Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review - Shatter Me

Original Title: Shatter Me
Series: Shatter Me, #1
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: November 11th, 2011

Publisher: HarperCollins

Before starting this, I should probably tell you that this will be an angry rant review, the type I normally reserve the one star GoodReads rating for. So, if you like this saga, you shouldn’t keep reading, because I don’t have anything good to say about this book, and you are not going to like it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The reason I grabbed this book is simple. I heard it is becoming a tv series this year, and I didn’t want to be late to the party. After all, it happened to me before that, upon watching adaptations of popular books and sagas I had ignored, I found amazing stories I couldn’t believe I didn’t know before. So, as I saw this one was so popular among the reading community, and had been translated to so many languages, I decided to give it a try. And, oh, my God, what a let down! I can’t believe how so many people love this so much.

Upon the first few chapters things were going smoothly. Juliette, as narrator, telling us about her situation, locked up in that asylum for so long, was good in the way that it truly reflected a person both physically and mentally trapped, someone who had spent too much time in the sole company of herself and her thoughts. Her way of speaking truly reflected her isolation, her hopelessness, the feeling of being caged as an animal, and the prison of her own mind, as she tried to keep her sanity. She had this relatable moment in which I thought “I’m going to like this girl” because in her words I saw me:

I spent my life folded between the pages of books” [...] “In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.

For a moment I thought Tahereh Mafi was an amazing, talented new author I would want to keep reading. But that feeling soon crashed and burned, and I don’t even know where to start to explain myself.

Let’s go for the writing. I believe the style is called “purple prose”, and I don’t need more examples of it to tell you I don’t like it. It’s unnerving. Juliette, as the narrator, gets so annoying I wanted to throw the book at the wall every few pages. And I’m going to use actual quotes to support this. For example, at one point she says “Mechanical clinks/cracks/creaks and shifts shake the space I’m standing in.” *deep breath* Really? Do you need three adjectives to describe one single sound? Is it that important? Or, about Adam, she goes “his lips his lips his lips”, just like that, no comas, no breathing, and I wonder, is it necessary? (spoiler: no, it’s not). 

Juliette’s narration drove me CRAZY, especially with these particular phrases and moments:

- “Heat rushes up my neck and I fall off a ladder holding a paintbrush dipped in red.” - What a hell is that?? I’m so glad you asked: it is unnecessary, uncalled for, and exhausting. All those fancy words are only there to tell us she blushed when Adam grinned. And this is just one example of the other thousand times it happens.

- “My heart is parasailing in the springtime.” - *eye roll* Forget her powers, this is the kind of thing Juliette should be in an asylum for. If I meet a person who talks like this every few sentences I would probably think she needs therapy. As poetic as it may sound, I don’t think a Dystopia is the type of story to fill with that kind of writing. 

- “The sun is revolving around the moon when he responds.” - What a hell does it even mean?? Why it is there? To make me lose the little patience I have left? There’s not even a point for that sentence, it’s too farfetched, it doesn’t add anything to the moment, it’s just... confusing. And exhausting.

- “His lips are spelling secrets and my ears are spilling ink, staining my skin with his stories.” - such a FORCED metaphor, as there’s another billion in the book. For God’s sake, STOP! Talk like a normal person, I’m begging you! You are draining my energy! 

Don’t get me wrong, though. Metaphors are good from time to time, but it should be a limit. Here, it is like the author overloaded the book with them just to show us she can do it. Here is the thing: they are like condiments. You use them to spice up a dish, but if you put too much, you ruin the food, and can’t truly taste it. And this book felt exactly like that, like I was reading metaphors among which I had to find an actual tasteless plot, instead of a plot in which I could find some clever metaphor scattered here and there, and enjoy the hint of poetry in the middle of the prose.

And finally, this abhorrent thing, upon a dialogue between Adam and Juliette:

- “I want to ask and don’t want to ask and need to ask and never want to ask. I have to ask.” - *eye roll and face-palmage* This is EXHAUSTING *snapping fingers repeatedly in Juliette’s face* Come on girl, FOCUS! Make a decision!

