Darksaber

We’re taking it back to 1995 with this week, folks. Another forgotten classic of the Star Wars EU that outshines anything from the new canon, this In My Opinion review is about Darksaber, by Kevin J Anderson.

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Darksaber is part of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, a New York Times Bestselling series written by the ridiculously prolific Kevin J Anderson. This novel reads like a standalone, but also does a good job carrying a larger story through it all. This novel came at a time when Star Wars fans were still shunned from the majority of society, long before any whispers of Episode I began. Which is why it’s so special. It comes from a time when Star Wars was shaped, not by George Lucas, but by the writers who were playing in his universe. Writers like Timothy Zahn, Aaron Alliston, and Kevin J Anderson were the gods of the Star Wars universe then, and their words were what fans stayed up night after night reading and rereading. Therefore, when this novel was written it had a lot weighing on it. It needed to be a good read. 

The good news is, it most certainly is a good read. It gives off the same feelings, preserves the same values, and totes the same feel-good humor the original trilogy of Star Wars movies had. Kevin J Anderson does not disappoint. But then again, look at him. How can he disappoint?

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Just look at that glorious, word-weaving bastard. God bless him.

PLOT: There’s a lot going on here plot-wise, but the premise is so good it’s hard to forget any of it. Druga the Hutt, a crimelord who’s stepped into the vacancy left by Jabba, is finally putting his considerable wealth and greed to work. First, he gets his hands on the Death Star plans. Then he gets his hands on the engineer who built the Death Star. Next, he builds a Death Star. But not a gaudy, moon-sized thing. All Durga wants is the laser, the most powerful super-laser in the galaxy, so he can hold entire planets hostage for ransom. Meanwhile, the de-facto leader of the Empire is marshaling her troops for an attack on the infantile Republic. There are even more plots, actually, each weaving into each other to tell a masterful tale. Each scene unfolds as its own story. 

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Durga, the slimiest, low-lifeiest Hutt of ’em all.

 

SETTING: Anderson, a learned scholar of sci-fi, really flexed his creative and imaginative muscles in this novel. Anything that was inconsequential to the main plot he seemed to take liberties with in order to make the story a unique sci-fi experience. Aspects of space-yachts and interplanetary casino gaming that have never been seen before popped up for the first time in this novel, thanks to good ol’ Anderson. He still manages to capture the essence of each familiar planet and setting from the movies, making readers squeal with delight when they find themselves in memorable places. But I love Anderson’s ability to bring in new elements of sci-fi never before seen to a long running sci-fi series, keeping it fresh and new. 

CHARACTERS: So, so, so, so good. The old favorites are always close at hand; Luke, Leia, Han and the rest. But the new characters are who really take the stage. There is a character in this novel whom I will never forget. I truly wish Disney and the story group at Star Wars decided to make this novel into a movie, or at least this character. His name is Bevel Lemelisk, and he’s the engineer who designed and oversaw construction of both Death Stars. But Bevel didn’t create the moons of doom by choice. You see, when he first disobeyed the Emperor, the Emperor killed him. Had him eaten alive by beetles, actually. But just before Bevel’s last breath, the Emperor transferred Bevel’s consciousness into a clone. A clone who happened to be watching its original self die. Once Bevel was safe in his new body, the Emperor would give him an order, and if Bevel didn’t obey, he would be killed and cloned again. And again. And again. And again, until he finally did obey. 

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Daaaaaaaaaamn!

How crazy is that? Bevel is one of the most unique characters I’ve ever read, because he’s died at least twenty times. His mind, his memories, his inner monologues… are so interesting. 

