Tag Archives: Fantasy

Snow White and the Feminist Huntsman

I’m not really a huntsman. But I am really a feminist. Snow White and the Huntsman is really not a feminist (movie), but it acts and poses like it is. And you know what? It ain’t even that bad. It’s just… here and there the movie would have needed some minor changes (and more inspired writing) and it could have been a pretty powerful and dare I even say – feminist – tale.

via intouch.wunderweib.de

Let’s get it out of the way first: the huntsman is really unnecessary. Like really really really unnecessary. The only redeeming quality of the character is that they don’t get all couply and happily ever after on our asses, but that is sort of a paradox, because there is really not much other reason for him to be in the movie than to be played up as a potential love interest. But what is his character really there for? To have us identify with him instead of Snow White? I’d give the thought more credit if I believed that they decided to do so to give Snow White the mysterious factor. But let’s be real, they just wanted to get male asses in cinema seats so they decided to put Thor in there and have him roar a little, otherwise people might mistake it for a chick flick.

“What is wrong with this movie??? Arrrgh!!” (via flickminute.com)

And that’s really the major problem of the movie. It is too afraid to be a chick flick – because, you know there are women, yep, notice the plural, and Hollywood movies never have several women in leading roles who even interact – and thus they try to act all non-chick-flicky. Even though it could be such a great movie about intriguing female characters. But it is too afraid to go there. I wouldn’t even really mind a companion-style huntsman character. But there is no reason to act as if the plot depended on him (though, ok, it does. Making her choke up the apple). And there is certainly no reason for the love triangle that never was, introducing Snow White’s friend from childhood, who has been boo-hoo all those years cause he couldn’t rescue the princess, but now he’s handsome and she’s pretty so let us have them maybe hook up. Urgh. Why, movie, why?

But the fault of this not being T.H.E. feminist re-telling of a classic fairy tale lies not only with the insertion of male characters. We have two major female characters who drive the plot as protagonist and antagonist. There is a lot in these characters that hints at unbelievable potential, yet it never gets fully realized. The most horrible thing is that this film stumbles over its own premise and falls into the trap of the age-old stereotype: women need to be beautiful and women don’t want to be anything but beautiful.

yep, there is this scene (via fanpop.com)

Charlize Theron’s evil step-mom/with character is of course visually stunning and yeah, you could argue that this whole movie is really just a celebration of how good Ms. Theron and well rendered CGI look on the big screen. But really, she is evil and crazy and whatnot because her beauty fades and that is all she ever had? The thing is, her backstory is actually pretty neat. Having been blessed/cursed with beauty and its power and subsequently taking down one kingdom after another, that is pretty hardcore shit. But it’s so lame that there is not an ounce of self-reflection to be found. I mean, I get the feeling that her character knows and considers it to be curse rather than a blessing, but why the hell doesn’t the movie and have her hate herself for depending on her beauty instead of going where ALL other movies have gone and be like “uuuh, she’s old, so she’s automatically ugly, gross, lines, eek”. That is not only so been done it is also so not empowering it is not even funny.
Plus, it would maybe be bearable if the movie had introduced a more progressive concept and have her beauty not only be the power she has over mighty men but have her beauty be actually directly connected to military and magic powers? Oh and the heck, girl kills king after king but never in the movie gets to go all out and state how fucking sick and dumb patriarchy is? Puhleaze, I say to that.

via emcblue.com

And then there is Snow White. Oh, Kirsten Stewart, what could I say about your acting abilities that has not already been said? I’ll leave it at that. Her character is funnily falling in the same trap. We’re told that she is super-special and The One because – yep, go ahead, guess – she is so beautiful. Ermh, whud? You know, but even then, when all the smitten dwarves are like “dude, she is JESUS!” her character remains passive and never brings the full “hit evil on the head and preach love for all” kind of thing. She is angry cause Charlize killed her dad so she leads people back to the bleak ol’ castle and because she does so … the country grows green again! Oh the happiness of simple storytelling that required minimum effort on the writer’s part. If Snow White really is Jesus, could you not just mobilize ALL LIVING BEINGS EVER to fight on her side and have the majorest battle of ‘em all down on the beach beneath the castle? Maybe let the whale of “Free Willy” jump out of the sea and bite of evil stepma’s head? Pretty please?
And just when you thought: “Wow, her character and the whole savior thing were really underwhelming” –  there she is in front of the evil mirror and stares into it and my heart jumps and I scream from the top of my lungs: “YEAH! Now SHE will be the evil queen! You were all wrong, you were! HA!”. And really, what a fucking super-neat conclusion would that have been. Criticizing the pressure to be beautiful for women in patriarchal societies by symbolically making the evil mirror responsible for the moral decay of the women that stare into it. But WTF? she just stares and next thing you know, she is crowned and people cheer, and happiness and glimpse on huntsman, end of story. Even Lily Cole is young again. Oh movie, the chances you wasted! Countless they are.

via tumblr.com

Yeah, I still enjoyed it. It was entertaining which owes mostly to the stunning visuals. And while we are discussing visuals: Did you all also think: “Really, Princess Mononoke?” when they come up with the white stag and his massive antlers? Cause that shit is taken directly out of Mononoke, down to the shooting of him. And for what exactly? This event – neither her meeting him not the shooting of the stag– has any effect whatsoever on the story. Wasted chances, I reiterate, wasted fucking chances.