I had more examples, but I think you get the idea. Just so you know, the whole book is filled with this kind of phrases, and I could quote a million of them. But don’t worry, I won’t. I choose to keep my sanity. Let’s move on!

Juliette Ferrars is a cardboard character, and I couldn’t stand her. There’s no explanation for her powers, and she lives sunk in self-pity for what they caused in her life (her parents’ rejection, the boy she accidentally killed). She’s considered a monster, a pariah. But when she comes out of her prison, suddenly every single male character is attracted to her, and she’s set as this oh, so insanely beautiful girl who is unaware of her own looks (cliché?). She’s presented as so smart –given the kind of phrases and metaphors she uses–, and as a badass, but unsuccessfully. I don’t like her, and nothing can change that, I’m afraid; and it’s not for the sake of comparison, but I read about so many other female heroines, in so much better books, that, without half of Juliette’s abilities, can teach her a thing or two about true badassery, repeatedly kick her ass, and send her crying like a baby to a corner.

Let’s talk about Adam Kent for a while. From the moment he appeared I knew he eventually would become the love interest. After all, when you are presented a physically perfect character, there’s not much space for doubt. You just know. And that bothered me so much! Adam is set to be this perfect person, and fully becomes a YA stereotype good guy. He does everything right, he has no faults in Juliette’s eyes, and obviously, he has the perfectly sculpted body (like it could have been otherwise), unique blue eyes, dark hair, and so on. And I just don’t like when the heroine falls for a guy she considers “perfect”. It doesn’t work for me, if I wanted to read that I would grab the Twilight saga. On the other hand, Adam is such a good person, that even after running away with Juliette and being chased, he doesn’t even shoot to kill, only to incapacitate, even when every single soldier out there has been ordered to kill him on sight. And I just… *sigh of defeat* This is beyond me.

The love story is probably one of the worst I’ve ever read. I don’t buy insta-loves, and this isn’t the exception. Juliette makes no sense, she says she wants to touch someone with her heart, but when she “falls in love”, it’s only a physical relationship, and there’s absolutely no reason for Juliette and Adam to fall for each other. They claim to know each other from school, and they jump from there to the “I love you”, and that may be enough for them, but for me, it’s not. I can’t root for characters I don’t know. I can’t trust they know each other enough to unfold a love story like this one, because I haven’t been there to see the reasons behind those feelings. Plus, Juliette describes and praises Adam’s body every few sentences, and I’m like “Ok, the guy is hot, I get it, let’s move on!”. I’m here to be told a story, not to read some guy’s description, and/or a completely unreal love based on perfection, which annoys me even more, because I personally consider that love isn’t because of perfection, but because, even knowing imperfection, being together is still worthy. 

Some phrases were just so out of place. At one point, Juliette says “I want to taste the landscape of his body.”, and I just… *throwing book at the wall* What is this, a YA Dystopia or a bodice ripper historical romance?? Not only is the love story so poorly written is sickening, they can’t seem to be able to take their hands from each other for a second. Because, of course, Adam can touch her, when everyone else can’t, and he happens to be the hottest person on the planet. How convenient. Plus, as I already said, Juliette says she wants to touch someone with her heart, but her relationship with Adam is mostly horniness and making out. The scenes in which they almost have sex are too much, and it was kind of boring, like “come on, you like each other, we get it. Is something going to happen, or I just have to read about you making out for another million paragraphs?”. I got sick of them kissing in the most inappropriate times and places, and of Juliette describing her body’s reaction to Adam’s touch every-single-damn-time . Moreover, at one point, I read an entire paragraph of it only to realize I didn’t get a word, because my mind went somewhere else, and I discovered I didn’t even need to re-read it because I was not missing anything worthy important. It feels as if Tahereh Mafi is trying to mask a weak romance with so many metaphors and descriptions, and Juliette and Adam’s obsession with each other. Both things add absolutely nothing to the story, they feel like filler content, and take half of the book. And I just can’t read a novel based solely on that. I need something more.

