Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. King Day Book Review: Lion's Blood

Lion's Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America Lion's Blood: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom in an Alternate America by Steven Barnes

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lion's Blood is perhaps the best book about slavery and race in America I have read, told in an alternate world where Europe is the failed continent and Africa is dominant. That Steven's Barnes is an African American makes the scenes of the "middle passage" all the more powerful.

In the very brief overview of the slave trade I was taught as school, one fact was always mentioned: African slaves were captured and sold to whites by Africans. Somehow this made the slave trade not just the European's fault, it spread the blame around. Well, in this alternate world, European (Irish) slaves as sold to blacks by Europeans (Vikings). This twist helps illuminate what should have been clear: if it weren't for the buyers, the slave trade would not exist.

I won't give away how history changed to put Africa on top, and Europe on the bottom, but it is well thought out and interesting. The bulk of the book takes place on a plantation in Bilalistan, which is where Texas is in our world. The technology level is a little different than in our history, but the year the story stars is 1863 AD, or 1279 in the Islamic calendar.

This story concerns two boys who grow into men together. Aiden, the Irish slave, and Kai, the plantation owners son. Can friendship exist between owner and slave? Can honor?

Aiden sees slavery destroy his family, and becomes involved in the politics surrounding Kai's family. Kai is Muslim, and Aiden a Christian. Kai learns there are truths not told in his schools, and finds a mentor in a visiting Sufi scholar. Not only is Africa dominant, but so is Islam, with poor slaves converting to curry favor with their masters. The slaves mix the religions of their former homes, Christianity and Druid based paganism in much the same way as African religions were mixed to create Voodoo.

The book is told through many points of view, not just the two boys, but it is really their tale. I couldn't put it down.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Game Book Review: Realm of the Ice Queen: A Guide to Kislev

Realm of the Ice Queen: A Guide to Kislev Realm of the Ice Queen: A Guide to Kislev by Green Ronin

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a well done country book for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying. You'll want the core rulebook to make use of this supplement.

The nation of Kislev is stuck between Chaos and the Empire. The culture is an uneasy blending of Russian and Mongolian.

There are many new professions, including new magical ones, such as "Ice Witch."

The art is well done, mostly Gothic pen and ink.

The country, government (or lack thereof), and major cities are well described. New creatures that roam the steppes go along with new backgrounds.

The adventure in the back is very quick, two sessions at most. There are rules for handling either a group of characters from Kislev or the Empire. However, it was too brief for my tastes. It did give examples of some fine Kislev challenges, and I think it's worth more for mining ideas than anything else.

However, if you are the Games Master of a WFRP game, this book will only be useful as background if you ever plan on sending your players to Kislev. Or let the players come from Kislev. Or just want to read up on Kislev. Otherwise, it won't impact your play.

As a player, you might want this book if you want to be from Kislev, or your GM has placed you there and you want to try some of the new professions. "Hag" and "Ice Witch" are my favorites.

If you are running The Thousand Thrones campaign, this will be very useful, as that campaign concludes deep in the Kislevian wilderness.

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