Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Raphael by R. A. MacAvoy

Title: Raphael
Author: R. A. MacAvoy
Year: 1984
Pages: 240 pages
Rating: 1 of 5 stars

This review is, unfortunately, by the numbers. 

Who is this author? R. A. MacAvoy is a wonderful science fiction and fantasy author, who by 1984 had 4 books in print. She is a careful researcher with excellent storytelling abilities. 

What is their idea? In this final chapter in Damiano's Lute trilogy, we follow the plight of Raphael as he wars with his brother Lucifer. 

How effectively does that person tell a story? Raphael is yet again a wonderfully well-researched historical fantasy novel set in 12th century Europe. This time, Raphael finds himself at Lucifer's mercy in Moorish Granada. Stripped of his angelic form and powers, he is sold in slavery where yet again, the growing cast of characters bring this story to a conclusion. 

What are the book's the strengths? The main strength of MacAvoy's writing is the careful research and blending of fantasy to bring her characters to life. The details of daily life in Granada are rich and engrossing while repellant as the main topic of this novel is slavery. Djoura was a fantastic addition to the story as both a powerful heroine and love interest to Raphael.  

What are the book's weaknesses?  Unfortunately, the book suffers from a lack of structure, where the established protagonists from Damiano and Damiano's Lute were secondary characters offered with zero development between the last installment and this one. Gaspare stands out as a very bad evolution from his prior self in other chapters of the story. 

Back in June of '85, White Dwarf Magazine offered the pronouncement that Raphael would be a Disneyfication of the series. While they probably hadn't read this particular book at the time, they weren't wrong. Many of the ideas of the series were heavily subverted by this installment and Raphael would have been much stronger had it been divorced from the rest of the series. 

What was particularly terrible was the Epilogue, which closed out the series perfectly. It was five-star writing tacked on to the end of a very slapdash work and accounts for much of Raphael's one-star rating. If the Epilogue had been tacked on either one of the prior books, on its strength alone, those titles would have been perfect. Even if MacAvoy simply copy-pasted it into each preceding piece. 

Sadly, the first 435 pages were not worthy of the last five pages. 

What made this ending so strong was the growth of Gaspare and the introduction of his family to the wild mix of history and fantasy. Viewed through a historical lens, many of the defining exploits of Damiano and his friends were mistakenly attributed to historical figures, which was an eye-opening insight into the depth of research and planning by MacAvoy. What should be a crowning achievement was twisted into a mere afterthought. 

One mourning star. 

You can search for Raphael on Abebooks.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Damiano's Lute by R. A. MacAvoy

Title: Damiano's Lute
Author: R. A. MacAvoy
Year: 1984
Pages: 254 pages
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

In the second of three books, R. A. MacAvoy's Damiano's Lute expands in the concepts from the first book and we find our hero being chased northwards and west by Plague and the Devil. As a sequel, it breaks the mold that follow-ups are afterthoughts. It is well crafted as the first book, rich in detail and peril of the 12th century. 

From 1983 to 1984, MacAvoy had 4 books published, an incredible achievement. 

Damiano's Lute shifts the story's location west and north and elevates Damiano's love interest from an Italian fantasy woman to a much more mature woman of the North. As the story evolves, many historical details pop out and lock this work of fiction into real-world settings. In this edition, MacAvoy explores not just Damiano Delstrego, but his companions Gaspare and Saara, who expand from sidekick and antagonists to fully formed characters with their own purposes and drives to be twisted by The Devil. Every character presented has a purpose and drive within the story of Damiano's Lute. MacAvoy adds characters at a frantic pace, but never leaves them hanging. Each one is added to serve the story with a graceful economy. 

Damiano's Lute stands strong on its own, a worthy second part to the story.

You can search for Damiano's Lute on Abebooks.

Damiano By R. A. MacAvoy

Title: Damiano
Author: R. A. MacAvoy
Year: 1983
Pages: 243 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Damiano is R. A. MacAvoy's opening book in her well-researched fantasy novel series. The titular hero begins his adventures in 12th century Italy. The author shows her craft by blending historical research with a coming-of-age story of the witch, Damiano Delstrego. 

Delstrego defends his beloved hometown of Partestrada with an unlikely crew: a dancing thief, Gaspare, Macchiata the talking dog, Festilligambe, a feral horse, and Raphael, music teacher and Chief of Eagles. They stand with honor and distinction against fear, bigotry, war, and The Devil himself. 

MacAvoy's detailed research allows magic to stand toe to toe with her chosen historical era to create an engrossing tale of drama and strife. It is rare that a fantasy novel manages to use touches history to the advantage of storytelling rather than merely remind the reader of where and when the characters are. The Devil, saints, and the Pope himself are in those details. 

Damiano is a powerful start to this three-book series. 

You can search for Damiano on Abebooks.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Google Docs Templates for D&D

Google Drive shared files and templates are a rich find for gamers of all types.
Under templates, you can find a ton of D&D resources.
My personal favorite is Benjamin Connell’s 3.5 Character Sheet. I plan on making the standard for my 3.5 campaigns.

As time permits, I will be loading pre-genned characters in the top bar. Right now, I have characters for D&D and AD&D. I also have a link to my own AD&D character sheet for Unearthed Arcana pictured on the right.

Additionally, if you like having secondary skills for PCs or stat'd up NPCs, try my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.