All posts by ArtsyOwl

She/Her who enjoys fantasy, writing, DC Comics and more

Cry Wolf: A Review

Since I’ve talked a few times now about Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series, and recently reviewed the prequel novella, it’s time for a review of the first book. Cry Wolf is the first book in the series, excluding the Alpha and Omega novella (which is considered a prequel) and the This is my favorite of the series and is the book I have read the most.

Disclaimer

While this story doesn’t go into graphic detail, it does touch on some sensitive subjects. Mainly referenced trauma and violence against Anne while she was in her previous pack.

Synopsis

The story picks up some time after the events of Alpha and Omega. Anne is the mate of Charles, the first and only born were wolf and son of the pack leader Bram, who is trying to get acclimated to the new pack. As she tries to adjust, she and Charles go to a funeral for a pack member, she meets Asil, a downdraught with a drinking habit. Due to Anne being a rare Omega, who’s role is to be a soothing presence in the pack, she .

Positives

I think this book set up the world pretty well. Since it does it’s own thing, away from the Mercy Thompson series, this is something it would have to do to keep it as it’s own separate thing. And I think it does it pretty well. It might feel a bit more contained since it does focus a lot on Anna, Charles, their pack, and the few people they do interact with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I see this series as really focusing on building the relationship between Anna and Charles alongside their relationship with the pack and how they handle situations that they are needed for.

I also think it sets up a number of characters really well. The dynamic between Anna and Charles is a bit different when compared to Mercy and Adam. Which I think is kind of important since they are the couple readers are following in this series. Individually, Charles

I also think that how they set up why two werewolves cannot have kids and the dangers of trying. That might seem like something that feels a bit like a trope, but I don’t think it’s set up in a way that feels bad. Plus, it also helps further explain why Samuel, Charles’ (half) brother, thought having kids with Mercy, a Coyote shifter, would be potentially safer had they gotten together. Basically, it would be very high risk and the mother would die because of it. They mention this in Alpha and Omega, which devastates Anna, who had always wanted kids even prior to her changing. And again here when explaining how Charles’ mother, who Bran changed in order to save her life, had died giving birth to Charles. So it kind of explores why it’s avoided from two different perspectives.

Negatives

Having read this book as many times that I have, I won’t say it doesn’t have flaws. I’ve narrowed it down to common tropes, some of the characters, and how Asil seems to be the only one with first hand experience with Omegas.

While not always a bad thing, it does have some of the typical tropes you would expect from the genre. Like how urban fantasy a lot of times will focus on vampires, werewolves, witches, and fae. Or how Charles is essentially the enforcer for his father, who is the head, the North American werewolves, which would probably fall into a subcategory of supernatural enforcers. Though, typically, Charles is sent to check in on or handle other werewolf packs as needed as opposed to all of the supernatural creatures. The only time he does is if his father needs him to, but usually it’s to keep the werewolves in line.

I would say this may also hit the Chosen One trope but to a lesser degree. What I mean is that Anna could be considered a “chosen one” type character because she is an Omega, which in universe is a rarity. The only reason I think this is the least offensive of the tropes is because she isn’t made out to be someone that everybody wants because of it. Some members of the pack are interested, but once Charles officially steps up as her one and only, it gets dropped. Plus, the only reason Asil is interested is because his late wife was an Omega as well and Anna reminded him of her.

Now tropes aren’t necessarily bad. I just know that what tropes people are fine with and may find annoying may depend on the person. However, these tropes I don’t think were terrible to the point of being overbearing. Granted, I also don’t read a lot of Urban Fantasy either, so I haven’t really read enough to be that annoyed with it in this series. These are simply tropes that may be common in this genre and I know that can be something that might annoy people.

Going back to Asil for my next criticism, him being the only one with information on Omegas kind of feels odd. On the one hand, from a story perspective, I can get why. He’s a lot more closed off after the death of his wife and is at odds with Charles for a portion of the book. So Charles going to him to make some kind of amends and get help for how to approach Anna makes sense. However, I would like to think that there would have been a record or something about Omegas because he had first hand knowledge. That way, when he dies, there would be some way to access the knowledge he has, should Charles, Bran, or any other werewolf encounter one after he passes. That might not be necessary at this moment, but something I think would be a consideration.

