TV Review: Dragon Prince, Season 1

Looking back, I did something a little weird. I reviewed season 3 of Dragon Prince all by itself instead of posting the different seasons in order. Seeing as we might be getting close to the release of season 4, which is slated for the end of eternity, erm, in 2021, it’s a great time to remedy that.

If you’ve been following along, I do have a soft spot for 2D animation films created to showcase art and story. This is true with my fascination with Castlevania as well as the Studio Ghibli universe. It’s no surprise that Dragon Prince is among my favorites.

Callum and Ezran

The Story

As with all opening seasons, there is the expected setting up of all the different forces at work. We see this done masterfully here in the first season of Dragon Prince. The world is essentially divided into two groups, the humans and the elves. The humans, believing they were protecting their world, destroyed the dragon king and his egg which earned them the elves as an enemy.

In retaliation, elven assassins hunt down the human king responsible for the dragon king’s death. What they don’t know is that the dragon egg was not destroyed, but stolen by the human king’s advisor.

All of this big story leads us to focus on the two most important characters, the human king’s son, Ezran, and Rayla, the elven assassin who has a change of heart when she learns that the egg hasn’t been destroyed. Together, along with Ezran’s older half brother, Callum, they vow to return the egg back to the Dragon queen.

Along their journey they encounter all manner of obstacles and difficulties, both in the form of monsters in the world and also from hunters from the kingdom trying to rescue the crown prince Ezran from Rayla, who they believe has abducted him.

With the death of the king and the prince missing, the kingdom falls into the hands of the king’s advisor, Viren, a powerful sorcerer who uses dark magic. While his intentions have always been good, his methods are questionable at best. With each turn, he digs himself deeper into a hole that will bring the kingdom to ruin.

Rayla and Lujanne

My Review

This show has everything I love in a story. Noble characters, dark and light magic pitted against each other, plenty of humor, and some adorable friendships/relationships. It also has amazing art design, great music, and awesome dialogue.

Honestly, if I were to pick one thing about this show that I didn’t like, it would be that they chose to give Rayla a very distinct Scottish flavored accent. It took a few episodes to get used to it, but after that it felt like it totally worked.

There’s also two different sibling relationships that are beautifully contrasted against each other. One is between Ezran and his half brother Callum which is supportive and playful. The other is between Soren and Claudia which is fraught with issues caused by having a dark sorcerer as their father. Soren, who is as naïve as they come, wants to be an amazing knight of the realm and Claudia, who inherited her father’s intellect and magical talent, wants to please her father.

My Recommendations

My eight-year-old loved all of this show, even the parts that I thought would be too intense and scary. Yes, the plot is fairly intricate and yes there is plenty of tension and also yes, there is the use of dark magic which involves sacrifice of living things to make work, but beyond that, there are hundreds of examples of people making the right choices even though they are hard. I count that as a win.\

I rate Dragon Prince, Season 1 5/5 stars for being all around awesome.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Dragon Prince, season 1 today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Folded Notes From High School by Matt Boren

I picked up this quick read off of a recommendation and for the life of me I can’t remember exactly where … I’m thinking it was a writing group and we might have been talking about character voices. No, this isn’t a fantasy book. It’s an epistolary novel, meaning that the entirety of the prose is composed of letters, or in this case, folded notes. There are zero magical elements, mythical characters, or even speculative circumstances.

Sometimes it’s good to branch out… And sometimes, not so much. There were lots of good things in here but there were also things that made me a little nuts.

The Story

Tara considers herself practically perfect. She’s the best actress, on the cheerleading squad, and, like, super smart. She’s got a really good BFF who’s a bit more down to earth named Stephanie. Her big goal for her senior year is to score the lead in the school play, Grease. In the mean time, she also tries to give advice to a new freshman, Matt because her jock boyfriend thought it was a good idea.

The remainder of the story consists of Tara not getting what she wants, then lying to herself and the world that someone or something is plotting against her. She refuses to take responsibility for anything that happens and has no problem blaming what happens to her on literally anyone who has hurt her in the past. We see her impact on her friends as they write each other notes.

As we reach the end of Tara’s senior year, we see her desperation to get what she wants pushes her to take some fairly drastic actions.

