Tales from Tantamount – a review — Druid Life

A review from the wonderful Nimue, aptly capturing the essence of Tales From Tantamount.

Tales from Tantamount started life on Meredith Debonnaire’s blog. It’s now available (with extras) as both an ebook and paperback. Tantamount is a small, inherently unstable town somewhere in the vicinity of the Severn River. Where exactly it is, varies. History does not quite work the same way here either. History in Tantamount is a […]

via Tales from Tantamount – a review — Druid Life

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Meredith reads Lord of the Rings

So recently I decided to re-read Lord of the Rings. For some background, I was given a copy back when I was about twelve, and although I was what you might call a voracious reader, I struggled with LOTR. I had also been given a special edition, which was in seven little books for each letter of Tolkien’s name. The N is just appendices. It looks like this:

image shows an edition of lord of the rings divided into seven small books, one for each letter of Tolkien

So, twelve year old me slogged through it while feeling absolutely baffled and not really following what anyone was doing or why, and then read the I and the E the wrong way round… So I got to orcs kidnapping Frodo and Sam falling over and went on to E, which starts with Sam lying in a corridor and then getting up. Made sense, followed on directly, right?

Nope, it was wrong. And I was so angry and demoralised by this that I just stopped reading and refused to go back and so never actually finished the damn thing.

Fifteen years later, inspired by my sister’s enthusiasm for LOTR which she was currently reading, I decided to have another go. And I’m not gonna do a review, because LOTR does not need it. I’m just going to give you sort of my running commentary (a bit out of order as I wrote it down afterwards) of what I thought while reading it. Enjoy!