There may be other flaws that I have that I’m not thinking about at the moment. However, these are two that I feel this book has.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book an eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I think this was a solid enough first book in the series. I feel it sets up the world and characters well enough. Though it does fall into some of the tropes Urban Fantasy is known for as well as how they handle Asil and his knowledge on Omegas to some degree. And while not all of the characters or parts of the story land, it’s still a nice little guilty pleasure read for me.

The Power of the Dog: The Book vs The Movie

Believe it or not, it has been about six months since I last talked about the novel and Netflix Oscar Nominee The Power of the Dog. While I had a few ideas for possible posts, motivation and ideas had stagnated. However, if there was one thing I hadn’t considered doing at the time, despite having read the book not long after seeing the movie, was doing a comparison between the book and movie. Because while the movie did keep pretty close to the book, there were a few differences between the two.

Similarities

Starting off with similarities between the two, as an adaptation, the movie does hold true to elements of the book its based on. There’s the story, characters, and the relationship between said characters.

As for story, it does follow the book pretty faithfully, save for the events behind the death of Rose’s husband and Peter’s father, which I will get to momentarily. It still tells the story of two brothers who are quite different and how George ends up marrying Rose after the death of her husband. And Phil’s torment her throughout is still a prevalent factor.

There’s also how Phil treats Peter throughout the movie. Starting out with picking on/tormenting Peter to the slight shift where he decides to take Peter under his wing (which to some degree was kind of a ploy to isolate Rose). Then it gets to where Phil seems to see a lot of Bronco Henry, a man Phil looked up to and was close to, in Peter.

The characters were pretty consistent from the novel to the movie. How opposing Phil and George are is still there. As is how Rose and Peter react to them.

The focus put on the mountain range, how Phil views Bronco Henry, and the eccentricities of Peter that were pretty accurate. And while the movie has some areas where it has quiet pauses, I think that body language could be used in place of some of the introspective the book had.

Overall, The Power of the Dog as a movie was a pretty faithful adaptation. It kept the characters consistent from the book to the movie, kept the interactions and relationships intact, and it followed the story pretty faithfully minus one or two scenes. However, for how faithful it was, I do feel that it had one or two key differences between the two.

Differences

The main differences would be the details behind the death of Rose’s husband, how that might effect Peter from the viewer’s perspective, and how it uses the third person perspective the novel.

When it comes to the overarching perspective from Phil’s point of view, there are a few instances in the book where it feels like there is more of a focus from Phil’s point of view. Now, the book is written in the third person, so it can lend itself to not having to worry about focusing one character. However, there are a few instances of Third Person Limited perspective, which is where it feels like it focuses mostly on one character.

It does this in two different ways. The first few chapters, where it focuses on Rose’s family and her husband. There it sets up what readers will come to expect with Rose’s family. There’s also a period where it focuses on everybody, or who the scene may call for, like when Rose is moving in with George. Then, at some point, it does feel like this limited third perspective falls on Phil, later on in the book. An example being towards the climax when Peter and Phil are in the farm working on the rope, where it has him reflecting on the last time he was close with anyone (excluding his brother).

In the movie, viewers get a general third person perspective. Some scenes will focus on George and Phil, George and Rose, Rose and Peter, and Phil and Peter, depending on what the scene calls for. If I had to give the movie a character it might have given more of an overarching focus on, it would be Phil. Because, regardless of the fact that Phil is inherently the antagonist of the story, it seems like he is a driving force and focus of what goes on as the story progresses.

Also worth mentioning is the Native American family. If I recall correctly, it was a father and son or grandfather and grandson duo. In the movie, they do have a few scenes, the one where Rose gives them the leather, which Phil was adamant about not selling to them, being the important one. This family does have a few more scenes in the book, with this aforementioned exchange happening as well. I thought I should include that, because while this Native American family does show up, they did have a little more development in the book.

