Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Keep Your Crowbar Handy review

    It's like The Real World meets The Walking Dead.

    If this combination intrigues you, you should definitely check out this novel. If it sends you screaming in the other direction, then you should obviously not. Keep Your Crowbar Handy attempts to do something different with the zombie genre and for more than half the book is a subversion of your typical post-apocalyptic tale.

    Our protagonists manage to be impossibly lucky and have the right combination of people to not only survive the initial outbreak but know a Doomsday prepper who was rich as well as paranoid enough to build a house-sized fallout shelter. In terms of the zombie apocalypse, it is the equivalent of winning the lottery five times in a row. Except, of course, our protagonists are all twenty-somethings with a couple of middle-aged adults shoved together with nowhere to go and a slow dawning realization no one is going to rescue them. As George Romero's movies show, the biggest danger in this sort of situation isn't zombies but your fellow survivors.

    I was back and forth on the book for much of the first half until I realized just what S.P. Durnin was doing. It's a story which works on a slow burn and has a nice element of satire to it. Our protagonists are beautiful, young, hedonistic folk who would be right at home on MTV or Friends with the small exception most are unusually badass. I'll get more into this but this is what lends the book its unique feel.

    The book makes no real sense in a "realistic" Earth but takes place in a sort of exaggerated zombie-slaying video-game or humorous action movie universe. Our protagonist, Jake, is a laid back hipster who just happens to be an ex-SAS soldier, anime geek, editor, fabulous lover, and all-round nice guy. He's accompanied by Kat and Laura who are two badass women without his special training but equally laid-back take on the apocalypse.

    One has a sword.

    And no, it's not a polygamy situation--a pity, too, since I actually think it'd make sense in this situation. Last man on Earth and all that.

   Keep Your Crowbar Handy is the sort of book where it's less important that the end of the world is happening outside than events have forced a bunch of people together in a place they can't leave. Boredom and abrasive personalities are the biggest dangers for the majority of the book rather than cannibal corpses.

   Again, I can't say this is remotely realistic as you'd think one of this group would start to wonder if their family was horrifically killed (and one is). However, it fits with the book's metaphor, which is the zombie-apocalypse is pretty much your twenties. You're forced to with impossible situations and a large scary world but as long as you're in your apartment, you're relatively safe. That is, of course, until the food runs out and you need to go into the Big Bad WorldTM to keep the lights on.

    I liked the metaphor in Shaun of the Dead and this is a more glamorized American take on it. Our protagonists are even taken care of by their metaphorical parents, carrying their asses when they're too busy focused on enjoying themselves. I will say the author went overboard making Jake a sort of living god of idealized Generation Y manhood and spent too much time focusing on who was sleeping with who over the flesh-eating monsters outside. The latter is a large part of the book's theme so it's hard to fault the author too much.

    Keep Your Crowbar Handy is a quirky-quirky book and I liked it but I also think it's something of a niche work. You have to accept it's about twenty-somethings and their emotional vulnerabilities versus the undead horrors eradicating reality. I loved the characters, though, and recognize all of their are true-to-life in their personalities.

    They're sexy as hell too. Hell, I married a girl like Kat (also named Kat weirdly enough). I suppose my only real complaint is it sometimes feels as if they're snowed in at the ski lodge rather than surrounded by flesh-eating monsters in an underground bunker. It worked in Dead Rising 2, though, so I'll let that slide.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Horror Short Story Submissions

Have done quite a bit of submitting this month. It's still a year's time until the release of my first Red Room books, so I have plenty of time to do other bits of fiction. It's good to "pad the resume" so to speak and doing short stories keeps me sharp.

Also, I love these premises.

1#: Blackguard: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues

My Submission: "The Clockwork King" a short story about a vampire and his wererat lover planning to rip-off the richest man in an Alternate History steampunk London.

2# The Ghost Papers

My Submission: "The Ghost of Bruce Lee" An agent for the United States Paranormal Investigation Division goes to Hong Kong to avenge a martial arts students' murder. His killer, though, has been dead for centuries.

3# Monster Hunter: Revolver

My Submission: "Why Did We Hunt It In An Old Summer Camp?" A lengthy chase sequence as the Jersey Devil turns the tables on a bunch of United States Paranormal Investigation Division agents.

