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Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Monday, 31 March 2014

New Book Covers For Game Of Thrones Series =]

I'm sure you've heard me mention this before, but I read this series years ago when my sister had bought them and was nudging me to read them. So I guess it's safe to say that she has the old/original covers on her books, as I recently saw the captivating images that cover the 2014 editions of the A Song Of Ice And Fire books...

Above images found at

Original covers

Alternate Book Covers

Found at


This Blog
I'm continuing to post on this blog, as always, even though my time is further restricted. Apologies in advance if I can't post of the designated post days, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. At the moment it's kind of an As And When situation.

My Book
I haven't written any in about a month because I've been so down, and that only depresses me more.

Other work
I've had a lot of inspiration for Supe'd Up,  I can't seem to get this idea out of my head. I recorded all of my thoughts into my phone, I'll write it into the special notebook I bought for it or type it up sometimes this week.

Fiction Fridays
Not happening right now. Just not happening. I'd like to say "I'm sorry" but I'm not even. NOT EVEN. Cutting out things that are starting to become a waste of time is nothing but a relief at the moment.

Next Post?
I just finished watching the phenomenal K-anime or K-Project, so I'll be writing about that. Maybe Thursday, iono. We will see.

Ashana Lian .

Thursday, 20 March 2014

YA Book Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

This will not be spoiler free, so bewaar.

I don't bother with 'Professional' reviews... also they end up much longer than I anticipate... sorry 'bout that.


Within the last month, I wrote about magic in children's books and Roald Dahl, including The Witches, then I wrote about the film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters movie.

Well, I don't know what is going on but I noticed this book at work the other day (I work in a bookstore) and it caught my attention because of the striking black and red cover with silver lettering. Casually I flipped the book over, but instead of finding a blurb, I found a mirror image of the front cover! I immediately wrote the title down on my hand and checked the synopsis on Amazon, which is the same one on Goodreads.

You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch.
You get sick if you stay indoors after dark.
You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.
You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.
All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

... and that's it. That's literally all we get. All that I know is it's about witches and it's a (YA) fantasy. The Amazon book description had some very bizarre reviews of Half Bad, the ones by Kate Atkinson and Fiona Wilson... well, I suppose it doesn't matter. This is about the book.

So it was one of those awesome times where the book was half price and with my staff discount I paid £3.20, which not even Amazon could do, brand new. As an avid book reader, it sure is a relief to get the odd discount. I wonder how much all the books in my room rack up to?

It all started...

I was surprised I prioritised this book before the one I have to read for university, but I guess I was too excited about it. It's been months since I read a book for the joy of it. I started reading it on the way to London Super Comic Con and finished in just over a day. Though it must be noted, some pages have only one paragraph on them and the writing isn't MINISCULE like many fantasy books. Plus, the language is easy to grasp. Thank goodness for that. Studying English Lit at university is great, but it does zap the fun sometimes.

The Witch In The Dark deviantart work by zactuger


Now here is the OTHER blurb, as displayed on Fantastic Fiction, and the London Film and Comic Con site.
 GOODREADS description....

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan's father is the world's most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch - or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust - not even family, not even the girl he loves? 
In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

MUCH better. Right? Am I right? Man, that other teaser one had me tripping!

So, lets talk a little bit about WITCHES.

Fantasy Concept: The Classic Witch.

I do adore the Classic Witch, complete with broomstick, hat and wand. As I said in my post about Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters, I prefer the mystical culural aspect of classic witches. They seem much more in tune with nature and very reclusive, which gives such a sense of intrigue that (unless they're pure evil) you kinda want to venture into their world.

Fantasy Concept: The Modern Witch.

I grew up watching Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, with a bit of Buffy the VS - other than that, I didn't engross myself too much with the Modern Witch aspect of fantasy, even though you can find them literally (okay, figuratively) everywhere. Naturally, the Classic and Modern versions are closely linked. I think the fact that Modern Witches have magical dilemmas tied up with life issues demystifies it a bit for me. Classic Witch = magic is a way of life. Modern Witch = magic solves your (family/career/boyfriend/insert here) problems.