The biggest difference does come in the form of Peter’s father and how that might affect how people perceive Peter in the movie. In the movie, viewers will learn that Peter’s father took his own life. This event shown and is only mentioned in a conversation he and Phil have.

This conversation still happens in the novel. However, the novel addressed this within the first few chapters of it. It sets up who his father is and how he was a doctor and what the motive behind his death was. In the novel, we learn that he does worry about Peter, who at the time wasn’t as healthy as he could be, and was a target of Phil’s jokes. Which was something that had been prevalent in the book later on as well as in the movie when Peter and Rose are living with George.

Without spoiling too much, Peter’s father was worried about Peter, and comments about Peter being a “sissy” were something that really bothered him. And like it was referenced in the later scene in the book and movie, Peter was the one to find his body.

The reason I say that this can effect how viewers might breakdown Peter’s character. I had seen a case made that Peter might have been something of a sociopath and/or having a hand in his father’s death. In the case of him being a sociopath, I’m not entirely sure if that was the case, since I feel like what he did later on in the story could have been a form of trauma response and wanting to protect his mother, who didn’t really stand much of a chance when it came to Phil’s torment. However, that may depend on who you talk to.

As far as Peter having a hand in his father’s death, I can see how that could have been assumed or considered in the movie. Because of how his father’s death is addressed and Peter’s actions later on, along with the theory that Peter might be a sociopath, I could see why some viewers might have deduced that he could have been responsible. That’s not necessarily the fault of the movie, but because viewers never got to see what happened to his father, it could leave itself up to interpretation. Had the movie included a scene addressing his father, be it a scene at the beginning with a time jump to when the movie actually starts or a flashback, I think it might have helped explain things just a little more.

In conclusion, the major differences in the film include how the third person perspective seems to be used and the scene expanding on what happened to Peter’s father. As well as a scene or two more with the Native American family.

Conclusion

Overall, as an adaptation, I would say 2021’s The Power of the Dog Netflix adaptation was a solid and faithful adaptation. It followed a lot of the core elements of the novel it was based on. And though it might not have included some of the context behind the death of Peter’s father, I don’t think that hurt the movie. Though it could lead to some differing interpretations of Peter. All in all, though, I would say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Holy War: What it Did Wrong and How I Think a Story on Nightcrawler’s Priesthood Could Work

Having read a portion of Chuck Austen’s Uncanny X-Men run, I don’t think it would surprise anyone who has read it if I said it is a bad run. In a way, that is the nature of comics. Some authors’ runs are good, some alright, and some bad. It all really depends.

Chuck Austen certainly falls into the bad category. While he might not be at the top of everyone’s disliked list, I can’t recall the last time I’ve heard people say any of his comics were good. Points made for why he is considered a bad writer comes down to things like characterization, characters introduced, stories, and how he treated a number of female characters during his run.

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, I do think there were good concepts in his run. That despite the stories themselves being executed poorly, the concepts themselves are not bad. For instance, Nightcrawler at one point being a priest, but not anymore isn’t a bad idea. It’s just how Chuck Austen choose to approach it that made it a poorly received story.

That said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Chuck Austen’s two worst arcs happen to center on Nightcrawler (Holy War and The Draco). And while I might think there was potential for some concepts in both, I by no mean think they were good stories.

Because of that, I thought I would take these two arcs and see how I think they could have been made better. I finished Holy War earlier this month and I had read The Draco back in August. So I thought this would be a good time to look back at these two arcs and how I think they could have been written better.

I decided to divide it into two different posts so that each arc can be discussed as thoroughly as possible on their own. I’m starting with Holy War since it came first and isn’t as poorly received as The Draco (though not by much). And to approach it, I have divided it up into three parts: A brief synopsis of the story, what the problem was, and what I would do to fix them.

Holy War

Holy War (423-424) was a two part conclusion to wrap up a plot point with the Church of Humanity. After an incident on the school grounds, the X-Men look to investigate. As it would turn out, Nightcrawler ended up becoming a priest though them. The only problem: none of the X-Men remember this happening when Nightcrawler knows he would have told them. When they go to look into it, not only do they find out that the Church of Humanity is attached to several deaths, but was looking to make Nightcrawler a pope only to then expose him as an antichrist so that they could convince people of the Rapture.

