magic

REVIEW: Maleficent (2014)

Vengeful fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) curses an infant princess to succumb to a sleep-like death when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday, but as time passes she starts to think Aurora (Elle Fanning) might be the one person who could restore peace between two troubled lands.

As the sequel to Maleficent is released this month, I decided to rewatch the first film for the first time since I saw it in the cinema five years ago. In that time, I’d forgotten a lot about it, but I think I ended up enjoying it more than I remembered.

Maleficent is a darker take on an already fairly dark tale. It gives a reason for Maleficent to be spiteful and angry at King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), and her anger and pain is definitely justified. The opening act of Maleficent shows how she was when she was younger and trusting, and how she grew to become the protector of the magical land. It’s when she’s betrayed in the cruellest of ways that she becomes the villain that we know.

There’s silly child-friendly humour courtesy of the three fairies that take care of Aurora (played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple) and those moments often feel somewhat out of place compared to the darker tone of the rest of the film. Still it’s all about balance and those moments do make things a little lighter, especially compared to scenes with King Stefan who is getting pushed to the edge over his desire to kill Maleficent for what she’s done. Copley does madness very well and in Maleficent that’s no exception.

Angelina Jolie is brilliant as Maleficent. She’s charming and her presence – thanks in part to such an intimidating costume – commands every scene she’s in. Her chemistry with Sam Riley, who plays Diaval the raven when he’s in his human form, is an unexpected delight, as they bicker like an old married couple. How Maleficent slowly begins to like Aurora and feels conflicted over her affection and her past actions is believable too, thanks to Jolie’s performance.

The pacing is a little off at times, with something’s being rushed and the ending of Maleficent is perhaps a bit too neat for a film that’s about the story’s villain but the spectacle and performances make an interesting take on such a well-known story. 4/5.

REVIEW: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared as under orders of the ruthless king, all maji were killed including Zélie’s mother. Now she has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of her brother Tzain and rogue princess Amari, Zélie must outrun crown prince Inan who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. But she’s not only got to learn to control her powers, but she must also control her growing feelings for the enemy.

Children of Blood and Bone is told from three perspectives; Zélie’s, Amari’s and Inan’s and each of them had a distinct voice. Zélie is a divîner, which is someone who has dark skin and white hair which is a sign of the magic that would run through her veins if magic hadn’t had been destroyed. Divîner’s are an oppressed people, they are poor and are often abused and belittled by the King’s guards. Amarai and Inan are siblings who have both been brought up in the castle and, in Amari’s case especially, sheltered from what happens in their country.

I liked Zélie a lot, she’s fierce but impulsive and she cares fiercely for her loved ones. Amari was my favourite character and is probably the one who goes through the most consistent character arc. She’s lived a sheltered life, but she has a strong sense of morals and when she gets the chance to change things and stop her father she takes it, putting her life on the line. She is sweet and naïve to begin with but as she learns how the world works and how people act, she gets smarter and she’s more resilient than she realises. Inan is a character that I never really warmed to. He is desperate to show his father what a great soldier he is, and how he will be a worthy king, but then he also flip flops on his beliefs multiple times throughout the book. He doesn’t have a strong sense of self, will change his mind on things depending on who he’s with, and is generally a disaster and not in a fun, appealing way.

I read almost 400 pages of this 535-page book in the space of two days but then I got to a point, where I got so annoyed with what some characters were doing that I put it down for five days and had to make myself continue with it. Children of Blood and Bone has an enemies to lovers romance and while the foundations of this relationship were interesting, at that 400ish page mark, there was some serious instalove as these characters went from hating one another to barely being able to keep their hands off of one another in the space of about three pages. It was way too fast and seemed needless. Their romance caused conflict with other characters, but that conflict could’ve still happened with them being reluctant allies instead of being in love. Also, their sudden infatuation with one another seemed out of character for both parties and it was a detriment to Zélie’s character especially.

Besides from the romance which I hated, I really enjoyed pretty much everything else about Children of Blood and Bone. I liked the writing style, it’s has vivid descriptions of this world and culture without being overly flowery, and how the friendship grew between Tzain, Amari and Zélie was great. I especially liked how Zélie slowly opened up to Amari, and how Amari figured out her own inner strength.

Children of Blood and Bone is a fast-paced and action-packed story. The world and its magic system are interesting, and the mythology that is introduced can only grow in future books. As a first book in a series, it’s a great introduction to the characters and the world, but I wish it had taken its time with the romance as that did sour my experience of the last quarter of the book. I do plan to continue reading this series though and I’m intrigued to see where everything will go from that ending. 4/5.