VERDICT: If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re a Star Wars fan. So, if you’re a Star Wars fan you should totally read this book. If you’re not a Star Wars fan but want to know what damn good sci-fi writing is, read this book. If you’re a hater, don’t read this book. If you have no imagination, don’t read this book. In my opinion this book should’ve been made into a movie long ago. If Disney is focused on making Star Wars profitable, this right here is how you do it. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This week I’ll be talking about a more light-hearted novel intended for a younger audience. But don’t let that alone turn you away from this mysterious and oddly enrapturing tale. This week I’m discussing Randal Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Now, unless you haven’t ventured into a book store or movie theater in years, you’ve probably already heard of this story before. It received a lot of attention when first published, is part of a larger series now, and has a movie adapted from it (which sucks!). But perhaps you’re wondering what all the hub-bub is about for a book with a levitating girl on the cover, yes? Allow me to whet your appetite. 

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Our protagonist is a 15–soon to be 16–year old boy who lives in Englewood, Florida. He’s grown up with parents, a best friend, aunts and uncles, but his favorite person of all is his grandfather. His grandfather tells stories about when he was younger, the odd boarding house he stayed in, and the war he fought in, all with pictures to back it up. But after Jacob’s grandfather dies, rather violently, Jacob is thrust into a past that is also his future but certainly not the present. He’s thrown into a not-so-typical YA adventure plot that takes him all over the world, and all through time. 

PLOT: The overarching plot of this story is almost painfully obvious. By the end of the 2nd chapter I was already calling what the end would be, what the next twist was, who the ultimate antagonist was, etc. The main parts of the story are so obviously foreshadowed, they’re telegraphed. It’s hard NOT to anticipate what will happen next. At least for the main story. But each character’s development, how they interacted, and where some of them ended up I couldn’t predict. Bottom line: this feels like one of the first times Randal Riggs wrote out a full novel and plotted it. The hallmarks, the pacing, the markers signalling the next phase of the plot; they’re all too new, as if Riggs doesn’t have much experience with them. But one of the coolest features of this book are the photos. Riggs searched high a low for all kinds of creepy photos to use for his book, and he did an excellent job. Even if you don’t read it, flip through the book sometime. The photos alone will intrigue you.

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CHARACTERS: These characters were quite good. Each was encapsulated in their own personalities and traits. Their dialogue was, for the most part, very natural. Their interactions with each other felt authentic and not forced, again, for the most part. The antagonists were good, as well. They weren’t full blown evil, which is what I was hoping for, but they had believable motivations and strengths. I also enjoyed each character’s story. While there is the larger, general story of the novel that links all events together, each character seemed to have their own purpose/story to tell within the larger story. And they did so brilliantly. 

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SETTING: I give the settings and their descriptions a thumbs up. Though at times I noticed another feature of a first time author: over description. One thing newer writers tend to do, and I’ve done this myself A LOT, is to over describe their settings. As the author, they have the mental image of what they want the reader to see in their mind. When they write, they try to describe that mental image as much as possible, clarifying as many things as they can. They want the reader’s mental image to reflect their mental image in perfection, so they explain every minute detail about a place, boring the reader and taking up 3 whole pages. The sign of an experienced, well-published author is that they can sum up a setting’s description, wholly and completely, in a few sentences, if not one sentence. It’s certainly not easy, but it makes your writing stand apart. 

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MISCELLANEOUS: Before I drop my verdict I wanted to highlight two other aspects of this writing: Style and adaptation. The writing style of this novel was, and I can’t stress this enough, fantastic. Yes, the content and story had negatives, but there was something about Riggs’ style of writing that captured me. I read this book in less than a week, and not because I was invested in the story. When looking at this book you would not be wrong in assuming it’s for young adults. But the vocabulary, sentence structure, and inner monologues were definitely not for young adults. I was, and still am, very impressed with the writing style. Now, adaptation, which deals strictly with the movie. The movie for this novel is a horrible, no good, awful excuse at adaptation. Yes, Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s actress) is an incredibly attractive actress (and I mean, incredibly attractive).

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And yes, Samuel Jackson (the antagonist) is always a crowd favorite.