What Did Holy War Do Wrong?

For me, one major issues boils down to making Nightcrawler the figure head for this group’s plan. Yes, he looks sinister to the average person (a.k.a. he looks like a demon), but if there’s one thing Nightcrawler is known for is being a Catholic. Even if it’s not always front and center. So making him a pope only to make him an antichrist would feel wrong for the character.

I also feel like it’s super odd that people are surprised that Kurt would want to be a priest or had actually became one. While he might not “look the part”, his fellow X-Men should know that he’s Catholic. Heck, Logan and Kurt did talk about it during the Claremont run back in the 70’s and 80’s. So it’s not like him stating he’s religious is that much of an anomaly. It also shouldn’t be that farfetched that he could be a priest. Sure, it could be odd at first because they know people have given Nightcrawler flack for him being a “demon”, but not to the point that no one thinks he could be a priest. This issue hits Havoc the most since he was the most vocal about how Nightcrawler shouldn’t be a priest because of how he looks.

I also wasn’t too thrilled with how Cyclops approached Nightcrawler at the beginning. It’s more of a nitpick for me, but something about Cyclops how he approached Nightcrawler felt too belligerent for me. I get that six X-Men getting hurt was an issue, but lashing out at Nightcrawler felt like overkill.

How suggestive characters were in this arc is another issue. Both verbally and visually. I can agree that this was an issue because a lot of the comments and how one or two female characters looked felt unnecessary. And the story could have been fine without it.

Before I If I had to give this anything positive, its the art. I know the art might not mean much considering I’m mainly talking about the story itself, however, if there was one thing that I thought it did better than The Draco, it was that. Because while Philip Tan does the cover art, which is a critique for The Draco, the artwork in the story itself is fine.

What a Better Story Could Look Like

I have a few ways that this could have been fixed. First off, separate wanting to make Nightcrawler this antichrist figure and Nightcrawler being a priest. In theory I could see both being their own story. From there, I could see a few ideas playing out.

Note: Kurt is no longer considered a priest. There’s a panel or two that addresses this in I believe Legion of X. There, he states how he went through all the vows and such, but due to circumstance, certain things didn’t hold up any longer. The vow of chastity being one that didn’t hold up.

  1. Kurt becomes a priest, but leaves the church he’s stationed at because of overwhelming anti-mutant sentiments: This is one of two options where Kurt does become a priest, but decides to
  2. Kurt becomes a priest and the church he’s established at respects and appreciates him, but burnout and/or his heart not being in it anymore is what prompts him to retire: This one is a happier alternative to the previous one. Maybe he does go through the process of becoming a priest and finds a church where things work out for him. He’s respected and the people there accept and really like him. However, he ends up retiring. Maybe juggling his daily life, the X-Men, and priesthood makes him feel burnt out. Or perhaps, he feels as though his heart is no longer in it due to juggling everything and feeling like he isn’t as helpful as he could be. So he retires, leaving the church on good terms and is offered a position if he chooses to return in the future.

These are a ways I feel could have been a better story for Holy War. For me, I think if they removed the whole take down the Catholic Church by revealing Nightcrawler is the better option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I do feel Holy War could have had the potential to be a good story had the story itself been written differently. Personally, I think if they just did a story focusing on Nightcrawler as a priest but eventually retiring, I think that would have been a better idea in the long run. Nightcrawler retiring on his own terms, be it from burnout or feeling it was his time, or the church loathing mutants, I feel would also be a reasonable way for him to no longer be a priest.

Note that I did consider an idea for the cult idea where a group tried to use Nightcrawler’s likeness for their cause. And in it, Nightcrawler would denounce it both in private and publicly (via a broadcast showing him taking down the cult that paraded around with his likeness). However, given how poorly received that angle in Holy War was, I thought it best to avoid what an alternative focusing solely on that would look like.

But what do you think? Do you think the concepts behind Holy War could have been good? Why or why not? How would you approach an altered version of it?