Well, thanks movie. You could have been great, but admittedly you could have sucked sooooo much harder. So: thank you?

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Miyazaki March – Howl’s Moving Castle

Tonight (or today, or tomorrow?, well: now) we shall discuss one of Miyazaki’s finest gems and his financially most successful movie to date: Howl’s Moving Castle. Other posts of Miyazaki March can be found by clicking THIS LINK, where you will find my discussion of other Hayao Miyazaki directed features. But now, my dears, let us focus on the Moving Castle of Mr. Magician Howl.

via impawards.com

Howl’s Moving Castle followed right on the heels of arguably Studio Ghibli’s biggest critical success – and the one that propelled the Studio and in Miyazaki’s name to new heights. Hitting theaters after Spirited Away, there was a lot of pressure on Howl’s Moving Castle to repeat the success. And so it did. As of today, Howl’s Moving Castle ranks as the most successful Studio Ghibli feature internationally with regards to making bank. Which is rather surprising on the one hand – on the other hand, not so much.
The movie is, like several other Ghibli features, an adaptation, this time of a 1986 novel by Diana Wynne Jones, who approved of the film and thought it to be fantastic, even though she had no input in the films making, which differs significantly from the novel.

When people ask me for a Top 3 Miyazaki movie ranking I’d go with Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and…yeah. My Top 3 is made up of four movies, because no. 3 is a tie between Porco Rosso and Howl’s Moving Castle. There are a lot of reasons why it could rather be Howl’s Moving Castle, but there are also very few, but very significant missteps that make it less stellar than it could be. Why Porco Rosso has so much going for it to deserve this tie-in is something I will cover in a later post.
That being said, besides Porco Rosso the Top 3 have one thing in common that distinguishes them from many of the other Miyazaki movies (not all, mind you): An epic scope. There is a grandeur to both scenery and stakes that makes these three stand out from the others. It lends them weight and meaning that transcends that of other beautiful movies like Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service, which are awesome and beautiful, but there is much less of an emotional ride waiting for us in them.
In that, Howl’s Moving Castle is different, and one of the most ambitious Miyazaki movies. There is war and magic battles, a great love story and the forging of an unlikely family. So many issues are covered, yet there is enough room to squeeze in action at every corner. But let us get to this in orderly fashion, cause orderly fashionistas we are.

via linkrandom.blogspot.com

I rewatched all the movies for Miyazaki march, and what I found striking about Howl’s Moving Castle is how it feels like a culmination of all the other Miyazaki movies and yet manages to take it a step further. The city that Sophie lives in feels a lot like Kikoro, the city that Kiki chooses for her witch training, right down to the narrow little streets and the presentation of masses of people. There is Porco Rosso in there with Sophie becoming something other than she actually is, an old lady when she is actually a woman in her twenties, but every now and then her appearance changes back and gives other characters glimpses on who is underneath there. There definitely is Nausicaä with the depiction of the flying war vessels and the depiction of the bombings. There are powerful witches and black blob creatures reminiscent of Spirited Away and though it might be a stretch, we can associate the moving castle with Totoro’s catbus. It feels like the folks at Studio Ghibli thought “hey, wouldn’t it be fun if in our next feature we just took elements of all our other features and glue them together with an all new story?”. And then they did just that.

via maryef.webs.com

I praise the animation of the discussed feature in basically any Miyazaki March post, but it was with Howl’s Moving Castle that it became really apparent what the difference was between some of the newer ones and others from the 80s and early 90s. There is a depth to the animation that wasn’t there before. Kiki and Porco Rosso, Castle in the Sky and the like are beautiful, but with what seems to be more CGI and also more willingness to experiment there is more depth to rooms and scenery all of a sudden. Distance and proportions seem more lifelike, as if the animation was edging towards 3D. The same holds true for Spirited Away and the most recent one, Arietty, but somehow it really caught my attention here, because even in the first few scenes within the hatter’s shop the rooms seem more dimensional and deeper than they did in features before.
And basically needless, but worth mentioning anyways: There is some magnificent imagery in Howl’s Moving Castle, from the Castle itself to the flying warships, the palace and the houses in Kingsbury. I really liked the star-headed rainbow creatures that Madame Suliman sends after them and that Howl had encountered as a kid. And then there are of course the scenes in the Alps mountains, with beautiful lakes, snow-topped mountains and the fields of flowers. This is some serious high class animation. Gag on its extravaganza, children.