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Heck, even Dame Judy Dench is in this movie! But even with those A-list actors the movie is a steaming pile of donkey dung. Please remember: avoid movie at all costs. AVOID

VERDICT: You read all of my criteria? You stuck around all the way to the end of the review? Good. Then you already know what I’m going to say. In my opinion, you should read this novel. It’s not going to take you long, the combination of exciting action and good writing will help you finish it in no time. You’re on your own if you wish to explore the rest of the series, though. But we should all be able to agree that this first novel, at least, is a fantastic read. 

Sharp Ends

Turn away now if you’re squeamish, read a different article if you have a weak stomach. For this In My Opinion review I’ll be talking about another gruesome, dark creation of Joe Abercrombie, Sharp Ends

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Joe Abercombie sprang onto the dark fantasy scene with his First Law Trilogy, which was so widely received that it turned into the First Law Series. That series, which capped at 6 books, was so voraciously accepted by fans that he’s now extending the series and has written this delightful anthology to accommodate his readers. In the beginning of this book he thanks fellow authors for pushing (and paying) him to create more tales within his universe.

Abercrombie uses these short stories to fill in the gaps his epic novels may have missed. They flesh out some aspects of the world that have not been visited before, and they answer some of the fan’s burning questions. Some stories follow beloved characters that readers have grown to know and love, others introduce new characters who are world-changers in their own respective corners, and still others are one time protagonists, here for one mere story and never spoken of again. A large portion of this book relied on nostalgia factor, so if you’ve not read any other part of this series before, I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

PLOT: For the most part each short story follows a different perspective in a different part of the world. The reader jumps around a lot. But there are a few characters who continually pop up and who actually tell a loose story. I was quite impressed by how Abercrombie was able to tell such pregnant, thoughtful stories in so few pages. In some stories he would stay in one character’s POV the entire time, others he’d be jumping around from solider to soldier to witness to victim. l was more impressed by the diversity than anything else. This anthology takes you to twice as many places as any of Abercrombie’s novels.

SETTING: One thing I noticed in a few of the stories was that Abercrombie relies on his nostalgia factor for setting descriptions more than anything else. Since he’s already taken readers on adventures to these places before, he doesn’t describe them as fully as he would in his novels, and I found myself having to refer back to memory rather than description in some places. Still, the new places that he introduces for the first time in this anthology he does a great job, as always, of summing them up in succinct, all-encompassing and often humorous descriptions for the reader. He shows us lots of new places in the north, the east, and at the edges of the world.

CHARACTERS: Solid. Strong. By that I don’t mean that every character was a strong character, but that Abercrombie’s telling of them was strong and captivating. He brings the reader fully into a new character’s mind in a matter of sentences, not paragraphs, and certainly not pages like many other authors. In a few, quick sentences he can encapsulate all a character is and offer that up to the reader, who is then drawn even deeper into the story. Yes, he did use some characters previously known to the readers like a trump card, showcasing his brand. Nostalgia factor again. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited when they showed up on the scene. And besides, after creating such unforgettable character I think he has the right to throw them around exactly as he did. 

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VERDICT: This is a great read. Joe Abercrombie, as always, delivers fantastic stories with even more fantastic characters and doesn’t lack for much. This is just another example of his already impressive skills. Yes, his writing style took me a bit to get used to in the beginning, but now I accept it and and it’s quick prose and enjoy its uniqueness. However, in my opinion you shouldn’t read this if you’ve not read anything else from the First Law Series. You’ll still enjoy lots of the stories, the majority of them even, but you’ll miss out on so many significant aspects of themes and character inspiration. You like dark fantasy that’s witty, real and leaves you always, always wanting more? Than read the first book of the First Law Trilogy, then come back to this. In my opinion

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

Are you a Harry Potter fan? I am(Hufflepuff pride!), so when I first heard rumors of there being another HP story written by J.K. Rowling coming to a bookshelf near me, I got very excited. Another HP novel set nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts? Sounds awesome! But I’m here to tell you why it’s not awesome. I’m here to enlighten you as to why Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is a sham and you’d be better off just reading the cliff notes version. Sit back, relax, and prepare to be disappointed, this week’s In My Opinion Review is about Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by Jack Thorne.

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Continue reading “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child”