The Verdict?
Well I'm not a huge fan of witches generally speaking, there are other fantasy figures I prefer, but I do find them intriguing. As long as there's a strong sense of culture, I'm down.

And that's why I decided to read Half Bad.

The Book: Half Bad

This story is extremely compelling.

The book begins with a passage in second-person.

Oh, first can I just say how refreshing it is to read a YA book by a young male. I normally find protagonists in straight-up Fantasy are men or boys, and in YA Fantasy they are almost always teenage girls. Nathan was a great protagonist because he's so complex. On one hand he seems like a fighter and he wants justice, on the other his own motives are unclear in terms of Good and Evil, and there's a vulnerability that really makes you emphasise with him.

Okay, moving on :3

The second person was extremely interesting. My own venture into second person was in a short story I wrote called #7 which was inspired by a crazy wacky amazing dream that I had, and I did it because in the dream I had no identity and 2nd Per strips that away perfectly - which is what I felt happened with Nathan.

By starting the book in 2nd Person, you have absolutely no clue what the protag is like and you aren't told anything. So you have to kind of assume things and piece his identity together by the way he's treated, his thoughts and behaviour - and that was quite fun to do. His calculated actions make him appear cleverer than he's willing to let on. I love that trait in protags. Nathan has the same strategic mindset that made me (- to my own surprise -) warm to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games so much.

So far so good, and I'm enjoying Half Bad.

The next bit, and now we get into first person. By this time we know what his goals and motivations are, and so we're allowed to root for him now. When it began, I guessed him to be between six and nine. When it is revealed that his age is eleven, I was stunned because it made me feel that he has the mentality of a younger child, possibly as a mental protection from the constant abuse and shunning he receives.

Jessica seems like terrifying person and I couldn't immediately be sure if she was his mother, sister, or some other captor. What was creepiest about the way she abuses him is that you know she's related to him, and yet she treats him worse than his captor that we saw at the start of the book. It turns out that Jessica is his half-sister who blames him for the suicide of their shared mother.

Well, fantasy-speaking, I've Had My Fair Share Of Evil Sisters

- Princess Azula from Avatar: The Legend Of Aang - she's also strategic. And ruthless.
- Cersei Lannister from A Song Of Ice And Fire series, GRRM - Cunning, conniving, sly - need I say more?
- Gret from the Demonata series, Darren Shan - ah, but Gret cares. She wasn't actually a mean person; it was more like the usual brother-sister spats.

Yeah, I've seen a fair few evil bitches. Er, I mean um, sisters. What was wonderful (and awful) about Jessica was her belief that she was so justified in her cruelty to Nathan. Even though we know why she is doing it, it makes that realisation of her belief so much worse and of course, easier to hate her.

It was very very easy to completely warm to Arran. Alongside all of this cruelty we have a character who is effortlessly and constantly gentle and always kind to Nathan, the way he was described was just beautiful to me, and not overdone. I like the way Nathan's family was crafted, but Arran was probably my favourite character in the book. One image that sticks in my mind is when Arran and Nathan watching a movie and there's this description of their skinny legs stretched out from the sofa. I dunno why I remember that so much, it was just really visual and reminded me of lazy days with my own brothers, cocooned by cushions.

Other characters
In a sense, Half Bad is a fantasy adventure, so I knew some characters we'd see painfully little of. Mercury was such a great character, and so cunning! I loved that. I really liked Bob and Mary, but I also think their 'screen-time' was just perfect. Any more and it might not have been believable - they are, after all, strangers to Nathan.

I also liked Annalise... and also disliked her, if you feel me. She was so perfect that although I rooted for her and Nathan, just for the sake of Nathan getting his fairy tale ending, by herself, she was simply too good to exist. We still don't really know why she didn't stay away from Nathan like everyone else, and if it really IS love, and thus unexplainable, then I knew something significant would have to happen to make me really want to believe in her. I felt like, "Tell me she's noble! Or else that she's strong, courageous, clever... anything! Give her a special trait!" Because her perfection was intriguing to me and I loved her wonderfully visual description, but the only notable thing she did was run away from her family, which isn't a great feat in this book because of everything Nathan has already done. So although I like her, I hoped she'd be turned from a plastic Barbie doll into a real character.

