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AoV: Fantasy Art (Reflections of Voldaria) $7.50
Publisher: Stainless Steel Dragon
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/04/2012 16:17:21
I’ve always been a fan of cheesecake fantasy artwork. Of course, that’s to be expected, as I’m pretty well the target demographic for such material. For better or for worse, images of scantily-clad sex-fantasies go hand in hand with fantasy (and, to be fair, other genres as well) and I appreciate it when such artwork is released. I suspect that it’s in that spirit that Stainless Steel Dragon released Reflections of Voldaria, a collection of fantasy-themed pictures of sexy women.

Just over a dozen pictures make up Reflections of Voldaria. I was tempted to abbreviate the title as RoV, which is the file name of the PDF of these images; I’m not sure that’s correct, however, as the storefront calls it “AoV,” which was slightly confusing. Which is it?

As I said, the pictures are released as a single PDF, which while not bad is still somewhat inconvenient if you want to manipulate these pictures in any way. Sure, you still can, but it would have been much easier if there had been a collection of individual JPG or PNG files. Still, I have to give the book credit for having full, nested bookmarks so that you can at least easily zip to each page.

The book is surprisingly forthcoming regarding the mechanics of these pictures, telling you the best way to print them out and the dimensions of the images. This is the text that you see on the book’s storefront, but it’s actually the bulk of the introduction.

The bulk of the twenty-five photos here have some sort of photo-manipulation, usually of the background. In this area, there is some slight room for improvement; while the artist clearly tried to minimize a sense of disconnect between the foreground and background images, it still comes through. The scenes feel flat in most cases, as small things that you couldn’t name but still register reinforce a sense of disconnectedness…I imagine this is due to an intrinsic understanding that we all have about how lighting and shadows should look were people actually in the areas depicted.

Each picture has a full-page lead-in, which is an entire page that gives the picture’s title and a two-stanza rhyme describing the picture. This was my biggest complaint about the book – not that the rhymes weren’t very good (though there were some real groaners), but that so much space was wasted with these intro pages. What’s here could easily have been tacked on as a caption to each image, rather than being set in the middle of a huge expanse of white space. There’s just so much more that could have been done to fill it. Personally, I would have loved to have gotten game stats in these pages, as this would have (more than) doubled the book’s practical usefulness; now you have fully-illustrated NPCs!

In regards to the subjects of the photographs, virtually all of them are beautiful women. The rare male does show up, but it’s always in conjunction with a girl, and the guy is always dressed in practical outfits. By contrast, most of the women are nearly-naked, save for the occasional girl in a chain shirt. Personally, I had no problem with this whatsoever, not only because I like sexy women, but also because I find it impossible to complain about “realism” and “verisimilitude” when most fantasy has magic and other perfectly viable explanations for why an adventurer could go around wearing almost nothing and still have a high degree of bodily protection. If you could have a magic spell that protects you as well as a full suit of armor, without the weight or maintenance that the latter requires, then why not?

Having said all of that, there are still some legitimate critiques to be made here. For one, all of the characters are clearly posing for the camera; there are no “action shots” of people engaged in adventuring. A few of these take this to an extreme example, as there’s a close-up of one woman’s face, while a different picture offers us a close-up of a girl’s thong-clad ass. Again, not a big deal, but there’s not even a pretense of this being anything other than blatant sexiness.

Overall, I enjoyed Reflections of Voldaria, but that’s because, as I noted at the beginning, I’m the sort of person who’ll forgive a lot if it means I get to look at sexy, scantily-clad girls. If examined in a technical sense, there is a lot of merit here – the photographs are fairly professional in the sense of the shots conveying what they’re meant to. It’s when you move beyond the technical aspects of the actual photographs of the girls that we see the need for improvement. From the photoshopping to the lack of image files to the huge tracts of white space, there’s more that could have been done in how these images were packaged.

