Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5 Questions Going into the “Black Sails” Finale

Season 2 of Black Sails on Starz has proved to be the best historical fiction on TV by a long shot – at least until Outlander returns in two weeks. But seriously, Season 1 was good, Season 2 has been amazing. Going into Saturday’s finale, I thought I’d re-cap some of the thoughts I had before the season began and look at how much has utterly changed since then. If you haven’t been watching this show, but love historical fiction, pick it up on on-demand. Or buy the DVD. You don’t know what you’re missing.

1. How Will Flint Survive?

I asked this question before the season began, but it’s truly apropos now. By the end of Season 1, Flint proved himself to be the evil murder that Robert Louis Stevenson made him out to be in Treasure Island. In Season 2, however, we learn that Flint is only a mask for James McGraw, a former British naval officer with the noblest intentions. A series of flashbacks introduced us to McGraw, his affair with Miranda Hamilton—and her husband Thomas—and his betrayal at the hands of Thomas’ father (whom Flint murdered before the series began). 

Season 2 put Flint firmly back into the hero—or antihero—role, and reestablished him as the most interesting and complex character on Black Sails. His goal this season was the survival of Nassau by turning it into a legitimate colony. By last Saturday’s episode, he had saved the daughter of his old friend, Peter Ashe, now the governor of the Carolina colonies, and was petitioning for Nassau’s legitimacy. It looked like Peter was agreeable, provided that James was prepared to basically confess his crimes before the lords in London. But then Miranda realized it was Peter who betrayed them so many years ago, leading to her husband’s death and the murder Flint would later commit. Her sudden death was one of the show’s wildest turns, and now Flint is set to be hanged. How will he survive? In one of the show’s greatest twists, it looks like his archenemy Charles Vane may be the answer. This was one of those totally “wow” moments when I realized the show’s writers had just killed it. It was truly awesome, and set up the perfect season finale. 

2. Will Eleanor Guthrie Get Her Revenge?

At the end of Season 1, Vane had outmaneuvered his old lover and seized the island’s fortress. It turns out, Eleanor still loves Vane, and he loves her, as evidenced by his rather swift killing of Captain Ned Low. But when Vane planned to ransom Lord Ashe’s daughter, which would threaten Nassau’s survival, Eleanor took matters into her own hands. She saved the girl and gave her to Flint, all as part of their collective plan to legitimize Nassau. Yet now her fate truly lies in the balance since she was betrayed by Mr. Dufrense and Captain Hornigold and handed over to the British Navy. The Brits are about to become the true villains in this show, but whether Eleanor survives remains to be seen. I bet she’ll escape, I just don’t know how it’s going to happen. 

3. Billy’s Not Dead, But Now What?

Billy Bones is alive and well, in one of Season 2’s most welcome developments. After all, Billy has to survive for Treasure Island to take place. It turns out that after Flint pitched him overboard, he was rescued by the British Navy, tortured, and offered a pardon if he just turned in Captain Flint. But Billy is a wise soul. He realizes the pirate way of life will soon come to a violent end with the Navy encamped on a nearby isle, so he buries his bitterness with Flint and supports the captain’s plan to save Nassau. Even more, once Vane captures Flint’s ship in Charleston harbor, Billy gives him the speech that may turn Vane into the hero of this season’s finale. Vane realizes it’s the pirates against the Brits for the survival of everything. And he needs to save Flint to makes that happen. 

After playing one of the show’s greatest villains, Vane may explode into one of its biggest heroes. As for Billy, I think he’ll be just fine (um … until he gets to the Admiral Benbow).

4. Will Jack and Anne Bonny Rebound?

I asked this question before the season, and it’s pretty much come true, though not as I expected. And it’s all thanks to Max. It was not a surprise to learn of Anne’s affections toward Max, or of the love triangle involving them and Jack. But Max gave Jack a ship and a crew, and—thanks to Long John Silver—the location of the unguarded Urca gold. 

Eleanor, however, figured out Max’s plan and tried to stop it. That’s where Anne Bonney comes in. After Jack spurned her and set sail, Anne’s story took a dark and murderous turn. What we realized, however, is that Anne is the most ruthless killer of them all. A true badass who saves Jack and now looks to make Max’s and his plans a reality. I would not want to piss off Anne Bonny. Just saying. 

5. Will Silver Outwit Them All?

In season 2, Long John Silver seemed to pull off his greatest scheme—to seize the Urca gold for his own. He’s always been cunning, and I fully expect him to succeed in becoming the most notorious pirate in literary history. But in last Saturday’s episode, he fell victim to Vane. Even worse, he’s disabled their ship, just when the British Navy is preparing its assault in Charleston harbor. 

The stage has shifted to Vane. But I don’t think Silver is done. In fact, I suspect he may decide the Season 2 finale! 

But that’s just my take. Did you enjoy Season 2 of Black Sails, and how do you think it might end?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Saint Patrick’s Day is one of my all-time favorite holidays, so today I'm re-posting an article about Stephen R. Lawhead's Patrick: Son of Ireland.

I had little appreciation for the story of Saint Patrick until I began the research for Enoch's Device. That novel begins in Derry and tells the story of two Irish monks who try to prevent the apocalypse at the end of the Tenth Century  a time when many in Christendom feared the world would end one thousand years after the birth of Christ. Prior to my research, I knew only the most common stories about Ireland's patron saint: the tale of the trinity and the shamrock, and his chasing the snakes out of Ireland (which has no native species of snakes, by the way).

Back then, Saint Patrick's Day was merely a good excuse to drink Guinness at an Irish pub. Once I began my research, however, all that changed, especially after reading How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill. I cannot recommend this book more strongly to anyone who is of Irish descent or who’s even remotely interested in the amazing role the Irish played in the survival of Western civilization during the Dark Ages.

