Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Fantasy

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
Winters, Ben H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

After struggling my way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I thought perhaps the next entry in the “Quirk Classics” line of books would be better. After all, it had a new co-author (alongside Jane Austen) and replaced the almost cliché zombie trope with the lesser-seen sea monster framing. Unfortunately, I once again found myself struggling through the archaic language of Austen’s time. Not only that, but I felt there was far too much talking and way too much nonsense, and that wasn’t even about the sea monsters. I’m starting to suspect that I just plain don’t like Jane Austen’s writing.

Half of the book is practically filled with young women swooning over eligible bachelors, learning that these bachelors are engaged or married, and then becoming depressed because of this revelation. If they spent less time gossiping and more time communicating, perhaps they wouldn’t have these problems. Of course, I realize that this was probably an artifact of the era in which the original Sense and Sensibility was written, but it all seems pretty “senseless” if you ask me. Speaking of senseless, this book certainly delivers on a lot of it, when it comes to the violence of the sea monsters.

As was the case with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I feel Austen’s prose holds back the potential for a much more interesting story. Practically steampunk in its underwater cities and rudimentary diving systems, if this book was an original story, I think it would have been much more interesting to read instead of having to slog through another Jane Austen novel. Of course, most people probably wouldn’t have picked up such a novel, because they wouldn’t know what it’s about. Modifying a Jane Austen story merely gets readers in the door, but it seems like a lazy solution to gain sales instead of a way to create an engaging narrative.

Another attempt at fusing Jane Austen with unnecessary violence, I give Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Force Awakens
Foster, Alan Dean
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If you’ve been following along recently, you’ll know that I’ve been on
a bit of a “movie” kick when it comes to the audiobooks I’ve listened
to. While there are plenty of movies based on books, I haven’t really been
one to read novelizations of movies. That being said, I’ve found the
writing style in my own novels to be a bit of a novelization of the ideas in
my mind, since I usually try and describe scenes in a cinematic way. At any
rate, I was expecting a story that held close to the film, and this book
certainly delivered on that promise.

I’ll admit that the more I think about the plot and characters of The Force
Awakens, the more I find that it almost exactly matches the events of A New
Hope. However, there were some weaknesses in the first installment of the
Star Wars franchise that I feel are addressed in this recent installment.
Sure, all the elements are there, but they’ve been mixed around into
different characters, settings, and conflicts that add a bit more depth to
the story than the archetypical one presented in A New Hope. As a reboot, The
Force Awakens does an excellent job of calling back to what made the original
great, but doing so in a way that is still different enough to provide
interesting twists and questions.

One thing I do like about this version of the story, compared to the movie,
is the “deleted scenes” that help explain some of the plot holes from the
film. Maybe these scenes hindered the flow of the movie (or weren’t
important enough to include) but they certainly helped me understand the
story a lot better now that I know about them. Finally, while I know that
many films have “enhanced audio” for blind people, I’d almost recommend
these people listen to this audiobook instead. The music, sound effects, and
even many of the actors’ voices all are used at a pace that’s much slower
in order to really grasp what’s happening with the story.

A fantastic audiobook that faithfully captures everything (and more) that
made the film great, I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
The Rook
O'Malley, Daniel
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

One of the nice things about listening to audiobooks from my library (via the
Overdrive app), is that I can pick up a book and listen to it without really
knowing what it’s about other than a title and a cover. In this way, I
often have no preconceived notions about the book other than first
impressions. At this point, all I’m giving up to “read” the book is the
time it takes me to listen to it, and I have plenty of that driving to and
from work every day.

Since I had no idea what this book was really about, I was surprised at how
humorous it was. If I were to combine a few, better-known series together,
I’d say this is X-Men mixed with James Bond, with just a dash of Jason
Bourne all blended together in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. An odd
combination, I know. But somehow, it works here. The humor is markedly
British, but the characters and their powers are supernatural, to say the
least. Since this was merely the first in a developing series, I can’t wait
to get to book #2: Stiletto.