Ok. Moving on. I would like so say a few words about the villain, Warner. At first, I thought he had potential, but soon it fell flat. He’s obsessed with Juliette and wants to use her as a weapon in a war that is barely mentioned, and although he’s meant to be this guy slowly going crazy by power, I hated him for a whole lot of different reasons. He’s so poorly written that I just couldn’t even hate him for the right thing. He keeps talking to Juliette about his plans, and when he discovered that he could actually touch her, I wanted to flush the book down the toilet. The scene in which Warner finally captures Juliette was the final straw. He pins her against the wall and kisses her, and I quote: “I don’t know how to reconcile the confusion in my mind, my hesitant repulsion, my inexplicable chemical reaction to his lips.” It is like she knows this is wrong, but at the same time she doesn’t want him to stop, when a few pages ago she claimed she loved Adam. Oh, my God, she’s so annoying! And I wonder, is this supposed to be the hint of a future love triangle around a girl who can’t touch people, but casually these two guys can? What are the odds? In my opinion, it would be a lot more meaningful and less insufferable if Adam can’t actually touch her, like the rest of the world, and they count it as another reason to fight for their love and find a way to be together. That would be something worth reading instead of seeing that they are great with each other right from the get-go (and can’t control their impulses).

There’s so many scenes that just don’t make much sense, like when, after Kenji shows up all beaten up in Adam’s house and warns them about the soldiers being an inch away from capturing them, he immediately goes and hits on Juliette for at least… two pages? I think that both Kenji and the scene are meant to be funny, but they aren’t. I mean, weren’t they in a rush? Two seconds earlier they were getting ready to run as fast as they could, and now they have time to flirt? Right after that, Adam’s little brother, James, comes home, they try to explain him that they have to flee, Kenji blurts a cuss word, and Adam tells him not to use them in front of James, who says he doesn’t mind, because he hears them all the time. And then, Adam has no better idea than asking him where he learns cuss words, and says is not okay for him to keep hearing them… *eye roll* Are they running for their lives or NOT?? Come on people, common sense! Right in the next line, Juliette says “we are all fugitives running for our lives” and Adam decides to play the big brother part, worried about Kenji’s swear words in front of his kid brother *if I roll my eyes one more time I’ll go blind* 

After this, things just go from bad to worse. They are finally captured, and Adam is shot and tortured. And the worst part wasn’t the situation itself, but finding myself thinking that “if he dies, I actually don’t care”, and if your reaction to a main character’s (and love interest) death is “meh”, I think that speaks volumes. Anyway, Juliette is taken alive to Warner, and here is when things start making even less sense. This is the scene I previously referred to, when he kisses her, and she sorts of likes it, but my point is that, in previous chapters, Juliette proved the reach of her powers, being able to smash through nothing less than a concrete wall with her bare hands (and later, steel), but right now, she can’t push Warner away? Seriously? Are you going to tell me she’s not capable of just breaking his arm, or snapping a finger or two, instead of trying to reach for his gun?

But, wait, it gets worse. She manages to reach Warner’s gun, shoots him and escapes, to find and rescue Adam. For some reason, she finds him (it’s not very clear how), in a prison of concrete and steel, tied up, and absolutely NO ONE is watching him. I mean, an entire army was after him (with every possible high-tech advantage), and once they capture him, they just leave him there, alone, unguarded? Right. I think that speaks for itself, I won’t delve deeper. You get what I mean.

Can we just talk about the ending? They escape the army, guided by Kenji, and find themselves in the rebel’s hideout, where, as I guessed from the start, Juliette is not unique, and finds out there’s others with powers like her. I don’t like to compare, but it is so like X-Men it is impossible not to notice. And it’s not like the author really bothered to disguise it: Juliette is untouchable, just like Rogue, and Castle, besides being the resistance’s leader, has mental powers, exactly like Charles Xavier. I mean, seriously, I know that comparisons are not fair, but it is like the author didn’t even try. I understand that Tahereh Mafi loves X-Men (as she clearly does), but she took the obvious path, when she could have written one or two characters as a tribute to the ones she loves, without making them both her protagonist, and the leader of the good guys, exactly as it is in X-Men. Just as the authoress Jenna Moreci says in one of her vlogs, “imitation is the highest form of flattery, but is the lowest form of creativity.