Cahill’s book contained the first account I had ever read about Saint Patrick. Here's the abridged version. By the beginning of the fifth century, with the Goths and Huns threatening Rome, the Roman garrison in Britannia became depleted as troops moved back to defend the continent. This exposed Britannia to attacks by foreign enemies, including the Celtic Irish who ravaged Britannia’s western coast. One of the largest raids occurred around the year 401 A.D., when literally thousands of Britons were captured as slaves by Irish raiders. One of those captured was a teenage boy who we know today as Saint Patrick.

Patrick was a Romanized Briton and the son of a noble family. He was not born “Patrick,” and his original name remains in question, yet at least one source has him named Succat. Patrick served his enslavement as a shepherd to an Irish chieftain named Miliucc, who ruled a kingdom in the hills of Antrim. According to legend, Patrick remained captive for six years before escaping after hearing a voice in a dream about a trader’s ship that would return him to Britannia. After finding the ship and returning to home, Patrick eventually made his way to Gaul at a time when hordes of Germans were crossing the Rhine to engage the Roman army. There, Patrick studied religion, became a priest, and later a bishop – the title he held when he returned to Ireland as one of its first and most famous Christian missionaries. It is with this background that I read Stephen R. Lawhead’s Patrick: Son of Ireland.
Photo credit: Sicarr
I had anticipated that this novel would tell the story of how Patrick converted the Irish Celts to Christianity. I was wrong. The book actually tells the tale of Patrick's early life, before he returned to Ireland. Aside from a brief epilogue, the novel provides no account of Patrick’s later years which earned him his sainthood. Instead, the author focuses on Patrick’s captivity and enslavement. And this is where the novel truly shines. Patrick’s enslavement introduces him to a druid named Cormac and his sister, Sionan, the woman with whom Patrick falls in love. After surviving several failed attempts at fleeing his captivity, Patrick, with Cormac’s aid, escapes his brutal life by agreeing to serve in a house of druids, and eventually studies to become a bard. This is where the novel becomes both fascinating and controversial.

The bards and druids of Lawhead’s Ireland can use magic, which firmly places this novel on the fine line between historical fiction and historical fantasy. Many of the druids and bards who teach Patrick are also members of the Ceile De, essentially Christian druids who believe in the one true God. Patrick ultimately becomes one of the Ceile De; he never becomes a priest or a bishop, though this is not necessarily foreclosed because the novel ends before the reader learns what becomes of Patrick later in life.

Not surprisingly, this plot point is controversial for those who feel the novel downplays or even eliminates Patrick’s Roman Catholicism. After all, they argue, the Roman Catholic Church would never have canonized a druid. But I view Stephen R. Lawhead as taking artistic license for the sake of his story. And overall, his story works – especially the two-thirds or so of the novel that take place in Ireland.

Although it was not what I expected, I enjoyed this novel, very much at times. And while the author may have taken artistic license with his subject, it works well in the end, telling a story of faith once lost only to be discovered again.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day everyone!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Another St. Patrick's Day Sale for Enoch's Device!

In honor of one of my favorite holidays, the Kindle version of Enoch’s Device will be on sale at Amazon for the next 7 days! (And on Amazon UK too!After all, the book's heroes, Brother Ciarán and Brother Dónall, are Irish monks who undoubtedly enjoyed a pint or three on St. Patty's Day!
Irish monks emptied the kegs on St. Patrick's Day!
Author Cate Peace of Indie Books R Us called Enoch's Device “a refreshing twist on the religious thriller, and one that will have you turning pages from cover to cover as fast as you can.” You can read her full review here. Here’s a link to the book’s Amazon page, followed by an image of the cover and a brief summary.

Nearly a thousand years after the birth of Christ, when all Europe fears that the world will soon end, an Irish monk, Brother Ciarán, discovers an ominous warning hidden in the illuminations of a religious tome. The cryptic prophecy speaks of Enoch’s device, an angelic weapon with the power to prevent the coming apocalypse.
Pursued by Frankish soldiers and supernatural forces, Ciarán and his freethinking mentor, Brother Dónall, journey to the heart of France in search of the device. There, they rescue the Lady Alais from a heretic-hunting bishop who insists mankind must suffer for its sins. Together the trio races across Europe to locate the device, which has left clues of its passage through history. But time is running out, and if they don’t find it soon, all that they love could perish at the End of Days.
Enoch’s Device is a fast-paced medieval adventure steeped in history, mythology, and mysteries from a dark and magical past.
In other reviews, Stephen Reynolds of SPR called Enoch's Device “a wonderfully imagined, vividly described, alternately lyrical and violent romp of a novel that should give lovers of historical fantasy just the kind of fix they're looking for.”

And Marty Shaw of Blog Critics wrote: “If you enjoy tales of magic and adventure that are perfectly blended with reality and history, ‘Enoch’s Device’ by Joseph Finley will be an exciting read for you.”

I gave an interview to Ms. Peace, where I revealed a bit more about the upcoming sequel – you can read it here.  Also, you can read more about Enochthe Fae, and the Paladins of Charlemagne in my interview that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer here. And if you've already read the book and would recommend it, please tell a friend.

Happy St. Patrick's "Week" everyone!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

No Time to Write, But at Least There's a New Avengers Trailer!

I've had no time to write this week, which never fares well for this blog. Fortunately, Marvel Entertainment has released the latest trailer for the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film, which looks amazing. Generally, I like to keep this blog about historical and fantasy fiction, but the Avengers get an exception thanks to every Vikings' favorite deity, Thor . . . who just happens to be an Avenger.

Thor in his pre-Avenger days!