4# At Hell's Gates Anthology 2#

My Submission: "Cookies for the Gentleman." A man is besieged by a mysterious force that is seemingly all-powerful. At Hell's Gates is a charitable anthology with all proceeds going to support the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

With any luck, I'll be accepted to all four.

5# Monster Hunter: Wasteland

My Submission: "The Meek Shall Inherit." After demons take over the Earth, a diabetic man and his wife struggle against a cult which thinks they're too weak to survive.

Thanks for reading folks!

The Legend of Korra: Book 1: Air review

    You may ask why I am reviewing a Young Adult cartoon series on my blog devoted, primarily, to horror and science-fiction.

    My answer?

    It's my blog and I liked it.

    I was a big fan of the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. I thought it was extremely well-written and enjoyed it tremendously. Parents forget that children need things like Star Wars to instill in them the values of good, evil, freedom, oppression, spirituality and other important topics which will serve them later in life. Having watched both, though, how do I think The Legend of Korra stacks up to its predecessor?

    I think it's  better than the original series.

The art design for this series is truly fantastic.
    The Legend of Korra is by the same creators and takes place a century after the events of the original show. Already, I'm intrigued as you don't see many time-skips like this even in fantasy. It takes devotion by the original creators to want to evolve a world like this. The fact that it moves the setting from the quasi-Medieval China of the original setting to a pseudo 1920s New York analogue called Republic City.

    Using the definition of retro-science-fiction for steampunk, The Legend of Korra is one of the most mainstream examples of the genre. We have a divide between the traditional "old ways" of the religious past and the new ways of modern industry embodied by the Avatar, a literal physical god, visiting a city torn by economic strife. It's fairly high concept for children's fair and I'm happy to put it up there with The Hunger Games.

    The premise is Korra is the new Avatar after the death of previous series hero Aang. As the Avatar she possesses all four kung-fu sorcery types (called "bending") based on the Greek elements (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). It is her job to bring balance to the world. However, what is balance and what does it mean in a world with cars and zeppelins? The questioning of this role and how Korra is not one for introspection herself, is one of the underlying themes of the show.

I never would have guess Tenzin was played by Spiderman's boss.
     The central villains, if you can call them that, are the Equalist movement. They are a group of non-benders, normal folk like you and me, who have decided the biggest problem in the world is those who possess supernatural powers. It's a ridiculous premise but, in my humble opinion, believable. When times are tough, people look for someone to blame and those people often looked privileged to outsiders.

     The fact Korra comes into Republic City expecting to be revered as the Avatar and ignores anyone who gets in her way, official or not, gives a credibility to their cause. Those with power have to be wary of those they step on, which is often not the case. Our heroine has to learn humility and respect for others' beliefs, even when they differ from her own.

The series maintains its trademark humor throughout.
    I like Korra and think she's one of the best female characters to come out in the last few years. She's a well-rounded three-dimensional character with likes, wants, aspirations, and attitudes all her own. She doesn't fit in any neat little package but forges her own path. The fact she is an unapologetic action star who isn't lily-white Caucasian already sets her apart from many creations.

    The villain of the series, Amon, and his Equalist movement are an inspired creation. While on some level they don't much make sense, as we've never seen any organized prejudice against bending in the setting, their cause serves as a good metaphor for scapegoating. The show is also smart enough not to depict them as one-dimensional villains.The Equalists have the sincerity of their convictions and even if their philosophy is wrong, it's easy to see how people could fall into it.

    The fact the show depicts the majority of Equalists joining because of the city's poor economic conditions is deep storytelling for a children's show. I would have liked the show to get deeper into the Equalists and their philosophy than they did but I understand why they chose not to. Depicting a group as understandable doesn't mean it should be depicted as right after all.

Amon was a great villain. He even had the viewers questioning whether or not he had a point.
    I also enjoyed the secondary villain of Tarrlok, a character who oozes slime and self-confidence but isn't a Palpatine-level manipulator either. He's just the sort of fellow you might see in the real-life halls of power, someone who is capable of manipulating events as they happen to benefit himself. The fact he's able to take the tide of public opinion and turn it to his advantage makes him despicable in a thoroughly believable way.

