This is a combo review of several books I’ve recently read.
Soulsmith by Will Wright
I usually do a longer review for fiction books I read, but as this is book 2 in a 10+ book series I’m keeping this short. I enjoyed my time reading this; this is a quintessential ‘popcorn’ book. This is a classic adventure story, of the ‘Progression Fantasy’ genre. This genre specializes in telling a continuing story over many books, where the protagonist(s) slowly grow in power over time. Usually, the scope of the plots the series gradually increases along with the ‘power level’ of the protagonists, so that even though the heroes experience ‘power creep,’ so too does the threat of the bad guys.
The characters are fun. I like that they’re not complicated. They remind me of the heroes of the ‘dragonlance seasons’ books I read when I was young. Yerin and Landon aren’t complicated people, but nonetheless have compelling character arcs. It’s nice to read about nice people sometimes. It’s also nice to read about people growing stronger/more skilled/learning from their mistakes.
The plot in this wasn’t my favorite. Basically, the heroes had to travel to a pyramid in the forest and go dungeon diving for ancient tools. They had to compete against monsters and other ‘heroes’ for these ancient artifacts, and grow stronger. The stakes felt low. I liked the book’s pacing. It had no noticeable slow parts.
Medieval Myths & Mysteries by Dorsey Armstrong and The Great Courses
This is a quick, 5 hour lecture series which I got for free with my Audible account. It goes through some common myths and mysteries from the medieval world, such as Arthur and Camelot; the holy grail; torture implements; the Black Death(s); Robin Hood; The Asian/African Kingdom of Prester John; Mythical Medieval Creatures; and using the Game of Thrones tv show as an example to explain aspects of medieval life.
I very much enjoyed this series. The lecturer delved both deep and broadly into the medieval world, talking about many topics. If you have 5 hours to kill, this series is worth checking out.
Introduction to the Study of Religion by Charles Brewer Jones and The Great Courses
This was a study of religion from an anthropological perspective, providing the listener with Marxist, Feminist, British Formalist, Kantian, Freudian and many many more lenses to examine religion. This lecture series provided me with a lot of insight, and challenged me to think in new ways. Marxian thought, for example, views religion purely through an economic lens, while the Feminist lens examines how a woman’s role in religion is traditionally under-examined, or Freud’s insistence that religion is a mass neurosis.
The lecturer was clear to emphasize that all of these lenses are just tools. Most of them were created with a clear anti-religion lens(especially Marx), however when these tools are used insightfully they can prove useful even for religious people (Marxian philosophy about religion informed the Liberation Theology, using Christian theology to philosophically oppose oppression and strive for the economic wellbeing of the people).