adventure

REVIEW: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters but when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance and instead breaks Amazon law to save one mortal, Alia Keralis. With this single act Diana not only puts her home, Themyscira, in danger but the entire world. Alia is a Warbringer – a descendent of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of conflict and pain. Diana and Alia will face enemies, mortal and divine, determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. The only way they can save the world is to stand together.

I had some trouble getting into Wonder Woman: Warbringer to start with. I think it was because I had both the film and the various comics featuring Wonder Woman I’ve read in my mind at first, where Diana was an adult and more respected and experienced with her abilities compared to the seventeen-year-old Diana featured in this book. But after 50 pages or so I got used to it and found myself falling in love with this Diana and her story.

It may sound a little cheesy but this book is about the power of friendship and girls sticking by one another. The friendship Diana and Alia forge in the face of such differences and with pretty much everything else against them is admirable. Also, Alia’s best friend Nim is great, she’s opinionated and doesn’t really have a filter but she’s so incredibly loyal. It’s the interactions between Diana, Alia, Nim, Alia’s brother Jason and their friend Theo that really makes this story. Through banter between them all you get to see what connections are already there and how they grow and adapt when Diana comes into the picture.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer is a great blend of action, drama and humour with a sprinkling of Greek mythology. While there are some fantastical elements, it always feels grounded. It’s an intriguing mystery that ends up with a thrilling finale that I couldn’t put down – I ended up reading it in just two days!

In the end, Wonder Woman: Warbringer gave me the same feeling as the recent Wonder Woman film did. It’s all about finding your inner strength and believing in the best in people and what they could potentially achieve. It’s a fast-paced adventure that I feel is perfect for both new and old fans of Diana. 4/5.

Advertisements

REVIEW: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he has too much fun for that. Neither being kicked out of the finest boarding schools in England nor his father’s disapproval can stop him drinking, gambling or waking up in the arms of women or men. As Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, along with his best friend Percy (who he may be in love with) and his younger sister Felicity, he has one final year of fun until he must return home and to be a part of his father’s business. But things go awry when Monty’s usual recklessness turns their trip abroad into a manhunt across Europe, putting himself and those he cares about in danger.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is so much fun. It’s set in the 1700’s which allows for a different kind of travelling adventure. They can’t get money easily, there’s now quick communication to back home if things go wrong so when you encounter highway men or pirates you’re on your own with just your wits.

Monty, Percy and Felicity are a great trio of characters with interesting dynamics. Felicity was the one I loved straight away. She’s a young lady due to go to finishing school when all she really wants to do is go to the school’s her brother has been kicked out of. But due to her gender and the times that’s not possible, no matter how smart and eager she is. Percy is the nephew of a nobleman but he has never really fitted in to high society due to his Barbadian mother. Even though his childhood must’ve been difficult he is warm and kind and cares about Monty a lot. Monty took longer to grow on me as the problems he ends up facing really help him grow and learn more about himself. He’s selfish and only thinks about how other people’s issues affects him, he’s a charmer and doesn’t think before he acts – all qualities that are often simultaneously infuriating and endearing.

Monty’s voice shines through in the writing, making this 500-page novel fly by. Also, the fact that Monty ends up in almost non-stop escapades definitely helps make it a book that’s difficult to put down. From England, to France and beyond their adventures and the mystery they uncover often verges into the absurd but it’s all told with such charm and wit that it ends up being quite brilliant. Along with all the excitement and threat of danger, there’s still quieter moments between the characters that show they aren’t necessarily cut out for this kind of thing but being together makes them stronger and better.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a great historical adventure story with a bisexual main character, an engaging romance and a colourful cast of characters. 5/5.

REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

When a dark force threatens Alpha, a vast structure home to thousands of different species, Special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) must race to find those responsible to not just safeguard Alpha, but the future of the entire universe.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a wonderful example of adventurous sci-fi. The opening credit sequence is so full of hope, wonder, as people from all corners of the galaxy coming together to share technology and knowledge and that is really the epitome of what sci-fi should be. It’s a weird and vibrant film, the costumes, the sets, everything just pops from the screen. The special effects and creature designs in this film are gorgeous. Honestly, it’s like a feast for the eyes, so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. For instance, there’s so much to see as a spaceship manoeuvres around Alpha that everything can seem like a blur. That being said, when things are more static and you can appreciate how good the CGI is and how there’s so many different creatures, it’s truly wonderful. The sequence in the market, which is like a miniature heist, is an inventive and standout moment.

The human characters are pretty much your typical clichés and while you don’t really get to learn a lot about the alien creatures, besides shapeshifter Bubble (Rihanna), they tend to be more interesting than the humans. In the first scene between them, there’s some clunky exposition where you learn everything you need to know about Valerian and Laureline from a conversation where they point out each other’s flaws and backstories. Exposition continues to often be on the heavy-handed side but when there’s so much to see and appreciate about the environment this story is set in, that it doesn’t really matter too much.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a fast-paced, visual extravaganza that’s a lot of fun. It has its faults but overall, it’s kind of delightful in how much it loves being big and bold. 3/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is coerced by old flame Angelica (Penélope Cruz) and her father Blackbeard (Ian McShane) into a quest to find the fountain of youth. They aren’t the only ones after it though with the Spanish and the British, led by Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), searching for it too.

While On Stranger Tides continues the trend in this franchise of having great costumes, music and set design, it unfortunately doesn’t have the fun or emotional-heft of the previous films. This may be in part as it’s the first film not to feature Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom), two central characters in the previous three films, and instead you have a new villain, new crew-mates, and a new love interest for Jack.

Blackbeard is a decent villain. He’s menacing and has a very clever ship, though this is probably down to Ian McShane’s performance more than the script. Blackbeard is set up to be a fearsome pirate but after you initially meet him, he’s not that fearsome. He’s by no means a nice guy and is incredibly selfish but he’s not terribly threatening after the initial reveal.

There’s a side romance with missionary Phillip (Sam Claflin) and mermaid Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) that could have easily been done without. In many ways, they are both plot devices, Phillip especially, and there’s not enough insight into their character for the audience to become attached to them in anyway.

On Stranger Tides is just a bit bland. It’s moves from one event to another and because there’s no real character development nor many interesting characters full stop, the times these characters are put in danger you don’t really care. Jack Sparrow, while still a bit mad and full of plans that unbelievably work, isn’t enough to make this film enjoyable. 2/5.

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

I wasn’t planning on rewatching and potentially reviewing all the Pirates of the Caribbean films in the run up to the fifth film’s release but I’ve seen trailers for Salazar’s Revenge every time I’ve been to the cinema recently so it gave me the craving to rewatch the series.

When governor’s daughter Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) is kidnapped by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of the Black Pearl, blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) teams up with eccentric pirate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her.

The Curse of the Black Pearl is Johnny Depp’s first outing as Captain Jack Sparrow and it’s clear to see why Sparrow and Depp’s performance has kind of become iconic over the past ten plus years. Jack Sparrow is one of those characters who’s become a favourite to so many people. He permanently appears drunk and clueless but he often surprises everyone by having a mad plan all along. He’s funny, somewhat charming and good with a sword.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is such good fun. It’s full of action, epic duels and it does that magical thing of balancing action and comedy superbly. It’s also a very quotable film and I spend most of my time mouthing the lines along with the characters. Depp, Knightley and Bloom all have great chemistry and it’s wonderful when they’re on screen together. Everyone gives it their all, Barbossa is a formidable villain and Norrington (Jack Davenport) is surprisingly sympathetic.

I can’t not mention the score. Composed by Klaus Badelt with input from Hans Zimmer, the Pirates of the Caribbean score has become one of the most recognisable scores in recent years. It perfectly captures the fun and excitement of the film and has kind of become the theme for anything pirate related.

The special effects used on Barbossa’s crew still look pretty good over a decade later and perhaps that’s because they are used sparingly. The film waits to reveal the secret of the curse and even once it has, it still makes the moments when you see the effects of the curse truly count.

