Among the Witches and the Fae: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass: Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire finds Celaena Sardothien—Adarlan’s Assassin, the King’s Champion, and so many other things as well—drinking on foreign rooftops. She’s crossed the sea on assignment to assassinate the royal family of Wendlyn, but accepting that assignment was a ruse to get her closer to the Fae queen, who may know a thing or two about Wyrdkeys.

This task will be even more complicated than she expects. Heir of Fire has a certain middle-book vibe, in that while it’s packed full of slow-burn reveals and backstory, in the present timeline, it’s a lot of putting-pieces-in-motion. There’s so much to learn, and so much to set up. Everyone’s in research and training mode.

Personally, I love a good training montage.

Welcome to the next installment of Reading Throne of Glass! In anticipation of Kingdom of Ash, I’m reading the entire series over the next six weeks. This isn’t a reread ...

Secrets and Sacrifice: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s Crown of Midnight

Following the events of Throne of Glass, Celaena Sardothien has a lot on her plate. Assassination, scheming, magic, Wyrdmarks, loss, love, witches, a major revelation or two—Crown of Midnight may not have the plot-driving competition of the previous book in the series, but it’s got all the intrigue you could ask for and then some (and two creepy monsters, no less!).

In short, this book is a lot.

Welcome to the next installment of Reading Throne of Glass! In anticipation of Kingdom of Ash, I’m reading the entire series over the next six weeks. This isn’t a reread for me, but a first-read: if you’ve already read the whole series, you will be able to feel extremely superior while I ponder things you probably know backwards and forwards. My fellow first-readers, though, beware: there are likely to be spoilers for future books in the comments.

Spoilers ...

Wyrdmarks and Worldbuilding: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass

When a series is seven books long and each book seems to get longer and longer, the first book is bound to raise more questions than it answers. And that is entirely the case with Throne of Glass, the first book in Sarah J. Maas’s series of the same name: it leaves a reader with so many questions. Where’d magic go? Is there really a whole kingdom of witches? How can a prince be so nice when his father is a total monster? And when am I going to get the whole story on teenage assassin Celaena Sardothien’s history?

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to be patient with these and some of my other endless questions—or relatively patient, anyway…

In anticipation of the seventh and final Throne of Glass book, I’m reading the entire series over the next six weeks! This isn’t a reread for me, but ...

Six Big Questions About the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Revival

When the news broke that Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be coming back to TV in some form, it was… confusing. In a single Hollywood Reporter article, the new show was described as a “reboot,” a “new take,” an “adaptation,” and a show that would “build on the mythology of the original.”

Three things seem certain: Buffy creator Joss Whedon is executive producing the show; Monica Owusu-Breen will write and serve as showrunner; the Slayer will be black.

Reactions to the idea of Buffy coming back in some unknown form ranged from excitement to trepidation to dread. Reboot fatigue is real; nostalgia only gets you so far; is it possible for something to be so iconic as to be un-repeatable? The overall sense among fans seemed to be that almost no one wanted a Buffy do-over… but given the Buffyverse’s potential for new stories, people were tentatively intrigued by ...

If We Ask Nicely, Will Misson: Impossible — Fallout Director Christopher McQuarrie Please Make a Star War?

We could argue until the metaphorical cows come home about whether or not the Mission: Impossible franchise is science fiction; I contend it is, and hold up “this dude is wearing this other dude’s face” as Exhibit A. However you slice it, the Mission: Impossible movies are genre: you might call them SF-adjacent, or just plain action, or my preferred (if unwieldy) category designation: Movies so precisely calibrated yet entirely ridiculous you can’t stop laughing with incredulous glee.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout contains a lot of sequences that, if you have a Thing for impressively orchestrated action, you truly need to see as big as possible. (I have this Thing. In spades.) You can watch a wee featurette about the HALO jump sequence here, and it’s a lot of you-seriously-did-this-oh-my-god fun, but this is not even the most over-the-top sequence in the film. (That’s the finale, of course....