  • Frodo Baggins can’t keep a secret to save his life. He spends all summer wandering about saying things under his breath like “will I ever see this valley again?” so Merry and Pippin and Sam and Frodo’s other mate Fredegar all know what’s going on. I like to imagine they’ve been covering for him with the other hobbits like:  “oh, he means will he ever see that valley again this year. Bit dramatic, is our Frodo, but he is a Baggins.”
  • Merry and Pippin, incidentally, are way more interesting characters than I remembered.
  • Where are the women?
  • Strider is still sexy. I remember being of this opinion aged twelve, and I’m still of this opinion.
  • Everyone is much more calm and respectful than in the films. It’s all a bit “well yes, I suppose I am suspicious of you and your motives however let us repair to another room to discuss this politely”.
  • Most of these books are just people walking through very well described landscapes and apparently never needing to pooh. The battles are actually minimal.
  • Seriously, a lot of the action happens off page or while someone is unconscious or has to be relayed in dialogue by a character. In Moria it’s implied that Gandalf has a big magic fight before meeting the Balrog (and this is why the Balrog gets him, cause he’s tired) but that happens off the page and we just get him running down the stairs to catch up with the Fellowship looking tired.
  • I forgot about the cheerful elves who pass through the Shire! Yay!
  • Also, serious classism in the Shire. Boo!
  • Where are all the women?
  • Galadriel is fab, 100% I would love her and despair. I want a whole book about all the awesome stuff that Galadriel is implied to have done. I think she legit fought the Valar…?
  • Boromir! He’s such a tragic character! I understand him way more this time round. Like, he’s been trying to hold back the Darkness for years and he gets to this meeting and everyone’s like “well should we even fight?” and he’s so angry and frustrated and he’s deeply flawed but he just Does The Things because they Have To Be Done, and tries.
  • Overheard orc conversations are hilarious. And make me feel weird about the killing of them… Like, okay they do horrible things, so do people, and the orcs are obviously people.
  • The orcs need a union.
  • Caradhras just hates people. I can relate sometimes. Just sitting there, being a big, people-hating mountain.
  • Women. Where.
  • Seriously, Arwen is barely mentioned in the books.
  • Arwen isn’t even a speaking part in the books.
  • Helms Deep lasts one night and most of that is “things happened in the dark and nobody knew what was going on, and then in the morning trees” xD
  • I love ents. But I’m sad about the Entwives. Gonna have to find fanfic about the Entwives.
  • Also! The Fellowship all just have really Big Feelings all the time. I like that. These are meant to be the Bestest Mens (gender not race) in middle Earth, and like, Legolas sings all the time and Frodo writes poetry and Aragorn probably does too and they all talk about their feelings, which is nice, and sometimes just have a big cry. Also, none of them actually want to go to war. They have complicated feelings about it, and mainly are just Doing The Thing That Needs To Be Done. It’s an interesting attitude. Also the kindness.
  • WOMEN! Come on Tolkien. We’ve had TWO TALKING WOMEN, and one of them was just hanging out in a pond (I do like Goldberry).
  • More people walking through landscapes.
  • Sauron calls Pippin a “dainty”….???
  • Frodo and Sam wander about forever, boring everyone (me).
  • Simultaneously no-one has ever heard of hobbits, but also the Rangers have been secretly protecting the Shire for years and they share a language base with the Rohirrim…
  • Never look in Palantir. Bad plan.
  • Unless you are Strider Aragorn. Then Sauron gets scared and loses his shit.
  • Bloke called Wormtongue is Definitely A Good Bloke
  • I felt like Eowyn was treated with more respect in the book than the film somehow, though I couldn’t put my finger on why, up until she beats the Witch King and then everyone is really weird about her and the in text descriptions are all about how she is an icy fragile maiden who needs to melt or something and I’m like “dudes are just jealous that they couldn’t beat the witch king nazgul dude, aren’t they?”
  • She totally has a secret life as a badarse while married to Faramir. I do not accept that she just totally stepped back into being growing things wifey wife. Not that I think people shouldn’t be able to back off from fighting at the end of the war and have some rest, I just don’t believe Eowyn’s character would be able to put up with that for long. She has some really set ideas about honour and glory.
  • I love how heavy the landscape is with history. It’s like “and they walked along, and Merry saw a pebble which was the pebble that the great King Elbulblurghle stepped on when he was on his way to battle the Darkness and it  spoke to him and revealed a plan and thus he triumphed over Shadow and since then it has lain here were the great armies fell, noticed only by the secretive elder race who inhabited this landscape, but of them the Fellowship heard nothing but their strange singing.”