The book blurb says it all, “Tara Maureen Murphy is any high school’s worst nightmare, bringing single-minded ambition, narcissism, manipulation, and jealousy to new extremes.”

My Review

To be fair, the writing itself was well voiced and I had no problem believing that this was High School in 1991. In fact, it was so close to my high school experience with bullies and brats, that it was almost uncomfortable to read.

If you’re going to write a story where the main character is meant to be a manipulative narcissist, then you have to have that character earn a surprising but inevitable fate. I wanted Tara to come out of this story having learned the error of her ways and grow as a person, instead of digging deeper into her self delusion.

In this story, we do see Tara get a small comeuppance from Matt who she played emotional ping pong with going from loving to hating to loving again depending on which of them scored roles in the school’s plays. Tara is really a jerk to Matt, who is portrayed as a sweet but not stupid kid who refuses to play her games. When he finally caught her in a massive lie that hurt him and his friends, he “accidentally” let hundreds of incriminating pictures blow across the neighborhood.

But, that’s the only karma she gets – which felt kinda lame.

My Recommendations

Folded Notes from High School contains miles of teenage angst and hormones. As such, there are more than a few oblique references to intimate situations, but no depictions there of. Trigger warning: The point of the book is to show how one girl emotionally manipulates everyone in her path, so those who have experienced this type of manipulation might want to avoid reading. There is some course language, but no violence.

For readers 14 and up.

I rate this story 3/5 stars for failing to have a rewarding arc for any of the characters.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Folded Notes from High School today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill

When it comes to book recommendations, I always take them with a grain of salt. What might be magical and wonderful for one, might be lame and boring for another. So, when someone recommended The Girl Who Drank The Moon, I was hesitatingly hopeful.

And, it was wonderful. Sweet, yet profound. Childlike, yet complex. After the year I’ve had, my heart wasn’t quite prepared for it.

The Story

There is a witch in the woods and she demands a sacrifice of a baby every year or bad things will happen. Or, at least that’s what the people living in the Protectorate have been led to believe. They are only half right. There is a witch in the woods, but she is the embodiement of love and selflessness. Every year she collects these abandoned babies to prevent them from a more gruesome fate and every year she feeds them starlight until they shine before she finds them loving families on the other side of the forest.

Then, one day, she feeds one of these babies moonlight which gives them incredible magic. Xan, the witch, can’t stand the thought of giving this particular baby away and instead chooses to raise the baby as its grandmother. Back in the protectorate, the mother of this child is so grief stricken that she goes quite mad and is taken into the Tower to be tended to by the benevolent sisters. She has magic as well, although in her mental state can’t quite understand what it is or what she can do with it.

Meanwhile, there is a boy, Antain, who is destined to be a part of the Council of Elders in the Protectorate, except he really would rather not. He was there the day that the child was taken. He watched the mother as she climbed into the rafters to keep her baby safe only to have it stolen from her anyway. The sight haunted him so much that when he grew older, he feels compelled to visit with the mother, if only to make sure she’s being well cared for. What Antain doesn’t know, is that there are darker forces at work that feed on the sorrow of the protectorate and it is those forces that demand the sacrifice.

As the child, Luna, grows, it’s clear that she has too much magic and too little understanding to use it safely. Xan is forced to lock the magic away until Luna turns thirteen and is old enough to learn how to use her magic for good. This comes with a terrible consequence, Xan starts to fade away and her own magic begins to dry up.

The story sweeps into a climax when Luna approaches her thirteenth year at the same time that Antain and his wife realize that their own child will be the one sacrificed to the witch. Antain vows to kill the witch, none other than the kind Xan, to save his child. The mad woman, also drawn to her child’s magic, escapes the tower to go find her. None of them are prepared to face the real villain, the one who has kept the Protectorate in sorrow, who is coming right on their heels.

My Review

I know I’ve said this before, but I adore a story with lovely language. The Girl who Drank the Moon uses language in a way that’s both poetic yet simple enough to be accessible to all readers. The story itself is the same, while there are multiple story lines to follow, there’s never any question about what’s going on and why. Each point of view character has their own unique voice, and it’s very clear what the stakes are.

