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Nightcrawler 2004: A Review

Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Darick Robertson, 2004’s Nightcrawler marks the third time Nightcrawler had a solo outing, but the first time he had a multi-volume (two to be exact) run as opposed to the previous two four issue runs. This has to be one of my favorite Nightcrawler centered runs thus far, with Way of X being another and Claremont’s 70’s and 80’s being a good X-Men run that also happens to have him in it.

Minor Content Disclaimer

This series does use the term g*psy twice when introducing Margali in two issues. As well as two stereotypes: Margali being a fortune teller and her and her family being a part of the circus. I had previously learned that fortune telling is a common stereotype for Romani people while the stereotype of them working in the circus (and certain entertainment fields) is something I learned recently.

Based on what I currently know, I am viewing this similarly to how I did with Moon Sister, namely a Q&A and synopsis (can’t remember if the term was used in the book at the moment). That being, I do not believe the people behind the series were trying to be malicious. Misinformed and/or uninformed? Perhaps. There is also the fact that this is an almost twenty year old series, which more than anything, gives context for how Romani characters has changed in the years since.

That does not mean I am excusing the term or stereotypes. I many be giving them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intent, until proven otherwise (if proven otherwise). It is still an issue even if they weren’t meaning to be. Nor does it’s age excuse it. It may provide context for how Romani characters were approach then compared to now, but that doesn’t mean the series gets a pass.

I strive to be as mindful as I can be when it comes to reviews, recommendations, and the like. And when making reviews for books or any media (movies, shows, etc.), if there’s something that people might want to know about (ex. content warnings or a disclaimer for terms/topics/etc. that might seem jarring or problematic), I will mention it.

Synopsis

This run focuses on two different yet interconnected stories. The first volume deals with demons and murder in a hospital. The second, deals with Nightcrawler’s past and how a demon named Hive was associated with it.

In The Devil Inside (issues 1-6), Nightcrawler is tasked with investigating the murder of thirteen children at a hospital with the only survivor, a young boy named Seth, being the key to unraveling the true nature of these murders. With the help of the night nurse Christine and Ororo keeping an eye on the case, Nightcrawler finds out the haunting and supernatural reason behind the murders and Dr. Childs’ involvement.

In The Winding Way (Issues 7-12) Nightcrawler is tormented by a series of surreal dreams involving his past at the circus and something called the Soulsword. This leads to Kurt, alongside Christine and Logan to investigate the circus he had spent quite a bit of time in. And along the way, Amanda Sefton and Margali Szardos, Nightcrawler’s adopted family, alongside Dr. Strange antagonist Nightmare, come to help. After Nightcrawler learns about what is going on and how to stop an array of demons looking for the Soulsword, it concludes with a surprise visit on his birthday.

Positives

This series has quite a few good things in it. The art is good. The story is neat. And the supernatural elements to it feel suitable for a Nightcrawler series.

The artwork here is pretty good. Darick Robertson, who has work on The Boys and Legends of the Dark Knight, did a good job. Greg Land, who also worked on the X-Men story Second Coming, is also mentioned as an artist for the series as well, and I think what he contributed is good too.

Though not the most magically savvy like Magik or other sorcerer/sorceress Marvel characters, I did think that having the supernatural element to this series was a good approach. I feel like Nightcrawler stories do have some versatility to them. Some that readers have seen include swashbuckling adventures with pirates, exploring his past, exploring his religious root, and learning to embrace himself for how he looks even if others do not. The direction this run took I feel works with his character. Because while he isn’t a literal sorcerer, his whole shtick with being a “demon” I feel works with how this story also deals with him fighting them, including the brief interaction with Mephisto, as well as his history with Margali and Amanda, two known sorceresses, who help him out with both main plot points in this run. This story also mixes events from his past with the occult stuff with the present conflict, like what really happened the night Nightcrawler killed Stephan, which I think was an interesting way to explore that. Overall, I think the supernatural aspect of this story really works for this series.

Tying into that, I think the story was a well written one. The transition from the first main plot with the hospital to Kurt searching for answers in regards to the Soulsword was solid. The story about the ghosts haunting the subway was a good transitional issue before it got into the main plot of The Winding Way. While the concluding issue wrapped up the necessary plot point that needed to be.

Nothing really felt out of place for what this series was trying to tell, and I liked how it tied a few things together. Namely how the Soulsword and the demons involved with attacking Kurt and his allies ended up tying into Kurt’s past. Without spoiling too much, it tied into a ringleader who wasn’t particularly kind to Kurt. It was also tied to the death of Stefan Szardos’, Margali’s son, which happened after Kurt promised Stefan that he would to stop him by any means should he lose his way.