Ten Years Later, There’s Still Nothing Like Tarsem Singh’s The Fall

When you want something in life, how do you get it?

Maybe you tell a story about it.

Maybe you tell your parents about the toy you simply must have. It’s the best toy. It will allow all your tiny tyrannical narrative dreams to come true. You’ll scale heights and crush enemies. You need this toy. It defines you and the stories you tell.

You tell a teacher why your interpretation of a book is the truest one. You tell a college why it wants you, you with your trove of stories that no one else has. You tell a company a story about why you are the perfect candidate for their perfect job. You tell a story about the life you want and it becomes the life you have. Or it doesn’t, and you keep editing that story.

They’re called life stories for a reason.

But a story needs ...

The Expanse Returns for Season 3 With “Fight or Flight”

Last year, The Expanse got a double-episode season premiere — and it really could we have used one this time around too. The way the show lets its narrative bleed from one season to another means that there’s never any downtime, and no need to ramp back up again, when a new season starts; we’re still in the thick of it, and the “it,” right now, is on the verge of all-out interplanetary war.

But war isn’t even the biggest part of the scope of this show, as the very first scenes of “Fight or Flight” make clear. It’s not James Holden we start with, fixing the Rocinante after getting rid of a glowing blue space monster; it’s not Chrisjen Avasarala, betrayed and pinned down on what amounts to an enemy ship.

(Spoilers for everything up to and including the season three premiere!)

No. We start with what’s left ...

Why Canto Bight is Vital to The Last Jedi

Plenty of things about Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi have been divisive, but few have been as derided as the Canto Bight sequence.

The whole thing is just a disgracefully bad bit of storytelling.”

“…feels pointless and tacked on…”

But the Canto Bight stuff is a bit of a drag…”

“…an unnecessary sequence at the casino city of Canto Bight that goes straight from a political sermon into a plot hole…”

Was it put there as a merchandising tool, a way to sell space pony plushies and several dozen more figurines? Does it fail to advance the story at all? Does it matter?

No, and no, and yes. Canto Bight is neither a fluffy diversion nor a tacked-on way to find something to do with Rose and Finn. It’s absolutely vital to the themes of The Last Jedi, and if you ...

Glitter and Grime: Would You Want to Go to Star Wars’ Canto Bight?

If The Last Jedi is the Star Wars feast we’ve been waiting for all year, Canto Bight is an odd appetizer platter, an array of tidbits that you might find unnecessary—or you might find appealingly curious.

Why do we get a whole book centered on Canto Bight, of all the Star Wars locations? The casino city was teased in Vanity Fair this summer, when Rian Johnson described it as “a playground, basically, for rich assholes.” One glittering city on the desert planet of Cantonica, it sits next to a giant manmade sea and is largely a resort city for the wealthy and glitzy. It’s so fancy, it has rare Alderaanian trees—or what people claim are Alderaanian trees. This city has its own mythology, as Mira Grant (the pen name of Seanan McGuire) explains in “The Wine in Dreams”:

It began, as most beautiful things do, with money, ...

You’ll Never Sink My Love of Battleship

There exists no convincing argument that movies should never be based on board games, because Clue exists, and therefore disproves any such argument. That said, the game of Battleship is a categorically stupid idea for a movie. Battleship is basically bingo with a bit of deductive strategy and no wacky prizes at the end. People in movies cannot sit around yelling YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP at each other, a fact which must have been clear to the people behind Battleship. Despite its dubious source material, Battleship is the one of the greatest dumb action movies of the early twenty-teens. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and director Peter Berg clearly took their Hasbro/Universal paychecks, gave the game a serious side-eye, and opted to keep just a few elements: big honkin’ battleships, cylindrical missile things, and goofy coordinates.

Everything else is newly made-up big dumb action movie gold.

It is important to ...