What I loved the most was that since the reader understands what’s happening so well, when all the pieces start falling together, there is a huge emotional rollercoaster of worrying about what might happen and how hard it will be for all the characters involved. When you can get behind a story enough that you start worrying for the characters, that’s when you know that you are well and truly immersed.

My Recommendations

For those of you who light a lighter fantasy with lots (I mean lots!) of heart and just a slight hint of dystopia, The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a great choice. There is no offensive language or any inkling of intimate situations, and while there is some peril, there aren’t depictions of violence. I’d recommend it for all readers ages 12 and up, and also younger readers who are okay with keeping track of multiple storylines.

I rate this book 5/5 stars for being lovely, well balanced, and made me feel all the feels.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed The Girl Who Drank The Moon today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: A Sending of Dragons by Jane Yolen

We’ve reached the third in what I believed was the final book in the Pit Dragon Chronicles trilogy. As it turns out, there’s a bonus fourth book in the series that came out twenty-two years after A Sending of Dragons was released. I might have to go pick it up. As the final book in a set, I have certain expectations about the main character reaching their destiny.

The Story

We left Jakkin and Akki fleeing into the mountains and finding a unique way to survive the deadly cold of Dark After which included sleeping inside the empty egg chamber of Jakkin’s beloved first dragon, Heart’s Blood, who was fatally injured in the escape from the explosion of Rokk Major. By doing so, both Jakkin and Akki gained the ability to communicate the same way dragons do as well as no longer being susceptible to the the cold of Dark After.

They are still being hunted and while hiding from the search helicopters they run across a cave system that leads deep inside a mountain. There, they meet new dragons and a strange group of humans who have survived outside the reach of civilization long enough that they’ve developed a number of strange traditions that both shock and confuse Jakkin and Akki.

Several of these traditions revolve around the dragons, such as a mother dragon being sacrificed at the birth of each human baby. Naturally, both Jakkin and Akki are shocked and appalled at this and struggle to make these strange people see the error in their ways. Their meddling is not well received and Jakkin and Akki must escape before they are caught and killed.

My Review

The expectation for the end of a trilogy is for the main character to achieve some sort of triumph that feels both surprising but inevitable. This book doesn’t do that. In fact, it leaves plenty of room for more to happen in the future which explains why another book was written. The other thing this book does is expose the readers to a new world and new people, something that I’ve seen many longer book series do to keep things interesting.

I was happy that A Sending of Dragons swayed away from all the political maneuvering that the previous book dove into so heavily, as I much prefer there to be more adventure and far less scheming between large faceless groups. There is still the presence of the Federation looking for Jakkin and Akki, but here it only serves to push our main characters toward their unforeseen goal.

Jakkin should have had some great triumph here as well, and while he did gain dragon like traits, there could have been so much more to show that he’d grown into himself and become the man he was supposed to be. Even without that, it’s still a fascinating read as we are shown the manner how dragons communicate and watch Jakkin and Akki learn how to do it as well.

Recommendations

When it comes down to it, this is still a really entertaining read, and stays true to the world and characters created so far. There is plenty of adventure and peril to keep the reading compelling. The scene where they sacrifice dragons does get a little gory and graphic, albeit in the same level of intensity of similar scenes depicting violence and dragon fighting. In all, the book stays balanced in it’s intensity levels to the previous two.

I give A Sending of Dragons 4/5 for not giving Jakkin a triumph at the end, but otherwise an excellent read.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed A Sending of Dragons today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Heart’s Blood by Jane Yolen

We continue on our quest in returning to the books that made my childhood special. Last week we covered Jane Yolen’s Dragon’s Blood, the first of the Pit Dragon Chronicles and this week we dive straight into it’s sequel, Heart’s Blood.

As this is the middle book in a three book series, there has to be a major change that transforms the main character from how he started and gives a hint of where he might be going. Heart’s Blood does precisely this.

The Story

Jakkin ended Dragon’s Blood by becoming a master, meaning that he has his own dragon that he uses in dragon fights. He’s still paying off his debt to Sarkkhan and is allowed to use the training facility at his nursery to train his dragon Heart’s Blood. Meanwhile, there are politics afoot. There is a movement to make Austar a Federation planet instead of a Protectorate, which would mean that dragon fighting, the center pillar in their economy, would be outlawed.

