My First Certificate from Coursera

Well, here it is.  I got my first certificate from an online university course I took at Coursera.  Take a look:

astrobio-statement
Looks pretty, but doesn’t really mean much.

So, what does this mean?  It means I finished a course with distinction.  That means I achieved more than 85% in the course in my quizzes (92.5% to be exact).  The certificate doesn’t really mean much, though.  It’s not official.  But it’s nice to get one.

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Book Review – The Kingdom and the Crown

the kingdom and the crownThe Kingdom and the Crown by S. R. Ford is a fantasy novel chronicling the journey of three young elves to their destiny. It’s the first book of The Kingdom Chronicles.

In his debut novel, Ford introduces us to a world of elves, man, and dragons after a devastating war.  It opens with a trio of young elves being sheltered from the King so they’ll continue to live.  It soon becomes very dangerous for them as they run from those who want them dead.  The story is pretty standard fare for a fantasy with familiar races.  It follows the chosen one formula where one of the heroes becomes the saviour.  This is quite common, and some of the greatest fantasy novels use this style.  But does it work here?  I felt that while it was overall fairly predictable, some of the events were quite surprising.  It was a good story, not too complex, and fairly straightforward.

The characters were pretty interesting.  Enoch/Zarrys came across as a somewhat naïve young elf who grew immensely.  Naomi/Naminé was an even more naïve young elf who was prone to clouded judgement early on.  Kimira/Kirah was a more mature and responsible elf who provided reason to the group.  Fallon was a young man who joined the group, and provided some friction with the old elf, Axsem.  Axsem was a tough old elf, and he let anyone know what he was thinking. The character development was very quick, I felt.  They became very different people over only a few days, though it was not through their own actions, but through another agency.  While their basic personalities remained, I thought they changed too quickly to adapt to.  They probably felt the same.  Overall, they were well-developed characters that you could like and feel for.

The world-building and culture-building is the star here, I think.  Ford did a great job at creating a culture and mythology that’s deep and well-developed.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, and I was wondering if there’s a map somewhere.  I love fantasy maps.  The mythology was more of a religion, as their god played a major part of the story.  This is one thing I found unusual when compared to other fantasy.  The god was directly involved.  I’m more used to gods trying to merely hint.  There was little hinting in this story.  Things were laid out bare for everyone to understand.

I had a difficult time rating this book, but there was a lot to like about it.  The religious side of the story is quite strong, and is not typical of fantasy.  Some may like it, others may not.  I prefer less involvement of fantasy gods, allowing the characters to make their own choices, succeeding or failing.  The world-building was very good, which fascinated me a lot.  The characters were deep, and the dialogue was decent.  The pacing tended to slow down at times.  The message I got here was about the importance of God and love.  As I said before, it was a bit stronger than I’m used to.

Overall, I’d give this 3 ½ out of 5 stars.  I’m interested in seeing where this leads in the next book.  Recommended for those who enjoy fantasy with a strong mythology.