As far as characters, I think this series handled them well. No one felt out of character. The characters who had a main role outside of Kurt (for obvious reasons) include Ororo (Storm), Logan (Wolverine), Christine Pakmer, Amanda Sefton, Margali Szardos, Hank McCoy (Beast), and Nightmare. Other characters include the doctor at the hospital, the young boy that survived the incident at the hospital, the ghosts of the miners, and the ringleader. And the main antagonists were the demons involved with the hospital murders and the ones sent to retrieve the Soulsword.

Kurt was the star of the series and it did a great job of handling his character and how he approached the conflicts in it. I also really enjoyed how Storm interacted with him as well as Nightcrawler, Storm, and Logan worked together for an issue. The banter between Nightcrawler and Beast was also amusing and insightful. Honestly, I think this series is one of the best examples of just how well he connects with his friends and fellow X-Men and how well of an impact he has on people.

When it comes to this series, I feel like it did a lot of good things. The art was good and the transition between the two main stories was solid. I enjoyed both stories and feel that characters, especially Nightcrawler, That said, this is not a perfect series, and I do have a few critiques. But before that, I wanted to quickly discuss Margali and Amanda as characters separately.

Margali and Amanda: As Characters

The reason I want to separate these two is because I wanted to talk about what I felt they did right in terms of Margali and Amanda as characters. Because while I do not approve of the term or stereotypes, I do want to address what I believe was done well with the characters and their characterization.

In terms of characterization, I would say they were done well. They do not have a lot of appearances since their debut in 1976 (Amanda) and 1980 (Margali and Stefan). Amanda has a few more appearances due to her relationship with Kurt, but both characters aren’t as utilized when compared to other X-Men characters. So having them here was nice. That said, the reason I feel that their characters were done well was because of the role thy had in the series. That being to help Nightcrawler with his cases and showing how he valued his family.

As magic based characters, they had a better understanding of what was going around Nightcrawler and the supernatural conflicts he was looking into. Margali also had a better understanding of the Soulsword and it’s whereabouts. As Kurt’s family, they always have significant. Because Margali took him in when Mystique had abandoned him, Kurt developed a love for his adopted family. So much so that he still sees Margali as a mother, calling her “mother” and “mamí” on several occasions. Family and acceptance has always been important to Nightcrawler’s character. Especially with how most of the world shuns him for being the way he looks. And this series exhibits that through flashbacks, how he interacts with Amanda and Margali, and how they are there to help him.

It’s also worth mentioning that Margali and Amanda were never villainized for being Romani. They were treated as characters and as people.

As for the issues in series surrounding how they are referred to and affiliations, I can say that they are no longer members of the circus and Margali is no longer a fortune teller. And though they haven’t appeared as often as say Wanda or Pietro, I’m sure they will/would be referred to as Romani in future appearances (I’m uncertain what issues they appear in after Kurt’s death in 2010’s Second Coming and his post resurrection solo in 2014, so I cannot say if they have been referred to as Romani in between those). The only thing that has stuck is their past in the circus, which I do not see that changing anytime soon due to Nightcrawler’s past being so linked to Margali and the circus.

However, overall, I would say that Margali and Amanda were treated well as characters. Though the language and stereotypes are there, which are issues regardless, they weren’t villainized in the series for being Romani. And the role that they had was key in helping Kurt and building on how he views his adopted family.

Criticisms

When it comes to negatives, there are two main critiques I have: Christine’s role after the events of the first six issues and a key element to Amanda and Nightcrawler’s relationship that is still present today.

When it comes to Christine, I feel like they didn’t know what to do with her after the events from The Devil Inside. While she is there for support, it just didn’t feel like she had much to do. The biggest point being the state of their relationship, and the uncertainty of it working out. They do end up breaking up with Christine stating that she would be moving for a job, and Kurt agreeing it was probably for the best. Though he did offer to try and make things work.

Other than that, she didn’t have that much purpose during The Winding Way. She and Logan do accompany him on his journey back to the circus he spent time in, both agreeing to come along when asked. Other than that, she ends up getting attack and almost killed. And when it comes to the main conflict, Christine didn’t seem to have as much to do outside of some dialogue and a sense of urgency after she’s attacked. It’s a shame because I feel they could have done something more with her (not sure what at the moment). Though if they only wanted to address their relationship and break up, I feel they could have done one of two things: have Christine stay behind and reveal that she no longer thinks things will work out, or she comes along and after seeing Kurt getting severely hurt, she decides to call it off because she can no longer take the stress of worrying about him dying.

Overall though, I just think that Christine loses something between The Demon Inside and The Winding Way.

When it comes to Nightcrawler and Amanda’s relationship, there has been an aspect of it that always felt odd to me. That being that they dated. At first glance, it might not seem like much to worry about. The problem is, Amanda is Margali’s daughter, and Margali adopted Nightcrawler. Thereby making them adopted siblings.