Akki, Jakkin’s love interest who left at the end of book one, gets herself involved in this political movement in all the worst ways. Different forces at play use Akki to force Jakkin’s newfound status as a winning dragon trainer to help them with their plans.

All the while, Heart’s Blood lays a clutch of eggs and five hatch. Jakkin bonds with these dragons and starts to train them to fight as well. His confidence leads to disaster as one of these dragons is hamstrung and sent to the Stews to become food. Jakkin vows to never let something like that happen again.

Meanwhile, both Federation goons and the rebels are putting plans in action to push their respective agendas forward. Jakkin is finally reunited with Akki and given a task to deliver a package, or else.

The package blows up the biggest pit on the planet Rokk Major. Jakkin and Akki have been framed and both flee to the mountains with their dragons. If they can survive the deadly Dark After, a period of night where the temperatures drops to a deadly cold, then they might just make their escape.

My Review

I love dragons, interesting characters, adventure, and great worlds. I don’t love politics or government forces at work that crush the little people under their thumbs because they can. So, I have mixed feelings about this book. The parts that I liked, I really liked. There was plenty of action, adventure, and danger to keep things super interesting.

But, the secondary plot revolves around Senator Golden working toward his goal of making Austar a Federation planet in order to grant them the rights and protection that a Federation planet deserves against the rebels who want the planet to stay exactly as it is, thank you very much. They’ve gained wealth and prestige from dragon fighting. If the fighting is banned, they’d be reduced to nothing.

Jakkin should be on the rebels side because he’s very much part of the dragon fighting community, but it gets all twisty because of Akki who thinks that the fighting is barbaric and there has to be a better way.

That said, it’s still an entertaining read.

Recommendations

The violence and peril ramp up here as the different factions come into play against each other. There’s bombs, a murder, and lots more dragon fighting, as well as dragons dying. If you struggled with the intensity level of the first, you might want to stop there. That said, in all other regards the story is still very clean and super entertaining.

It’s a perfect read for boys and fantasy lovers ages 12 and up.

I rate Heart’s Blood 4/5 for being a great read but had some politics that I personally don’t enjoy.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Heart’s Blood Blood today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen

A few weeks ago I indulged in reviewing one of the series that shaped my reading experience as a kid, The Belgariad by David Eddings. Let’s do it again! For the next four weeks we’ll dive into Jane Yolen’s original three books of the Pit Dragon Chronicles.

The Story

Jakkin is a bond boy, a slave who can earn his freedom if he gathers enough coin, to a dragon nursery owned by Sarkkhan. They live on a dangerous desert planet Austar IV that gets deadly cold at night. On Austar IV there’s only one thing that drives the economy, dragons. They are used as both entertainment and food.

As bond boy, the opportunities for earning coin are few and far between. If Jakkin is going to earn enough to leave before he’s too old and injured to make his place in the world, he’s going to have to do something drastic. When he learns of a recently laid clutch of eggs, he makes his move and steals one, relying on an inner sense that tells him that the egg he chose is special. If he can train up the dragon to be a winner in the fighting pits, Jakkin can pay off his bond price far faster.

Little does he know that Sarkkhan has been watching all this from a distance. Jakkin trains his dragon and takes it to fight only to spot Sarkkhan in the crowd. To his surprise, Sarkkhan isn’t angry over the theft of the egg and instead offers Jakkin a trainer position at the nursery and offers to help him train his dragon.

There’s also a cute “friendship to more” story between Jakkin and Akki, a girl also bonded to Sarkkhan. She discovers Jakkin’s secret and offers to help him in his quest toward freedom.

My Review

This was one of the few books that I read over and over as a kid because it had elements I loved, such as danger, dragons, and instances of the main character getting seriously injured and how they dealt with it. It also had a much different world than standard fantasy, which instantly made it that much more interesting. Desert landscape that can and will kill you at night, yes, please!

The writing and character development is also nicely done with plenty of interesting tidbits to make each character stand out.

Recommendations

Heart’s Blood is a fun, short romp through a well developed world and is full of adventure and dragons – which is a win for most. It’s target audience is young boys and I’d recommend it for ages 10 and up. It’s a clean read with some mentions of blood and violence as you’d expect from depictions of dragon fighting.