Transformers: Age of Extinction

It’s been a while since I did a review for the Michael Bay Transformers movies (a.k.a. the Bayformers movies). I meant to continue on with it, but other topics came to me a lot quicker and I ended up getting sidetracked. But I’m back now to continue on with the reviews. And with the release of Transformers: Rise of the Beasts coming out next year, now feels like a good time to pick these reviews back up.

With this being the fourth installment in the franchise, Transformers: Age of Extinction decided to try new things. New characters were introduced, both human and Cybertronian alike. the Dinobots make their debut. Human/Cybertronian conflicts are picked up and a way to introduce Galvatron was introduced.

This movie was played a lot on FX and it’s sister channels. So much so that I did get around to it thanks to FX, since Dark of the Moon was the last of these movies I watched in theaters and had no interest in doing so with the others.

The Review

I would say that this is a very middle of the road movie. There are things that I liked about it, and things that I didn’t. However, compared to say the first movie or Dark of the Moon, I wouldn’t say it was one that I really enjoyed.

Positive: The Designs

As always, the designs of the Cybertronians is something I enjoyed. Optimus and Bumblebee have stayed relatively the same. Optimus keeps his general look and color scheme with him looking more aged and/or worn at times, while Bumblebee keeps his iconic yellow with a bit more black.

I also liked some of the designs of some of the newer Cypertronians introduced. Mainly Crosshairs. Lockdown has a neat design too, as does Galvatron. Hound’s is pretty solid, and I am mixed about Drift’s. The faces may seem a bit uncanny or too humanoid, which I won’t deny. It does feel a little odd that the faces seem more human and less mechanical. That’s not to say that faces didn’t have aspects that would be considered slightly humanoid in previous movies, it’s just a lot more apparent here.

Either way, most of the designs are pretty solid. And when it comes to Crosshairs’ design, I think what I really liked about the design was how it had that trench coat look in the back. It might seem weird, but I liked how it didn’t seem as dense when he moved. It moved like it was a coat and not metal, if that makes sense. Kind of like it was like the mechanical/metallic version of a coat moving.

Negative: The Plot Feels Disjointed at Times

Is there a plot? Yes. Did each part of said plot seamlessly work into the next? No. While the overarching conflict might have been the hunt for the Autobots and using other Cybertroninas to create a market and the government being involved. That said, it feels like there are three different plot points that just don’t seem to blend into each other that well.

One is the Autobots and Cade Yeager’s group being pursued. Optimus doesn’t want to deal with the humans anymore after everything they put them through. He also wants to retaliate for what they did to Ratchet. And along the way, he find some faith in Cade and his family and wants to figure out what’s going on back on Cybertron.

The second plot point would be the Lockdown portion. Lockdown is hunting down Optimus because their creator is looking for him. This is kind of tied with the whole government perusing Optimus plot, where he’s working with Kelsey Grammer’s character, but for his own purpose. Not because he wants to help them.

Then there’s the whole Dinobot subplot. That one feels the most jarring to me. Because while the Dinobots are neat characters and seem like a cool addition, their introduction doesn’t feel at all natural. But I’ll get into that a bit more in a little.

And somewhere in there there’s Galvatron. Which is a neat addition and a neat way to bring back Megatron. Even if this is the second time he was revived (he was revived in Revenge of the Fallen, lived through Revenge of the Fallen dying in Dark of the Moon, and revived again here).

All of these plot points are fine on their own. However, to me, it doesn’t feel like they worked together as well as they could. It feels like there is a lot going on, but it might not always feel like it connects.

Positive: Introducing New Characters

Granted, some characters were better than others in this movie, but I do think that it was a good idea to start with a new batch of characters. Sam’s story was pretty much told. Though it would have been nice to know what happened to him between this movie and the last (there might be an explanation in a tie in comic or something, I just don’t recall if they addressed it in the movie).

And in terms of Cybertronians, I do think the additions for the most part are neat. Lockdown made for an interesting villain and I do feel like the Autobots introduced were neat in their own ways. Galatron felt like a cool additon and a change in how Megatron came back, which kind of lines up with how he came back as Galavtron in the cartoons and comics.