  • Women.
  • Where?
  • Possibly living in a secret enclave with the Entwives.
  • Also, POC. Where are they?
  • Although actually, I’m pretty sure Samwise Gamgee THE REAL HERO OF THIS TALE was described as having brown skin. Would have to go back and check. Not clear if Tolkien was saying he’s tanned from gardening all the time or that he’s just brown skinned. Would need to re-read. But if he was, it’s still a bit uncomfortable in that he’s very much a servant.
  • And also that there’s a bit in the first part Concerning Hobbits that seems to imply at least a third of them are dark skinned and curly haired.
  • But then there’s also some pretty racist descriptions of the Haradrim (I think it was them, or the Corsairs). Very uncomfortable and cringy and ugh.
  • Also very uncomfortable with this running idea that certain races of Men are inherently more noble and honourable and better than others…
  • I like Tolkien’s individual characterisation of people, and the idea that the best of people are inherently kind, and the individuals are compelling, but “We’re better cause we’re Numenorean and you aren’t” is a Not Good Kinda Racist notion, actually.
  • Elves don’t have pointy ears. It’s never mentioned. They are ethereal and graceful and merry and glow and very tall (maybe just to a hobbit, but I’m almost hobbit sized), but no pointy ears ever mentioned.
  • WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE SARUMAN ALIVE? That’s just asking for trouble it really is.
  • Okay, but what percentage of all these armies and stuff would have been women in trousers, trans people, queer people… Like, statistically that would have been a thing. I do not have the figures to back me up right here, but I bet I could find them.
  • Poor Faramir. He tries so hard, and his dad is just a Class A Dick.
  • I mean, Denethor has also been fighting Sauron in the palantir for years and being slowly poisoned, which is less his fault, but his parenting decisions are definitely his fault and I do not forgive him.
  • Legolas and Gimli are just Very Good friends who ride around middle earth on the same horse and plan post war dates.
  • Totally.
  • SAM SAM SAM he is the TRUE HERO he is legit tempted by Sauron and wears the ring IN MORDOR and the ring is all “you could overthrow Sauron and drive out the evil and build here the most glorious garden.” and Sam is like: “hmm, this seems unrealistic and not like something I’d enjoy, nope”.
  • He and Frodo are also Very Good Friends
  • Sam marries and has children and moves in with Frodo.
  • Just sayin.
  • The voice of Sauron is all “bitch bitch bitch, you will be our slaves, this is it, it’s all we’re offering” and then Aragorn is like *very stern glare* and the voice of Sauron is like “I am an ambassador you cannot threaten me in this manner!” which honestly made me laugh so much.
  • Also, the army marching to confront Mordor takes the time to fix some statues on the way. Why not?
  • Still no women. Eowyn is conveniently deathly injured now and can’t go anywhere.
  • Oh! There’s Ioreth, but I think we’re meant to think she’s stupid because she talks a lot and clearly is talking a lot cause damn, that’s the King of Gondor in her healing house! Her healing house, King of Gondor, asking her questions! I’d babble in that situation. Also, the implication I get is that kingsfoil/athelas is only really useful if Aragorn gropes it a bit, so obviously Ioreth wouldn’t think it’s helpful.
  • Oh Pippin, Pippin, you shouldn’t have to deal with these crazy people.
  • Nazgul are actually scary in the book.
  • Frodo losing all hope but keeping going anyway is weirdly touching?
  • SAMMMMMMMMMM
  • He carried Frodo up the damn mountain!
  • And then it’s over.
  • Oh wait no, lots of book left.
  • Everyone is chilling out and reuniting now.
  • It’s nice.
  • Oh, so Arwen gets a WHOLE ENTIRE sentence, does she? About how she won’t be immortal anymore. Right.
  • *headdesk* writing women is not that hard.
  • WHO’S SURPRISED THAT SARUMAN ESCAPED? NOT ME!
  • All the elves are leaving, for it is the Age of Men.
  • One can only assume that later it will be the Age of Women (of all kinds) and that the secret entwife enclave will bring forth the rightful queen of Middle Earth.
  • I like the calming journey back. And seeing Bilbo again.
  • Gimli and Legolas ride off into the sunset (Fangorn) together.
  • SHIT THE SHIRE SHIT SHIT
  • That was so emotional!
  • That was the most emotional bit of the whole book! To go through all that, and come home, and your home is all screwed up! It was so horrible. I cried. Damnit Tolkien!
  • SARUMAAAAAAANNNNNNNN!
  • Merry and Pippin being Absolute Badarses is pretty awesome.
  • The moral of this story is probably “nobody expects the Hobbits”
  • Okay, okay now it’s the end. Wow. That was quite a journey. I just want to hug Sam.
  • Except the appendices. I have not read them yet, they get their own post.