Even if Nightcrawler wasn’t officially/legally adopted by Margali, she still adopted and raised him as her own. And yes, this isn’t the only time they were romantically involved (they were in some of the earlier X-Men runs and again in the 2014 Nightcrawler solo). However, considering how Nightcrawler sees Margali as a mother and Stefan a brother, which is reciprocated, why the same was never said about Amanda is strange. Yet, Marvel has repeatedly gone back to them dating, despite them being essentially siblings.

Now, to give credit where it’s due, this is probably the least questionable instance in my opinion. In the series, they aren’t together in the present. They were in the past, which is shown through a memory where Kurt teleports to save Amanda when a stunt goes wrong. And in the heat of the moment, they kiss. Then it’s later addressed that Nightcrawler had broken up with her due Amanda to not always being completely honest with him. It may have a few minor instances where it’s referenced, but other than that, I do feel like this series had the least questionable instance of their romance based on the fact that they weren’t together anymore.

The handling of Christine and Kurt’s relationship with the Amanda were the bigger issues I had with the series. Those, and the problematic elements surrounding the apporach to Romani characters, mainly Margali (the stereotypes and term). Christine could have been handled better in the second half of the series due to it feeling like she wasn’t as needed. And while I don’t think Amanda is a bad character and am fine with her having a good relationship with Nightcrawler, I do have an issue with them being romantically involved due to Margali being a mother to both of them. As for the term and stereotypes, regardless of intent or the time it was released, is an issue. I do hope (and currently presume) that they have since learned about the nature of the stereotypes and term and have become more conscientious of it.

Conclusion

I would give this series and eight and a half out of ten. Overall, I would definitely say that this is a really good X-Men stories and one of my favorites when it comes to Nightcrawler. It had a good atmosphere the supernatural elements and the story it told was an interesting one. It also gives some nice insight into Nightcrawler’s past and how it ties to the cases in the present. And the characters for the most part are really good. Kurt as the lead especially, as well as characters like Storm, Wolverine, Margali, Beast, and Amanda.

It does, however, use some terminology and stereotypes towards the Romani that haven’t aged, and in hindsight shouldn’t have been used (unfortunately, there might not be much that can be done about their past in the circus given it’s significant ties to Nightcrawler’s backstory). And while Christine and Amanda had some good contributions to the series, there are a few issues with them. Namely, it doesn’t feel like Christine had much to do in The Winding Way and while it was in the past and not exclusive to this series, Amanda’s romance with Nightcrawler has always been a strange choice to me due to their relationship to Margali.

If you’re looking for a good X-Men title, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Nightcrawler is worth a read.

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.

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.

Sandman (2022): A Review

For the first time in a long time, I found myself enjoying a new series. That series being the recently released The Sandman series on Netflix. Going into this series, I was pretty hopeful. And having read the first two volumes, which this season covers, I can honestly say it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

Since this show is still relatively new, I will avoid spoilers as much as possible. But in any case, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Synopsis

When Morpheus, better known as the Sandman and Dream, is captured in an attempt to resurrect a man’s son, he spends the better part of a century (one hundred and five years to be exact) trapped and without his tools. Upon his release, Morpheus is on a mission to retrieve what was stolen from him and get revenge.

Along the way, he will return to his home in the Dream World, meet Matthew, his new raven companion, and visit Lucifer Morningstar as he retrieves what was once lost. And as the dust settles, he will be reunited with his sister, the ever charming and insightful, Death and learns of someone known as The Vortex, which could prove catastrophic if not approached accordingly.

This first season covers the first two volumes of The Sandman series, Preludes and Nocturnes and The Dollhouse.

Positives

When it comes to positives, I think there are quite a few. The most significant for me being, the story, the characters, the casting, and how it translated as an adaptation.

I also like the darker fantasy tone it had. As someone who enjoys fantasy, it’s always nice to fins a good series, book, or what have you in this genre. And The Sandman does that really well for me.

Its also worth noting that Neil Gaiman, the creator of The Sandman comics. So while I do think they did really well adapting it, it’s neat that Neil Gaiman did have a hand in the production. So I would hope he enjoyed how the show came out.

The Story

As a story, The Sandman is an intriguing one. The idea of the personifications of things like dream, death, desire, despair, delirium, destiny, and destruction living among us is a concept that can certainly create some interesting and philosophical story. And it was.

In general, what I think this season did really well was the approach and set up. It sets up the world and characters well. It knew what it wanted to do with it’s story and setting and did it in a way that I felt was well executed.

As an adaptation of the first two volumes of the comic, I think it did really well. While Neil Gaiman had a hand in it’s production, it was able to, not only tell the story pretty accurately, but have necessary changes and additions that worked.