As for Kenji being a rebel, I was not surprised, because I just met him, and I didn’t have the time to be shocked, as to say, “seriously? This guy, the whole time?”. It is like the author tried to drop a bomb, but it didn’t work. And I never doubted they would end the book among the rebellion, even before meeting Kenji. What was actually a surprise was Kenji’s powers, though by the time that’s revealed, I was just too bored to care. 

Finally, a word on the book in general. I can’t rescue one single thing I liked about this book. Half of my energy was wasted trying to understand the two million annoying metaphors Tahereh Mafi decided to include for no reason at all. And I have to say it, this isn’t a YA Dystopia with a romantic subplot, but exactly the other way around. The “romance” practically dominates the book, and I think it opens up a new genre possibility: a style we could call “Dystopian Romance”, or something like that. The entire plot of “Shatter Me” revolves around an insta-romance, and the futuristic setting is more like an excuse, because it is barely mentioned. There’s practically no information about it, we don’t know what caused the current situation they are living in, and the characters are never truly in contact with it, there’s not even one first-hand experience that would help us feel something about this so terrible society they are living in. Moreover, at one point I thought that entire thing could have been moved to a contemporary background, and it would have made absolutely no difference. Plus, there’s not even a mention of where this futuristic society is located on the planet (I took for granted it is the USA, by default). I think the author missed what “Dystopian society” actually means, and, simply, adjudicating a story to the wrong genre is going to attract the wrong audience. I came here looking for a truly dystopian society, and my first thought is that I’ve definitely read better. 

I can’t believe this was recommended to fans of the Hunger Games, how dare they? That is a true masterpiece. Besides, this one is actually more similar to Twilight, in everything, from the lousy heroine to the sticky, exaggerated romance, and what I decided to call a “nice-try villain”, meaning, a character with potential, but wasted. When (and if) the tv series comes out, I may or may not give it a chance. I don’t know, and I won’t decide until it is out, though I admit I’m curious about how they will actually tell a story out of a book that is 50% forced metaphors, 40% horniness and making out, and 10% actual plot.

Phew, that was exhausting! I hate to tear books apart like this, but it really made me angry, I can’t even pretend it had good things, and if you liked this book, I’m really sorry. I just can’t think the same way, and I’m honest about it. And if it wasn’t clear already, no, I’m not going to read the rest of the saga. It isn’t for me.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review - Pottermore presents 3-1

Original Titles: Pottermore presents
Series: -
Author: J. K. Rowling 
Published: September 6th, 2016

Publisher: Pottermore from J. K. Rowling

I should probably warn you that this will contain spoilers, but they aren’t the usual ones, because the story itself is the one told in the Harry Potter series. This collection tells us about characters we already know from it, expanding their personal stories, both before and after what we could already read. If you have read the series, then go ahead, although it’s not any fun if I tell you what there is in this small collection from Pottermore. You should go and see for yourself, because the Queen of Magic has done it again. Here, I’ll discuss a lot from what I’ve read in the three little books, so if you want the surprise, you shouldn’t keep reading. Stop right here.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now let’s dive in.

I don’t have enough words to express my happiness and excitement when I discovered these three little books, nor to express how much I loved them. This is pure perfection. More of my hero J. K. Rowling doing what she does best, filling the few pages that form this articles with her clever lines, her unique sense of humor, a wide amount of details, and of course, the magic that only she can create. What could possibly go wrong? 

I already tried to put my love for Harry Potter 
into words, and the huge role it has in my life, in my article A Witch’s Life for Me, that I wrote in tears, and it wasn’t enough, because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain how much I own to this story. Once again, upon meeting all these beloved characters (yes, even the villains), it’s like finding my friends, people I’ve shared a big part of my life with, and that will always have an especial place in my heart. I’ll go book by book from now, so I can tell you all about my favorite parts, that had me laughing out loud, and mostly wanting to hug each and every one of these characters, and wander the places that took me in when I most needed a refuge. There’s true magic in this world, a uniqueness that it is just captivating, and keeps growing and growing, and coming to life in new ways with each word our so beloved Joan puts down. No one builds characters as she does, so realistic and relatable in a world so different from our own. And no one made me love a fictional world as much as she did, because the feelings it created (and still creates) are the furthest thing from fiction.

