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Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 End-Of-Year Recap: Awesome And Awful In Equal Measures

Hello and goodbye, because this is the last post of 2014, and when you see me again on Janurary 1st, this blog will have a brand spanking new layout and I will finally introduce to you the young lady whose been waiting on the sidelines - Jade Rose!

Well, I took a break from uni because I went coo-coo-loco-bat-poop-crazy while I was there. I had no plan expect to 'get better'. A lot of the first part of this year went down the drain. Still depressed. Still suffering from anxiety. OCD got worse. In other words, I am just a bag of fun. But loads of awesome things happened to, like:

  • Fantasy Challenge!
  • My blog improved way more than it did last year.
  • A brand new collection of colouring pencils. =D
  • Illustrations I'm actually proud of.
  • Did I mention I read LOADS of books?!
  • Still learning the Japanese language - I have improved!
  • I made new friends =D
  • And repaired old friendships
  • I spend more on books this year than I have... ever... ever (Over £120.)
  • I acquired more books this year. A LOT MORE. (about 110... actually probably more)
  • And I went to more fantasy events than I've ever been to in my life. O_O

My Year In Books: 2014

Above is my Goodreads printscreen for all the books I've read in 2014 (not counting the one I'm about to finish) and what rating I gave them. I read 15,645 pages! It also has a pie chart of my shelves - books that were hilarious, books that I gave up on, and books that were heartbreaking (the ones I can't read twice). The questions below I've been working on for almost 3 weeks!! Anywhoo. Enjoy.


- Favourite books?!
`Fantasy Fiction: The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin...
`YA and/or Children's Fiction: The School For Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
`Non-Fiction: The Unfair Advantage by Robert Kiyasaki
`Totally out-of my normal reading genre: 'Top Girls', a play by Caryl Churchhill.

- Books I couldn't bear to finish?
Four. These were the lowest rated books. Blue Exorcist manga by Kazue Kato, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Anarchy by James Treadwell, and The Girl With All The Gifts. Also, when I get round to finally reviewing it, The Goddess and The Thief. I don't even want to talk about it.

- How many books did I read this year?
52 ?!?! I wanted to read one book a week, which seemed reasonable despite university and work, keeping in mind I'd be reading fantasy. I started the challenge in May, but I'm glad I've still just reached the target having missed four months!

- New author devotion?
N. K. Jemisin, Patrick Rothfuss, Marie Brennan, and Robert Kiyosaki. I intend to read everything they write.

- First and last book read in 2014?
First: I think it was the manga of Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and Xian Nu Studio. Last: a self-help book called Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

- First book I'll read in 2015?
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I was meant to finish those this month, but my sister only (FINALLY and reluctantly) lent them to me yesterday. They're the beautiful white 50th anniversary edition instead of the normal black ones - kinda like Cait's gorgeous white The Hunger Games boxset. Going off THG series a bit now, but those covers were lovely.

- Longest book I read?
Stephen King - 11.22.83. 740 pages.

- ...Shortest book?
That's gotta be The Ice Dragon, George R.R. Martin. It wasn't the best but I gotta say, I'm glad I read it. If it wasn't for that, it probably would've been a manga book.

- Highest library fines I incurred =/
At my local library, it stands at 9.40. I have no idea how it got so much. But wait for it - my university library fine was about £17. Which was totally my fault.

- Library books in my possession as of this date
14, with one to spare on my limit =] a few days ago I took out a whole bunch, and I felt as pleased as if I bought them all!!

- Most money spent in one go on books?
... £58.97 on four hardback fantasy books about to be signed by the authors. O_O #neveragain #whoamikidding

- Most books bought in one go?
58 fantasy books from a job lot on ebay.

- No. of new series started in 2014?
If my count is correct - 8! Yay!

- No. of series completed in 2014?
... none. Grrr e_e I will remedy that next year. All of N. K. Jemisin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson?!?! That'll be my goal.

- Reread books in 2014?
None. With so many new books to read and 700 books on my TBR I wasn't very inclined to waste time this year. But very very soon I want to re-read Lian Hearn, because I love the Tales Of The Otori series and they are some of my inspirations.


- The book I should've read sooner.

- The book that changed me.
The School For Good and Evil. Oh. My. God.

- The book that shocked me.
The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett. Without going into spoilers - I still can't believe Leesha's story arc. The realism of it was heartbreaking.

- The book that dazzled me with it's cover.
Abengoni: First Calling by Charles R. Saunders. You can also find the original art on DeviantArt.

- The character that stayed with me.
Kvothe from The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. he was perfect, and yet flawed, but so intelligent, yet fallible, and he had absolutely every right to be the protagonist of that novel. I'll never get over all of the ways he wriggled out of problems!