Overall, I am glad to have re-read it and I finally understand why it is so beloved, but I also feel like a lot of the copycat work/stuff hanging out in Tolkien’s shadow/things that have grown around it are really missing the point. Because to me it felt like what Tolkien was trying to say (and his success in this was flawed by lack of women and a lot of racist bits etc) was that A) no act of good or kindness, however small, is wasted B) No-one is too small to make a difference B) the best people are kind.  C) Nobody decent wants to go to war, because it is horrendous, but the best people will stand up and Do The Things when necessary, and only when necessary.

Or that’s what I took away, anyway.

Now I can finally read other books again! Wooo


Enjoy this random ramble? Buy me a coffee through the internet, and I will actually buy a hot chocolate with it…


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Book review: Hopeless, Maine: Victims by Tom and Nimue Brown

I promised to talk about something other than Tales From Tantamount, so here is my review of Hopeless, Maine: Victims. The latest dark delight from Tom and Nimue Brown. My reviews of the previous two books can be found here and here. Disclaimer: I do personally know these folks!

BEWARE SPOILERS! I have tried to keep this review free of spoilers for Victims, but it will definitely have spoilers for the previous two books.

Salamandra dramatically uses her magic powers to make tea

Welcome to my island.

My friends, my dears, my delightful squidlings, you need to read this series. Partly because it’s excellent, but partly because I desperately need to be able to talk about it with other people. Reading Victims is an exercise in realising just how much Tom and Nimue Brown snuck past me in the previous two books. There are all these amazing plot things happening and I’m there going “Aaah what? Wait what, is that the same thing from book one? How did I not notice this in book one I have to go back and read it again now oh wow it all adds up“. It was excellent! Also, I have a million theories about the Fog Bastard, and going back to The Gathering I realised that yes, the Fog Bastard was in that book and now I have to rethink all of them.

image shows a sinister being made of fog looming over some cliffs with trees. The being is large, and has a skull shaped face

The Fog Bastard

The art is exquisite. It’s been really fun watching it develop from The Gathering through to the style here, which has more colour and is done primarily in pencil. It gives this book a slightly different flavour which I enjoyed. We again have the lovely conceit of the double page spreads telling a completely different story from the main story. This time, it’s about a certain skeletal dog…

In Victims we discover the werewolves of the island (they are a bit wimpy), meet Percy (he has teeth that sparkle and carries around tiny cows), and find out further disturbing things about what the people wearing sheets are doing and the meddlings of the Fog Bastard (which is what I call it, not what it’s called in the book). Despite this, the plot manages to feel sort of… unhurried. Like it’s just very gently moving along and probably lulling you into a false sense of security while sneaking in the important stuff at the side. Salamandra and Owen continue to be some of the most sensible people on the island, which is concerning (in related, there used to be other sensible people news, I am not over Anamarie dying). I love Sal – I really especially like her “I am so done and everyone is stupid” face. I enjoy her stubborness, and her humour, and many many other things about her including but not limited to the fact that she has so much magic and power and gets to just do things. And Owen and Sal’s relationship continues to be a very entertaining/touching dynamic. Which, in this volume, is really at the centre of things.

I also had feelings about Owen. This is not meant to happen, because Owen is a fool with the worst timing ever (we all remember when he decided to ask Sal a stupid question about her parents while in a flying boat that she needed to concentrate on to keep in the air, yes? Yes). And yet, Owen feelings.

Rating: read this book. Yell at the sea to let you go home.


If you liked my review, you could always buy me a drink. Just, you know, for fun.


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Tales From Tantamount – All GO!

I promise I will post about something else in the near future, but this is all very exciting! The paperback is now live on Amazon, so you can buy either paperback or ebook format. I am eagerly awaiting my author copies…

Link to Amazon.co.uk here.

Link to Amazon.com here.

I am really excited to have done this – it was a bit of a challenge (mainly the formatting) but I’m really glad to have this and I hope you all enjoy it. I would love to hear your thoughts on the extra content, because I had a lot of fun writing it.

Image shows Tales From Tantamount cover, and the following blurb: Welcome to Tantamount! Population: undefined/nebulous. Visitors to Tantamount are required to attend the orientation classes held at the Tourist Information Centre. Failure to attend these classes will be punished by Carrion. Tantamount takes no responsibility for injury, loss of life, spiritual dislocation or other harm caused to visitors who have not attended orientation. We hope you enjoy your stay Tantamount Tourist Board. Do not feed the maelids! Tales From Tantamount is a collection of epistolary weirdness from an imaginary town. There may or may not be an ongoing story. Guaranteed to make you chuckle, this book is for all lovers of the slightly odd. Tales from Tantamount is available now in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com

Tales From Tantamount – The Ebook is live!

Cover shows a shield divided into four, with a tentacle in top left, a magpie top right, a well with fingers gripping the edge in bottom left, and the bottom right being eaten by a strange creature wrapped around the shield. Tales From Tantamount is written across a scroll at the top, and Meredith Debonnaire across the bottom.

Welcome to Tantamount….

The ebook is live! It is available on Amazon here, and you should  be able to buy it now. I previewed the formatting multiple times, so fingers crossed that it all works out… Do let me know if you encounter any issues though!