All this being said, there were a few structural choices to this book that I
often found confusing, which may just be part of listening to it in audiobook
form instead of reading it. First off, the decision to have the main
character afflicted with amnesia was an interesting way to essentially give
the audience what the character already would have known but had conveniently
forgotten. Secondly, because the letters from her former self were used as
backstory, these “flashbacks” were often confusing because it was easy to
lose track of which Mfwany Thomas (glad I had the audiobook for the
pronunciation of this name) was “speaking” at the moment.

An interesting premise with plenty of potential in future iterations, I give
The Rook 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
Ender's Game
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In another “lapse” of my reading habits, I didn’t manage to read
Ender’s Game until the movie of the same name came out in 2013. At the
time, all the sci-fi fans were eagerly anticipating a film that had taken
over 25 years to finally become a reality. While I thought the movie was
quite well done and engaging, after I read the book, I can understand why
some of the diehard fans of the series were disappointed. As is usually the
case with book-to-movie transitions, sub-plots often find themselves on the
cutting room floor. Of course, I don’t blame them for cutting what they
did; after all, it is called Ender’s Game.

Even though watching the movie first spoiled the exciting twist of the ending
when I read the book, I almost read the book differently knowing how it would
turn out. I could see the signs leading up to the shocking reveal, almost as
if I had read it before. I did appreciate the sub-plot with Ender’s
siblings and their efforts back on Earth as their brother was winning the war
in space. If anything, it helped to break up the intense action surrounding
the eponymous main character so that the reader could fully absorb what was
happening in the universe on a political level as well as a military one.

It is disappointing that there will likely be no more movies in this series
since the source material is full of interesting ideas that I’d like to see
on the big screen. Perhaps the series would be better suited for a television
show (a la Game of Thrones) to fully include all the different elements that
made it a classic of sci-fi back in 1985. Either way, I look forward to
exploring more of Orson Scott Card’s universe in the next book of the
series: Speaker for the Dead.

A fantastic sci-fi story with an incredible twist ending, I give Ender’s
Game 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Attack on Titan Vol. 1
Isayama, Hajime
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Ever since I discovered this series, I've been hooked. The story is just so interesting and unique. I mean, how many books do you read about man-eating giants destroying society and teenage soldiers fighting them. Not only is the plot interesting, the characters are very well developed and their backstories are very interesting. That being said, there aren't too many backstories, because most of them are dead, but still, the main characters' backstories are really creative and awesome. I have read these books so many times and I am still hooked, even though it sometimes makes me mad (because the characters I like all keep dying). 10/10. Highly recommend if you are okay with violence, blood, guts, and disturbing images.

Reviewer's Name: Eremin
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry
Backman, Fredrik
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Backman's wit and humor ties in wonderfully with a tear-jerking finale. From beginning to end, I was torn between laughing and weeping. The innocence and wonder of childhood is captured perfectly, while also conveying the struggles of not being noticed. The grandmother in this story is eccentric and diligent, striving to create beauty for her granddaughter. Backman paints a masterpiece with his words, and keeps me hooked and enthralled at every turn of this book. I recommend this book heartily!

Reviewer's Name: Jordan
Genres:
Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Gaiman, Neil
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

As someone who has to read many short story submissions for the anthology my writing group puts together each year, I can appreciate a well-written short story. I have not read much of Neil Gaiman, but in his collection of anthology short stories, Smoke and Mirrors, I was able to see what kinds of stories a professional writer writes for an anthology. While quite a few stories were interesting, not all of them were necessarily in genres I typically read. Then again, I consider erotica and stories submitted to Hustler as pornography, which is why I do not read these kinds of short stories.

Furthermore, it is a little more uncomfortable listening to erotica, as was the case with this audiobook. Fortunately, Gilbert Gottfried did not read it, but it still is uncomfortable to hear it nonetheless. Sure, the concepts in these short stories were somewhat interesting, but the sex ruined it for me. At least there were enough other stories that I found fascinating to make it worth my while to get all the way through it. The simplicity and genius of these ideas merely verify Gaiman’s writing talent, even if a few were hard to follow. At least a few of them followed the title of the book, which helped tie these separate stories together.

