Tag Archives: Magic

Spoiler-free Book Review: The Court of the Air

10 Apr

If I’m being perfectly honest, I bought this book because of it’s cover.

It’s got a pretty font! And there was a cool looking balloon. And a super-cheesy, yet tantalising, tagline. (“A fantastical tale of high adventure, low-life rogues, and orphans on the run.”)

Can't argue with its appeal

Luckily, it managed to live up to my font-driven expectations.

Slotting this book into a genre actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be; all I have to do is string words together until they encompass it: it’s a steampunk Victorian fantasy adventure novel.

I think my favourite part about this book is how it shoves you into this new world and just goes, without tedious pages of background explanation. Through the clever use of jargon (in this case, words that are similar enough to their ordinary usage that you can understand their meaning, but used in unusual ways so the world still feels different) you’re plunged into the world without fanfare.

This is one of the few books where I’ve instantly thought “This would make a really good movie.” (Normally, I’m a stickler for original formats: I appreciate the nuances found in a book that a movie wouldn’t be able to convey. And vice versa; I’m an equal opportunity stickler.)

But this book? Would make an awesome movie! This world, done right, would be absolutely beautiful to see on the big screen. There’s so much unique detail: steam-powered living robots, fey mutations and magic users, armoured crab-people, flying bat-winged tribes…and those are just the character possibilities.

You know what would be even better? If it was animated. Not as a kids’ movie, and not necessarily computer animated because I don’t think you’d get the level of detail that this world deserves…but an old-school hand-drawn animated movie. Oh, why don’t I have any artistic skills? I really want this to happen now.

The Court of the Air can be enjoyed as a good old-fashioned adventure novel: exploring and experiencing a new world with the characters as they run for their lives from mysterious forces trying to kill them. (Always fun, right?)

Or, for the literary analysts among us, there’s plenty to read more deeply into. Examples:

  • Political commentary easily conveyed by exaggerating the parliamentary procedures (they actually fight each other during meetings in order to get proposals approved).
  • Social commentary thinly veiled in the described class structure and differenced between the many species/cultures mentioned.
  • Religious contradictions examined, for instance, through the fact that steambots are more spiritual than humans, whose religion is almost indistinguishable from political theory.

The world doesn’t feel as crazy-expansive as most sword-and-sorcery novels do; it’s not spread-out so much that you feel the characters are taking months to trek across it. Not to say that it isn’t good world-building…there are plenty of aspects of this world mentioned in passing which hint at a larger and more detailed universe (which seems like it’s more fully explored and expanded upon in the sequels).

The other covers in the series are just as awesome, and more than enough to encourage me to finish the series. (Yes, I’m shallow in that way. And now I’ve admitted it on the internetz. Damn.)

Has anyone else read it? Want to let me know what you think?

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Shit I’m Excited for This Week…12/07/10

7 Dec

Ah, December. The time of year when every TV show feels the need to insert holly and mistletoe and Santa Claus awkwardly into an episode just to be thematic.

But, I’ll stop being such a Scrooge. Christmas episodes are fun! (Say it enough and it’ll be true. Really.) They remind you that you have limited time to go buy people presents and they always have a sappy message that makes you want to hug whoever’s nearest. Aye, it warms me achin’ bones from the inside out, it does.

In the spirit of the holidays, Eureka and Warehouse 13 both have Christmas themed episodes airing tonight.

It’s Eureka, and that show can do no wrong in my eyes. Plus, from what I’ve heard, Taggart’s going to try to prove the existence of Santa Claus. That alone will make the Eureka special worth watching.

In Warehouse 13, apparently Pete and Myka chase a “malevolent artefact-wielding Santa Claus”, which is so much fun to say and will probably be just as much fun to watch.

And, to get you all riled/caught up on the season, SyFy’s having a marathon of the two shows all day today! I approve of TV marathons, no matter what the reason, so yay for that!

