Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – Book Review

Harrow the Ninth book cover

The prequel to Tamsyn Muir’s novel “Harrow The Ninth” was a hugely successful sci-fi novel of 2019. “Gideon the Ninth” won several awards, including the Locus Award, and left even the most esteemed sci-fi authors in awe. “Gideon the Ninth” burst onto the science fiction scene with pulsating energy, cheeky yet clever humor, and a unique vision (necromancers + romance = necromance). Only to then shift to a larger portion of the story resembling a subdued Agatha Christie mystery.

“Harrow the Ninth” lacks that dynamic start but fortunately, it also lacks the occasional anemia found in its predecessor. However, in return, it is at times completely incomprehensible.

Literally.

The first thought-provoking moment occurs when you realize there’s not a single mention of Gideon, the protagonist of the Locked Tomb series’ first installment. It’s as if her existence has been erased. Then, the alternating chapters of the book are written in different grammatical persons (second-person singular vs third-person singular) while each chapter has the same viewpoint character: Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the charming but troubled teenage necromancer.

To top it off, characters show up in the pink, who died in the first book.

Are you into solving puzzles? Do you have a university degree? If neither applies to you, there’s a chance that up to about 80% of this book, you’ll wish “Harrow the Ninth”, to hell. And it’s no wonder if, along the way, you come to the conclusion that either reading the book titled “Harrow the Ninth” is entirely unnecessary or its predecessor, filled with the trials of Gideon Nav.

Maybe you won’t give up on Muir’s book halfway for only two reasons. One, if you’ve already crafted a compelling closing sentence for your book review and don’t want it to go to waste. The other is the Australian author’s writing style.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo - Book cover

Fantasy and heist novel combined? Yes. The roughest face of the harbor district is entrusted with an action spanning countries. The target is a scientist whose invention exponentially amplifies the power of magic users but quickly fries them in return. Well, that doesn’t sound too good.

The first part of Six of Crows is about assembling the team. It’s cool. The characters are unique and memorable, hello Kaz, Nina, and the Wraith! The setting, the slums of Ketterdam, bears an uncanny resemblance to a slightly twisted version of a possibly still-existing Dutch city from the past (maybe Limburg or Utrecht, right now, I can’t really tell all of a sudden). What’s a bit strange, though, is that all the main characters are teens. To cater to the similarly aged target audience? Probably. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized until now that I’m reading young adult fantasy. (Quite possible.) The plan doesn’t work, though, because the human mind, this wonderful contraption, constantly corrects itself, and the characters’ age is automatically adjusted to over 20 in thought. Because it’s unimaginable that 15-17-year-olds are so proficient in so many areas.

The second half is the action itself. Our small team, consisting of ten or twenty-year-olds, infiltrates the Ice Court, THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD, and starts wreaking havoc. They roam around based on a rough plan sketched out about a thousand kilometers away and, with the help of the TOOLS FOUND ON THE SPOT, the team’s MacGyvers get to work. Whoever comes their way, they take down. Luckily, there”s hardly any guard IN THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD. If a few do happen to stroll around that area, they’re all idiots. And here, the book truly descends into young adult fantasy. Unbelievable and stupid twists alternate, and you just look and think, what the heck is this. Based on the first two chapters of Six of Crows, this story should be at least a masterfully crafted, twist-filled heist with, for example, something like the Casa de Papel TV series.

What somewhat saves this part are the interjected flashbacks depicting the deep, tragic (and silly misunderstandings-filled) backstories of some characters. These create a noticeable contrast with the clumsy chasing in the Ice Court and the lousy closing chapters. It’s as if Leigh Bardugo dreamed up this epic story, then wrote and wrote enthusiastically, and then halfway through, oopsie, got tired of of all the fuss and said, ‘eh, I don’t give a frak,’ and from then on just tried to get through her own book as quickly as possible.

Despite its flaws, Six of Crows still outshines most of the young adult genre. The first half is genuinely high-quality writing, and it doesn’t feature the continuous stupid whining that usually inundates similar works. But still, it’s quite a shame.

Oh, and it has a DOUBLE romantic plot for romance enthusiasts. Mostly, in a young adult way, it consists of yearning.

6.5/10 (65%)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
465 pages, Hardcover
Published in 2015 by Henry Holt & Company

Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan · Fiona Staples – Comic Book Review

Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan · Fiona Staples - comic book cover

“Am I shitting? It feels like I’m shitting!”

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ comic series “Saga” begins with these remarkeble words, right in the midst of a childbirth, and if you gather from all this that MAYBE shocking you is the goal, you’re not entirely wrong… But of course, this is the 21st century, hello, who doesn’t give a FUCK? who doesn’t give a good goddamn?

However, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this work to the prudish, as this is not the ONLY case. For example, since you see dangling male genitalia several times, you also visit a brothel planet where you stumble upon an orgy. Then there’s a character with more legs than arms and more eyes than ears – and you might start to doubt yourself whether is it possible that you’re aberrant a bit when you think that this beautiful creature is very sexy?

But yes, it’s very possible!

Moreover, she goes through all her scenes in a monokini. So, if you didn’t know what arachnophilia is, now you definitely will!

And that’s not even the point.

The point is, there is the largest planet in the universe, and it has a moon, and they are at war with each other. To avoid destroying their own celestial bodies, they OUTSOURCE the war to ALL other planets. This is, of course, nonsense because it would be enough if they didn’t go near each other, and that’s it, but other than that, almost everything is fine in the comic series “Saga.”

The two main characters on opposing sides fall in love (one has wings and is SUSPECTED to be a huge slut, the other one is a conscientious objector with horns on his head and a cool little magic sword). They have a child, and from now on, the three of them are against the world(s).

