Tag Archives: fantasy

Fables: Storybook Love

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Fables-Storybook-Love

Further down the path we go. This novel brings us further into the dark and scary woods of Fabletown and gives us a wider glimpse of the different facets of each character. The core of this installment is the issues entitled Storybook Love. This story is about the growing relationship between Snow White and Bigby Wolf as well as Goldilocks revenge plot against Snow White for thwarting her revolution in the previous volume. Some of my favorite moments in this installment weren’t part of the core story but before it. I loved getting a glimpse at Sleeping Beauty and how she’s used to get information from a reporter who’s found out what he thinks is the truth about Fabletown.

So far for me the series has it’s ups and downs. There are parts I love and parts I’m not too fond of. I’m interested to see which characters pop up later and how that will affect the story.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you think Prince Charmings plan will influence further issues? Do you think he’ll succeed?

2. What do you think will happen with Snow White’s pregnancy? What powers will her and Bigby Wolf’s child possibly have?

3. Which issue in this volume was your favorite?

Fables: Legends in Exile

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fables vol 1

Into the woods we go! The Fables Buddy Read and Blog Tour has begun. Check it out here and at Come Hither Books for more information. Up first is Bill Willingham’s Legends in Exile, the first installment in the Fables series. We are introduced to many fairy tale characters that we know and love whether it be from Grimm’s fairy tales or even Disney movies. There’s the big bad wolf, Bigby in the Fables realm, Snow White, and even Beauty and the Beast. However, these aren’t quite the characters that we all think we know. The fairy tale characters in Willingham’s universe are tinged with noir. The women are beautiful and deadly, the men a bit grizzled and jaded. These characters have lost it all and have had to rebuild their lives in Manhattan, away from their fairy tale happy ever afters.

This first installment centers on Snow White and Bigby’s search for what happened to Snow’s sister Rose Red, a link back to the old Grimm’s fairy tale. Their search leads them all over the Fable community where we are able to meet other familiar characters. The plot takes many queues from Agatha Christie, with Bigby becoming a bit like her Poirot. The clues are scattered throughout the novel cleverly and with precision, including the occasional red herring. The ending reads much like a Golden Age mystery, with a big reveal at the end where all characters are present in one fashion or another.

So far I’m loving this series and can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Discussion Questions:

1. Are the personalities of the characters in Bill Willingham’s Fables series, such as Snow White and Prince Charming, exaggerated versions of people or closer to our own reality?

2. In what way did the Fables fairy tale characters surprise you?

3. For fun, which character so far is your favorite and why?

I hope you have as much fun reading this series installment as I did. Happy reading!

Ruin and Rising

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ruin and rising

Ravka has been torn in two. The great Grisha army has fallen. Alina, the revered Sun Summoner, is in hiding, broken by her last encounter with the Darkling, who is now ruling Ravka from a shadow throne. Deep in the secret chamber called the White Cathedral, Alina is weaker than ever. Unable to summon her power that deep underground, she has grown frail. She was supposedly “saved” by the Apparat but soon realizes that she’s going to become a pawn in a greater game he’s playing. She knows that in order to save Ravka she will have to break free from the Apparat and her ardent worshippers. Since her last battle with the Darkling she’s become revered as Sankta Alina. Her followers trying to build an army around her. They call themselves the Soldat Sol and tattoo suns over their bodies in deference to her.

Alina does manage to break free from the Apparat and her small band of followers set out to find Morozova’s third amplifier and find Nikolai on the way. Their journey takes them through some of the most beautiful and desolate places on the boarders of Ravka straining their relationships and sanity. When they finally find the firebird it’s not exactly what they expected nor is it the third amplifier. Alina realizes this almost immediately, armed with her new knowledge of Morozova given to her by Baghra. The real third amplifier is one that she never expected. A link to Morozova that no one knew existed. The knowledge will test Alina’s courage, heart, and will to save the country she loves.