Oh yeah, Nathan
I liked the progress of him growing up and developing as a character - sometimes he says he throws in swear for a certain effect, the actual swear isn't revealed in the book which I like, (it's easy to overdo it... *sigh* you know when you wish some books weren't published?) but as the tale goes on his sudden bursts of rage are unpredictable and he swears as an expression of that. By this point he like 16 and I found that quite realistic.

The Little Things...
- The Fantasies chapter. I just loved that. I could picture strongly in my head about his secret fantasy living with his Mum and Dad in the woods and having the ideal life. It made you feel so bad for him, with his mother passed and his father estranged from him.
- The chapters were never capitalised. I wonder why. Maybe a reminder of his illiteracy. Though of course technically there would be no words at all if... WELL YOU GET WHAT I'M TRYNA SAY.
- When I finished the book and closed it, only then did I realise, with a shock, that the black and white front cover was symbolising the White and Black halves of Nathan. THEN I leaned back and realised the smoke was half his face! Pshh, I am dumb. The cover is awesomeness.

A bit of criticism. The story is based very strongly on uncertainty; Nathan never knows what is going to happen to him, so we as the readers are strung along, forever guessing. I quite liked that. My only little gripe, was sometimes it did follow the Typical Or Rather Inevitable Path of story progression.

For example. Ellen. I feel as if she is introduced to be a possible love interest. I like her character but I don't really see any other point in her being here or how she serves the story, other than being somebody that Nathan can relate to as she is also a Half Code - and in the painfully obvious genre that is YA, that's usually a cue for romance. If he doesn't end up with Annalise, we all know who's next in line. For the sake of YA, I hope I'm proved wrong. I'm very tired of YA stories not proving me wrong. This is why this genre is very very sucky right now.

Another example. Beautiful girl takes a shine to the cursed boy. She has two older brothers. From the moment I was given this knowledge, it signalled to me that Nathan was gonna get beat up by the brothers. The actual attack wasn't how I was expecting so I was glad for that. Not exactly a 'problem' though. This is what I call the 'problem':

Two thirds of the way through, the way Nathan kept talking about his Dad made me suspect he would show up, or Nathan would reach him. Halfway through, my hunch became a certainty, and I believed strongly that Marcus would definitely show up at no other time than RIGHT at the end, particularly if it was a Save The Day sort of circumstance. And when it finally happened, boy was I disappointed.

My issue about my own criticism is that I can't say exactly WHAT I was expecting.  On the one hand, I liked that it WASN'T what I was expecting, that Marcus didn't burst in with all this bravado throwing his powers everywhere like "Look at me, I'm the shit."

And yet, I disliked that scene. I wouldn't say it let down the whole book, not at ALL. But it was the worst bit of the book. Marcus was aloof, dismissive, abrupt and unfeeling, and I kinda hoped he would have a bit more personality, at least enough for a polarised reaction; either a wonderful scene of recognition and father-son chemistry, or the awful realisation that Marcus would never be the father he dreamed of anyway and Nathan's hopes had been futile all along. Instead Nathan was a bit more like, 'Well, not exactly what I was expecting... but hey I got my Gift!' and then it's forgotten.

I'm frustrated typing this because I literally can't describe my confused thoughts any clearer! Urgh. I can't say exactly what was wrong, but something wasn't right.

Also, the fact that his father does nothing - "Oh, you're 17? I didn't know. Yet somehow I have three gifts for you... and now, Bye Bye!" - and is only in it for two pages made me suddenly realise that this was not a stand alone book. This was a teaser. We weren't getting nuthiiiin. This was a build up for another book!

And sure enough, I groaned aloud when I turned to that last page advertising the sequel. It could have been self-contained, if it wasn't for the Marcus-issue and the Annalise-issue. A shame. So I've been hooked, then.

Interesting fact: Vampire Academy was advertised at the back of the book, which I found interesting. I read it years and years ago, when YA was still teenage fiction and it wasn't the first YA fantasy I'd read but it was my favourite.

The Verdict

4 Sha's. c:

I love this story because the White witches are meant to be 'good' and the Black witches 'evil', but it's is obvious that the line between good and evil is extremely unclear. The White Witches, from Nathan's experience, are just as brutal, heartless and egotistic as the Black, the only difference is their motives, and of course they're harmless if you're on their side.