The Characters

The characters were also interesting. Each one having their own story to tell. There’s Rose, who’s looking to find her brother after they were separated when they were younger, Doctor Destiny (a.k.a. John Dee), who, after escaping an Asylum, wants “everyone to live with their truth” and for a “more honest” world, and Corinthian, who wants to be his own person and prevent Morpheus from stopping him. Though not all of the characters we get to see outside of The Endless, these are just a few examples.

While only four of the seven Endless (the group of entities that Morpheus is apart of) appear in this season, they were all unique and fit what they personify well. Morpheus takes his job as the ruler of dreams very seriously, knowing how it effects the waking world and how destructive the lose of it can be.

Desire, though not appearing as often as Morpheus, makes a great impression and sets up what to expect with their relationship with Morpheus. As well as their twin Despair, who does make a brief appearance. Should a season 2 get green lit, which I’m confident will happen, I feel that these two will get a lot more attention and development.

And then there’s Death, the oldest Endless introduces thus far, and the second eldest over all. She was the one that Alex Burgess was looking to capture when he got Mopheus instead.

Casting

I do believe that the casting choices were great. I know casting can cause debate on initial reveal and sometimes after, but I think that the casting choices were good. Some of my favorites include Mason Alexander Park as Desire, David Thewlis as Doctor Destiny, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Death, Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, and Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer. Tom Sturridge also pulls off Morpheus really well. Not only in appearance, but in voice too. He sounded how I would expect Morpheus to, so I really enjoyed his portrayal.

And of course, there are other casting choices I thought were really well too. Even in voice work like Patton Oswald as Matthew the raven and Mark Hamil as Merv Pumpkinhead.

Overall, I do think that the casting choice was good. It’s also pretty diverse, which I think is pretty cool. I also think it works. For instance, with Desire being very ambiguous as far as their identity (in the comics Desire is often referred to as sibling). So casting Mason Alexander Park (They/Them) in the role, I feel was a good choice. Plus, I really think they bring a real charm to the character, and I can’t wait to see how the character develops from here (Death too, because I really want to see more of her too).

Critiques

I don’t really have that many negatives for this season. However, while I might think this show is really good and a great adaptation, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s flawless. That said, my critiques are very minute.

One being that I feel like it could have been an episode or two longer. It might not need it, but I feel like another episode or two would be a nice way to help develop things a little further. That’s not to say I think it’s rushed, which I don’t. I just feel that there could have been an episode that made helps explore Desire a little (without giving too much away), and maybe an episode that explored Rose and Jed Walker past a little more. Again, not exactly necessary, but something. Plus, Desire will probably get more development and screen time in later seasons.

That’s all I can really think of as far as critiques. I suppose upon a rewatch, I might find something else. However, I don’t really have many critiques of the show at this time.

Conclusion

I would give this show a ninety percent. I do think they did a great job adapting the first two volumes of Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic. The casting and characters were great, the story was told really well, and it has an aesthetic that really fits this gothic, horror fantasy. The effects were also really good too. And while it might have one or two flaws in the form of maybe being a little longer, overall, I think this is a really good show and I would recommend it.

Of course, I know it might not be a show for everyone, which is fine. The comic and the Netflix adaptation are a bit dark (I’ve heard that the diner scene was kind of unsettling for one or two people), so I wouldn’t expect it to be for everyone. However, if you are looking for something a little different and/or a dark fantasy, I would recommend it.

With that said, I leave you with the following questions: Have you seen the show yet? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you planning to watch it? Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that a second season will be made, what are some of your hopes going into it? Do you think it will, or should, cover the next two volumes (Dream County and Seasons of Mist)? If you have read the comics, do you think it was a good/faithful adaptation?

The Missing Sister: A Review

This is the most recent book in the series as of this review. The seventh book of the Seven Sisters series answers the overarching question that has remained unanswered since the beginning: Who was the seventh sister that Pa Salt never found?

This book answers that question all the while reuniting the six sisters from the previous book. Also know: Minor Spoilers Ahead.

General Disclaimer

My general disclaimer for this book, and the last time you’ll probably see it since I don’t think Atlas, the eighth and final book, will address Pa Salt’s heritage so much as why Pa Salt adopted all of the sisters and his found family through them.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Synopsis

When Maia, Ally, Star, CeCe, Tiggy, and Electra receive news about the seventh sister that Pa Salt never found, they decide to look into it. They hope to spark a connection, find out what happened, and why this seventh sister wasn’t found. Their investigation brings them to New Zealand, Canada, England, France and Ireland. Along they way they meet Merry and her daughter Mary-Kate, who may hold the secret to the missing sister.

Jumping back into the 1920’s we get to hear the story of Nuala. Nuala is an Irish woman living through Ireland’s war for independence. Her journey details with where she and her family stand, what actions she takes, and what it was like during this turbulent time.