- The book that was written SO WELL
The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August is my first choice because I loved how it weaved the tale together over the course of the novel. Ready Player One by Earnest Cline was also very clever.

- The friendship I loved SO MUCH
Yeine and Sieh from A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. I just, ah. I can't. Too much. Just love.

- The ship I shipped SO HARD
I know this might sound a little weird (maybe sordid is a better word) but in The School For Good And Evil... SPOILER!!! The School Master believed that the only way to stop the good characters winning a fairytale was to trump 'good love' between a princess and a prince with 'evil love' between the villains. So then I became extremely fascinated by that concept and really wanted Sophie to be with the School Master instead of Prince Tedros. SPOILER OVER.

- The book I wouldn't have read if it wasn't for XYZ-circumstance
I wouldn't have read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green if it wasn't for a blogger I admire called Zoe. I'm glad I did, although I don't see me ever reading it again.

- The book that made me CRACK UP laughing
The Long Haul!! That surprised me because after the fourth book, the Diary of A Wimpy Kid series started to get less and less funny. After Hard Luck, I wasn't sure if Jeff Kinney could make a comeback, but he outdid himself! SO. FUNNY. I need to hurry up and buy Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch because all of his books make me laugh too.

Fun fact: Another graph from Goodreads showing when the book I read was published. My graph has updated since I print screened this, so the lowest dot, published in 1937, was Tolkien's The Hobbit! There were ten books I read that were published in 2014.

Thanks for joining me for my last ever post in 2014! You might also want to read: 10 Things You Should Know About This Blog.

I have a BUNCH of 2014 reviews to catch up on and I'm going to do my writing wishlist at the end of this week, so hang around for all the awesomeness happening in 2015! I shall be enjoying the fireworks by the London Eye (on TV hehe) as my Mum and I do every year. See you on the other side! PEACE.

Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Get Your Geek On! Amazing Pinafores By Darling Army + Interview With The Creator!

Legend of Zelda Fandom: Deluxe Hylian Princess Cosplay Kimono Dress [ Buy Here ]

I have been SUPER EXCITED for this post. I wanted to share with you a potential cosplay option made possible thanks to Darling Army. Darling Army specialise in pinafores, which are really awesome because the fact that they wrap around means the sizing is more flexible than a dress. But that's not the best part about them! There's a whole range of geeky pinafores for fandoms that I love. Naturally, my favourite is THE LEGEND OF ZELDAAAAA =D but I also spotted loads of ingenious designs for other video games, cartoons or anime, TV shows and movies.

Legend of Zelda Fandom: Deluxe Hyrule Hero Hooded Cosplay Kimono Dress [ Buy Here ]

Avatar: The Legend Of Aang Fandom: Sky Nomad Cosplay Kimono Dress [ Buy Here ]

Supernatural Fandom: Deluxe Winchester Cosplay Jumper Pinafore [ Buy Here ]

On the Darling Army website, there is a staggering variety of pinafores to choose from including Pokemon, Batman, Assassin's Creed, Captain America, Full Metal Alchemist, Sailor Moon, Ouran High School Host Club, Black Butler, Star Wars, and an entire section devoted to Doctor Who. Each fandom will often have more than one pinafore design based on different characters or creatures.

You can also get just the skirt, or a caplet instead of the full dress.

Frozen Fandom: Princess of Arendelle Coronation Cosplay Pinafore [ Buy Here ]

Doctor Who Fandom: POLICE BOX Cosplay Kimono Dress [ Buy Here ]

Sherlock Holmes Fandom: Sherlock's Hideaway Cosplay Pinafore [ Buy Here ]

One thing I found particularly useful is the Darling Army style guide, which shows you different ways to style a pinafore (it does have a lot more options than a dress). If you're into cosplay, it's definitely worth checking out.

From left to right: Casual, Cosplay, Formal, Lingerie, Lolita, Punk.
Click to enlarge, or click the link above to read the style guide.


As a special treat for the readers of this blog, the creator of Darling Army kindly agreed to do an interview! Thankyouthankyouthankyou. There were some questions in particular I've really wanted to ask.

For one - how long have you been running Darling Army?

I've been seriously running it for two years as my sole focus. Altogether I'd say I've been doing this for a little over three years (the first year and a half were part time while I went to school).

How many pinafores do you make on average a month?

It's actually hard to pinpoint since I limit my orders now. On average I take maybe fifty orders a month, but about half or more of those can be kimono dresses. I also receive maybe ten orders outside of my acceptance dates for skirts and capelets.

Your pinafores are cleverly designed to include the sigils or insignia of whichever fandom the pinafore is representing. What inspires you when you create a new pinafore design? 