The writing, the setting, the characterisation and exploration of the concept of witches made this a really good read.

Guess What?

According to the website, Sally Green will be at London Film and Comic Con (HERE for more details) and also DARREN SHAN, author of The Demonata series, will be there! Isn't that just the bidniz? If I take both of the books, I wonder if I can get them signed. Sweetness.

My brain is completely shutting down. I just cannot write anything else tonight, maybe for a while. It's kinda killing me. My book and university assignments will both have to wait. Peace outtt.

Ashana Lian .

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Convention: London Super Comic Con 2014 - Saturday

A Bit Of Background...

I explained in my post about fantasy conventions in London why I decided to go to London Super Comic Con this year; I didn't enjoy MCM 2013 very much and I wanted to see what this expo had to offer me.
Stuff I learned from MCM, not all my own experience but stuff I witnessed: 
- If there's an Early Bird ticket, get it.
- PRE-ORDER your ticket, whatever it is. Trust me, it saves so much TIME.
- Arrive at least an hour early of whatever time the doors open.
- If you can't take a friend, take a book. Take a DS. Take something, ANYTHING, to do in the queue. You don't know how long you'll be waiting.
- Your most comfortable shoes. Always.
- No matter how early you get up, do not drink coffee. You do not want to be an hour and a half into the queue, realising there's another hour to go, and then realising that you need the toilet.
- Take food. Just because. If it's nutritious and will give you energy, great. If not, something crap and sugary will do. Just for some perking up, really.
However I already didn't follow my own advice as I got my ticket as a discount from Amazon Local Deals, not realising it would then be an standard-entry one. Damn. On the flip side though, you can only get an Early Entry ticket for the whole weekend, £32, which I definitely didn't want.


I did a bit of last-minute research, because I was concerned about the queue time. For MCM London 2013, my older brother, my younger brother and I got there an hour before the show, and still waited two and a half hours to actually get into the venue, by which point we were shattered. I did the maths:
  • LSCC doors open at ten, so -
  • Need to be there at about 9am, so -
  • Need to leave at between 7.30 - 8, sooo -
  • Need to get UP at about 6.30 !!
In the post I found at Clandestine Critic about LSComic Con 2012, they explained that "it took an hour (which felt longer) to get to the entrance to the con itself [..] and another fifteen minutes of queuing in the con itself before I had got my shiny plastic pass on cord (like a backstage pass at a gig) and was allowed in properly."

That sounded about right, for a comic con. But then, worryingly, I found another post for LSComic Con 2013 on Comic Convention:
If there was one gripe, it was the queue management at the entrance.  The slightly odd (actually, make that abysmal) decision to make everyone form a huge scrum and then pile in almost as the whistle blows for the early entry tickets was entirely the wrong one. [...] There was no fairness or justice for some of the early birds who had beaten everyone to the front by getting up at sparrows fart only then to then be unceremoniously divided, split, moved here, moved there and eventually put on the same keel as others who’d simply sauntered up ten minutes beforehand.
That did not made me feel chirpy. But on the website it states that: "Tickets will be processed in the queue.
Please remain in the queue as from 10.00 ticket holders will be allowed into the convention strictly in queue order." So I just went with my fingers crossed.

As you probably know, I normally dislike having to write properly structured reviews. It's a lot more fun to just write what I thought and litter it with emoticons. :3 :D :P

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The Convention

I actually remembered to take pictures this time!

I got this awesome picture from cosplayers there as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and of iron man, and of the creepy alien dude with the boombox on his shoulder. His mask was awesome though.


This was EXTREMELY efficient. You can join the queue from the moment you get there, and the attendants actually come to you and process your ticket in the line. Thus, the moment the doors opened at 10, the queue moved so fast because we literally flashed our wristbands and walked in.

If there was one little gripe - as we had Amazon Local tickets, we were sent to the main queuing bit by N3, then sent back to the entrance because we had Amazon Local tickets instead of the ones from the site - they processed it there, gave us our wristbands, then we had to go BACK to N3 to rejoin the queue. At least fifteen more people had joined by that time.

