fallen. A former trickster god, Seokga was banished from heaven after a failed coup, and he's stuck on the mortal plane until he can kill 20,000 demons as penance. But then Seokga gets an offer that could change everything: slay both a recently escaped demon and the mysterious gumiho the Scarlet Fox, and his sentence will be lifted early. Unfortunately for Kim Hani, SHE is the Scarlet Fox, in hiding for a hundred years after getting a little too enthused with consuming mortal souls. In order to thwart Seokga's efforts, Kim Hani signs on to be his assistant, hoping to point him in the wrong direction. The two work together to stop the deadly demon, but they also find themselves falling for each other as well.

The God and the Gumiho is a fun little adventure, anchored by a solid pair of devious, morally grey protagonists. Seokga is arrogant and haughty; the best parallel I can make is saying that he brings a lot of MCU Loki energy to the table, strutting about and expecting mortals to bend to his every whim, even though his god powers and station have been stripped from him. Hani, meanwhile, is unrepentant about her secret past as the Scarlet Fox. In her view, it's in a gumiho's nature to consume souls and she's not going to apologize for it. While both Hani and Seokga experience some growth over the course of the story, I appreciated that this wasn't a more classic pairing of a "play by the rules" and a "break the rules" kind of duo, but two people who have learned to draw their moral line in very different places.

On the whole, I had a fun time with the mystery adventure itself. I enjoyed the "creature" world that exists alongside the mortal one, with glamoured shops to turn away mortal eyes and agencies dedicated to cleaning up supernatural messes before humans get wind of them. Hani and Seokga's investigation takes them all over South Korea as they try to determine what human the demon has taken as a host, allowing many different creature encounters throughout the story. I did, however, think some of the mystery elements could have been better done; for one, our heroes are too easy to jump on a theory as the only answer and don't always interrogate if there's an alternative suspect or explanation.

CONCLUSION: That aside, I found The God and the Gumiho a charming time, particularly when it came to the execution of the two lead characters. I loved watching Hani interact with Seokga, using her own trickster ways to steer the investigation or simply to get under his skin. This book may also work slightly better for people more familiar with the K-Drama space that this book was inspired by. For me, it's a perfect comfort read of two crafty people solving crimes and falling in love along the way.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Book review: Black Sheep by Rachel Harrison


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Harrison is the national bestselling author of Black Sheep, Such Sharp Teeth, Cackle, and The Return, which was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, as an Audible Original, and in her debut collection, Bad Dolls. She lives in western New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.

Publisher: Berkley (September 19, 2023) Page count: 308 Formats: audiobook, ebook, hardback, paperback Genre: Horror
Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Hell For Hire Interview with Rachel Aaron (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


(Author picture courtesy of Oscar C. & Rachel Aaron)
Monday, June 3, 2024

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Ragnarök Prophecy trilogy by Matt Larkin

 

Matt Larkin has revealed the new covers for his The Ragnarok Prophecy trilogy So check them out:



Pre-order The Deluding Of Gylfi over HERE
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: He was a god. He was a king. A necromancer, a shaman. A prophet …

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
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NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE

NOTEWORTHY RELEASES

 Click Here To Order “Barnaby The Wanderer” by Raymond St. Elmo
Order HERE