Positives

I’m a sap for Ireland centered stories, being of Irish decent myself and having a curiosity to learn more about Irish history. So one thing I enjoyed was how this book explored Ireland and it’s history. And with this taking place during a time of conflict, getting a sort of look into it from one perspective was neat.

I also liked how we finally got the sisters all back together for this. With this “missing sister” being something that was referenced multiple times throughout the series, it was nice to see that they didn’t leave this plot point on the cutting room floor.

Another thing I thought was a neat reflection of the story was with Merry and her daughter Mary-Kate. Mary Kate finds herself learning more about herself and her family and finds out the truth about her relationship with Merry.

Critiques

The critiques I have are with Merry and how they approached the search for her. Merry was a character that I had mixed feeling on. On the one hand, I understand why she wouldn’t want to meet with the D’Aplièse sisters to a degree. However, her constantly running was something that I found a bit repetitive and annoying at times. Merry does eventually agree to meet up with them, and readers are able to get a conclusion, but O was a little tired of the constant “the D’Aplièse sisters get to the location Merry’s at, but oh no, she fleed the country” cycle.

On the other hand, I can also see how the approach could have been done better. Realistically, it would feel odd if a group of people kept following you wishing to met, even if it wasn’t just the D’Aplièse sisters Merry was trying to evade. So that part makes sense.

On the other, It felt like it just prolonged the inevitable. I’m not opposed to her trying to avoid the D’Aplièse, just that it shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. I think it would have been nice or at the very least manageable, if after a while of avoiding them, it’s Mary-Kate who decides to act as a mediator and/or talks her mother into speaking to them much sooner. And from there, resolve any issues and explore Merry and Nuala’s stories. But, that’s just my thoughts on it.

Conclusion

I would give this book a seventy eight percent. This rating I believe will log it as my third favorite in the series. I found the premise of finding the “missing sister” to be a good one, and a great way to tie up that loss end. I also thought it was interesting as far as Nuala’s story taking place during Ireland’s war for independence. The only think I wish they had done better was how they approached the D’Aplièse sisters went looking for their missing sister and aspects of Merry’s story.

Sun Sister: A Review

The Sun Sister, released after I had finally caught up on the rest of the series. I was certainly curious to see what they would do with Electra’s character, as she was the one who seemed to have the least screen presence… or book appearances, when compared to the others. She does show up several times throughout the first five books, but it did feel like she was more so referred to than actually having scenes.

Unfortunately, this would be my least favorite in the series. Due to seeing and agreeing with some of the criticisms in reviews, I do feel like it could have been better. There were a lot of good concepts there, and I was all for them, but I did see how the execution seems rushed. It’s not terrible by any means, however, out of all seven books so far, one had to be the least enjoyed. And for me, it was this one.

Series Disclaimer

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Book Specific Disclaimer

Know that Sun Sister does address drug addiction and recovery throughout Electra’s story. How well the story handles it will depend on the reader, but know that it is addressed.

Synopsis

Electra’s story is one of fame, struggles, and living in the moment. Electra, despite being the youngest sister, has had a rather successful career in modeling. However, her personal life is far from perfect. After putting off the information Pa Salt had left her in regards to her family tree, and getting help for her addiction, she decides to look into it. When she is given a letter from a woman claiming to be her grandmother, she finds herself meeting this woman and discovering her family history while coping and working on bettering herself.

Meanwhile, starting in 1939 Cecily Huntley-Morgan finds herself moving from New York to Kenya on a journey of rediscovery and recovery. With war and disaster on the horizon, she finds herself marrying a man named Bill Forsythe and joining him as he works alongside the Maasai Tribe, who he has close connections with. As loneliness starts to set in, Cecily finds a baby that had been abandoned and raises them as her own.

Positives

I will say that I did appreciate the story it was telling. For Electra’s story, I appreciate how she does get help for her struggles. What she was going through is relatable and worth discussing. I also thought Electra had some good, albeit not perfect, development.

I also thought it was neat how this story did decide to address some of the Civil Rights era. It was a step forward time period wise, where as most of the previous books past story segments took place between the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Because while it does start off in the late 1930’s, having a slightly more modern and notable time period was a nice change of pace.

Critiques

Unfortunately, the execution is where it feels lacking. It probably doesn’t help that I did read a few reviews before hand, something I typically try to refrain from unless I am that curious about if a book is worth reading. And while I wouldn’t say that checking out reviews, or getting a second opinion/feedback before going into a book is bad, it did give me something to think about.

Because, while I do think that there were good intentions behind the book, I also think that it wasn’t as well executed as it could have been. Which was something some reviews noted on more or less. So while I can credit it for trying, I can also critique it for it’s execution.