What I wondered was why the Amazon-ticket people with the tablet didn't walk down the queue like the other attendants, who were just scanning the normal barcodes with a smartphone. If the organisers know there is more than one way of getting a ticket, they should kinda accommodate for that as extra time is spent walking to and fro. I confess though, I missed the sign that clearly stated 'Amazon tickets blah blah'. So, partly my bad.

There were cosplayers that walked up and down the ever-growing line the entire time, making the queuing experience really fun. In all the expos I've been to so far, queuing is one of the best experiences - hi-fives, free hugs, awesome costumed superheroes walking up and down, generally just having fun. And like I said, literally the moment the doors opened, we started walking in. It was such a smooth and efficient process (well, not counting the Amazon thing, but that's not a big deal) that it puts MCM to shame.

Admittedly, MCM is a lot more popular. But then they need to find a better way to deal with that volume of people. Processing tickets in the queue saves so much TIME.

The Experience Once Inside

Ahhh, spaaaaace. So much spaace. Even when it started to get very busy, there was still room to walk and jostle around slowcoaches. What a relief. I tried to figure out if it was bigger or smaller than MCM and came to the conclusion that it's marginally smaller. c:

Stuff to do:
- Buy comics, graphic novels, special editions
- Memorabilia like keyrings, necklaces, belt buckles, wristbands, t-shirts, earring, ring, bracelets...
- Buy artwork and prints
- Buy sweets =D
- Get your picture taken with all of the AWESOME COSPLAYERS!
- Meet profession cosplayers
- Get a signature from popular comic book artists and get your hands on some of their work!
- Buy quality drawing and sketching materials and How To Draw [ something ] books
- Sit in on lectures and talks in the panel rooms
- Join in or watch the London Super Cosplay Championship 2014 (which is being judged by the professional cosplayer Yaya Han, and I got to see her over by the Special Guests table so that was really cool, I just loved her costume.)

List goes on and on... well, it doesn't go on that much more actually, that's the gist of it.

It is VERY, VERY Comic book based, let me just say. So as a fantasy fan, there were things that piqued my interest aside from the comic books. But it is VERY comic focussed, so games, films, books, they're not really a feature here like MCM.

I went to the first talk in The Comic Heroes Panel Room which was on Mecha-Man's Superhero Science which was really interesting. I quite enjoyed it. My older brother was beyond rude and put his earphones in to watch TED talks on his phone five minutes in. Does anybody want to swap brothers? I'm so tired of mine.

My younger brother was reading Dark Wolverine. I was so tempted to whine at him until he let me read it.

Why I Found LSComic Con MUCH Better Than MCM

- Sorting tickets and giving wristbands in the queue. I cannot. Say this. Enough.
- Queuing time, due to above.
`---> something I realised was that because queuing time was so quick, I was a lot more excited for LSComic Con and more eager to see things because I still had a lot of energy. I never realised this before, but that's probably why I enjoyed it more.
- The atmosphere was much calmer. It's weird to write that here as a plus, but last time, Tired + Crazy = Error.
- There was less variety of things at LSCC, which was a downer, but the fact that it was more focussed  meant that I could really be immersed in a field I know less about compared to other fantasy subgenres. Coolio.


I came home from MCM with all my money. This time I was surprised how much I spent! I came home a very happy girlie, let me tell you.

So, what did I buy?!!

Comics, £1 each

Cinnamon Bun Bites, £2.15

3D Print, which the very nice gentlemen let me have for £10 XD

- The Legend Of Zelda T-Shirt, £15

- gooorgeous (albeit tiny) Canvas Print, £3

- How to Draw Anime book, £4.99, because, why not.

Plus in the goodie bags there was a bunch of promo and freebies. Good timessss.


So, if you're just here to read about the convention, you can go now. I won't bore you.

For anyone who reads this next bit, I'm very sorry. I'm always unsure how far I should go into my depression. But because it affected my experience of the con, I'm going to write it anyway. First I must explain that I go through cycles of chronic fatigue. This means I can feel constantly tired no matter how much sleep I had the night before. It also often happens that I can get up at say 8, be going about my day as usual, then I'll be hit by it at 12 noon, and I literally cannot function or focus on anything until I've had some rest. This is prolly why MCM wasn't great for me.