    Really, the entire cast is great. I liked every single character from Tenzin the Air-Bending Master to his children to Asami the heiress adventurer. Lin Beifong the Chief of Police is one of my favorite characters in the series as she's both a woman in her fifties, an authority figure, and a badass. The fact the two major male supporting cast, Mako and Bo-Lin, are regulated mostly to the love-interest and comic relief roles is groundbreaking by itself.

     Credit goes to the artists and storyboarders for the fact the action is top-notch. This is a good example of the wuxia genre in that, despite being animated sorcerous kung-fu battles, everything felt believable in the context of the world. There were only a few times I felt the heroes were given easy victories and, most of them, I felt they were too hard on our heroes. Things were exciting, visually stunning to watch, and fast-paced. What more could you want?

Korra has a great character arc and believable flaws. All which you rarely see in these sorts of shows.
    Is their room for improvement? I believe so. I think the love triangle between Mako, Korra, and Asami was the absolute worst element of the series. Resolving it literally any other way than how they chose to do it would have been better in my opinion. The way they did do it made Mako look like a jerk, Korra to look somewhat pathetic, and Asami to be rather pitiful--qualities I didn't think fit any of them.  It's sad, too, because I thought the teenage romance element started off reasonably strong with the good lesson, "sometimes you don't get the boy or girl you like. Move on."

    Really, I could talk about this series all day.

    So what do I think of this program overall? I think The Legend of Korra is not just a good cartoon but good television period. I would recommend this show to adults and children alike. It's the kind of family entertainment which the networks should be more focused on producing. It also manages to say something, which is rare enough by itself. The art is gorgeous, the designs beautiful, and the storytelling great.

    Kudos, Nickelodeon! You've surprised me.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dragon Age: Last Flight review

    The latest book out from Bioware set in the Dragon Age universe, I poured through Last Flight in a single night. Like all of the Dragon Age novels, it's a cut above your typical Dungeons and Dragons fair, and has a lot going for it. Still, I feel the book is somewhat marred by its ending and has somewhat less interesting subject matter than previous volumes. Those who enjoy the setting, however, will adore several revelations about the game world's lore and it is a good fantasy novel.

    Just not a great one.

    The premise of Last Flight is a group of mage refugees from the Mage-Templar War, set up in Dragon Age: Asunder, have joined the Grey Wardens to escape the fighting. They are put to work studying the ancient lore of the Grey Wardens and one of them stumbles on a account of the Fourth Blight.

    Blights, for non-fans of the game, is something akin to a combination of zombie-invasion and Orc attack. This account sheds light on the extinction of the griffon race, the morality of the Grey Wardens, and the dangers of Blood Magic.

    I'm not a fan of books which don't have anything to say about the real world and I'm pleased to say this book does have a message. It's an analysis of the consequences of an "ends justify the means" mentality. While the protagonist of Dragon Age: Origins can be anything from a bog-standard fantasy hero to a ruthless murderer to Mage Jesus, the Grey Wardens he belongs to have this as their bailiwick.

    Grey Wardens swear to do anything to stop the Blight, no matter how heinous, and are willing to give their lives to do it. Indeed, every Grey Warden does give their life to stop the Blight because the source of their powers eventually kills them.

    A lesser writer would have universally condemned this attitude or puffed it up. Liane Merciel, however, presents ruthlessness' upsides and downsides. We see why the Wardens do what they do and the sometimes disgusting things they need to do. We see them abandon refugees to die, lie to the public, literally prostitute themselves (a male for once), and animal experimentation. None of this is presented as a good thing but sometimes it works.

    Not always, though.

     Much like Zombie Apocalypses, the Blight is an excellent way of exploring the extremes of human morality. When faced with a natural disaster meets war situation like the Blight, what are the limits to what a person should be willing to do to survive?

   The Grey Wardens believe anything is justified and while the book doesn't go into some of the worst things I've seen in such fiction, it touches on enough of them you get the idea how this sort of attitude can blind you to other options. When you assume ruthlessness is the path of the strong, you begin to think any other way is weak.