Negative: How the Dinobots Were Introduced

Now, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to the Dinobots appearing necessarily. Sure, they might be treated more like animals in the movie when compared to them being more of a different subsection of Cybertronians, however, the Dinobots are a neat addition. Especially since blend two pretty popular and iconic creatures: dinosaurs and robots.

What I think the issue is, is how they are introduced. As I mentioned previously, it does feel disjointed at times, and I think how the Dinobots were introduce is the biggest factor in that. They were alluded to at the beginning of the movie, but between that and when they were brought in, there was no mention of them.

Mixed: The Human Characters

One critique in terms of newly introduced characters would be with the human characters. They do tend to feel like the weakest link in these movies in my experience. Or at the very least that’s something people have the most criticisms with in terms of characters (not always, since Mudflap and Skids are an example of criticized Cybertronians, but it’s usually the human characters that people may draw the most criticisms from in terms of characters). Cade I feel like was a solid change in main human characters, a father and mechanic who wants to protect his family. I don’t think Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci’s characters were too bad, maybe not as well utilized, but compared to some human characters, not the absolute worst in my opinion. The worst in this movie, at least for me was Tessa and Shane. I just didn’t really care for them. They did help at various points, but they weren’t all that interesting in my opinion and I think I was just kind of tired of the budding romance that these movies had.

Positive: Frank Welker as Galvatron

This might sound like an odd positive, but it was one that I appreciated. While I certainly enjoyed Hugo Weaving’s time as Megatron, I liked how they brought back the original voice of Megatron. That being Frank Welker.

Previously, the only actor that they had brought back from the original 1984 animated series was Peter Cullen. And though Frank Welker would go on to reprise the role for a few games and the next movie, Transformers Prime was the first series that reunited these two as their staple characters four years prior. So having him reprise the role in a movie was nice.

I also think it’s a neat nod to the 1986 animated movie, where there was a voice actor change. In the movie, when Megatron became Galvatron, Leonard Nimoy took over for Frank Welker. The latter would go on to take over for the remaining two seasons of the animated series, however, there was that voice change when the character changed.

And I feel like that’s kind of what they did. Though considering Hugo Weaving was a little bit more selective with his roles around the time Age of Extinction was under way, that might not have been the initial intent. Even so, I just think a neat way to have that switch, even if it wasn’t why that change was made.

Negative: It Didn’t Feeling as Engaging and Feels Familiar

Maybe it’s because of how often FX played it, or maybe it was me just not being as invested in the movies after Dark of the Moon, but it doesn’t feel as engaging as it could have been. When this movie was released in theaters, I don’t recall being as invested in or excited about the movie. Not enough for me to want to see it in theaters anyways. And then when it had its home release, I didn’t feel compelled to but it like I had with the first three.

And when it comes to FX, it did feel like they played this one more than any other movie in this franchise. There isn’t anything wrong with re-watching a movie or a station to play the movie however many times it pleases, I just feel like they played it excessively. And that didn’t really help me feel like it was worth catching until I finally decided to sit through the whole thing.

The plot could also factor in since it doesn’t feel like it tried too many new ideas. There were some, like the dynamic with a new cast of characters and the creation of Galvatron, but other than that, I don’t feel like it took as many risks as it could have. That doesn’t mean I think the plot was all bad. I can see what it was going for. I guess it feels rather formulaic. It feels a bit similar to the previous movies (ex evading the government, a big showdown with Megatron, a battle with the other big bads like Sentinel and the Fallen, etc.).

Conclusion

I would probably give this movie a 6.5 out of 10. I feel like there were some good ideas here, like new characters, neat designs and bringing Frank Welker back. The human characters I feel are a hit or miss group in these movies, but characters like Cade, I think were alright. However, the slight disconnect at certain times, how the Dinobots were introduced, and the fact it didn’t feel as engaging or new did bring this movie down for me.

But what did you think of this movie? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Almost There by Farrah Rochon: A Review

The thirteenth book in the Disney Twisted Tales series, Almost There asks the question: What if Tiana Made a Deal that Changed Everything? A question that this novel looks to answer.