The Magicians’ Season Three Trailer is Going on a Quest

Magic is gone, but the Muntjac is ready for its close-up! The ship that takes Quentin on a tax-collecting adventure in Lev Grossman’s second Magicians novel, The Magician King, is likely to play a major role in season three of The Magicians, which is going to involve one heck of a quest: Just a little trip to get magic back, no big deal…

Check out the new trailer for season three, and let the theorizing begin!

Magic has gone poof and people … are not dealing with it well. (There’s an interesting shade of Mr. Robot-like post-crash desperation to a few of these scenes.) Julia, as we knew from the end of season two, has a tiny spark. We don’t know why Penny’s wearing that suit, though—at this year’s New York Comic Con, executive producer John McNamara definitely thought his wardrobe shift was worth bringing up.

...

Revolutionary Whimsy: Where to Start Reading Frances Hardinge

Unlike many fantasy and young adult heroes and heroines, Frances Hardinge’s main characters aren’t chosen ones. They’re the other kind: misfits, orphans, oddballs, changelings. They’re young women chafing against responsibilities, sexist societies, the nature of their own existence. These characters are primarily interested in survival, though that focus has a tendency to align with bigger things: freedom, or justice, or knowledge.

After finishing A Face Like Glass, I went head-over-heels for Hardinge, and binge-read everything else I could get my hands on in the span of a few weeks. Each one of her books makes its own argument for why you ought to be reading Hardinge—but since you might not have time to read five or six or eight books right this second, here are three places you might start. These aren’t necessarily my favorite Hardinge tales, but each of them, in its own way, presents a common Hardinge theme: a world ...

Winter Is Seriously Here: What Happened on Season Six of Game of Thrones

If you’ve got ten or so hours to spare between now and July 16th, I highly recommend binge-devouring season six of Game of Thrones, even—or maybe especially—if you watched it when it aired last year. What seemed, week to week, like an inconsistent, fairly unsatisfying season (certain moments aside) turns out to be a solid stretch of narrative setup and motion when you gulp it down in a sitting or three. Every season of intrigue and betrayal moves the narrative forward, but finally, by the end of season three, the pieces are in intriguing place on the board—places that suggest season seven will be a battle of consolidation and compromise as various parties begin to take the Night King’s threat seriously. There’s going to be war. Everyone’s talking about it. But who’s left to fight? Spoilers for all previous seasons follow, but I’ll leave the books out of ...

One Day You Wake Up and You Are Grown: Fairyland and the Secrets of Growing Up

There are a dozen essays a person could write about Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. One is entirely about the literary allusions and references. Another simply describes all her magical inventions and locations, from the Carriageless Horse to the Narrative Barometer, the Autumn Province to the Lonely Gaol. There’s a really good piece to be written about one of the rules of Fairyland-Below—what goes down must come up—and the way no one stays in the underworld for good, forever, even a shadow. This is a different essay. This one is about change and subversion, and mostly about how magically a book can rewrite the story of growing up. Note: this essay discusses plot points from Books 1-4, but contains no spoilers for Book 5. Many books for young readers, for a very long time, have drawn a very distinct line between being a kid and being an adult, between the ...
fairyland1
fairyland2
fairyland3
fairyland4
fairyland5

You Cannot Sink My Love for Battleship

There exists no convincing argument that movies should never be based on board games, because Clue exists, and therefore disproves any such argument. That said, the game of Battleship is a categorically stupid idea for a movie. Battleship is basically bingo with a bit of deductive strategy and no wacky prizes at the end. People in movies cannot sit around yelling YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP at each other, a fact which must have been clear to the people behind Battleship. Despite its dubious source material, Battleship is the one of the greatest dumb action movies of the early twenty-teens. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and director Peter Berg clearly took their Hasbro/Universal paychecks, gave the game a serious side-eye, and opted to keep just a few elements: big honkin’ battleships, cylindrical missile things, and goofy coordinates. Everything else is newly made-up big dumb action movie gold. It is important to ...