   This is embodied in the treatment of the griffons. The griffons are gigantic eagle and lion hybrids which are used as flying mounts by the Grey Wardens. They represent the best in the Grey Wardens and are symbols of their higher natures. Despite "only" being animals, the griffons are presented as noble, beautiful, and intelligent beasts. They trust the Grey Wardens and should, theoretically, be treated with respect in return.

   Instead, the Grey Wardens find a means to make them more effective fighting machines at the cost of the griffons' lives. What follows is a story of exploitation, cruelty, and the consequences of messing with nature's delicate balance. It's a good metaphor with Blood Magic serving as a nice stand-in for both science and industry but sadly gets undercut by its ending.

    Without spoiling anything, I can't help but feel the story of the griffons' extinction would have been better without the sliver of hope provided at the end. It worked in The Lorax but in real-life, there are no take-backs and the world is diminished every time we let a species go extinct. Letting them stand as a monument to the selfishness of humanity, even in theoretical good-cause, would have made the story more powerful.

    In conclusion, Last Flight is a book with a lot going for it. It is an interesting premise, gives good insight into what a long-standing Blight is like, shows how Blood Magic works in the setting in greater-detail, and has something to say about morality. The environmental message is neither heavy-handed nor easy-to-miss. I liked the majority of the characters, even though only a couple of them were underdeveloped. In short, I suggest you pick this book up if you like fantasy or Dragon Age in particular. Just don't expect to be blown away.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Purge review

    One of the weirdest complaints I have ever heard about a movie is "this could never happen." This was frequently leveled at The Purge when it first came out. Now that its much-improved sequel, The Purge: Anarchy is out, I thought I'd revisit this title and why I think this is an odd complaint. There's still plenty of flaws with the movie but the one I hear most is one I just do not get.

    The premise is, for one day a year, all crime is legal with a few minor restrictions on weaponry as well as who you can kill. This is stated to have increased the economy, reduced unemployment, and reduced crime across the board. The price for this is the poor, homeless, and unloved by society are preyed upon by an increasingly bloodthirsty public. This is a pretty big pill to swallow and where most audiences either tune in or tune out. However, it's actually the backstory for the movie rather than the "main plot."

    The main plot is, sadly, considerably less interesting than then setting. A 'New Money' family locks itself down for the night until their young son takes in a homeless man fleeing an angry mob. The mob decides killing the homeless man is worth breaking into their home and the family must decide to turn him over or fight off the invaders. Some commentators have uncharitably stated the only reason the titular Purge exists is to justify why the family can't call the police. To that, I say, "that's not the entire reason. Probably."

Who could possibly think this man is unreasonable?

     Describing the story, I can see plenty of readers rolling their eyes and shaking their head at such a ludicrous idea as legalizing crime for a single night. You know what's also ludicrous? Vampires. Zombies. Video tapes which can kill you in seven days. The list goes on and on but we expect these premises because they're the basis of the story.

     Of course, I understand the suspension of disbelief is something you need to maintain. The thing is, I don't think the movie's 'message' is meant to be taken literally. It's not a story about how, if we were willing to outlaw crime, then everyone rich would become bloodthirsty psychopaths profiting from the suffering of others.  No, I think the movie is one extended metaphor.

    A parable if you will.

    The America depicted is a religious, materialist, and patriotic society which prides itself on its civility. The New Founding Fathers, the unseen architects of the Purge, have convinced the entirety of America that legalizing crime one night of the year is in their best interests. That the rich and middle-class of society should utilize this time period to enact their most violent fantasies on those who haven't got a prayer of defending themselves. They even state, unironically, this is religiously good as it purges them of darker emotions despite the families involved being ostensible Christians.

Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey do a good job portraying a "normal" American family in very abnormal circumstances.
    Now, I understand, this makes no damn sense on a literal level. Why would legalized crime encourage people on murder-sprees? Wouldn't they be looting instead? Getting themselves a new TV? How about big corporations? Wouldn't the IT guy be emptying his employer's bank account? How in the world would any of this be helping the economy? Well, that's because this isn't about the premise. It's not like, "Today + Purge = Movie."

    It's about America today as is.