Magical Musical Geekery

4 Dec

HP7.1 totally re-sparked my love for the series and, addict that I am, I’ve been re-immersing myself into (the epic black-hole that is) Harry Potter fandom.

In case you’re unfamiliar with (the vortex of doom that is) Harry Potter fandom, it is vast and varied and often worrying. Whether it’s fanfiction stories that are longer than all the novels combined, or handcrafted wands that are practically works of art, or wizard rock bands that have sold-out concerts on a grand scale, the HP fandom is impressive.

(It’s also quite disturbing sometimes, and that only starts with how easy it is to degenerate into dirty ‘wand’ jokes. Part of the fun of the fandom is wading through the Hogwarts-sized piles of crap in order to find the diamonds in the rough.)

But, my favourite part about the HP fandom is how creative it can be. If you ignore all the derivative work copyright infringement issues, I think that the innovation this one series of books has sparked is admirable.

For instance, I present, for your consideration, A Very Potter Musical.

A little out of date (because I believe it was written before Book 5: Order of the Phoenix), but that doesn’t stop it from being fun. 
If you haven’t already seen it, have you at least heard of it? If not, what sort of Harry Potter fan are you?! I mean, come on! This is practically a classic now.

I’m holding my breath for Harry Potter on Ice, because I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. All those robes billowing gracefully as they skate by…

HP7.1

21 Nov

Harry Potter! Harry Potter! Harry Potter!

I’m still so split about that fact that they’ve split the movie into two parts. Part of me is repulsed by the overt attempt to milk as much profit from this movie franchise as they can. The cheapskate Indian part of my is unhappy that I’ll  have to pay for overpriced movie tickets twice in order to see both halves of the same story.

Then again, the Harry Potter fan in me is delighted that my beloved series is lasting for so long. This two part movie gives me two additional things to still be excited about now that the books have all been published.  For all I know, the last movie might fizzle, and all my excitement will be for nothing… but seeing the posters on the sides of buses and on billboards and ads on TV/Hulu still makes me smile and gives me this little burst of ‘happy’ until the movies prove otherwise.

The HP7.1 was awesome. I don’t know if I’d say it’s the best of the seven so far (I’m still a huge fan of the fifth because I think it’s the best movie version of a very long book) but it was good! So much better than the sixth movie, which sometimes felt like just two people talking and they’d switch out who those two people were.

7.1 has a similar feel to movie 6 and 5, in terms of colour and a bit of tone, but it’s not as dark or slow. And, overall, I think it’s a great rendition of t he book. No spoilers, so I’m not going to tell you where it ended or how it played out too much, but let’s just say that they actually managed to make the boring, camping-in-the-forest part of the book not boring.

Seeing the movie reminded me of just how much I love this series. I’m off to re-read the books again. Let’s hope that sates my HP appetite for a little bit. Probably won’t last too long though, and soon I’ll be scouring the web for snippets about HP7.2.

Broomsticks and Snitches and …College Students?

12 Nov

There are very few things that can make me wish I lived on the East Coast. (I can’t handle the cold. California’s a chilly 54ºF right now and I’m wearing three layers, fuzzy socks and huddled under a blanket…)

However, this weekend, I would brave the bracing cold of a New York fall for the Fourth Annual International Quidditch World Cup (Muggle version).

Blurb from the official website says “On November 13 and 14, 2010, 46 official Quidditch teams from around the world – a total of 757 athletes – will descend on New York City for the Fourth Annual Quidditch World Cup. The teams are from 42 colleges and universities, three high schools, and one local community team, all from the USA and Canada.”

(Two countries involved, so it’s officially “international” and “from all over the world” apparently.) (Alright, to be fair, there are over 45 countries in the actual league, so that’s International, even if the actual cup isn’t yet.)

See the following video from last year’s World Cup for an idea of what it’s like.