I rate Heart’s Blood 5/5 for being a great teen read.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Dragon’s Blood today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I’m branching out! Normally I’m not one to read ghost stories, but hey, this one was recommended and also available in audiobook at my local digital library. Yay. I do miss reading print books and the ritual of curling up and diving into the pages, but lately I’ve also appreciated having a distraction to listen to as I go about all the chores that I don’t really like.

This book makes a lovely distraction.

The Story

Cas Lowood has never had a normal life. His family has moved from place to place as his father hunted and killed dangerous ghosts. When his father is murdered by one of these violent ghosts, Cas inherits the job as well as the special sacrificial blade, the athame.

When Cas learns of the ghost, Anna Dressed in Blood, he knows that she might be the most dangerous target yet and he and his mother relocate to her sleepy small town. But, as all stories go, Anna turns out to be much different than expected. While she is terribly violent and literally tears apart anyone who steps foot into her home, she spares Cas.

Cas goes on to uncover her story and learn what is giving her so much power compared to other ghosts he’s hunted. In the process, he makes friends with the “queen bee” of the school and a totally nerdy kid who happens to be psychic. They work together to find clues about Anna, including casting a spell that reveals how and why she died.

It’s not until a much bigger problem presents itself that they know just how much trouble they’re in.

My Review

This is a story that seems almost a little too straightforward at first and then as the details unwind it gets more layered and to me, more interesting. The writing is very clean and easy to listen to, the characters unique and likeable, and the story itself engaging. And, there’s quite a bit of gore and violence as expected in a horror story, which in itself raises the tension and also makes the book demand to be read past bedtime.

I’ll admit, my writer brain did not want to shut up on this one as I puzzled through the clues that were given and what the possible outcomes could be. The best books give enough clues that I have a good idea where the story might go and the idea of it excites me enough that I want to see it come to life. Anna Dressed in Blood did have a handful of clues leading to something bigger going on beyond Anna’s story, so when that bigger thing stepped onto the page it shouldn’t have felt like a complete 180, but it did.

When listening to an audiobook, it’s much harder time to get a good feel where you are in the story. When I reached the big action scene that was meant to banish Anna back to wherever ghosts go when Cas kills them, I thought it might be the climax of the book. When her climactic scene came and went, but it didn’t’ feel like things were being resolved, I was left wondering what the story was really about.

The bigger story comes back to Cas wanting to find a resolution for the murder of his father and we definitely do get to that.

Another note, I didn’t know that this story was a duology (two book series) so when we got to the actual end and it didn’t feel finished, I wasn’t sure if it was just ended poorly or if I missed something. There are openings for more to happen, so I’ll probably pick up the second book to finish the story.

My Recommendation

As a horror novel, there are a few expectations that need to be lived up to. Anna Dressed in Blood has several on page murders that don’t shy back from the gory details. There is also a smattering of profanity, although not enough to really feel like an issue, I personally didn’t find it offensive.

This book is technically classified as a Young Adult (YA) horror, but its material does stretch above and beyond what many might be consider acceptable for YA. It earns it’s YA standing because the main character is very much a teen and throughout the story we are shown what it means to go through hard things as a teen so the YA assignment does work.

I’d recommend this for older teens and up because of the violence and gore.

I give Anna Dressed in Blood 3/5 for being a solid horror read but the shift to Cas’s bigger story felt disconnected to the events surrounding Anna’s story.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Anna Dressed in Blood today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen

This is a series I’d heard about off and on. So, when I saw it available at the local virtual library I thought, “what the hey, let’s give it a shot.” It’s got royalty, subterfuge, and some snarky characters, so there’s a lot of potential here.

And … it’s a genderbent Anastasia.

The Story

I’m not kidding. The story itself is a close play-by-play of the 1997 Don Bluth animated adaptation of Anastasia. You know, the one with Meg Ryan, John Cusack, and Kelsey Grammer? The one with the lovely hit song, “Journey to the Past”? Yeah, that one.

Except with boys.

Sage is a clever orphan who is constantly making trouble. He’s got a good heart though, most of the trouble he gets in helps to get food for other unfortunates like himself. He and three other boys like him are plucked from their orphanages by one of the Regents of Carthya, Sir Bevin Connor, with the goal of making them into Prince Jaron, who went missing after a pirate attack four years earlier.