One critique that stuck out to me was how quick the story seemed to skim over Electra’s recovery. And I can kind of see why. It does address it and has some moments dedicated to it, but it does feel like it could have or should have gone more in depth with it. Of course, it goes without saying that I am not an expert when it comes to addiction recovery and how long it should take, despite what knowledge I do have on it. That said, I can see why it might have felt rushed and/or not as developed as it should have been.

Another complaint I’ve seen was with Electra herself. Mostly with characterization. I will admit, Electra was the one sister I was curious about, but also the one I wasn’t sure hot to feel about. I would definitely say the character is a bit rough around the edges and there were areas that might have needed some improvement. However, I don’t think I was as critical to Electra as some people might have been, though I do agree there could have been different ways to handle the character in some instances.

Conclusion

Overall, I would give this book a six out of ten. I do believe that there were areas that could have been improved upon with the character and how certain story elements could have been done differently. That said, I do kind of appreciate what the book was trying to do with it’s handling of Electra’s mental health and addiction, even if the execution wasn’t stellar.

Moon Sister: A Review

The fifth book in the series, The Moon Sister, is one of my favorites alongside Seven Sisters (the first book) and the reason I got into the series. I stumbled upon it while working on returns at the library. Someone had returned the large print copy of the item and the synopsis got me curious. However, when I found out it was book five, I did decide to read the other books first. Even though I didn’t have to since each book is acts as a standalone with very little to do with the previous books. At least until book seven, The Missing Sister, which has all of the six sisters meeting up to fins the “missing sister” that Pa Salt never found. Regardless, I read all the books prior so that I could get familiar with the story.

General Disclaimer

Routine disclaimer for the found family and how it meshes with adopted family concept.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history.

Disclaimer: The Romani and a Terms Deemed Offensive to Them

I wanted to take a moment to discuss this a little bit. First of, I did like how it explored a Romani angle with Tiggy and her family was interesting, and based on a Q&A, https://lucindariley.co.uk/seven-sisters-series/the-moon-sister/q-a-the-moon-sister/ Lucinda Riley did have an interest in learning about the culture and beliefs.

That said, I feel like a certain topic should be addressed. Several times in the book and in the Q&A, she does use the word G*psy. For those of you who might not know, it is a term that is considered offensive to the Romani people. The average person might not know this, but it is something I have come to learn about over the years and have refrained from using out of respect.

Since I cannot confirm intent, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and say she wasn’t trying to be malicious. Ill informed, perhaps, but not malicious. And with her passing in June of 2021, there may be no way to get a concrete answer. As such, I do not wish to make an assumption on intent and knowledge about the term. I am not excusing any offensive terms being used, but I do know that it is possible that she could have been misinformed and not malicious. However, if it comes to light that she was being malicious with it (via rough drafts, journals, etc.) I would definitely reconsider my approach to this book and would not recommend it.

Synopsis

After Pa Salt’s passing, Taygete “Tiggy” D’Aplièse returns to her work on a wildlife preservation in Scotland. She does decide to investigate her family history and finds herself developing feelings for Charlie, the doctor that she has been staying with, despite knowing his relationship with his wife, soon to be ex-wife. When her health takes an unexpected turn, she finds herself needing medical treatment that brings her to Granada Spain, where her family had lived.

Meanwhile, in 1912, readers are introduced to Lucia Amaya Albaycin, a n up and coming flamingo dancer in Granada Spain. She is passionate about her skill and has the chance to expand it and travel. However, as war breaks out and her career growing, Lucia finds herself having to choose between her dancing, the man she loves, and her family.

Positives

This is one book where I enjoyed both the present and the past parts. Much like the previous two books, I found myself relating to areas of the story and characters, namely Tiggy, who is an animal lover, as am I. And while she was drawn to Scotland, I find myself drawn to learning more about Ireland. I also liked how she grew. Tiggy is also one of my favorite sisters, maybe even my favorite. I liked her kind hearted and calm nature.

As for Lucia’s portions, I did like the direction they went with it. While it did have elements that were similar with the previous past stories in pervious books, I liked to approach. I enjoyed how it had Lucia following her dreams and the slow burn that was to come. I didn’t want the character to fail, but it was interesting to see how her passion and her

The Grey Area

Though I am curious about the Romani people, I will admit my information about them and their culture is limited. So I cannot say how accurately they were portrayed, I do think Lucinda Riley did a good job in some areas. They weren’t shown to be malicious like some media may portray them, but people living their own lives and wanting to better themselves and their people. And again, while I know certain terms used for them are considered derogatory, I cannot confirm if Lucina Riley was being malicious when using it.

Critiques

One critique I did have was with the whole thing with Charlie’s ex-wife and the whole cheating concept to Tiggy and Charlie’s relationship. While Tiggy did try to suppress her feeling for Charlie given the circumstances, but it wasn’t quite executed the best.