Let’s go.

In Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, we get to know about Minerva McGonagall, long before we knew her as the Transfiguration teacher and head of the Gryffindor house, and also after the Second Wizarding War. The Sorting Hat had the same doubt with both her and Hermione: Ravenclaw or Gryffindor?Curious, very curious, don’t you think? But her story starts long before that. Here, we get to know about her parents, her family, her first love, her husband, her passion for Quidditch and her strong wish to see Slytherin smashed. It’s a side of her we never get to see in the books, and she’s as fascinating as every single character Joan has ever created within the Wizarding World. Also, we get to know more about our dearest Remus Lupin, and it had me almost in tears. I miss him so much, and I was delighted to have the chance to deepen into his story, his childhood and the sad start of his lycanthropy. But, more than anything, we can know the side of the story that isn’t in the books, around his relationship with Tonks and how much he loved her, even when in the series they don’t get much page time. Reading that he “was married to the woman of his dreams” just made my heart swell. They are definitely two of the people I love the most in this world, and they will forever live in my heart. 

On the other hand, we get to know a lot more about werewolves, and also about the whole process to become an Animagi, which is incredibly interesting and difficult, and I admire James, Sirius, and Peter 
even more (yes, Peter too), for the lengths they went to be there for their friend, turning his nightmare into the best moments of his life. They risked everything to make someone else’s life a little better. Those are true friends. And of course, I once again admire what a genius Rowling is, for having detailed the process step by step. Bravo!

Also, Sybill Trelawney’s backstory! We all knew she was a fraud as a seer, I always say that there’s no need to be a seer to know Neville would break a teacup, like she told him in Gryffindor’s first Divination class. But still, she, as all the other characters, has more depth and complexity than it is let on in the novels, and I truly cracked up as I read about her. I couldn’t stop laughing! But, as I could have helped it! After all, she didn’t get married because “she refused to adopt the surname ‘Higglebottom’”, and one of her hobbies is “practising making doom-laden prophecies in front of the mirror”. I just couldn’t, I couldn’t. J. K. Rowling is a genius. Oh, and Sybill was a Ravenclaw in school, I never thought about that. 

And finally, there’s a small section dedicated to Silvanus Kettleburn, professor of Care of Magical Creatures, before Hagrid, a true passionate about the subject, who also appears briefly in Dumbledore’s notes, in Tales of Beedle the Bard. You should read them if you haven’t yet!

My favorite line from this book? “After all, you don’t have to be a sword-wielding Gryffindor to be a hero; sometimes, all it takes is having your heart in the right place”.

*wiping a tear away*

In Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists once again I was surprised of how many layers and details lay hidden in this world, and it’s amazing to get to know them. I will never get tired of the Wizarding World, and here we get a deep look into its politics, the successive Ministers of Magic, and both the creation of Azkaban and its fate after the Second Wizarding War, when Dementors stopped being the guards (thanks to the great Kingsley Shacklebot) and were replaced by Aurors. It was both funny and surprising to find known names among the list of Ministers, that may or may not be related to other characters we know from the novels, like Diggory, Parkinson, Rowle and Lestrange (*gasp*).