    The Purge is an angry movie. It's a smarter movie than it has to be the fact it's mostly just a bog-standard home invasion story. The stock Hollywood horror plot is used to talk about how Americans have blinded themselves to the suffering of the poor, destitute, and needy while convincing themselves they're the good guys. The family in the film isn't evil but they are the very definition of privileged. Blind to the darkness around them or just willfully self-deluded. It's only when directly confronted with the consequences of their apathy they are forced to make a moral choice.

    The acting is top-notch with Lena Heady giving a great performance as the moral center of the film. Rhys Wakefield gives a deliciously over-the-top performance as the leader of the yuppie psychopaths. I also liked Ethan Hawke's attempt to be his family's patriarch despite being both emotionally and physically weak. I cared about the family and wanted to get through the disaster alive. That, at its most basic level, makes it a good horror movie.

    Now, does the movie have flaws? Oh, immense ones. As mentioned, the actual execution of the movie is a bog-standard home invasion story. Countless times, it seems like someone is going to die only for them to get saved at the last minute by someone off-camera. Their house is also, apparently a labyrinth since they can't find a single guy hiding out in it.

The Purge is about American hypocrisy the same way Dawn of the Dead is about consumerism. That's my take, at least.
    That's not counting the fact they're not smart enough to see they're alone in the house to begin with. I'm also more than a little peeved our "heroes" didn't even bother to learn the name of the one black character in the movie (nor did the movie feel obligated to share it).

    Still, I think The Purge is an excellent movie. Is it original in anything but premise? Hell no. The social satire, however, elevates the material. The performances are very good for a movie of this caliber, though, too. In short, the movie skates by with a bit of political commentary and an emotional core which makes you care about the victims. That's all a horror movie has to do and it does a little bit more besides. So I give it an "above average" score. Watch it if you're bored and want to be entertained.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Dresden Files: Fool Moon review

    I didn't like this book.

    Well, no, that's unfair. I think this is the least of the Dresden Files novels but there's nothing that offended me. There's even some good in this novel, more so than plenty of other lesser urban fantasy novels I've read. If one were to read Fool Moon, however, one might walk away with an impression the series is much less than it is. As a result, if one were to skip any book in the series, I'd argue this is the one to do so.

    The premise of Fool Moon is Harry Dresden is investigating a series of werewolf attacks which are occurring throughout Chicago. Harry learns there are multiple different kinds of lycanthropes in the course of his investigations and not all of them may be evil. Even the good ones, however, are dangerous.

    Harry must make several moral decisions throughout the course of the book and determine whether his allegiance to the White Council's Laws of Secrecy trumps his friendship with Lieutenant Murphy of the Chicago PD. If he continues to lie to her about the supernatural he runs the risk of alienating her forever but if he tells her the truth, he will be responsible for any deaths which result.

    The relationship between Harry and Murphy in Fool Moon is the most troubling element of the story as the latter's behavior comes off as, in my humble opinion, deranged. She insists on complete truth from Harry despite the fact she ostensibly considers him an expert in the supernatural. I understand breaking off their relationship if she doesn't want to be lied to. However, Murphy goes the extra mile in this novel and arrests him at once point in order to blackmail him into telling her the truth.

    People die as a result.

    A lot of people.

    Worse, the book treats Harry Dresden as the one in the wrong. Repeatedly, Harry makes prudent and wise decisions before the book punishes him for it. He always ends up being the one to apologize too and there's times it becomes eye-rollingly bad. I desperately wanted an apology from Murphy for her actions but she remains unrepentant until the end and I've never really forgiven her for this. Even many books later, I don't quite like her character nearly as much as the author wants me to.

    All because of this book.

    Perhaps the part I liked most about this book is Jim Butcher going out of his way to establish there's multiple kinds of werewolves. We get each of them described as well as a basic taxonomy of what their role is in the supernatural world. Some of them are quite powerful, others relatively weak, and others still just psychotic. If more authors took the time to do this kind of world-building, I'd respect their work much more. Fool Moon may not be my favorite book in the series but it creates a very interesting set of werewolves which I'd wished we'd learned more about.

    There's quite a bit of good in this book, despite my complaints. I enjoyed the nightmarish werewolf attack on the police station, Harry speaking with himself, the Alphas, and Bob's exposition. These just don't outweigh all the bad. They just sort of sit evenly with it, making a book which is neither bad nor good.