Honestly it's usually just dependent on what I'm watching or playing  XD  If you pay attention, you'll notice trends of same-genre designs being released around the same time. For example, when I was re-watching Supernatural, I released the Sam Winchester pinafore, the Impala skirt, and the Castiel capelet all in the same month. Darling Army is very much a by a fan for the fans business; I don't put anything in the store full-time if I am not personally invested in that fandom. That's why you see a lot of League of Legends and Hetalia designs in my commission section, but not in the rest of the store.

What the most bizarre request you’ve ever had?

The most bizarre are usually modifications for sexy time (like cutting out specific holes in the bodice for breasts). While I appreciate the enthusiasm (since pinafores do make wonderful, geeky lingerie), I am a bit uncomfortable receiving measurements for the exact circumference around someone's lady parts @_@

Do you think Darling Army might expand one day, for example appearing at conventions? (Please say yes. <3 )

I really don't think there is any way for me to expand at this point. I'm a free-cutter, so I don't use any patterns. While this works out great for me, it makes it all but impossible for me to bring someone else onboard to help. In addition to the labor and time factor, it's also an issue of budget. On average, cotton pinafores cost me $30-50 to construct with quality materials and kimono dresses are usually double that. Since I do not buy bulk, cheap products from overseas, it would cost way too much for me to create a significant amount of stock that would be needed for a convention. Add in the travel expense and the crazy amount I pay in taxes for being a small business in California, it's just not realistic for me to attend conventions.

Finally; Is there a special pinafore you made for yourself?

I'm guilty of making a lot of the designs in the store for myself  XD  My closet is exploding with pinafores, skirts, and kimono dresses I've made. I have about twenty designs that I've made for myself that I haven't released to the store only because I'm not sure how popular they would be. A lot of these are obscure book characters since I'm an avid reader. I have three designs inspired by the Old Kingdom series alone  XD

Thank you soo much! I adore your pinafores and I hope to get a The Legend Of Zelda one for myself to wear to the Symphony Of The Goddess concert which is FINALLY coming to London! (I can't believe the tickets are almost completely sold out already.)

Batman Fandom: Harlequinn Cutie Hooded Capelet [ Buy Here ]

Want more geeky posts?
To read about Comic Cons: Events
To read about Graphic Novels: Comics

You can find more cosplay and lolita wear, or costumes for fantasy characters on my Pinterest boards. Enjoy!

A quick question to my readers because I am curious: are you dressing up for Christmas, and what will you be wearing?! Will it be geeky? A whole outfit? Just a christmas jumper? Elegant evening wear? Let me know!

And once again, Merry Christmas from,
Ashana Lian .

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Art: Diversifying Fantasy Archetypes (including Afro Fantasy)


Hello! This time next week, I assume we will all be engaging in the joyous, tragic, stressful, gluttonous excitement that is Christmas Day. So before we go any further, Merry Christmas.


Now, not so good news. For the first time I can remember in years, I was terribly sick last week. I was coughing like mad, shivering, shaking; some said I had the flu, some said I had a temperature, some said I had a virus, some said they were all the same thing; I didn't go to my GP so nobody really knew. Then the agonising cramps started. And I felt so guilty, because with me being so stressed about finding a new job, I'd let my health slip. After spending the whole week in bed, I feel exhausted all the time like I used to feel before I took iron supplements.

The whole ordeal reminded me how susceptible to illness people can be during the winter. So, please remember to take care of yourself this time of year, it takes very little to turn this joyous time into a nightmare. Stay well. <3


For those who don't know, I'm making a conscious effort to drastically improve my illustration skills! (Yay!) because I wanted to have a go at depicting Karalan in artwork. Also, my blog is hideously ugly and needs to change. That made me think about fantasy artwork depicting black women, or women of colour in general, and I realised I'd seen little of this so I went on a virtual wild goose chase. Luckily, I did catch a few geese. My headache from staring at the screen too long was not in vain.

Today I wanted to make a list of classical fantasy archetypes, then give those characters a new vision that will hopefully help to diversify these archetypes. Here we go!


The Chosen One? -

Priestess? -

Fairy? -

Exotic Butterfly by Cellesria

Sprite? -

Superhero? - 

Virtue from The Movement, found on Tumblr

Bounty Hunter? -

Shoanti Female by Nemanja-S

Guardian Of The Peace / Fantasy Police? -

August 5, 2014 SpeedPaint by DjDontTouchTheTrim

Priest? -

Necromancess? -

Rat Queens 7 by johnnyrocwell

Nymph? -

Advisor to the Emperor? -

The Empress's Wife at

Lord Protector? -

Commission: Ilwan by Selenada

Centaur? -

Desert by KimDingwall

Dryad? -

Willow's Song by Rozen-Clowd

The Queen Regent? -

Cotton Candy Afro on

Empress Of The Realm? -

Sketch XXIII by Charlie-Bowater

Soldier Mage? -

Mali by lorraine-schleter

The Warrior? -

Mwangi Female by Nemanja-S

The Oracle? -

Oasis of Kemet by Mystic-Oracle

Pirate-Captain(-Mage)? -

Spellcaster, uploaded by Mick North on pinterest

Pirate King? -

Ocean Hero by Craig J Spearing for Applibot.