I went to LSCC with two of my brothers and although I actually had a great time at the con,because the CON was awesome, they made it an excruciating experience and I came home feeling worthless and extremely depressed. In all honesty, even though I went with them, I felt as if I was alone so I might as well have gone solo. I'll remember that for next time. I left LSCC at 12:30, but if it wasn't for the talk I probably would've left at 11:15, because I didn't feel happy anymore. I do wish these things wouldn't always be linked to a bad experience, but who can tell, maybe I'm a naturally self-destructive human being.

Anywhoo, I came home and got straight into bed, and woke up at about 6pm to a sparkling KA, a frozen pizza, ice cream for afters, which I had while watching Batman: Under The Red Hood, which is incredible by the way. That helped me to chill out - didn't solve the problem of course but allowed me to find myself again.

What's Next?

London Film And Comic Con is coming up and ironically Sally Green will be there - I read her book Half Bad in the queue yesterday. Also, Stan Lee will allegedly be there for this last ever signing =( I'm looking forward to a stress-free con for once. I gotta shake off these ghosts clawing at me.

Ashana Lian .

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

MOVIE: Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters


I know this film came out a while ago but IIIII only just watched it a few days ago, so nyahhh.

I'd watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which was a better adaption from the book than I ever could have expected. Yeahhh, they left stuff out, naturally that's going to happen. So with wonder and excitement still in me, which took a few hours off my sleep that night as I tried to fit my new inspirations into an old story like a jigsaw, I decided to watch another film the next night. It was Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, and it disappointed me in more ways I could possibly explain right now - I'd have to make a new post, and I don't want to make a whole post focussed on dissing somebody's work, so just never mind. If you forget I mentioned it, I'll forget it exists.

Just to be clear, I don't really watch movies because they don't normally meet my expectations. I don't go to the cinema - the last thing I watched in the cinema was probably X-Men: First Class or Thor, whichever was the latest. But last Thursday evening I felt hollow inside and depressed about my future, about whether I was going to be successful, about whether I was working hard only to get no results at the end. So I watched THG: CF, and although it didn't solve the problem, it was a helpful diversion. Well hey, that's why people watch TV, right? (I don't watch TV either, haven't in years. Some people think my life must be disturbingly boring for a 21 year old.)

I was in the mood for another fantasy movie following the disastrous City Of Bones and ended up watching Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. I was cringing even as it started because in my head was leather-clothed X-Men meets Aeon Flux meets Beautiful Creatures meets gothic Red Riding Hood meets Snow White and the Huntsmen and after those thoughts I was no longer sure why I was watching it. The last three I haven't seen, and for the same reason why I averted City Of Bones for so long and tactfully sidestep some fantasy films. I hate when I have a bad feeling about a movie and I'm right. But I'm very glad I persevered with this one because it's an incredible retelling of a story I've known since kiddiehood.

So, I'm just gonna say what I thought about it and how it might help my fantasy writing. This won't be spoiler-free so bewaar.

The Movie

There's a lot of things that were awesomely good about this movie. There were reasons I had doubts. I know Hansel and Gretel is a German folklore tale, and the X-Men style get-up in the movie poster seemed unsuitable for where and when the film was set. During the movie it didn't seem exceptionally out of place, only a little unusual. I thought, why go out of your way to show how different you are from normal townsfolk with fancy clothes? Another thing that made me frown was the weapons. Gretel has this GIGANTIC crossbow and Hansel this great whopping gun. The gun I can handle, but peering at this crossbow in the movie, I'm thinking, how does one get their hands on a weapon like this?

Now, the good stuff.

First and foremost, the Witches.

The witches were absolutely incredible. Their costumes and overall look was just stunning and very convincing. They certainly don't tone down how horrific they are. They burn in fire and also in the sun, I think; they use the old fashioned wands, these huge gnarly sticks that look a lot more enchanting than the streamlined, pencil-like Harry Potter versions; they also fly on broomsticks but not the type you sweep the floor with, they are LITERALLY a tree branch. O_O I swear. I loved that.