I also don’t really care for Zad, Maia’s questionable ex, returning in this book. I don’t think he was really necessary to have in the story. FOr whatever reason, he pops up several times throughout the series trying to get with one of the D’Aplièse sisters. He was in a relationship with Maia, tried to get with Tiggy, and was with Electra for a brief time between the two.

Conclusion

I would rate this book an eight out of ten. Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable read. The story in Granada, Spain was nice and I did like aspects of Tiggy’s story as well. However, elements of Tiggy and Dr. Charlie’s relationship, Zed, and the use of a term deemed offensive to Romani people (malicious or not), do bring this story down.

Bravely by Maggie Stiefvater: A Review

Off all the Official Disney Princesses, Merida is the one I flip flop the most about in terms of how much I enjoy the character. Usually, I can say that I’ll either be neutral about some (ex. Snow White, and Cinderella), I have some I dislike (ex. Aurora), and a number that I enjoy (ex. Mulan, Jasmine, Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, and Tiana). However, with Merida, she’ll hit one of those three depending on the day.

I like Brave as a movie and it was nice to see a princess in a similar vein to Mulan in terms of skills and marriage not being an essential part of their story. (Side note: Yes, Mulan 2 exists, but the first Mulan movie didn’t have a romantic subplot for her and I didn’t think a second movie was needed. However, we did get a sequel that was flawed, but confirmed the ambiguity of Shang and Mulan’s relationship at the end of the first). Brave also had some really good music. I also found her appearance in the series Once Upon a Time neat, if underused/underdeveloped. What I disliked was elements of the character and the conflict between her and her mother. On the one hand, I get why she would be frustrated, but on the other, it feels off and/or whiney at times in execution. And while I do like the idea of a mother and daughter learning to understand and respect their differences, it was kind of Merida’s fault that her mom turned into a bear. Not intentionally, and I can see how this can be a critique for some. That said, I can excuse it to a degree since it isn’t a bad concept on paper. It’s just the execution that I guess that I have issue with.

That said, most days I am just neutral about the character, though if you asked, I’m not sure where I would put her when ranking the Official Disney Princesses. If you like her, that’s cool, if not, that is also fine.

Anyways, much like a handful of other books I’ve been drawn to, Braverly by Maggie Stiefvater was one I found through my local library. The cover was eye catching and the blurb was what made me want to give it a try. I’ll admit, while I have seen Maggie Stiefvater’s book in passing, I wouldn’t say that they caught my attention. I think with this being an expansion on Brave, which I thought was neat, and the fact I enjoying the Twisted Tales series was a factor in what drew me to this.

As always: Mild Spoilers Ahead. I do try to avoid spoiling as much as possible, but this is a warning for any plot point that may come up in the review.

Synopsis

When an unexpected being of chaos enters the DunBroch home, Merida is given a year to make a change or else her kingdom and family will fall. With the help from the Cailleach, her family, and her friend Lessie, Merida must voyage to the other Kingdoms to make a change, as well as working with her family for this change. It’s a race against time and it’s up to Merida to find a way to protect her loved ones and stop the oncoming destruction.

Positives

The concept itself was a really neat one and I liked how it continued on after Brave. It gave Merida and her family some development that the movie didn’t get to touch on. It was also interesting to see how the triplets have grown since Brave and have developed differing personalities. Each one, though still having some similar appearances on account of being triplets, has their own individuality.

I also enjoyed how this story explored and expanded on the Celtic folklore aspect of Brave through the Cailleach and Feradach. The will-o-wisps from Brave are a part of Scottish folklore (variations of them may appear in Irish folklore as well). Cailleach is a figure who appears in Gaelic/Celtic (ie. Irish, Scottish, etc.) lore who appears as an old lady or hag and is considered and ancestral figure who is associated with weather and winter. While Feradach plays a role of a deity of chaos. I think these add to the world as well as expand on some of Scotland’s lore.

The story itself, if a little basic, is good. It feels like a natural follow up to Brave.

Critiques

Though the characters have kept their evolution from Brave, I do feel like some of the characters could have used a little more development. Some characters felt a little bit more developed than others. And sometimes, it felt like scenes and interactions treaded on a similar issue form the movie.

Out of all the characters, Lessie is the one I feel could have used a bit more development. I would have liked to get a little more background and development on her. She, much like Cailleach and Feradach, was a character introduced in this book and wasn’t in Brave. But unlike the other two characters, I do feel like she could have gotten a little more development. For instance, her marriage. We are given very little about her marriage and husband to be. Readers know she planned to get married, but ultimately called it off. From there, she’s helping out as much as possible with Merida and her quest.

I wasn’t really that thrilled with some of the banter between Merida and her mother. Specifically in one scene that kind of references the movie.