The rules are pretty simple, modified though they are so that we mere Muggles can play this game of wizards. The players’ positions and duties are basically the same: Seeker, Chasers, Keeper, Beaters. The only real difference is that the snitch is real person (usually dressed in gold or yellow, sometimes with wings) to make up for our sad lack of actual magical flying golden balls. Well, that, and the fact that the broomsticks and Bludgers don’t really fly on their own either…

Sports and nerdiness are not completely separate, it seems. And the combination is pretty close to awesome.

Mighty!Marz’s Top Five Fictional Character LadyCrushes

6 Oct

In no particular order:

Zoë Washburne (Firefly): Of all Joss Whedon’s supposedly strong female characters, Zoë’s the only one I actually like. Strong and practically Amazonian, she still manages to stay feminine while being totally bad-ass. So many similar characters give up their girliness in order to be taken seriously; Zoe doesn’t ask for her position, she doesn’t try to prove herself worthy of it…she just is and there is no room to challenge that. She’s happily married (Serenity never happened; I’m in denial; shush) to a charming man who makes her laugh and loves her just as madly as she loves him. Oh, and she’s got mad gun skillz, great hair, and makes leather vests look even cooler than they already do.

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins): In case the rest of this list didn’t display it, I really admire competence… and there is no one more ‘practically perfect’ than Mary. She’s good with difficult kids and can easily handle cantankerous adults. She can sing and dance and fly (with the aid of an umbrella or smoke and clouds or just for tea). She is magical and mysterious and can even talk to animals (both real and animated and artificial/attached to said umbrella’s handle). And she’s gorgeous and British and exists in book, movie and musical form because her awesomeness cannot be contained in just one medium.

Ororo Munroe/Storm (X-Men): Her back story is more like a fairy tale than a comic book heroine’s. She’s descended from a long line of African witch-princesses (yeah, you read that correctly: witch-princesses). She’s orphaned in Cairo and becomes a master-thief, is briefly worshipped as a goddess and then recruited to the X-men.  In the 80’s, she temporarily sported a mowhawk and wore all leather…and actually managed to pull it off. I’ve always been impressed by her personality: serene, subtly bad-ass, elegant, and always impressive. Her ability to control the weather makes her one of the most powerful mutants, and I love the way she also uses it in unexpected ways (Ex: breathe underwater through electrolysis, see the universe in terms of energy patterns, flash freeze people, fly, sense the world’s weather patterns, etc). She speaks three languages fluently, once picked a lock with her teeth while having the mental state of an infant, and carries an ancestral ruby that allows for interdimensional transportation when combined with her lightning.

Olivia Joules (Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination): She’s the only chick-lit heroine I’ve ever been able to relate to; I guess it’s just because we’re already alike and I want to be more like her. Instinctively, both of us tend towards ridiculous explanations for everyday things, and then have to talk ourselves back to more rational/less imaginative possibilities. She’s a British reporter (yay, accent!) who then becomes a spy for MI-6; she speaks several languages and has natural spy skills rather than acquiring them through years of special training. She’s also got this homemade emergency kit that she carries around with her but hasn’t had a chance to use much, which I totally admire (Nooo, of course I don’t have a similar ‘In Case of Apocalypse’ bag in my car. That would be silly…I haven’t finished packing it yet.) When the book becomes a movie, I want her to be played by Rachel McAdams.

Diana Palmer-Walker (The Phantom): Although she’s just the wife of a superhero, she’s not just a traditional damsel in distress. For one, they knew each other as kids, before he was officially working as the Phantom, and fell in love with him for him rather than his secret identity. And, yes, as the love interest, she has been kidnapped, like, a billion times (most of which were by cheesy villains who wanted to marry her) but she’s not wimpy while waiting for rescue. She’s got black belts in various martial arts, amazing blue-black hair, an Olympic medal in diving, speaks multiple languages, fences semi-professionally, had twins in skull cave in the jungle without pain-reducing drugs, was a nurse and is now the Deputy Director of the UN.

***

Runner-ups: Alanna of Trebond (Song of the Lioness Quartet), Juniper Lee (The Life and Times of Juniper Lee), Polgara the Sorceress (The Belgariad), Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie (JAG), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

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