Still, if you’d like to reflect on some lovely ladies, you could do much worse than to check out the Reflections of Voldaria.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thank you for you feedback. I appreciate any constructive thoughts that might help me produce a better fantasy photo ebook, I am new at this, and totally open to constructive criticism. You know, for a 4 star review, you seemed to have lot more negative things to say about this ebook then positive, so I am guessing it had some redeeming value, that some how got left out of your review.

Just a few quick notes to address your concerns.

First, I think this book is exactly as described. I should not that 11 of the 25 pics presented here are “pure” photos. No photoshopped backgrounds, thus any flatness/wrongness you see or think you see, is what you would actually see if you actually took a picture of woman on rock with her reflection and the sky behind her in the water. (As I did, with the Lady of the Lake picture and ten others pictures.) Also, most of other shots have clouds or mist for their backgrounds, which by their very nature seem impossible to make flat. However in future works, perhaps I can try to bleed the fog into the foreground more, but then it looks more like smoke then fog. (This is something most other photographers don’t do, but I will consider it, if it makes my work better then theirs.)

Second, yes, as describe, there are lots of woman who are scantly clad, and yes, it may mean they are wearing magical armor as you suggest, (My thought sometimes.) or it could mean you are seeing them, as if across a campfire or in a leisure moment. (Perhaps pausing to make a decision which in many cases was my intent.) Anyone, who has worn real armor, even just chainmail, knows it is heavy and uncomfortable, and generally only those people engaged in actual combat would be caught wearing it for more than hour. Please note, action shots may come when I release a book called the fighting women/men of Voldaria.) This book, was about “reflections,” and thought, hence its name. “Reflections of Voldaria,” or moments of introspection - if you will. I am sorry if you didn’t get it. After your insightful review of my 2012 Calendar, I would have guessed you would have seen it. (It is about art, not action, not sex nor about adventuring,) But your not alone, the first reviewer of this work didn’t get it either. Which saddens me, because that was my primary objective when creating this work, and it seems like everybody missed it. FYI, AoV stands for Age of Volondor, of which RoV, Reflections of Voldaria is the world that surrounds Volondor, and is a much overdue visual supplement. Hence, the 2 names depending upon where you see them, those familiar with AoV would not be confused.

Third, in regards too white-space, this is, after all an ebook, thus no trees were killed in its creation, and the white space can easily be skipped by anyone who wants to see just pictures. It should be noted some photographers, consider the use of white space as a way to understate their work in an artistic way. (There is a big difference in fluffing up a page count in a game book by adding too much white space, and showing artwork with no distractions on the opposing page. Modeled somewhat after a Boris Vallejo coffee table book I once bought.) FYI, I did consider labeling each title on or under the work, but thought that it distracts from the quality and feeling of the picture, and I am somewhat sure some other critics would find fault with that.) Yes, the poetry was as campy as anything Stan Lee might say to introduce people to his Marvel universe, and I am sorry for that. (And it was described as such.) I meant simply to put each picture in the context of Voldaria. (My world and game system, and these are just the first of many images I am offering to give my gamers their first look upon the terrain and denizens of my world.) Still, I appreciate the thought, and in my next book, (Which will have 100+Pics) I will probably just cram the pictures in back to back, and leave the title of pictures to those who seek to find them in the index, Easter egg fashion.

Finally, I do think providing these images in JPG format as opposed to PDF format is a great idea. (I was recently thinking that myself, for my CD releases.) The one problem I have is that I am not sure if RPGnow can support that, except maybe as zip file or a bundle of separated jpg images. Hmmm, maybe I should do that? Offer Poster sized JPGs individually for .50 cent each? What do you think? Then I can bundle them for those who want a volume discount? I guess I should ask them if that okay, It seems like spamming to me, but I am game, if they are. It would mean bigger and better pictures for those people who like my work, and they could buy only what they like. So dear critic, thanks for keeping me honest with this review, hopefully someday my work will evolve into something more praise worthy, or at least without enough fault as to merit such a critical review.
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AoV: Fantasy Art (Reflections of Voldaria)
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