Conclusion

Over all I would give this book an eight out of ten. I loved the atmosphere and incorporation of Scottish lore and it was a nice way to continue Merida’s story after Brave. I do feel that certain scenes were a bit different and some characters got more development, however. If you are looking for a continuation of Brave or want a neat YA fantasy read, I would recommend it.

Pearl Sister: A Review

Book four of the Seven Sisters series, Pearl Sister, is the next book for me to review. Similar to the third book, Shadow Sister, this is the second of two books that I feel neutral about. However, I think I enjoyed this one a smidge more.

This is also the first book that explores a main character who falls into the LGBTQ+ community. In this book, it starts off as CeCe questioning her sexuality and is later confirmed that she and a secondary character are romantically involved.

Disclaimer

As per usual, I enter this disclaimer in the event you may not have read my previous reviews for the series.

While this series does involve each character finding their birth family, I do not believe that it was the author’s intent to diminish adopted families. Having read the series, I interpreted it as each daughter being given the choice to find their birth families if they so choose. With each daughter choosing to investigate their history

Update from Original Review and Secondary Disclaimer

When I posted my original review for this book, I did not realize that a term to describe the native groups in Australia was considered a bit problematic. I will apologize for not knowing at the time and have fixed the mistake here. This is the same review as it was written, but with proper changes when referring to Australia’s native individuals.

I apologize for the error I made and will be more mindful in the future.

Synopsis

Pearl Sister focuses on the fourth daughter of the D’Aplièse family, Celaeno, or CeCe as she goes by in the book. Starting off during Shadow Sisters to explain why she left Star in England, CeCe decides to look into her family. While she has felt like she doesn’t quite fit in in the family, with Star being the sister she was closest to, readers get to see her come out of her shell. As she travels to Sydney, Australia to follow the clues Pa Salt left her, she finds herself in Thailand where see meets some backpackers, including a young man named Ace, and with some help from him and others along the way, she is able to find out more about her family and herself.

A hundred years earlier, we get to see the story of Kitty McBride, the woman that CeCe is given the task of looking into. Kitty is the daughter of a clergyman, who finds her fate intertwined with the twin sons of a wealthy family that works with pearls. While there, she also finds herself intertwined with some of the Australian native individuals.

As CeCe discovers more about her family history, she rediscovers her creative passions and begins to discover more about herself and who she loves.

Positives

What I really enjoyed about this book was the setting and CeCe’s journey. Because I didn’t particularly like where her story ended in Shadow Sister, it was nice to see some of what was going on with CeCe during that time at the beginning of this story. And seeing her come into her own person, it was nice to see how that unfolded.

It was also nice to see how this book broke the formula a little bit. Star did a little bit too with how it approached Mouse and Orlando and who Star ended up getting with, but I liked what they did with CeCe’s a bit more. Since CeCe’s story is one of self-discovery, seeing her questioning her sexuality and her feelings for Chrissie come to light. The two get along really well, both as friends and as partners, and it was nice how Chrissie to help explain the native culture and history to CeCe.

I also enjoyed the parts in Australia alongside some of it’s history. Elements of Kitty’s story was interesting too. How her story intertwines with CeCe is different, but in a good way.

CeCe is also one of two or three sisters I kind of relate to. Tiggy being another, which I’ll get into in my review for Moon Sister, and Star possibly being the third (the only reason I’m hesitant to say I relate to Star is because I more so enjoyed the book/writing aesthetic of Shadow Sister’s setting and side characters as someone who is an avid book lover and writer). I relate to CeCe’s desire for self-discovery and creativity as a writer and occasional artist myself.

Critiques

I suppose my biggest critique with Pearl Sister is Kitty’s story. While the formula for the historical parts isn’t bad, I just didn’t find Kitty’s part as interesting. While I did enjoy aspects of it, like the mother that Kitty ends up helping and the approach to conflicts at the time, the romance subplot in it, wasn’t that compelling. I do think the use of the twins was a neat touch, I just didn’t like the execution.

The part in Thailand, though having a point, wasn’t all that memorable after reading. While certain details there were necessary, some readers do feel like it stayed around a bit too long. I can kind of agree, as I would have liked to get to Australia. However, I can see what areas of it were necessary. Mainly some character developing and investigating for CeCe’s journey.

I will also include the term used to describe Australia’s native individuals. I cannot confirm or deny any malice on Lucinda Riley’s part (much like with terms used in the next book), so I will not pass judgement until I know for sure. I won’t condone it either. I merely cannot speak for Lucinda Riley with her passing last year and the fact I found out out how problematic it was until recently.

Conclusion

I enjoyed how this story broke the mold in some areas and enjoyed CeCe’s growth. However, some duller elements and terminology did effect my enjoyment of the book. I would give this book a six and a half out of ten depending on the day since despite my neutral feelings towards it, I do enjoy it more than Shadow Sister.