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After playing around with Laravel recently for a project, I've falled in love with it. It's a fantastic PHP framework that makes development a piece of cake, and does almost all of the painful bits for you. If you're a PHP developer and have never used it before, then I recommend you check it out :-)
I used to use Zend Framework full time back with version 1, and it worked really nicely for a lot of things. But then they moved over to ZF2 and I switched jobs, so the new learning curve for "best practices" was too much for me to learn part-time and I gave up. Laravel came along, and I've been happy ever since!
So as part of my playing with Laravel, I decided to build a new website in Laravel - to replace my existing Wordpress one. I made the crazy decision to launch it before 2014, and it looks like I made it.
So, please, enjoy :-)
Sorry if existing links are broken - I'll be monitoring logs and reviving as many as I can when I notice people visiting them.
I first discovered David Dalglish's writing years ago, when I got my first Kindle and was looking for good (and free) fantasy books to read. His first The Half-Orcs book was among the free books I downloaded and I was instantly hooked with the story and kept reading, and reading. By the time I wrote this review, I calculated that I've read at least 17 of his books, and each book at least twice. Not that I'm obsessed or anything, but he has easily worked his way into my favorite authors list, alongside others like Tolkien, CS Lewis, and GRR Martin.
But enough about me, I'm here to talk about his new book: Cloak and Spider, a Shadowdance Novella. (Don't worry, I'll try and keep the spoilers to a minimum.)
Cloak and Spider is an origin-story of the father of the character whose own origin-story is the Shadowdance Series, a character we first met and loved in The Half-Orcs series. So it's basically a prequel of a prequel of Dalglish's original series. Unlike his other books which feature a large and sometimes complicated story, Cloak and Spider is a collection of six short stories that tell us about six defining moments in the life of Thren Felhorn. In the Shadowdance and Half-Orcs series, we meet Thren as the very powerful, very clever, and very ruthless, leader of the Spider guild, and father of Aaron, who turns into Haern the Watcher, but we don't learn what made him the way he was - that's what this book is for.
In the first story, we start off meeting Thren when he is a young street thief, with his friend Grayson. They are living in Mordeina and aren't members of any guild. They survive off cutting purses and pocketing stolen food, like most of the orphan children in the city - but they are different. Together they plan a hit to steal some silver spoons from a merchant, which they can sell for what seems like an fantastic amount of money to them. The plan seems to go well until they are grabbed by the mysterious Muzien the Darkhand, the leader of the Sun guild. We later learn that he saw great potential in the boys and decided to see what he could make out of them, by throwing them up against the smartest and toughest members of his guild.
The following stories tell us about the final stage of training Thren and Grayson go through, we meet Marion, the sister of Grayson, see the boys turn into men and take over the Spider Guild in Veldaren, witness the birth of Aaron, followed by some other major turning points in Thren's life.
The stories are fast-paced and short, and Dalglish does a fantastic job of getting you invested in the main characters quickly - through lots of references to his other books and his fast-paced style of writing. Dalglish proves how well he knows his characters, as when you read about Thren, it's so easy to see why Aaron/Haern is the way he is, there is so much about them that is similar, but also so different.
In summary, I loved Cloak and Spider, and as usual David Dalglish has written a fantastic book. If you enjoy a good fantasy story, then I recommend that you go and read it :-)
Although, since it is only a couple of short stories, anyone who loves a lengthy read with complex sub-plots will be disappointed - but maybe you could read the entire Shadowdance Series back-to-back, and that'll make it feel longer.
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