When I first heard that this book was coming out, I was intrigued. Though 2009’s Princess and the Frog didn’t catch my interest when it was initially released, it is one that I have revisited and really enjoy. The art and music were really good and the direction it took the story was interesting. This is also the movie that introduced us to Tiana, Disney’s first black princess. All and all, I would say that The Princess and the Frog was a solid movie and deserves the appreciation and enjoyment it has received in the years since its release.

Almost There is the thirteenth book in the Twisted Tales line and was the one I had the most curiosity for after the last two books. Go the Distance was a nice one and What Once Was Mine wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I read it (loved the concept, wasn’t fond of certain decisions). And while I had an inkling for what they might have gone with in terms of twisting the story (Tiana taking the deal), how it was executed was neat.

And having just recently finished the book, I thought it was time to review it. Note: I will try to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but as always, Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Synopsis

The story begins with a few scenes from Tiana’s past. A lot of it being about her father and establishing moments from the movie and built off of it. Readers then jump to the present where Tiana makes a deal with Dr. Facilier that will give her her father back in exchange for an elixir his friends from the other side want her to use.

When she agrees, with one little detail missed, she gets what she had always wanted. Her friends safety, her own restaurant and her father. However, when eerie things begin to change. And when Dr. Facilier comes back a year later to collect and follow upon that missed detail, Tiana finds herself thrown into a world of trouble, and it’s up to her, Charlotte, and Naveen to reverse what the Shadow Man created.

Positives

What I thought was really good about this book had to do with the story, some of the characters, and the setting. It was also interesting to see how it worked off of the established connection Tiana had with her father and their love for cooking. It was also really nice to see these two bonding and how it eventually dealt with Tiana’s love for her father and the grief that comes along with it.

For the story, the direction they went with made sense. I did speculate that Tiana would take the offer Dr. Facilier gave her, but where such an offer would go, I wasn’t sure. That said, it does feel like a logical direction for it to go the way it did, and I think it was executed well for the most part.

As for characters, I did enjoy how this story developed Charlotte a bit more. While Charlotte would be a sort of iconic character in the movie, she only had so many scenes. Here, readers get to see more of her and Tiana’s friendship and Charlotte having some development. Naveen also got a little development too. Like him reflecting on possibly going back to Maldonia after receiving an invitation back, and what that would mean for him. Of course, Tiana got quite a bit of development as the protagonist, which includes how she handles Facilier and the restaurant. As well as how she approaches Naveen now that everyone is back to “normal”.

The setting of the story is also pretty neat too. It still takes place in 1920’s New Orleans which is nice. And while holding onto the music, food, and character the movie had while set in this time period, it does have a moment where it seems to address (if only in an implication sense) about the climate at the time in regards to race. While the movie has that scene with Tiana and the investors at Charlotte’s party with how they present her not getting the building she had her sights set on, Almost There has a scene involving Charlotte and Tiana at a clothing store where one of the workers states Tiana isn’t allowed to shop there (Charlotte does try to defend Tiana in this situation to her best ability while Tiana doesn’t want to start a conflict because of it).

Negatives

As for negatives, while I wouldn’t want to say it feels like it is formulaic, but I suppose the ending could have been a little different. On the one hand, I did like how it was a sort of psyche out. On the other, I kind of saw something a little different (like Facilier “running out of time”). But that’s just me.

One other thing I think they could have done was more scenes with Mama Odie. They do go to see her, but I feel like there could have been more scenes with her. Especially since there was a whole scene with Charlotte being perplexed that everyone but her knew who Mama Odie was. I just felt they could have done more with it.

Conclusion

I would probably give this book a 4.25 out of 5 stars. It’s certainly one of my favorite of the Twisted Tales series and I love how it approached the story. From the characters to how it addressed the plot and setting. I only wish they had done one or two things differently.

The next book in the series is one I heard might be a possibility. That being a Pinocchio set book. The title is When You Wish Upon a Star and is written by Elizabeth Lim, who previously wrote the Mulan Twisted Tale Reflection. When You Wish Upon a Star will focus on the Blue Fairy and asks: What if the Blue Fairy wasn’t Supposed to Help Pinocchio? and is expected to be released on April 4th 2023.