Ruin and Rising is the last novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I have to say that I was a little disappointed. The parts that were good were great but the parts that weren’t as good felt so forced. This was my least favorite novel of the three. In a way it reminded me of what Stephanie Meyer did in the last Twilight book, just trying to keep her audience happy but having the opposite result. Bardugo tries to maintain relationships in this novel that maybe shouldn’t be. I felt the book would have had more power had she gone through with some of the plot twists instead of reneging on them. The final battle was a bit stilted. I didn’t feel like there was so much lost or gained. The conclusion didn’t meet the hype. The big reveal was a lackluster one, especially in regards to the Darkling. He was such a clever and fascinating tortured villain. He could have his own spin off novels. The one thing I did like about the conclusion however was the effect of the third amplifier. It reminded me of Tuck Everlasting. That perhaps the greatest gift is to lead a normal life.

Overall, I enjoyed the trilogy. I loved the Russian aspects of the novel and had a lot of fun trying to identify what period in history each character and episode was inspired by. The novels have also inspired me to look more deeply into Russian folklore, something I don’t know much about. I think that the trilogy is definitely worth a read and can’t wait to see what else Leigh Bardugo comes out with.

Siege and Storm

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siege and storm

Siege and Storm is the second volume in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. The novel picks up right where Shadow and Bone left off. Alina and Mal are on the run on the True Sea trying to figure out their next move. Unfortunately, “like calls to like.” Alina and Mal are soon captured by the Darkling and his Grisha and forced on the Darkling’s boat. The Darkling has demanded that Mal track the next of Morozova’s amplifiers, Rusalye the ancient ice dragon, to further take control of Aline and magnify her power dual fold. When things seems dire, Alina and Mal are saved by an unlikely ally, a privateer with dubious morals named Stormhond, and his Shu Han crew, Tamar and Tolya. On Sturmhond’s ship, Mal continues to track Rusalye. Determined to save Ravka from the Darkling and his desire to increase and control the Shadow Fold, Alina kills the ancient Rusalye and takes the power for her own. She now has the collar and a new fetter.

After landing, the privateer reveals his true colors, he is the youngest Prince of Ravka. His identity revealed they make their way to the Little Palace, a full circle for Alina, and plan their attack on the Darkling. Unfortunately, Alina can’t stay away from the Darkling for long. She begins to see him in her dreams and waking nightmares, lurking around every corner. The collar at her throat connecting the two.

Much of this second novel is spent trying to build up an army to fight the Darkling, as well as, Alina’s growing need to find the third mysterious amplifier of Morozova to increase her power. Alina is no longer the confused girl of the first novel, unaccustomed to her new power and trying to find her place in the Grisha world. She is now owning her powers to the point of total consumption. She knows she is the one in control and begins to act much more like a leader than a follower. She is controlling her army of Grisha and sets the rules and standards for them.

For me, some of this novel did drag a bit. Though I thought overall it was much better in ways than the first. The second novel continues to follow Alina and you see character growth from every character. There is a lot more at stake in the second novel now that Alina knows where she fits into the grand scheme of things. The ending of this novel was my absolute favorite. I loved the imagery of the fallen idol projecting her own rebirth. There will be much more loss, pain, and glory to come for Alina in Ruin and Rising. 

Stay tuned for the final novel in the Grisha Trilogy. Happy Reading!

Shadow and Bone

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shadow and bone

Ravka has been divided for centuries by what is known as The Fold. The Fold is a land of nightmares and shadows with creatures called volcra, a mix in my mind between a giant raven and a vulture. The Fold was created by a man known as the Black Heretic and has since ruled the way the country is run. Set in a kind of pre-revolutionary Russian state, Shadow and Bone is the first novel in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo.