Perhaps my biggest qualm with this book was its structure. Moreover, maybe it was a limitation of a direct transferal to the audiobook format, but it is almost impossible to go back to the first section of the book and listen to the intro for each story before reading that story. Instead, it dispensed pertinent information on every short story before I even had a chance to get to them. If I were to appreciate each story fully, it would have been better to introduce each one with background information, so the context is fresh in the listener’s memory.

A collection of well-written short stories, I give Smoke and Mirrors 3.5 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Stiletto
O'Malley, Daniel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I’ll be the first to admit that I like sequels. Or, more accurately, well-done sequels. While the first book in a series can be great by itself, it carries the burden of exposition and world-building. A good sequel gives a light refresher of the important points and gets right into the action. I would certainly consider Stiletto to be a well-done sequel to the first book in the Checquy Files series, The Rook. Not only does it expand upon the central conflict in the first book, but it throws in the twist of the warring factions of the Checquy and the Grafters coming together to form a truce.

In making enemies into teammates, Daniel O’Malley shows the differences between them are almost superficial. The chess-based supernatural soldiers of the Checquy almost have the same strength of powers that the genetically and surgically enhanced members of the Grafters do. Since the whole plot usually revolves around a pawn of the Checquy and a young woman from the Grafters as they try and maneuver treaty negotiations, the reader gets to see both sides of the argument. Of course, as was the case in The Rook, much of the story is divided into episodic events with an overarching storyline connecting these loosely-related moments together.

Even if the humor is often bodily-related, the style continues to be quintessentially British. It casts a delicate balance between action and humor while also moving the story along to an exciting conclusion. I would almost think such a series would be perfect for a Television show adaptation since its episodic nature lends itself to be easily broken up into smaller pieces. One last thing I would like to mention is that the narration given by Moria Quirk in this book was outstanding. With many different European accents and a variety of unique characters to voice, Quirk made the story understandable and engaging in all the best ways.

A perfect sequel to one of my new favorite series, I give Stiletto 4.5 stars
out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit
www.benjamin-m-weilert.com

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Emissary
Locke, Thomas
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A fantastic world of adventure and legions come alive. Elves and dragons and ethereal powers colliding together in this fast paced journey where EVIL again is trying to 'take over'. It was an easy read and kind of a fun romp. A 'page turner' as they say that left me with a desire to get the next book quickly. It's also another '1st book' so it makes it easy to know what to read the next time. (check out my other "1st books" in the staff reviews. The main character has a noble upright spirit in him and his quest in part is about him becoming all that he can be. Many friends join him along the way and he soon learns that without them he will fail. If you like The Lord of the Rings series; you'll probable like the books that I read.

My curiosity is up about these reviews - so If I could get some feed back (at least 7) - I'll tell you the next "best fantasy saga", I have found, after the Lord of the Rings.

Reviewer's Name: Bruce
A Cast of Stones
Carr, Patrick W
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book starts out really slowwwwww, but hang in there 'cause it starts picking up speed about a third of the way through. Errol Stone lives in a barrel of ale most of the time, he's an orphan and the one who was raising him was killed. It's a hard luck story that lifts you up at the end. He discovers he has hidden talents and true friends that help him overcome life. He has to fight through with work and is discovers a great adventure to live. Most of the stories I like are about people that overcome the odds and learn how to live uprightly. This is another '1st book' and I'm looking forward to the next. I read books that are "clean" from bad language and lustful sex. There's plenty of those, no challenge to find them, so I seek out those that are not. A little Romance and a Noble Spirit, mixed into a great Adventure are what I enjoy. The Return of Sir Percival and The Castaways of the Flying Dutchman are other '1st books' I have read, reviewed and enjoyed recently.