I am working on getting a paperback format up on Amazon as well, but the formatting is a bit different for paperbacks so I hope you can all be patient with me while I get it just right. I am hoping to get the paperback up next week at the latest. I am very excited about this, and hope you are too! There is extra content (about 2000 words) in the book that is not included on the blog, so there are some new things there for those of you who have been following this: this takes the form of an extract from the Historians’ Handbook, and a few poems about (maybe by?) the Carrion…

Buy it here: Ebook link

Tales From Tantamount Cover Reveal

So, some of you may have gathered that I am planning to publish a collected version of Tales From Tantamount via Amazon (which, yeah, I know Amazon are not the best. I can’t figure out a better way to do this, and I can always take it down if I find another option). For those of you who had not gathered this, *clears throat* I am planning to publish a collected version of Tales From Tantamount. 

This will include extra content that I have written, which consists of thirteen tiny poems about (or maybe by) the Carrion, and extracts from the Historians’ Handbook (which has been scribbled over a lot of times, so who knows if we’re reading it properly…). Excitingly, it will have a cover drawn by the truly excellent Tom and Nimue Brown, who can be found over on the Hopeless Vendetta blog, and also on their own blogs here and here.

So, without further ado, please imagine a fantastic drumroll, here is the cover art!

Cover shows a shield divided into four, with a tentacle in top left, a magpie top right, a well with fingers gripping the edge in bottom left, and the bottom right being eaten by a strange creature wrapped around the shield. Tales From Tantamount is written across a scroll at the top, and Meredith Debonnaire across the bottom.

Isn’t it perfect? I am currently neeeaarrlllyy done formatting and uploading to Amazon, so then will just be setting the price (terrifying notion) and hopefully good to go. I shall keep you all updated with further news. In the meantime, do avoid the Carrion…

Poem: Facing the Minotaur by Meredith Debonnaire

Facing the Minotaur

This is a labyrinth –
Beware twisted leaf and battered stone.
This is a labyrinth;
To some it’s simply home.
Heroes walk alone,
Naked blade, ball of string,
No torch to light the dark.
Their feet stumble across old bones,
They fear to never again hear the lark
Announce the sunrise.
Somewhere, the Minotaur moans.
Down below the world there is no daylight;
Water drips from harrowed walls.
Fear can drive a Hero mad
Whilst hunting through these halls.
Among the bodies, mauled, of those who came before,
The Minotaur is moving
Sending quavers through the floor.
Pawing with a hornéd foot,
Bellowing from mighty jaw.
The Minotaur shakes a fearsome head,
The Hero’s hands are moist with sweat.
Both hunt in this sharp darkness yet –
Neither know where they are.

None can venture into this cursed night
And remain unchanged.
The light,
The light must be forsaken,
Something loved must first be taken
Before any set foot here.

And now I walk this crumbling maze
Alone – no blade, no string to guide me.
My feet are steady – fear comes behind me.
I hear the Minotaur’s shaggy groan;
Tremble, trapped and caged.
The beast’s heavy breaths wet my spine – that rage.
I turn, so slowly
(beneath my feet I feel cold stone).
Drag in the last air that is mine –
Terror strikes a terrible tone.
Reach out to touch the Minotaur, trace
The contours of its ghastly face –
Realise;
It is my own.

 

This is an old poem of mine. As in, the computer says it’s from 2014, but I know I handwrote it first so there’s a very battered notebook with the original version in that probably predates that by who-knows-how-long. I still really like this poem, but I also think it’s interesting how much my writing style has changed (improved?) over the years. If I have my timelines right, this was written back when I was deeply in love with Gormenghast, so everything had to be extremely descriptive and adjectives everywhere and gothic setttings.

Interestingly, even back then I thought of labyrinth’s as somewhere you find yourself. I remembered this poem due Nimue’s awesome birthday labyrinthing, which had no Minotaurs that I noticed.


Prevent the poet from shrivelling up like a dry bean by buying me a drink! Proceeds spent on hot chocolates.

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