On these worlds, you encounter a tremendous brainstorm of ideas: from screen-headed noblemen to ghost-babysitters, spaceships that are bred in the forest, EVERYTHING is there like in an amusement park. As if they mixed The Fifth Element with Star Wars, Harry Potter, and a trophy catalog, but just to be safe, they threw in a bit of Lone Wolf and Cub.

If you really wanted to nitpick about the work, you would find very few handles: You know since Once upon a time that every spell has a price, but this price shouldn’t be any random stupidity. Oh, and the part set on Sextillion is slightly out of character.

But otherwise, it’s adorable.

8.5/10 (85%)

Saga: Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
160 pages, Paperback
Published in 2012 by Image Comics

(Saga: Volume One collects Saga #1-6.)

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston – Book Review

Edrin, the wizard, returns to his hometown after 10 years to avenge the death of his best and only [ 🙁 ] friend.

Edrin starts the investigation in a film noir style. (Edrin buddy is DAMN cynical, self-willed, and snarky.) Unfortunately, the investigation quickly turns into much more uninteresting dungeon crawling.

At the same time, it turns out that Edrin has the coolest magic ability… but also not really. It also turns out that it’s bad luck to be claustrophobic during dungeon crawling.

The investigation reveals a GLOBAL conspiracy and leads to SUPERPOWERFUL adversaries. Meanwhile, a bit of a Supernatural like feeling creeps in, exactly like when Sam and Dean burst into some place armed with a single demon-killing pen knife, get slammed into the wall by some demon, but at the end, we realize somehow they still WON…

And our feeling intensifies that we are actually reading a series finale: the events are so massive (there are gigantic combat robots too!) So it’s hard to imagine where the heck Cameron Johnston is going to raise the stakes from here, maybe into the stratosphere???

Oh, and during the story, we probably realize that the main character of The Traitor God is not as insensitive jerk as he thinks himself: his constant concerns are, after all, the scum of the city and the two toughest assassins, who could probably finish him off in about 3 seconds with a not-so-good, used cotton swab.

6.6/10

The Traitor God (Age of Tyranny, #1) by Cameron Johnston
432 pages, Paperback
Published June 5, 2018 by Angry Robot

Doctor Strange (2016) – Film – Review

Doctor Strange (2016)

As we know, Marvel movies are like theme parks. Well, this work is no exception to this rule: colorful, dazzling, but still somewhat too simple.

The good Doctor Strange is forced to change his course due to a traffic accident (it can’t be emphasized enough: DON’T USE YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING!). A cool surgeon turns into a sorcerer.

Too bad that in the meantime, he doesn’t really win our sympathy, as he’s NOT A VERY PLEASANT personality. Thus, we watch his progress at the wizarding school with little interest – learning this profession (we know well from Harry Potter) can take several long years… Except, darn it, if you have a photographic memory because then you can learn Aramaic, Hottentot, and another 5 dead languages in 3 weeks, usually used to write spells.

Let’s not even talk about the evil enemy, Kruelcilius! Let’s just hint at his motivations: Imagine participating in a conference call, or, uh, Skype, with Hitler, Comrade Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Timur Lenk charmingly smiling at you, saying, “Hey, buddy, we’ve got a killer offer here that will make the world a much better place.” And you responding like, “okay, gotcha.”

Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange screenshot

So, everything is too fast, superhuman in scale, and UNBELIEVABLE. That’s why you can’t take the whole thing seriously.

The only truly good thing in the movie is Tilda Swinton, the mother of the wizards. I dig his shiny noggin!

6/10

Doctor Strange (2016), action, adventure, fantasy (IMDb)
Director: Scott Derrickson, Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Unfortunately, the name Timur Timurovich reminded me of a joke that’s about a thousand years old, and for those under 50, it might not mean much, but well, here it goes:

Mashenka is walking in the forest when a whispering voice comes from a bush:
Mashenka, drop your panties!

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Locke ​& Key Master Edition 1. by Joe Hill · Gabriel Rodriguez – Comic Book Review

Locke ​& Key Master Edition 1. (Locke & Key 1-2.) by Joe Hill · Gabriel Rodriguez

A mother, after the tragic death of her husband, moves back to her childhood home, the KEY HOUSE, with her three children… where various keys scattered throughout the house open different doors, leading to physical places, like our dear Aunt Maggie’s pantry, or sometimes, right into someone’s BRAIN… Clever!

However, someone else is also looking for these darn keys.

Who is it? Well, that person is certainly a scumbag…

And this is probably the first comic book I didn’t get bored reading. Despite Joe Hill’s dreadfully overwritten, seemingly novel-like, hefty brick (Spore, NOS4A2), the story is particularly tight. It’s thrilling, twisty, dramatic, touching, funny. And occasionally a bit sexy too.

(I only encountered one problem during my enjoyment: the text bubbles were filled with such tiny letters that I had to borrow my hundred-year-old grandma’s eyeglasses from about six or seven eyeglass generations ago. From then on, I could view the font size quite differently, thankfully.)

I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend Hill and Rodriguez’s work to homophobes due to the prominent LGBTQ+ elements.

Nor to the faint-hearted due to the killings.

As for the visuals? Well, damn beautiful.

8.5/10

Locke ​& Key Master Edition 1. (Locke & Key 1-2.) by Joe Hill · Gabriel Rodriguez
328 pages, Hardcover
Published: June 2, 2015 by IDW Publishing

The Locke & Key Master Edition Volume 1 features the first two story arcs, “Welcome to Lovecraft” and “Headgames”