Reviewer's Name: Bruce
The Return of Sir Percival
O'Keefe, S. Alexander
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This Arthurian tale is about noble knights, impossible quests and miracles. Camelot has fallen. King Arthur Pendragon and his Round Table of invincible knights have been destroyed. For tens years now the land has spiraled into chaos and destruction. Ruled by the evil Morgana and her hired barbarians, the people have no hope - all is lost. Guinevere, the Queen of the Britons, is hidden away in a far away abbey, safe from the assassins of Morgana - or is she? And where is Merlin the Wise, Arthur's trusted adviser? That old wizard was at the Battle of Camlann when the King fell, but has disappeared. Morgana's spies are searching the land for him and has vowed to take his head. A merchant ship approaches the shores of Albion hoping to avoid the Saxon Sea Wolves that hunt these waters now. But they're spotted, boarded and the butchering begins. Then two passengers emerge from the ship's hold. Like banshees from hell they move in deadly unison, destroying everyone in sight. Sir Percival, the last Knight of the Table, has returned.

Reviewer's Name: Bruce E.
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
Saunders, George
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

“The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip” is a mere 82 pages, and features the witty lyricism of George Saunders, National Book Award finalist, and the whimsical illustrations of Lane Smith. One might call the story an adult fairy-tale, but I believe both young and old will find it humorous and intriguing.

The story introduces the reader to round, baseball-sized creatures called gappers. They are bright orange, not particularly intelligent, and simply love goats. Saunders explains that, “when a gapper gets near a goat it gives off a continual high-pitched happy shriek of pleasure that makes it impossible for the goat to sleep” (2). For the three families that make up the town of Frip, this is bad news. Goats are their livelihood and so the children of these families must brush gappers off their goats eight times a day to keep their goats happily producing milk. The gapper trouble increases for Capable and her father when a slightly more intelligent gapper takes charge of the goat-loving critters. He decides that the whole lot should gang up on a single house rather than splitting themselves between the three houses of Frip. The other two families rejoice in their gapper-less good fortune, but poor Capable and her goats are quickly overrun by the united forces of gappers.

This story is funny, very creative, and poignant in its understanding of human nature. It expresses the importance of community and kindness, and in a way that sounds only a little preachy. Overall, “The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip,” is definitely worth a read. It requires a single sitting to finish, and rewards the reader with plenty of laughs and a renewed sense of what it means to be a neighbor.

Reviewer's Name: Becca B.
Awards:
Genres:
The Wicked + the Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act
Gillen, Kieron
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This series is really a must-read for fans of modern fantasy, mythology and pop culture. The Wicked + the Divine takes place in a world where a phenomenon called the Recurrence occurs every 90 years, causing a Pantheon of twelve deities from across human cultures to awaken within the bodies of young adults, granting them tremendous superhuman abilities. They will be loved, they will be hated, but two years after awakening, they will all be dead. The year is 2014 and the Recurrence has come again, and this new crop of gods blurs the line between the way deities were worshipped in ancient times and the way humankind worships its popular icons in the modern day. Though they are reincarnations of figures from antiquity- Lucifer, Woden, and Minerva, for example- their personas and appearances invoke modern musical icons like Daft Punk, David Bowie and Prince, and their worshippers stalk their instagram feeds and attend sold-out concert-like performances of their miracles.

However, all is not divine within the ranks of the Pantheon. Skeptics dismiss their claims of "godhood" and "miracles" as delusions, hallucinations or special effects, and point to the last Recurrence - which took place during the 1920s - as the product of the same sort of hoax as those performed under the umbrella of Spiritualism during that era. And, these new gods have all the hormones, the petty selfishness and the capriciousness of the teenagers and young adults they used to be, only now they have superhuman powers at their fingertips, and the weight of the knowledge that for all their strength they will all die before two years have passed. The mysterious goddess Ananke, who exists outside the cycle of the Pantheon, is the only being who seems to understand the forces at work behind the Recurrence, and she acts as something of a guiding light for the gods, though a cryptic and guarded one, at best. Into this tumultuous mix enters Laura, our narrator, a god-obsessed superfan who idolizes the Pantheon to the point of distraction. Though Laura wants nothing more in this life than to be a god herself, she settles for attending their tours, buying their merchandise and following them obsessively on social media, getting as close to them as she possibly can. That is, until she unexpectedly befriends the young Lucifer at a concert and finds herself suddenly drawn into the beautiful, deadly and miraculous world of intrigue that surrounds the members of the Pantheon.