There was also a very interesting decision to include a Grand Witch, which reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl's Witches - isn't that funny? I talked about that in the previous post! This Grand Witch can change her face and is more powerful than the other witches. This role was played by Famke Janssen who played it BRILLIANTLY, as in, she wasn't evil in the way I'm used to seeing it. I dunno, she just gave the role and edge that was so interesting to watch! I'm really happy to say that because I didn't like Jean Grey in the 2000 X-Men movies at all, or the Phoenix in The Last Stand either. ALL of the character portrayals were very flat for that movie but I don't really think that's the fault of the actors or actresses, they just had to work with what they were given. *shrug*

Secondly, the violence.

This movie is full to the brim of gore and fast-paced action scenes and I really enjoyed that. Sometimes I really feel for that kick of blood and guts to jolt my mindset, when I'm very depressed. That's why I loved reading the Demonata series by Darren Shan. It's a bizarre thing to say because I would want a peaceful experience in real life! This movie does do that strange thing of Hansel and Gretel getting beat up pretty badly, yet they still get up and fight. I know they're fighters and not ordinary people, but come on guys, the line's gotta be drawn somewhere. Gretel tooks some pretty hard hits.

Oh, the portrayal of Hansel and Gretel were really great, kudos Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. They had more of a, An Unfortunate Life Has Made Me This Way attitude rather than a I'm So Badass kind of behaviour. Well, they were badass, but that's because of an aggressiveness that came out of bitterness that came out of an unfortunate life that made them that way. Catch ma drift?

In the movie, the evil stepmother was made to be good - in fact a surprising plot twist that not even Hansel and Gretel knew was that she's a White Witch, and not just any but the Grand White Witch. She told Hans and Gret's father to take the kids away because their lives were in danger. Now I've said it, it sounds cliche but during the movie I wasn't expecting that at all. She was burned at the stake by the townsfolk and their father was hanged, which was a really sad scene.

Now we're on the topic of good witches, there is a new character in the story that is saved from being burned, who turns out to be a good witch. It was interesting how they tangle that all up together with her getting into a relationship with Hansel and well. I groaned aloud when she got stabbed at the end because I knew it would cue a dying scene, which have been done to death and beyond particularly in fantasy. I found Mina's dying scene bearable because her last words, "Kill the fucking bitch" or words to that effect, parody the usual "I never told you I love you" thing. But still. Me + dying scenes = ERROR.

However, the twist about Gretel turning out to be a Grand White Witch - yes, this story has plot twists all over the place! That was makes it awesome - I wasn't sure if I liked that too much. It wasn't exactly clear WHY Gretel is a Grand White Witch - did she inherit this from her stepmother-turned mother or was it innate? I don't know why, but it seemed a bit convenient.

But one thing I absolutely LOVED is Hansel's illness, another thing I didn't foresee AT ALL. As you probably know from the classic tale, Hansel and Gretel discover a house made of candy in the woods, which is supposed to lure children-prey like how beautiful vampires lure human-prey. At it turns out, eating the candy made Hansel diabetic so he needs to take insulin shots, cue the moment we knew would crop up when it would leave him vulnerable in the presence of a witch. I wasn't entirely sure if Gretel wasn't affected because she's a white witch or because Hansel ate more. Who knows, man.

Oh yeah, and then there's the fanboy. The Hans and Gret version of Jimmy Olsen, he's their fan, he wants to grow up to be a witch hunter just like them, yada-yada. I liked how they made use of him the movie, although at first I was a bit like "What in the hell...?! This seems so out of place."

There's a sheriff who has the same goal as Hansel and Gretel, ie. rescue the children, but he is such an awful man that you kinda knew something bad was gonna happen to him just for that justice-is-served satisfaction. That almost-rape scene, though, was so awful. Nothing happened, thanks to the troll, but it made me feel sick. You know that taste you get in the back of your throat? Urgh. And THE TROLL!! I loved the troll! Nice to see a fantasy creature I haven't come across too much. So there's a troll called Edward who ends up helping the duo, and I found him really sweet. I don't normally like trolls so that was cool.

The Verdict

All in all, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was WAY better than I was expecting and adapts the original tale very cleverly. As an action-horror, which is what its marketed as, it does its job. But in a fantasy sense, it lays out a lot of the familiar fantasy concepts in a refreshing way. I'll probably watch it again by the end of the week.