We spend the majority of the book watching Sage’s antics as Connor tries to teach him how to be a prince only for Sage to outsmart him at every turn. The other boys take these teachings seriously which puts Sage into a tricky position. He suspects that Connor will kill off whoever isn’t chosen, as he already killed one boy who wanted no part of the plan after it was revealed.

Behind the scenes and out of the view of the reader, Sage is ensuring that everything is in order for him to become Prince Jaron. If you’re familiar with the Anastasia story, you know where this is going. We come to a dramatic show down where everyone gets what they deserve, somewhat.

My Review

I wanted to like this book. There were lots of elements in it that were came close to being good, but fell just shy, including the main character. It also could have been that the book is mostly written in first person, which is a point of view that I find I can’t enjoy as much because it limits what the story can show the reader.

And, I figured out the majority of the plot in the first chapter so nothing really came as a surprise or a stunning big reveal. That is probably more me than most readers (ask the hubby, I’m delightful to watch TV with. Poor plot twists never knew what hit them).

Don’t get me wrong, I was entertained by the book. There was lots of swash-swash-buckle-buckle to keep things interesting, and Sage kept getting his butt handed to him which required people to tend to his various hurts, which I always appreciate. Beyond that, the writing was solid but not breathtaking, the plot interesting but predictable, and the characters rounded but not vibrant.

Recommendations

This book is perfect for younger boys trying to find stories where they can identify themselves in the characters. There’s literally a character for each type of boy, there’s the jock, the nerd, and the clever one who all have both good and bad traits to be likable. The prose is very approachable and the plot straightforward. The recommended reading age is 8-12, which looking back on my earlier remarks makes so much sense. As such, it’s super clean with appropriate levels of anger and violence and some mentions of blood but nothing too graphic.

I give The False Prince 3/5 stars, a solid entertaining read that I really wanted to be surprised by, and wasn’t.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed The False Prince today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

Book Review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

How perfect is this? A book by two of my favorite authors which was later made into a TV series starring two of my favorite actors. It’s like a gift from the universe specially made for me. And even better, it’s pretty amazing.

The Story

There is a lot going in in Good Omens. We have three distinct story lines following the key players. First, there’s main story of how an angel and a demon are trying to prevent the apocalypse because frankly life in the 20th century is everything they’d ever want it to be and they would rather not see it end.

Then, there’s the story of the boy who is supposed to be the Antichrist and bring about the apocalypse.

There’s also a thread of the story as we watch the four horsemen of the apocalypse organize themselves and set things into motion.

Lastly, I’m going to lump together the characters revolving around the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a book of prophecies which is distinct from other books of prophecies for one reason alone – It’s 100% accurate, this includes the descendant of Agnes, Anathema Device (best name for a character, ever) Newton Pulsifer, and Witchfinder Sergent Shadwell.

We see the book in three main time periods; the events surrounding the placement of the baby Antichrist into a suitable family; the key points of the boy’s growing up when both the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley work to ensure he’s given a proper education so when the time comes for the apocalypse, he’s ready; and then the time when the apocalypse is supposed to happen.

Like I said, there’s a lot going on here.

My Review

The one thing that I always find delightful in Pratchett’s books is his use of distinct and likable characters. We see loads of this here. The cast is absolutely massive in this book and yet each character is built in such a way that they walk fully formed off of the page. Take the demon Crowley, for example. He could have been played like a stereotypical villain and not been anything more than that. Instead, we have a man who loves his vintage Bentley (even if every cassette he tries to play in it in time turns into a Queen album), raises houseplants like children (which he sacrifices regularly to threaten the others to grow better, he is a demon after all), and created the M25 just to annoy humans.

Then, we mix all these amazing characters into a story line that’s both so complicated and yet so simple which screams iconic Gaiman.

It’s a hard combination to pull off and yet, for me, was 100% successful in creating an delightful romp through something running just parallel enough to the truth that it can be enjoyed first while reading, but also again as you think about all the bits and how they fit together.

Recommendations

If you’re already a fan of Pratchett and Gaiman you’ll already know that they both love to walk on the edge of the acceptable and explore what is considered right and wrong and why. That said, if reading about the Antichrist as a very real person, and worse, a child, makes you a little squeamish, then this whole book might be a little too much for comfort.