A Story Radiating Across the Stars: C.A. Higgins’ Lightless Series

C.A. Higgins’ Lightless begins aboard a unique spaceship, the Ananke, that has a black hole for a heart. That’s how Althea Bastet sees it, anyway. Though she’s the ship’s engineer, her practical skills are tangled up with her affection for the ship she thinks of as hers. The black hole powers the ship and its purpose, but Althea dreams that of the black hole as a heart, a bloody, embodied thing. Althea can tell when something is wrong aboard her ship, and at the opening of Higgins’ series, she knows. Lightless takes places entirely aboard the Ananke; it’s not exactly a locked-ship story, as other characters come and go, but the cat-and-mouse game that drives one of its storylines makes the ship feel claustrophobic. But Lightless is only the first in the trilogy, and while Higgins’ tale never leaves the Ananke entirely, the subsequent books—Supernova and ...

Would You Like to Smell Divine? Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s New American Gods Scents

It’s because of American Gods that I have a sprawling perfume collection. Ten years ago, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab—BPAL for short—released their first line of scents based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, and I found I could no longer resist the temptation to find out what these beloved fictional characters might smell like. If you are turning up your nose, thinking, Oh no, not perfume, I hate that stuff, wait! So was I. I loathed perfume. I held my breath walking past perfume counters, leaving a wide berth around the salespeople positioned to offer customers a spritz of something terrifying. When I saw references to BPAL online, I scrolled a little faster, certain it was not relevant to me. But there is nothing like a story to make a person change her mind about a thing. These are scents based on books—and not just any old books, but Gaiman’s evocative, atmospheric books. ...

Assassins, Pirates, or Dragons: Where to Start With Robin Hobb

Choosing a Robin Hobb book to start with isn’t just choosing a series—it’s choosing a doorway into a huge, interconnected world. All but one of Hobb’s trilogies make up a giant tale told in many pieces (the oddball is the Soldier Son series). They span continents and decades, damaging leadership and ecological damage, traumatic childhood and challenging coming-of-age. And you can start in several places. If you’re a completist, you’ll probably start at the beginning, but if you’re not, you can choose based on character, or location, or focus. Would you like a young man with royal blood, or a headstrong young woman fighting to lead the family business? Prefer your dragon-centric tales set in a strange, deadly landscape? Would you like to explore a bustling port town in a series where family drama involves magical ships? Or do you like your fantasy set in castles and keeps, fully engaged with ...

Where Do We Go From Here? The Magicians, “We Have Brought You Little Cakes”

What if your whole life was just The Breakfast Club for a chaotically whimsical god? The Magicians’ second season finale begins with a voiceover summary, a notion that sounds terrible until you discover that the voiceover is from none other than Ember, god of Fillory, who describes everything that’s happened in relation to how much it entertained him. These characters, with all the trials they’ve been through? Just the wacky hijinks of Quentin Coldwater and pals: the addict, the victim, the bitch, the scowl, and the martyr. Just tropes that have ceased to entertain Ember. Ember, however, knows how to entertain; his version of the story is just as off-color as the real thing, and he does Margo’s voice for good goofy measure. “The danger of sublimated trauma is a major theme in our story,” he notes. “Character is destiny.” But he also says the candy witch from the ...

No Fate But What We Make: The Magicians, “Ramifications”

The Magicians 212 Julia Kady Gaines Please welcome back to the stage the great… Mayakovsky! He may be exiled to Antarctica, but Eliot, this week, refers to him as Earth’s greatest magician. One with a guilty conscience, a dark past, and a small arsenal of magical batteries. Probably you see where this is going. But “Ramifications” takes the magicians’ stories in unexpected directions. More than one of this week’s drastically plot-advancing turns, I really didn’t see coming—and at least one of them I’m still unsure about. But at some point along the way, I started to trust this show. It makes mistakes (cough god jizz cough), but it makes them in service of complicated, emotionally resonant storytelling that works on multiple levels, while doing a dizzyingly excellent job of using plot to advance character. When characters stagnate on this show, it’s on purpose. But right now, everyone’s growing and changing and adapting at a breakneck—and downright ...