Princess? -

Opera Costume - Agrippine by FionaCreates

Nomad? -

Sailor Soldier/Sailor Guardian? -

Moko as Sailor Moon on

Assassin? -

Game Illustration by Leejeeh

The Villainess/Overlady? -

Curse of the Swines by namesjames

Guardian Of Time? -

Afro Futurism on Tumblr.

Powerpuff Girl? -

Powerpuff Girl from Tumblr.

For more images - the Diverse Fantasy Art board on Pinterest

Click to see more Fantasy Artwork posts
Click to find out about my fantasy novel

As for upcoming posts - there's a whole bunch of reviews from this year I need to get out of the way, plus I wanted to share some reading and writing goals for 2015.

Did you like this post? Let me know in the comment, and don't forget to leave a comment for the artists too. c:

Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Artwork: Fantasy Calendars for 2015

Random Fact
When I put my elbow against the laptop with my hand on my ear, I could hear the machine shaking through my hand, even though vibrations are so small O_O that's it. I just felt weird.

AmazonImaginistix to view and buy prints

My eldest sister (let's call her Azure) started buying my fantasy calendars, I think in 2009, and since then I bought one for myself every year. For about three years, I reliably bought the fantasy calendars by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell. They were so intricate and so wonderfully painted, the anatomy was perfect. But after that I became tired of the highly glamorised style and how the very modern faces clashed with the beautiful archaic rusticness of the setting behind.

^ Alchemy 2011, the one I bought.

So my sister got me a new one - Gothic Alchemy. I must say though, it wasn't really for me. Some months had really nice artwork, but it was dark and not very enchanting. Plus the actual calendar below was in black, so I couldn't even SEE what I wrote. Probably my least favourite. to view and buy prints

The first Anne Stokes calendar I got, I ADORED. I copied my sister Azure and got the same one she did because I loved it so much. It was gothic but not grotesquely so, and for one whole year I was enchanted.

The next year, I immediately fell out of love with that style and the Stokes calendar for that year entirely bored me. So at this point I started to believe that the enchantment only works once. So I resolved to buy a different calendar every year so keep my interest fresh. Problem is, the range of fantasy calendars that don't feature near-naked women (the distasteful kind) or really disturbing fairy-changeling creatures are pretty slim. I'm kinda picky.

I also did a post of Anne Stoke's gorgeous artwork a few months back. (or was it weeks? Can't remember.)

^ Celestial Journeys 2014, which I bought

Celestial Journeys was this year's calendar, which I adored to pieces. It's very spiritual and brings back that childlike awe towards fantasy by including lots of little images hidden in the big one. Every time you look at Josephine Wall's artwork, you spot something new. I loved the style, the colours, and the truly breathtaking art.

And for 2015? I considered getting this year's one again or back to Anne Stokes, but my sister got me a 2015 kitten calendar on my birthday. AW!

Other Calendars

To be 100% honest, there are a lot more calendars I like available on amazon now. Many I've left out of the list below, such as calendars of fairies or illustrated calendars of The Hobbit, simply because there are so many.

This seems to have a paranormal romance feel, the kind of sexy and seductive woman thing. I'm not really into that, but I must say many of the pictures are striking.

This a Gothic 2015, which is more in the realm of dark fantasy. again, not my forte, but I do like some of them. Although the appearance of fairies in this gothic stuff has always confused me.


Click to see more Fantasy Artwork posts
Click to find out about my fantasy novel

Upcoming Posts
- reading and writing goals for 2015
- awesome geeky cutsey cosplay pinafores
Jamie's A-Z book survey which I finally did
- my literary personality doppelgangers (I'm a INFJ!)

Christmas grows nearer and nearer. By not thinking about it, I've been able to sidestep the stress most people have been feeling. I've not yet bought any presents, or decorated the house, or written cards, and it's doing WONDERS for my general happiness. I will get round to it at some point.

Do you buy calendars or fantasy art prints for your wall? If not, what on earth do you deck your walls with?! (*sings* Boooughs oooof hooollyyy, tra-la-la-la-la... la-la-LA-LA!)

Ashana Lian .

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