Getting to know Dolores Umbridge was interesting, but I hate her so much, that I’m glad she paid for what she did in the end. She was always ashamed about her muggle part of the family, and hated and denied she was a half-blood, she even lied about her family to convince everyone she was a pure blood (like she does in Deathly Hallows). Oh, my, Rowling’s genius subtleties! I was not surprised to know she used to be a Slytherin, but her wand, being made of a birch tree, among all the other types of wood in the world? I just couldn’t, I absolutely love Rowling! No one does this better. Obviously, I was not surprised at all that her status says “unmarried” (her true love was power), right next to her hobbies including “adding flounces to fabric and frills to stationary objects” and “inventing instruments of torture” in the same sentence. I mean… *laughing so hard I may fall from my chair*

As for Slughorn, he was never a favorite of mine, and it surprised me that such a good-natured man could be a Slytherin. Though not all of them are evil, I think that arrogance was key in sorting him into that House. He always boasted about being in contact with the best of the best, of discovering the talents of those who later became successful Quidditch players, or teachers, or Ministers of Magic. He’s one of the characters I’m less interested in, but even so, the best part of his story was to read his attitude during the Second Wizarding War, trying to look after his students instead of listening to the Carrows, and fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts, redeeming the Slytherin house from the unpopular fame it gained over the centuries. Poor man, he always thought Harry was an eminence in Potions… And it is funny to think that one of his names is Flaccus, because, even when I know Rowling named him after a Roman poet, in Spanish, “flaco” means “thin”, which is exactly what Slughorn isn’t (I don’t think Joan picked it because of that, but still).

The Polyjuice Potion’s creation is absolutely amazing, it is everything so well thought, that I just have to applaud Rowling. She thought about EVERYTHING, gave every component a meaning related to transformation and duality, even when they weren’t mentioned in the novel. Same with Quirrel, whose name, Quirinus, comes from the two-faced Roman god, also known as Janus. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I always wanted to know more about him, as he only appears in the first book, and there’s nothing about his past, so this comes to shed some light into his story. He was a Ravenclaw! I always imagined him to be a Slytherin, don’t know why, though I believe it has to do with his special guest living in the back of his head. *thinking* Yeah, that must be it.

As for Peeves, I believe we all wanted to know more about him, after all the chaos he caused as practically the master of disaster in Hogwarts. I remember laughing to tears as I read Filch and Peeves constantly butting heads, and especially after Fred and George Weasley asked him to make Umbridge’s life a living hell, something that, for the first time, the entire school agreed with, teachers included. It was a great insight into its origins.

As for the third book Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, it is the school’s turn to reveal some of its infinite secrets. “But if Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore says even he doesn’t know all of Hogwarts’ secrets, well, neither do we.

Hogwarts is home for me. It is the place I went where I needed a rest from the world and meet my friends, where I knew magic existed and it could make me feel like anything was possible. That feeling will never die. This world is alive, and it is like not even Rowling herself knows every secret Hogwarts keeps. As for the stories told in this book, I admit I never thought about why a train from King’s Cross, that is, a muggle transport, was chosen to take kids to school, when there’s tons of magical means to get there. But again, Rowling comes and answers every question, telling us why nor portkeys, nor apparition, nor broomsticks were useful to go to Hogwarts. She has an answer to any question we could come up with!

Oh, the Sorting Hat! I can’t even start to tell you about how many times, when I was a kid, I imagined myself with the hat on my head (and I know ALL OF YOU did it too, Potterheads). I’m a proud Ravenclaw, by the way. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the school, and I didn’t think it could make mistakes, though it is true that people change through their lives, and perhaps they deviate from the path they were going through at eleven (like Pettigrew’s case, he should have been a Slytherin, because courage wasn’t really his thing). But I do believe that the Hat sees the potential of each student. Look at Neville! He didn’t believe himself to be a Gryffindor, and honestly, we didn’t believe how someone like him could be in that house. But that the person doesn’t know his/her own bravery yet doesn’t mean that they aren’t brave, and that’s what the Hat saw: Neville’s true courage even before he himself discovered it.

And I also have a theory around why Hermione ended up in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw. I mean, her brain would have been a good reason for the Hat to place her in, literally, the House of intelligence. But I think that, even for a witch with muggle parents, Hermione can be very skeptical and not very open minded. Compared to Luna Lovegood, and her crazy theories and beliefs, I believe Hermione not only is a Gryffindor because her courage is bigger than her intelligence, but because she’s not willing to learn things that can’t be found in the pages of a book and proved with cold hard facts. And in my opinion, that is essential to be a Ravenclaw. The real question is why Cho Chang was a Ravenclaw, don't you think?