    Just there.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Social Satire of Dragon Age: Mages and Templars part 3

Part 1
Part 2

    There is also the issue of the Tevinter Imperium when dealing with mages. One of the standard warnings against mages gaining their independence is fear for a new Tevinter's rise. Cultural memory of the abuses the Tevinter have committed plus ones continuing now remain in the psyche of Thedans everywhere. Fenris, former slave to the Tevinter, often cites his former masters as a reason mages cannot be trusted in general. Lord Seeker Lambert, furthermore, cites his own experience as a Templar in Tevinter as proof that the culture of magicians lends itself to corruption.

    This is not completely illogical or a false analogy. One of the issues raised in the Cold War was to set down one's weapons was to invite attack. The possession of nuclear weapons was considered a strategic necessity if any country was to matter on the world stage. This led to not only the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union but countries like France as well as the United Kingdom to possess nuclear weapons.

    Lord Seeker Lambert mentions he was close friends with a number of mages, including the Black Divine, but that his friend became corrupted by Blood Magic. This is not due to, as one might ascertain, an inherent moral failing but the fact he required it as a means of counteracting other people who possessed it. Fenris mentions that Blood Magic is proscribed within Tevinter but that it is passed around in secret and alludes that there is a culture of, "if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn't I?" This becomes even worse with a culture of in-fighting which encourages mages to resort to any means necessary for social prestige.

    One might argue this is a recipe for legalizing (or proscribing less strenuously) Blood Magic but a much-more sensible argument in my mind is to maintain much stronger prohibitions against its use. Thedan history, arguably like our own, shows that any advantage will be exploited in the name of gain and normalized. War is filled with prohibitions against various types of weapons from the crossbow to poison gas but which are used extensively unless every culture in the world agrees to outlaw them with harsh penalties.

    Thedas is a continent ruled by a military aristocracy who derives their power from force of arms. If mage freedom exists, how likely is it that beings which much more power than weapons will rise to the top? How much damage will be caused by people resisting this? What are the possible consequences given that said abilities can rupture holes in reality. There is a strong argument that Tevinter is a hellhole because of an "evil" culture than, simply put, magic being insufficiently regulated.

    The ambitious rise to the top and normalize dangerous and immoral activities because it serves their purposes. This leads to things like Arl Vaughn abusing the elves of the Denerim Alienage simply because he can. How much worse are these abuses going to be when one can mind-control subjects or create an inexhaustible army of demons at your commend? What seems necessary is an intermediary.

    Which is where the Chantry comes in.

    The Chantry is an organization which exists, theoretically, impartial to the Mage and Templar struggle with the organization serving as a buffer between them. While I have mentioned the hatred of magic that the Chantry engenders, it is fair to admit they have probably done more for the safety and security of mages than anyone else in Thedas.

    The Nevarran Accord, signed in 1:20 Divine or roughly eight-hundred years ago, permitted mages to be able to practice their arts inside the Circles without fear of reprisal by the public. Prior to this, magic was illegal in the Empire of Orlais. The mages heroism during the First Blight helped win them a limited amount of respect from the public and Chantry in particular. This treaty changed the Inquisition into the Templars and Seeker Orders, which merged with the Chantry despite prior independence.

    The Templars, despite accusations of such by Anders, are not just their jailers but also their protectors. The mortal Cole which the spirit is based on from Dragon Age: Asunder was almost killed by his father for the "crime" of having magic while his mother was outright slain. Rhys comments that Cole's story isn't all that uncommon amongst those born outside the Circle and displaying magic is a mortal sin in the eyes of many. Templar Evangeline is able to thwart an impromptu lynch mob when they are traveling through the Orlesian countryside while the mages, themselves, are unable to intimidate the public.

Carver Hawke is a Templar and brother to two Apostates. He protects the innocent as well as mages. You know, when he's not screwing up.
    Without the Circles, it's entirely possible mages would be subject to violence and slavery. The Qunari, giant horned humanoids from an island-continent above Thedas, demonstrate what a less-forgiving system might look like as mages have their mouths sewn shut while being literally collared. They are used only for killing enemies of the Qunari. It is implied even this would be forbidden if not for the fact magic was so damned useful.