Age recommendations – I’d stick this one to adult readers and the older teenagers they let play. Besides the playful religious overtones ranging into the questionable at times, there only a sprinkling of curse words, I think f*^# is said once, and the violence and romantic content is present but subdued. The reason I recommend older readers is that the story won’t make much sense without context and life experience.

I rate Good Omens 5/5 for its excellent characters, delightful unlikely situations, and the most unusual of friendships.


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TV Review: Castlevania, Season 2

Back in February I reviewed Castlevania, season 1. It’s high time to move onto season 2. I’ll leave my warning upfront and center for anyone who’s made it this far.

Castlevania is not for kids. Don’t let the animation fool you. There is extreme gore, violence, innuendo and mature themes.

And, I still think it’s amazing. All the elements that make up my favorite stories are in here so I’m certainly going to continue watching.

Meet one of the necromancers, Hector.

The Story

At the end of season one we left Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades in the aftermath of a massive battle between Dracula’s forces and the people of Gresit. During the battle, the two of them fall into deep catacombs beneath the city and find Adrian Tepes, who is the half vampire son (also known as a dhampir) of Vlad Dracula Tepes and his wife Lisa.

Adrian, now known as Alucard (which is dracula spelled backwards) fights Trevor and Sypha to test them before joining them to challenge Dracula and stop him from wiping out all mankind.

Season two follows their journey and also steps back to fill in the gaps left by season one. We see details on Lisa’s arrest and subsequent execution – the reason why Dracula has become incensed and feels driven to make the world of men pay. We also see Dracula’s world and the political forces within it, including a few human necromancers who create the undead army of grotesque creatures. This is important, because not only is this a fight between Dracula’s forces and the world, but there is also plenty of tension between the vampires and the necromancers.

Meanwhile, Trevor, Alucard, and Sypha return to Trevor’s destroyed childhood home and uncover the massive secret underground library which contains the answers about how they can possibly stop Dracula’s forces, as well as several specialized monster hunting weapons.

All of this leads up to several heated conflicts and battles. Several of Dracula’s vampires have agendas of their own, and will stop at nothing to see them through. There is an attack on another city as well as a showdown at the Belmont Estate where undead creatures work to eliminate our three heroes.

We end the season with a epic vampire battle between Alucard and Dracula, the outcome of which changes everything.

We also meet Carmilla, one of the vampire queens with a massive agenda.

My Review

Where many second seasons suffer from a lack of focus and a sense that the writers never planned on continuing the story, Castlevania flourishes. All the hectic story building in season one slows down and we finally get to see things happen at a much more reasonable pace. When there needs to be a flashback, it’s satisfying and fits into the story in a way that enriches the experience instead of distracting from it.

The complexity of the plot is Castlevania’s two-edged sword. People are going to love it or hate it because of just how many storylines are running amok. This complexity comes from the massive cast of important characters, all of which have relevant backstories that need to be explored to make the decisions they are making in the present make sense. This means lots of flashbacks to build up these stories. Some might feel this slows down the story and the action too much and takes away from the good parts of the story that’s unfolding in the present.

For me, it makes the conflict all the more interesting and meaningful. No one in this story is a mindless puppet. Each one carries an emotional wound that they are desperately working to heal in often the most dramatic way possible. In a way, Game of Thrones tried to do the same thing. Each kingdom had an agenda and the viewer spent lots of time learning the motivations behind them. Where GOT fell short was not fulfilling any of those agendas even in a clever way. No one in GOT found satisfying closure to their stories, which is why everyone hated the end of season eight.

For Castlevania to be successful, each character with an agenda needs to end up with what they deserve and it needs to be a poetic twist on what they wanted.

Trevor gets a new powerful toy, an enchanted morningstar.

Recommendations

While season one seemed to delight in shocking the audience, season two made up for it by adding additional depth. There is still plenty of gore and violence, but it now feels balanced to what the story is trying to accomplish.

This one is for high school aged viewers and up. Period.

I give Castlevania, Season 2, 5/5 stars for it’s depth of story, stunning art, and complex characters.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Castlevania, season 2 today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.