This comic is incredible, both in terms of its writing and worldbuilding, and its art, which is both stunning and incredibly consistent. It is also a wonderful example of diversity and inclusiveness in what is, essentially, a superhero comic - Laura is part of a loving biracial family, Lucifer is a polyamorous, genderfluid woman who is a dead ringer for Bowie, and representation of queer characters, women and people of color abound. I collect this comic religiously (hah!) in both its individual issues and its trades, and I really cannot recommend it enough. However, when our rating says M/Mature, we MEAN it. While there isn't much in the way of graphic sexual content, there is some gore, frequent adult language, and a whole lot of adult situations.

Reviewer's Name: Matt H.
Awards:
The Obelisk Gate
Jemisin, N. K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Fifth Season (http://ppld.org/book-reviews/fifth-season). This was a strong second entry, and on reflection I ended up liking it even more than the original book. The plot is far more linear than in The Fifth Season, but there are still unexpected twists and turns, and for me the characters really came into their own here. You will see some old, familiar faces along with a number of new additions to the cast from regions of the world we hadn't previously been exposed to. There was one character in particular whose story-line took a surprising turn that caused me to do a complete 180 on how I saw them. For me, it hit all the right notes: deeper world-building, strong characterization, and a complex plot that held up to closer scrutiny.

If you haven't finished the first book, the next part of this review will include minor spoilers. The Obelisk Gate picks up where The Fifth Season started, with Essun discovering her murdered son just as the Season hits. While the previous book then went back and forth in time to explore how she had arrived at that point, this one moves us into the future as she sets off in pursuit of her husband (Jija) and daughter (Nassun), hoping to rescue Nassun before she meets the same fate as her brother. The chapters alternate between Damaya/Syenite/Essun's journey and her daughter's, with the odd interlude featuring someone else. The narration is still in its distinctive second person format, but in this book we finally learn who the speaker is. In my opinion, Jemisin answered just enough questions from the first book while still leaving mysteries for the finale, and I can't wait for the third and final entry in the series (projected release in 2017). Highly recommended to lovers of fantasy!

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Anansi Boys
Gaiman, Neil
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I'm not going to try to describe this book, because there is a lot going on and I wouldn't really know where to start. Here's what you need to know:

It's a companion novel to American Gods, but you do not need to read American Gods first. In fact, I found this book to be vastly superior to American Gods, though the internet does not necessarily agree with me on that one.

Do you like Loki? Or like, the idea of Loki? Or just trickster gods in general? Anansi is the African trickster god, and this book is a TRICKSTER god of a novel: its clever, tricky and pure fun.

I listened to this book, and the narration was stellar. Lenny Henry nails the Caribbean accents, the humor, the eeriness, and well, all of it. I'd strongly recommend consuming this in audiobook format.

Oh, and while the characters never felt super fleshed out to me, it didn't matter, because this book was all about stories. And Anansi's stories are the best stories.

The villain was absotively the worst in the best kind of way.

Anyway, if you are looking for a funny, fast, excellently crafted mythological type of read, look no further. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Fifth Season
Jemisin, N. K.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I loved this book. I've been looking for a new fantasy series for a long time now, but I haven't come across anything recently that's caught my eye. I almost gave up on The Fifth Season too, in part because the narration is in second person, which I found jarring at first, and in part because Jemisin drops you in the middle of the action with little explanation and no hand-holding. It took me a few chapters to get into the story and figure out what was going on, but I'm glad I stuck it out because the plot and characters ended up being great. Despite what I just said, I think it's almost better to go into this blind, but I'll try to describe it without giving too much away.