    The Circles themselves are run by the mages and College of Enchanters with many of the abuses like Tranquility being something they actively participate in. First Enchanter Irving is willing to sign off on making Jowan Tranquil because he believes him to be a threat (which he is). Later, it is Irving's desire to prove mages capable of policing themselves which allows Uldred to assemble his army. We see that, even as late as Act III of Dragon Age 2, the First Enchanter holds near equal authority to the Knight Commander. The Rite of Annulment can only be performed with the say-so of the Grand Cleric so there is a system of checks and balances in place to prevent abuses.

    The Circles are, in a sense, independent nation within the ranks of Thedas which are merely supervised by the Templars. While we may think of being taken from one's families and held prisoner in the Circle as a horrible thing, it's also important to remember that in addition to the safety issue, that "freedom" is not something the Circles are without a great deal of as compared to the rest of Thedas. Aside from their lack of ability to breed and raise their children, something which would compel me to rebel admittedly, the Circles are more comfortable than anywhere but the homes of the high nobility.

    Possibly more.

    Anders and Morrigan speak much of freedom but the right of property is one which has always determined whether people are free in history. Those who do not know where their next meal is coming from, whether they will have a roof over their heads, and what sort of medical care they will get when they're sick can never be free. A Circle mage, due to the generosity of the Chantry, has these freedoms whereas the average City Elf or Fereldan peasant does not.

Anders murder of the Grand Cleric starts his war for freedom. However, it's very much HIS war. It wouldn't have even begun if not for Meredith being corrupted by Red Lyrium.
    The Circles are post-race in a way unknown in the rest of Thedas. Elves and humans sit together in the Circles as equals whereas the former are ghettoized elsewhere. The Rite of Annulment is horrific but nothing prevents an Arl from doing the same to City Elves in the Denerim Alienage or the citizens of Amaranthine should events dicate such. Indeed, it's far harder to enact the Rite of Annulment than to simply murder the helpless lower-classes of Thedas. Mages have power and importance, peasants do not.

    Indeed, whereas the Chantry has a vested financial investment in the existence of Tranquil, so does it have in thinking-living mages. The Qunari have invaded Thedas in the past in order to convert the public to their religion. Mages contributed a great deal to repelling their invasion, countering the Qunari use of gunpowder-based weaponry.

    From a practical standpoint, the Chantry wants to keep mages happy as well as dependent on its good graces. This is in sharp contrast to the City Elves who, unlike mages, have no real capital to barter with. Mages are a minority which may be despised but is still possessed of influence while Elves are not. I leave the comparisons to real-life minorities and their plights to you.

    There is even, theoretically, a check on Templar abuses of power from the Seekers. Knight Commander Martell attempts his own brand of mage-backed terrorism in Dawn of the Seeker, planning to institute a draconian anti-mage agenda before it is thwarted by Seeker Cassandra.

    While his treason is against the Chantry as a whole, Cassandra works with a mage to bring him to task and gains respect for their role in protecting the Chantry. Sadly, it is Lord Seeker Lambert, the presumed head of that organization, whom is the party which dissolves the Nevarran Accord. So it's possible for the entire system to come tumbling down.

Leliana does everything she can to prevent war between mages and Templars. She fails because, on some level, neither WANT peace--or so it seems. Better to say both sides have FACTIONS who don't want it and they win.
    It is a testament to just how functional the Circle system was that so much needs to go wrong in order to compel the mages to rebel. In addition to Anders act of terrorism, Meredith's Annulment of the Kirkwall Circle (spurred on by red lyrium), the Annulment of the Rivain Circle, the rise of a liberal Pro-Mage Divine, and the discovery for a Tranquility Cure are all required to happen in very short order for things to come to war. While Dragon Age 2 implies the war begins immediately after the Kirkwall Annulment, David Gaider retcons things in Dragon Age: Asunder to require much more.

    This is perhaps more realistic as revolutions are rarely built in a day. Even with long-simmering resentment, there is usually a trigger event required or a series of them. It is noteworthy that, for all of the abuses mentioned in part 1 of this essay, many mages seem content. Wynne expresses desire to reform the Circle but from within as she views the Chantry as a source of protection as well as oppression. Finn, from the Witch Hunt DLC, expresses his overwhelming happiness at Circle life due to the luxuries he experiences as a Loyalist. A Circle Bethany finds more fulfillment as an instructor of mage children than as a "free" mercenary or Grey Warden.