I have to say that I liked this novel a lot. Many of the reviews I’ve seen thus far about this book and the trilogy as a whole have been either loved it or hated it. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground for these books. I really like the mix of Russian history in the novel and the folklore. I really enjoyed trying to guess what part of Russia’s history the different characters represented. There’s pre-revolutionary Russia ruled by the autocrats, here the Lanstov’s, a mix of Lenin and Stalin era Russia with the Darkling and his fanatic followers, and a Rasputin type character in the Apparat. It was amazing the way Bardugo was able to blend and mix Russian history and create this fantasy world of Ravka. Not only does she bend and morph Russian history, she takes Russian folklore and creates something new and different. The Grisha and their centuries old powers, not magic exactly but more ingrained in them as a person. They practice what is called the small science, not creating but using what is already in the world to enhance their gifts. Creating magic in this world is soul destroying.

Most of the comments I’ve seen are in regards to the protagonist Alina Starkov, the savior of Ravka. Many think she fails as a heroine but I found her flaws refreshing. She’s a convincing teenage girl, just trying to fit in with those around her. In trying to fit in, she never realizes the power that she possesses. She has a great need to belong and the relationships she forges are for life, especially her relationship with Mal. She was never trained to rule or be a hero and, refreshingly in my mind, doesn’t magically become one once she realizes she has Grisha power. She has to be groomed and trained. So many of the fantasy YA heroes and heroines just magically become so sure of themselves and their powers. I really liked watching Alina grow into her own and second guess herself. She makes mistakes, some devastating, but manages to bounce back. She looks to those around her for guidance and has the foresight to rely on others for their expertise, not just her own. This doesn’t always go well but, again, it’s nice to see a heroine be able to make mistakes and be indecisive.

Shadow and Bone does still follow the typical YA fantasy formula but has enough intrigue, especially with the layers of Russian history, to keep me reading. I can’t wait to see what the next novel in the trilogy has in store for Alina, Mal, and the Darkling.

Stay tuned for the review of Siege and Storm. Happy reading!

The Power of Three

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a trilogy. I oscillated between a few different trilogies before I finally settled on The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. There’s been so much hype surrounding these books, both good and bad, that I wanted to find out for myself what has so many people talking about this trilogy. The concept sounds fascinating to me. I love the Russian incorporated themes, and the marketer nailed it with the cover art. From the jacket it sounds like it’s going to follow the YA fantasy formula but I’m ready to be surprised. I’ve been reading different Russian themed books lately so this one should fit right in. I’m excited to see how the author incorporates the Russian culture and folklore into the novels.

Since this is a trilogy, I’ve decided that I’m going to do a post for each novel and then one for the entire trilogy summing up my thoughts as a whole on this work. So stay tuned for some Grisha magic. Happy reading!

Love^3

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Love^3

Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel with a love triangle. I had a really hard time trying to find one that interested me and was a bit different than what I normally read. I love that this challenge has really pushed my out of my reading comfort zone to try things I would never have picked up before. I’ve found out like I like science fiction and fantasy more than I used to think I did, I’m reading more classic novels, and I’m browsing sections of the library I’ve never been down. If nothing else, this Book Battle has been thoroughly enlightening and it’s been amazing to share it with all of you.

But, I digress. Back to the book. The novel I chose is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book centers on Tommy, Ruth, and Cathy as they go through Halisham, a private school in the English countryside. From the back cover, it sounds like this is going to be a coming of age story with a twist. I’ve heard that the twist is very good and I can’t wait to find out what it is. Many list the book as a science fiction/fantasy so I’m thinking the twist might have something to do with that. Apparently there’s also a movie with Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley, and Carey Mulligan. That is going to have to happen after I read this novel! How I wish Blockbuster was still a thing. Now we rely on Redbox and Netflix which just don’t have everything you want to watch.

Stay tuned for the review of Never Let Me Go. Happy reading!

Un Lun Dun

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Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun is a magical blend of Alice in Wonderland and Fern Gully. A tale where it’s not the chosen hero who saves the day but the unlikely sidekicks who band together to fight the forces of darkness. Un Lun Dun begins as many books about heroes and villains. The unwitting young hero doesn’t know that she is the chosen one from another land who must fight to save that land from destruction. In this case that hero is Zanna. She is the chosen one or, in this novel, the Schwazzy. She has to travel to Un Lun Dun, London’s counter city, and save them from the dreaded Smog. Except that’s not how it happens. The chosen one is taken out of the quest early on leaving Un Lun Dun vulnerable. It’s Zanna’s friend Deeba who discovers the nasty plot to destroy Un Lun Dun and it’s Deeba who travels to the counter city to warn them of what’s to come.