The continent our characters live on, "The Stillness," is a post-apocalyptic hellscape. There is near-constant seismic activity that triggers a new catastrophe (called a "Fifth Season") every few centuries -- sometimes in the form of massive crop-failures, sometimes in the form of volcanic eruptions, sometimes massive earthquakes that destroy whole regions (she includes a helpful appendix of these disasters if you're curious). In this world, there is a group of people known as orogenes (or more derogatorily as "roggas") who have some degree of control over seismic activity -- they can "sess" earthquakes, and, with training, prevent them from being too destructive. But they're also powerful, extremely dangerous, and widely despised -- many people kill their own children when they discover what they are, and it's often a race against time to see if a Guardian (their mysterious and sinister keepers) can arrive to collect the child before the family or the community has killed them. The plot isn't chronological; it moves around from chapter to chapter in order to tell three stories at three points in time: 20-odd years ago, when a young girl is taken to the capital to be trained as an orogene; some 10 years after that when a mid-level orogene goes off on a mission with her senior to investigate a disturbance in a coastal community; and "now," in the immediate aftermath of the latest apocalypse, when we follow a woman who is struggling to cope with her son's murder just as the quake hits.

I'm not going to say that it's an entirely original idea, but I think the execution was solid and I loved the dialogue and cast of characters. There's no lack of action, but Jemisin also takes the time to dig into her characters' emotional lives, and after a while the use of "you" starts to fade into the background. There's a strong focus on discrimination, both in terms of how orogenes are viewed in society and in terms of the treatment of subordinate nations and peoples by the Sanzed Empire that has conquered the continent. A lot of fantasy is set in pseudo-Europe (and often just pseudo-England), so it was refreshing to read something more diverse, and there's a wide variety of representation in terms of race, gender, and sexuality throughout. I would give this 4.5/5 stars if that were possible, but since it isn't I've left it at 4. It wasn't perfect, but it was a very strong start to the series, and I look forward to starting the second book, The Obelisk Gate, which just released this September. I would definitely recommend this to fans of fantasy.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
Book Review: A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire
Martin, George R.R.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I'm not a fantasy reader. I'm not even a fantasy watcher, but like so many other readers of Game of Thrones, the sheer awesomeness that is the series led me to read the book. This book VERY GOOD! This is high praise coming from a non-fantasy reader. I actually was glad I had seen the series because it helped me better visualize everything. I'm not going to continue on with the series because the books are really very long and I just can't commit to that. But I'll keep watching and loving the series! 4 stars because the book was too long and dragged in some places.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Midnight Riot
Aaronovitch, Ben
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Peter Grant has just finished training to be a PC (police constable) in London. Right as he's about to get assigned to the paperwork unit (not his first choice) he chats up a ghost witness to a gruesome murder. After that, he discovers that he has some magical ability, and begins training to be a wizard copper whilst trying to solve the murder.

This was so fun! If I were to describe it, I'd say it's like the Dresden Files (both are urban fantasy series about crime solving wizards) but like a billion times better. It's fairly similar in premise, but different in most other ways. It has a lighter tone, a more likable protagonist, diverse characters, and was just a more enjoyable reading experience for me. The author used to write for Doctor Who, so fans of that show may also like this read. My only complaint is that it read like an ARC. Did anyone bother to edit this thing? The grammar was terrible (some of which was probably intentional, but some of it clearly wasn't), and occasionally character names were just wrong. Like, all of a sudden, a character who wasn't in a scene would "say" something and it was clear that her name was just transposed with the other lady main character - this happened at least twice.

Anyway, lack of editing aside, this book was an absolute joy to read. I've already checked out the next in the series and would strongly recommend this to urban fantasy readers. 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Thorne, Jack
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter made a return to the forefront of pop culture at the end of July with the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a screenplay of the new stage play that takes us back to the magical wizarding world. It’s a bold new direction for the story, taking place nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (please note that this review will assume that you have read or, at the very least, watched the final entry in the series), and the world is a very different place for Harry and his friends.

Almost two decades have passed since the Battle of Hogwarts. Since Voldemort’s defeat, our original heroes have attempted to move on with their lives. Harry is a Ministry of Magic official now, head of the Office of Magical Law Enforcement. He’s happily married to Ginny, and father of three children. Hermione is Minister of Magic, and married to Ron, who has taken over operation of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. At the outset of the play, Harry and Ginny’s second child, Albus, is bound for his first year at Hogwarts. While on the train, he meets his fellow first year, Scorpius Malfoy, and despite their fathers’ history, they become fast friends. In short order, the boys arrive at school and are both sorted into Slytherin, much to Albus’s surprise.