The Hufflepuff common room FINALLY!!!! I always wanted to know it, even when Harry never went there. Although my favorite is Ravenclaw’s (duh), I was always curious about where the Hufflepuffs spent their spare time, and what better place than a simile badger’s set? Perfect. Just perfect. I always liked Hufflepuffs, they seem to be nice guys, and of course, I love Professor Sprout. 

As for the Marauder’s Map, I always wanted to know more about the generation that created it. Only James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, of all people, could have invented an artifact especially designed to insult Severus Snape *laughing out loud*. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite book, although I love every single one of them. For some reason the third one stands out to me, and I love it. It’s important to say that the Marauders never meant any real harm when they created it, only mischief and rule breaking, which is something I’m sure James would be proud to see in his son. Long live Moony, Padfoot, Wormtail and Prongs! (well, Wormtail not so much).

Oh and the lake! You know, my favorite of the three tasks in the Triwizard Tournament has always been the second, around rescuing someone from the merpeople. If Hogwarts is a world in itself, the lake is another completely different, but as fantastic and fascinating as the one above the surface. 

As I said, this collection is perfect. This third book also explores the Philosopher’s Stone, the Mirror of Erised, the Chamber of Secrets, the Hogwarts portraits, the Sword of Gryffindor, and the mysterious world of time magic, inside the Department of Mysteries, and around the creation of Time-Turners. I can’t cover every detail here, so I just went for my favorite parts, which is already a lot. As you read you will keep repeating “Rowling is a genius”. Not only because of the Wizarding World, but because she is the one who sat an entire generation to read, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I could never, ever thank her enough for letting me into this world, to roam the halls of Hogwarts in the company of Harry, Ron and Hermione, my best friends (and for a long time, the only ones that I had) who took me with them in countless adventures. Through magic portals, and time, to the depths of the lake and Hogwarts itself, to the Room of Requirements and down the Whomping Willow… And they will keep being my best friends. Always.

I’ll stop here with my favorite line. 

We leave you with these small pieces of advice: tread carefully when using a Time-Turner, stop searching for the Chamber of Secrets –unless you’re a Parselmouth– and don’t linger too long before the Mirror of Erised.

You are warned, Potterheads. Tread carefully.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review - Breathe In

Original Title: Breathe In
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.7
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: December 29th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

What a wonderful novella! As I read this I couldn’t help some mixed feelings about it, because, on one hand, I really loved Lady Corrine, but in the other, knowing what happened to her from Threats of Sky and Sea broke my heart, because she deserved all the happiness in the world. I was surprised because of how relatable I felt she is, because I’ve been there too, in situations similar to hers, like, for example, when she’s so very passionate about things like architecture, she can’t help her fascination and talent, but that is considered “unladylike”, as she moves among nobles, and has a ton of expectations over her, mostly around her marriage prospects. But Ardin –whom I love from the first book of the saga– encourages her and loves exactly for that, for all those things that make her unique. More than once I thought she could actually be Bree’s true mother, because much of her character is visible in her. 

Most of the events in this novella develop at the same time than the ones in Sisters of Wind and Flame, even Lady Katerine shows up at some point, and I just knew things could never go well with her around (and I wasn’t wrong). The story refers to Duke Ardin’s work as the King’s assassin, which isn’t specifically said, because Corrine doesn’t know where her husband goes every winter (but we do), but at least we get to know when he comes back from some mission to Nereidium –that she knows of–, bringing baby Bree with him, and they both flee to save her. I loved how made for each other Ardin and Corrine are, because they have a loving, healthy relationship, they have each other’s back, they are not afraid of doing what’s right, and stay together, even when they find out that Corrine is barren, and won’t be able to bear any children. I loved her also because she’s this tough, unafraid woman, willing to do anything for her loved ones, and I feel bad when I think Bree, who is so like her, grew up without her, and Ardin lost her when he loved her so much.