The foe in this story is the dreaded Smog, very much like Fern Gully. Many of the scenes with the Smog in this book made me think of Fern Gully and that oil monster thing that tries to take over the forest. Essentially, the Smog in Un Lun Dun is excess from the city of London itself. The byproduct of industry that has no where else to go. And like any good villain, the Smog grows stronger and stronger and can only be vanquished by one particular weapon. One thing I loved so much about this novel was how Mieville cast aside all fantasy quest tropes. First, Mieville diverts the normal heroine trope and has the sidekick save the day, not with her chosen one powers but with common sense and compassion. Then, Mieville decides to have his new sidekick heroine just skip all the normal quests that the chosen one would’ve had to complete in order to defeat the Smog and go straight to the final task. Because who wants to waste time and energy completing all the tasks just to get to the last one?

Un Lun Dun was such a fun read and makes me want to look up more books by this author. His characters are well mapped out, especially Deeba his unlikely heroine, and the story has a very satisfying ending, with the possibility of a sequel thrown in if the author should decide.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015! Happy reading!

Mixing Up Some Magic

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Mixing Up Some Magic

The next category I’ve chosen in Book Battle 2015 is a book with magic. I’ve decided on China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. This book was recommended to me years ago and for some reason I never picked it up. I’ve decided to right that wrong and finally read it.

Un Lun Dun sounds like a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Two girls, the chosen one Zanna and her friend Deeba, find themselves falling through the looking glass and onto the magical streets of Un Lun Dun. Un Lun Dun is a foil of London itself and is a place where things people discard end up and are put to use. Everything that is lost and broken finds it’s way to Un Lun Dun in what the Un Lun Duners call moil. With the arrival of Zanna and her friend Deeba, Un Lun Dun sees the arrival of the hero they’ve been waiting for to end a battle that might destroy their world.

I’ve never read a book by China Mieville before and am excited to do so. I love finding new authors to include in my repertoire of books. I feel like so often I stay with the same authors or the same genre that it’s nice to find something and someone different to push me out of the nest.

Stay tuned for the review of Un Lun Dun for some magical fun! Happy reading!

High Fantasy Meets the 1960s

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High Fantasy Meets the 1960s

Told in the perspective of the last unicorn left on earth, Beagle introduces us to characters that are all looking for something, whether they know it or not. The unicorn is looking for her kin, the magician is looking for real magic and a way to change his fate, and Molly Grue is looking for some magic herself. Battling many obstacles on the journey, Molly, Schmendrick the magician, and the unicorn, who is later turned into the Lady Amalthea by Schmendrick, have to face their biggest obstacle in the form of the Red Bull. To me, the Red Bull was more than just a representative of fear but of ones own desires and how they can hinder and trap us where we are. It’s not enough to just desire something to make it real. Desire and happiness involve sacrifice and pain. Now I won’t go all literary on you guys but this book was an English major’s dream. There is so much in it that is up to interpretation. So much to think about and debate over. On the surface The Last Unicorn appears to be a simple fairy tale but it develops into a conversation about life, hope, and redemption.

If you read the last post you know I had high hopes for this book before I even opened the cover and let me say it definitely lived up to those expectations. The Last Unicorn is a wonderful and hilarious pastiche of 1960s culture, Grimm’s fairy tales, with a splash of Monty Python for flavor. Beagle transports you right into this world of magic, unicorns, princes, and princesses but diverts the genre by giving animals and humans alike real voices from his own time. The butterfly in the first few scenes is hilarious and reminds me of your typical 1960s flower child. It’s almost like watching an episode of The Mod Squad as told by a butterfly to a unicorn.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story and a little humor. It is so much more than a fantasy story about a unicorn.

Final rating: 5/5

Stay tuned of the next installment in Book Battle 2015.