The following years pass quickly (we are only shown hints of events during the first three years that Albus and Scorpius are in school), showing the lack of real communication between Albus and his father. Being the son of The Boy Who Lived, it turns out, is not easy. Albus has Scorpius as a friend, but neither of them seem to be the children their fathers hoped they would be. You see, a rumor has been flying about the wizarding world that Draco Malfoy isn’t actually Scorpius’s dad. Gossip is that Malfoy wasn’t able to have a child, and so he illegally used a Time Turner in order for his wife to conceive a son with Lord Voldemort. This rumor is given more credence when the Ministry of Magic confiscates what is believed to be the last Time Turner in existence, one that doesn’t appear to have the one-hour-back limit of previous ones. But if someone could go back more than one hour in time, what would they seek to do with that power?

In their fourth year, Albus and Scorpius learn about the existence of the Time Turner and ask themselves that question. When Amos Diggory arrives at the Ministry to implore Harry to go back and save his son, Cedric from Voldemort, Harry refuses, for fear of what disrupting the past might do. When given the opportunity, though, Albus and Scorpius leap at a chance to change the world in the hopes of finding their place within it. However, the threat of Lord Voldemort doesn’t only linger in the past.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child isn’t a Harry Potter novel. It’s a play based on a story by J.K. Rowling, but the heavy lifting of the writing was done by Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. It’s a vastly different sort of read because of that, and we don’t get anywhere near the level of insight into each character. It doesn’t move in quite the same way, but it is no less magical. Cursed Child is to the Harry Potter series what The Force Awakens was to Star Wars: a return to a beloved world that retreads some familiar moments while still laying the groundwork for a younger generation. New perspectives on classic moments left me feeling more connected to the characters than I had since first finishing Deathly Hallows.

Having read through the entirety of the screenplay, I only want one more thing from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I want to see it on stage.

(Note: This review orignally appeared here: https://swordsoftheancients.com/2016/08/10/harry-potter-and-the-cursed-c... )

Reviewer's Name: Philip
Genres:
A Criminal Magic
Kelly, Lee
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

After the 18th amendment passed, magic became illegal. Shine, an addictive hallucinogen created as a by-product of sorcery, is the main reason behind the prohibition. So, of course, a seedy underworld of gangsters trafficking in shine immediately springs up, and it is embroiled in this underworld that our two main protagonists, Joan and Alex, accidentally and not-so-accidentally find themselves. As they are both sorcerers, Joan and Alex must figure out how to use their sorcery to survive the crime syndicate and it's machinations.

This is a fun fantasy read that is fairly original in it's premise and setting, with likable and believable characters. The premise does most of the heavy lifting, as gangs set in the 1920s trafficking magic gives Kelly lot to work with. She doesn't disappoint. The gangsters are pretty fearsome and the body count ratchets up quickly. The pacing is tight, and the magic is both deadly and beautiful. Joan is a performer, and the descriptions of the performances themselves are somewhat bewitching.

I did have a few problems with the book. First, while the two main characters were fleshed out and developed, almost none of the other characters got any development, and those that did were then basically ignored for the rest of the book. So when the secondary characters started dying, I didn't really care all that much. And then there's the relationship between Joan and Alex. I didn't mind it at first, but it did that thing that relationships in books often do of getting too serious too fast. It's not instalove, but it's instalove's cousin or something. I also felt that aspects of the 20s were wasted on this book - I wanted more flappers, insane clothing, and awesome music. We really only got the gangsters and the cigarette smoking.

For all it's problems, this fantasy novel was ultimately a great read. The ending was pitch perfect, and left the door open for a sequel. I'd recommend it to light fantasy readers looking for something without a ton of substance that is endlessly entertaining and a little different. I'd probably give it something like 3.5 stars, but since that's not an option, we'll go with 4. I quite liked it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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