Fantasy Food For Thought

As a fantasy writer, what this movie makes me think about is the Good and Evil struggle. I know Good is supposed to win, I know that I want Good to win, but in reality, it doesn't always win. Without doing the George R.R. Martin, I think it's important to acknowledge that fact in some tales even if that's not the way the tale actually plays out. Unless it's a fairy tale.

This also makes me think about witches and the ways of fleshing out this overdone fantasy character type. It's interesting for me to remember that I only have one story about witches, and it's not about the Classic Witch but about the Modern Witch, as in the Charmed or Hex style witch. As much as I like the story, which I tagged Contractarianism, I do actually prefer Classic Witches because their culture is more interesting to me, especially if those classic witches are Evil Witches with an animalistic nature. What can I say, I like animals.

Ashana Lian .

Friday, 7 March 2014

World Book Day: 6th March 2014

Personal update.

  • Fiction Fridays: Postponed a few weeks while I get my life in order.
  • Expected Post Days: Tuesday and Thursday, as it currently stands.

Long story short, I am falling apart a little bit. I am struggling not only with university work or this blog, but with things at home, the writing of my book, the business my Mum and I are investing in, and also my general health and peace of mind. I can't really function properly right now. As a result, post days are gonna be shorter and less frequent for a while to give me breathing space.

Hopefully I will soon be able to post my new oneshot venture Rainbow City.

World Book Day was yesterday.

What does that mean? Er... go out and buy a book.

What does that mean for kids? They'll probably dress up like their favourite characters. Also schools give kids a voucher to get a free WBD book from their nearest bookshop. The lineup is on the website.

What does that mean for us fantasy fans? Not much really, only an investigation into how much of these books are fantasy, or perhaps how much are a fantasy subgenre under the Children's or YA bracket. Well, let's take a look at this years £1 book lineup. It contains one children's fantasy book - The Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy. I used to watch the series as a kid and I remember enjoying it, so I'm content with this.

The 2014 Lineup (Also on the website)

They also have a section called the Writes Of Passage which includes 50 books that will 'change your life'. It includes classics such as Anne Frank's The Diary Of A Young Girl, Orwell's 1984, Wuthering Heights and so on. It also includes some of the more recent crazes like Twilight, Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Book Thief (didn't the movie just come out?), the list goes on.

It's hard to say how much I agree with this list, but that's not my job here today. My job is to locate the fantasy books only. I'm guessing this list was put together with votes from people from every walk of life and varying book tastes. It would be interesting to see what fantasy books crop up and what the general public are familiar with.

The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkein
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel (I had to look this up to be sure. I've seen it classed as a 'fantasy adventure'. *shrug* whatever, I'm down with that.)

Children's Fantasy
Harry Potter - J K Rowling *
Percy Jackson - Rick Riordan
Northern Lights - Philip Pullman *

Young Adult Fantasy
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
City Of Bones - Cassandra Clare
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins *
Divergent - Veronica Roth
Skulduggery Pleasant - Derek Landy
Gone - Michael Grant
Lord Loss - Darren Shan (I think is actually classes as teenage. Some would class this as horror. I class it as horror and fantasy, as magic is used in the story.) *

Science Fiction (might as well.)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams.
1984 - George Orwell
The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

(If I've missed some, let me know.)

[ * ] A lot of the books that I've read from this list haven't changed my life. As a child, Lord Loss, Harry Potter, Northern Lights, and The Hunger Games (well, not as a child for this one) all took me on an extreme emotional rollercoaster and profoundly changed the way I thought about fantasy, magic, and storytelling. These are the only ones I could say 'changed my life'. I didn't even like 1984, and the disappointment was deeper than usual because I expected to.

Only two of this 50-title list, that I can tell, are actually Fantasy. And Life Of Pi hasn't really got the element of the Fantastic that we expect in a fantasy.

So, why is this important?

Because the people who read these books are the general public, and if I succeed at being a writer, they will probably be my audience. They liked these books for a reason. But each book seems to have its own formula for popularity, so all I can do is tell the story I need to tell, in the most gripping and enchanting way that I can.

Ashana Lian .

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