REVIEW: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

rebel of the sandsAmani Al’Hiza is poor, orphaned and female, three things that make her a lesser citizen of the dead-end town of Dustwalk. Amani dreams of escaping the town and seeing the world she’s only heard about in campfire stories. When a foreigner with no name arrives in town, she realises that with him she might have a chance to leave Dustwalk behind. But the desert is full of dangers and magic. The Sultan’s army is growing and Amani soon finds herself caught up in a deadly adventure she never dreamt she could have.

The world of Rebel of the Sands is fascinating. It seems like a Arabic-American Wild West fusion with the small mining towns and the guns but then a lot of the characters names and supernatural creature are more Arabic inspired. It is great seeing how these cultures blend together to form its own unique world. Then there’s the magic that’s a part of this world, there’s the Djinn which are supernatural creatures and people who can change their appearance and have strange powers. This magic is a part of the land and how it all works is really one of the best things about the book. (more…)

REVIEW: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

a darker shade of magicKell is one of the last travellers, magicians with the ability to travel between parallel worlds connected by the city of London. There’s Grey London, a city without magic, Kell’s Red London where magic is respected and White London where magic fights against those who wish to control it. Once there was a place known as Black London but no one talks about what happened there. Kell finds trouble as he travels between the worlds, meeting thief Lila along the way and together they have to try and save all the connected worlds.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a very quick read thanks to the action and the writing style. Even the chapters and parts that the book is broken into are pretty short and allow you to read the story very quickly.

The characters in A Darker Shade of Magic are pretty cool. Kell has a lot of power and responsibility (and a really cool coat) but that doesn’t stop him from doing stupid and reckless things sometimes. Lila is the kind of character we’ve all wanted to be at some time. She’s a thief and looks after number one but she does it by being smart and by always being willing to learn. She is kind of that trope of “girl dresses up as a guy in order to progress in life” but I couldn’t bring myself to care that much. Kell and Lila make an odd team, they are complete polar-opposites in many ways but they still manage to work together.

The magical elements of A Darker Shade of Magic are great. It’s interesting to see the language used to make magic happen, or in some cases it’s all about the persons will and intent than saying any magic words. The way Kell travels between the London’s is interesting and how the different societies see and deal with magic is a great way to show how different the worlds are.

There’s a lot of mystery in A Darker Shade of Magic as both you as the reader and Kell try and figure out what he’s got himself into and who he can really trust. His interactions with Holland, another powerful traveller, were great because you could never really pinpoint what was exactly going on with Holland and if he was a good guy or a bad guy.

A Darker Shade of Magic is action-packed, full of magic and mystery and some interesting characters. It’s well worth checking out, especially as the sequel A Gathering of Shadows is released this month and I do think it’s best to go into this book knowing as little as possible. 4/5.

REVIEW: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

a thousand yearsWhen the formidable king Lo-Melkhiin arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. If he does, she knows that her beloved sister will be dead within days. She takes her sisters place and joins Lo-Melkhiin in his palace, there she discovers a strange magic that connects the two of them and her own power. As she survives each night by telling her husband stories, her power grows as she sees visions of her sister and the desert. Will the power growing inside her be enough to kill the king?

A Thousand Nights has a wonderful female protagonist and her relationship with her sister is the highlight of the book. I never really realised till the end of the book that you never find out the names of a lot of these characters, the only named characters are men such as Lo-Melkhiin and the solider Firh Stonetouched. I think this is an interesting choice as you see that in many ways, any of the 300 girls chosen before our heroine could have been the hero in the tale as our heroine is standing up for all the girls that have come before her and died by the hands of Lo-Melkhiin.

There are a lot of great female relationships in A Thousand Nights. Lo-Melkhiin’s mother still manages to believe in her son and that belief rubs off on to our heroine. The relationships between our heroine and her mother, sister and sisters-mother are all filled with love and respect, while the relationship between her and the women in the palace are often mutually beneficial and the women work together to look after her. It’s great to read a book where the women are the strong and powerful ones, who ignite change in people and make each other strong.

The magic that the heroine possesses isn’t easy for her to understand or control, often she does things with it without realising. The way the magic is described makes it sound incredibly beautiful and as she learns where it came from and how to use it, she realises that she could be as strong as the king.

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