I just love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl! It is such an enjoyable film that I do not get tired of rewatching. I honestly think the word fun is the best word to describe, The Curse of the Black Pearl. It is one of those classic, action-adventure, fun for all the family kind of films and over the years it hasn’t lost its charm. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

FullSizeRenderBeing a skilled vet who specialises in reptiles, CJ Cameron is difficult to faze. When the Chinese government invite her and some other respected guests to the unveiling of their magnificent, top-secret zoo, CJ is intrigued but not expecting anything too different. Then the Chinese announce what is really going to be in the zoo. For decades, they’ve been breeding deadly creatures believed to be the stuff of myth. Despite the danger, the staff at the zoo stress that everyone is safe and they’ve prepared for every eventuality. But CJ spots flaws in the zoo’s security and believes it’s only a matter of time before the beasts break free.

The Great Zoo of China is a thrill ride from start to finish. There’s a great build up of anticipation as CJ and the other guests, including her photographer brother Hamish, arrive at the zoo and finally realise what the Chinese have on offer for the public and soon after all Hell breaks loose. Once the inevitable happens and the animals break free, the action is non-stop and the book speeds along as you’re with this group of characters and you just know that it’s not particularly likely that they’ll all survive.

Now I don’t think it’s a spoiler considering what’s on the cover and how the books been marketing but the deadly creatures in question are indeed dragons. These creatures are described as terrifying and deadly animals akin to the dinosaurs because that’s what they are. They are smart creatures and are described so vividly you can picture all the different types of dragons in your head easily. The Great Zoo of China doesn’t hold back when everything goes wrong. There are people torn or bitten in half and blood is splattered everywhere when the dragon attack.

CJ is a badass and a great protagonist. She’s calm under pressure, especially as she’s already had some experience of being in a struggle with a deadly creature with a lot of teeth, and she’s good at making the best out of a bad situation. Some might think she’s a Mary Sue but you could say the same think about Indiana Jones.

While I’ll admit The Great Zoo of China is no literary masterpiece, the science side of it is semi-plausible which is always a plus and it is a lot of fun and exciting. If you love Jurassic Park then this book will be right up your street. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

conspiracy of usAvery West is sixteen years old and knows nothing about her father until a boy comes into her life saying he works for her father’s family and they want to meet her. Soon she’s on an adventure in Paris, learning about her so-called family that is a part of a secret society called the Circle that seems to be able to control the world and her part to play in a prophecy. Two boys who work for Circle are Jack and Stellan and Avery isn’t sure if she can trust either of them as she discovers the prophecy is more like a conspiracy and it could destroy her life, along with the world.

The Conspiracy of Us is a great adventure story. It incorporates secret, world-controlling societies (think of the conspiracy theories about the Illuminati) with historical figures like Alexander the Great and how they relate to what’s going on today a bit like The Da Vinci Code. It’s a fast-paced book as you follow how all these clues are connected together and how it relates to a prophecy that Avery appears to be the centre of.

Avery is your standard YA heroine but a lot of her actions make sense. Thanks to her mother’s job, they’re constantly moving around the country so she’s never really made any long term friendships or connections meaning she’s quite closed off. What she’s always wanted though is to know who her father is so when that opportunity comes along she’s almost painfully naïve as she impulsively follows Stellan abroad in the hope to find him, not realising how reckless her actions could be.

Jack and Stellan are both intriguing characters. They both clearly have painful pasts but the way in which that has shaped them is different. There is a bit of a love triangle in The Conspiracy of Us which isn’t so great (not a fan of love triangles) but the way it sets it up means there’s interesting character moments.

One thing I really liked about The Conspiracy of Us is that it throws you pretty much straight into the action, there’s no long set up or world-building so with 30 pages you’ve met the three main characters and the plot is really kicking off. While the starting point of the book might not be that fleshed out, when it comes to the descriptions of cities like Paris and Istanbul, they were very vivid.

The Conspiracy of Us is an action-packed ride and would be great for people who like stories about treasure hunters. 4/5.