    The mages who express the most dissatisfaction, if not outright hatred, are Apostate Morrigan (who has never been to a Circle before events of Origins) and terrorist Anders. Also, possibly the Protagonist of the Mage Origin, amusingly enough. Uldred is able to get a full-scale rebellion going in the Fereldan Circle, something First Enchanter Irving clearly did not anticipate, but it is notable that only a minority rebelled.

    Mages are divided into factions akin to political parties. Of them, only a single one advocates divorcing themselves from the Chantry. Others desire reform from within or to use their powers to do good, regardless of how this affects their personal freedom. One of them is devoted to making money, which implies mages are able to own property and accumulate wealth despite their Circle-bound lives.

    Another thing to note about all of these rights and privileges is, however, they weren't achieved all at once. The Divine Ambrosia II attempted an Exalted March on a group of peacefully-protesting mages who demanded greater rights to use magic. The mages' nonviolent method worked and it's been implied that mages have achieved greater freedoms by working within the system. Many of these freedoms were repealed after the Kirkwall Annulment, which contributed to the Mage-Templar War, but that played right into the hands of mage radicals.

    Either way, it becomes an interesting question of Freedom vs. Security when the system breaks down into violence. When one group being oppressed in the name of security, rightly or wrongly, refuses to submit or negotiate then war is the result. Barring the Quarian and the Geth War or the conflict with the Reapers, genocide is not usually the result of military conflicts. The decision by the College of Enchanters to revolt en masse as well as the Templar Order to break away from the Chantry to destroy them means one side or the other will triumph in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Then the very hard question of "what next" will occur.

    When two sides are at peace, negotiation is possible but wars tend to result in one side dictating terms to the other. Concessions may be made (and almost always are) but what those may be is often up in the air until the final blow is struck. Perhaps the thing real-life is most similar to Dragon Age regarding is that neither the Templars or Circle seem to have any idea of what the final result is going to be. "Freedom" is not a goal. Neither is "Justice" or "Safety." These concepts are too nebulous and ill-defined to serve as proper war-time goals. Revolutions and wars based on them have created some of the worst atrocities in human history before degenerating into absolute chaos.

Ask the City Elves what they think of their freedom as compared to Mages.
    If the Mages defeat the Templars, forcing their disbanding or acceptance of the Circles' independence, they will have significant challenges to face. They no longer have the funding, support, or protection of the Chantry. Getting new mages will be difficult and while they can breed new ones, this still leaves countless members of their "people" scattered across the land. Nothing will prevent hostile nations from attacking Circles now since the Chantry is not their ally.

    Mage-friendly nations like Tevinter do not feel obliged to help their fellow magicians and, indeed, consider them possible rivals. They may ally with existing governments as Loghain offered but doing so means they will be divided as a Fereldan Circle's mages war against a Orlais Circle's.

   If the Templars defeat the Mages, going back to the "Old System" will be a challenge. The Circle system worked as well as it did due to the participation of the mages within it. Apprentice mages were trained by senior mages in how to avoid the temptations of demons as well as what sort of benefits they derived from assisting the Chantry.

    Even the Tranquil Solution or killing all new mages isn't a real option as families which care for their children will be more likely to hide them than give them over. Apostates would have no reason to surrender to the Templars, encouraging more Blood Magic use than ever. The Templars might never be overthrown but countries around the world have to deal with guerrilla warfare over a course of centuries because of unchanging hardline tactics.

    That's assuming the Templars, themselves, can reconcile with the Chantry because while the Mage uprising is bad--the Templars have rebelled every bit as much. Such a flagrant violation of church authority means that the Templars can no longer be trusted to follow the orders of the Chantry's leadership. Likewise, the precedent of Kirkwall will never be forgotten. Even if every mage who rebelled is killed and a new Circle is created, there is history that the Templars can be defeated (or escaped if Hawke sides with Knight Commander Meredith).

    In short, when you go to war for freedom or security, be careful you don't lose both.