I’m glad I read this, but now, it’s kind of sad to say goodbye to this world, as I’ve already read everything there is on it. But I hope Jennifer Ellision writes more fantasy, and I will definitely be there to read it!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review - Defining Justice

Original Title: Defining Justice
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.6
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: May 4th, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

This is a very short novella, I read it in little more than half an hour, and it was very good. It made me love Prince Caden even more, because, here, we can see how his rebellion against his father quietly started, and how he realized that what was happening in Egria wasn’t quite right. Through this little insight, and his effort to right his wrong, freeing the Shaker he accidentally revealed as such in front of his father, he proves he has what it takes to be king, because he didn’t just bring justice to a matter that had been judged according to an outdated law, but also saw, as the Shaker Walden spoke, the opportunity to improve the lives of his people and create well-being, using Elemental powers to produce food, give new life to the Earth, and hence, sustain the kingdom. I love him for that, because he’s perfectly capable of ensuring Egria’s safety and future through Elementals, seeing them as a blessing, instead of just considering his kingdom an Adept recruitment field. He saw that they needed more than just getting ready for the next war, unlike his father, and that, in my opinion, is a true king, a leader worth the title.

As for Aleta’s brief appearance, she’s still my favorite character, and I love her defiance, how she’s brave enough to stand up to the king, fearless, even when she’s still very young. From the start she assumes her role as future queen, strong and with that attitude of “I’m unbreakable” she mentions in Threats of Sky and Sea. I just didn’t imagine Caden had been somewhat attracted to her at some point of his life, because they practically grew up as brother and sister, and their betrothal was purely political, arranged by his father in order to conquer Nereidium. But I guess that so much pressure and insistence on his marriage to the princess made him believe, if shortly, that eventually they could like each other enough as to make their relationship work. Although both their hearts were destined for other people, they didn’t know it just yet.

So, in short, loved this, and I will definitely be on the lookout for new fantasy novels by Jennifer Ellision! 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review - Sisters of Wind and Flame

Original Title: Sisters of Wind and Flame
Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #0.5
Author: Jennifer Ellision
Published: June 28th, 2014

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

I loved this one! Finally, we can have some backstory on Lady Kat and Elena! This story takes place long before the events on Threats of Sky and Sea, but it is better to read it after reading that one, and Riot of Storm and Sea, to get acquainted with both sisters, and only then, delve into the past. This novella let us understand how and why Ekaterina turned into Lady Kat, King Langdon’s famous and feared assassin, power hungry, afraid of nothing, but also bearing an ever present hidden pain: the absence of her sister. Also, this gives an idea of the reason behind Elementals being able to wield two elements at the same time (air and fire), based on the fact that they are identical twins, and thus, they both possess both elements, but the one that is strong in one of them, is weak in the other. Or at least, that’s the way I understood it.

One of the things I value the most in fantasy is to show the human side of villains. No one is born evil, and it was good to know the true story behind Katerine’s attitude and character, born from pain. She had to grow up really fast, taking care of both a sick mother and sister, and dealing with the absence of her father, and after discovering her powers, she just wanted to be unique, and big enough not to be trampled on again. This book shows the lengths she goes to do just that, after being dismissed as the only Rider in training, and not wanting to be a healer, which seems to be the only role for them in the army. She wanted more, and had the temper to go for it, which is the start of the person she will later become, but her separation from Elena marked her forever, and learning of her death destroyed a part of her that still tied her to her family and made her feel some love in her life filled with her search for power. It was a sad story, but, as I read the rest of the trilogy, I know it’s not where it ends.

I was glad to meet, if briefly, Duke Ardin, during his noble days. I was fond of him as Bree’s father, but at this stage, he was at the service of King Langdon as a Rider, and Kat’s teacher. But he was already married, so now I want to read the story about how he met his wife.

Overall, it was a very good insight into the sisters’ past and Reveal as Elementals, and I just wish it had been longer, letting us know, for example, the moment in which Kat lost Bree as a baby, and managed to get the other girl that later would be Princess Aleta. But I’m not complaining. This world is amazing, and it deserves a read. Jennifer Ellision is definitely a good author, and I will be happy to read more by her in the future!