via outnow.ch

What I am really conflicted about is an aspect that works to Howl’s Moving Castle’s advantage most of the time, but destroys some of its impact at the very end. I have said it before, and I will say it again: Some things are better left unsaid. Or unexplained. Sure we know that Sophie was cursed and that’s why she inhabits the body of an old lady now, but it’s fine that we never get an explanation as to how it works that sometimes she does no longer. Because that is not only part of the mystery, there is the fun of figuring it out. Of guessing if it is her confidence, the love she feels, or the love she is given that turns her back into the young woman she is. Other elements don’t get an explanation either. Like Markl. What is he doing there? Who’s kid is he? Why does nobody ever ask these questions in the movie itself? But that’s alright. He’s there and rad. And more questions unanswered: Why is Heen so ridiculously awesome? Why do his feet look like that? What’s with the shape of the castle, why does it look like some monster-fish? All these things are fine without explanation. I dare you to make something up in the comments. It’s interesting to think about those things, and probably better than any sort of answer they could have come up with in-movie. But then, well, there are things that need an explanation and don’t get one. And boy, does that suck.

via outnow.ch

Talking about the ending of course. Well, to be honest, it starts before, because we talk about the war, actually. We never get an explanation why the war is happening. And up until the end it doesn’t really matter, since the point the movie is trying to drive home is that war is irrational anyways and there is no need for all this violence and cruelty. But then one mystery gets solved, surprisingly. The scarecrow is the neighboring country’s prince. Why he was a scarecrow and how the kiss rescued him when it wasn’t true love are really only the minor quibbles. The big mistake in all of this is that it implies that the war was fought because the prince was missing. That is a weak argument for a war and a much too simplified solution as to why governments send their troops to war. But he promises to go home and end it and oh wonder, Suliman sees everyone happy and united and says “call the minister of defense” and we’re led to think, alright now, she ends this war. She labels it even silly. So, this whole war happened because one king was without his son and Suliman just wanted to have a little fun with her magical terror-troupe? That is not only a lame-ass explanation, it is also one that sucks, because it doesn’t make any sense. It offers a solution that feels simple and cheap, partly because it is too rushed and forced (heck, we never knew about the prince, we get to see him for like 2 seconds, and then we’re supposed to care?) and the other part being that it diminishes the impact of the imagery shown before. So the war was maybe not so terrible after all since it really was just some quabble that can be called off like that. This ending is in my eyes the movie’s gravest mistake. It is the reason why Howl’s Moving Castle is not undoubtedly my Top Third (or even #1) favorite Miyazaki movie and it chops off some of the epicness that powers the rest of the narrative.

Oh, whine, whine, I know. I hate the ending with a passion, but even with that Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the best animation features out there and not only one of Miyazaki’s most ambitious, but also most thrilling and beautiful. I may hate a tiny little part of it, but I absolutely adoringly love the rest of it.

Dancing the Dance with Dragons – A Song of Ice and Fire Review

I finished the last instalment of the Song of Ice and Fire Series A Dance with Dragons just the other day and try to benefit from all the events still lingering fresh in my mind. So I’m about to review it to you, if you want it or not. And in case you didn’t know if you wanted it (or not): You do. Of course.

via wikipedia.org

I have mentioned it briefly in my last review of A Feast for Crows: both books were initially intended as one that should have been named A Dance with Dragons, but George R.R. Martin not only found that his concept of starting book 4 with a shift to 5 years later in story time not working to his liking, he also figured the whole thing would be way too long for only one novel. So he split them. Taking 500 pages of the manuscript he promised to deliver book 5 within a year (of 2005) and turns out he didn’t, it took him ‘til fall 2011 until A Dance with Dragons finally was published and fans were not only anticipating but also afraid – afraid of yet another series never coming to an end, especially in the light of the death of James Rigney a.k.a. Robert Jordan who left his epic fantasy series Wheel of Time unfinished, so that now another author (Brandon Sanderson) has to finish it.

This review is intended as a post-reading review. My intention with it is not to make you curious and get you to read it. I expect you have read it and know what is happening in the novel, so if not: MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. Because I will talk about the shit that goes down and might spoil the experience for you if you have not yet arrived at the last page of it.

via iO9.com

The things I L.O.V.E.D. about it:

The House of Black and White/The Faceless Men
It is indeed a creepy concept to keep the faces of dead people who came to your temple to take their last breath as leather masks, but my oh my, how awesome is this concept at the same time, and how wickedly cool is that temple? I mean, how ridiculously open-minded must a society be to accept a temple in their midst where people can go, drink from a pool full of poisoned water, crawl into some little niche below the statue/whatever symbol of their god of choice and DIE? Ah-mah-zing!!
And to be sure, that is some crazy magic going on right there. There is always the debate around Song of Ice and Fire, if there is too little magic, just the right amount, increasing levels of magic, yadda yadda, prevalent in the books, but this one clearly makes its case for all sorts of magic being permissible within Martin’s fictional universe. Put on the face and it is yours, but beware, so are the memories of the previous face owner. Ouch.
And all them chapters in the House of Black and White inevitably lead to one question: What will become of Arya? I feel like I’m not alone in always having kinda counted on Arya becoming this under-dog super-heroine who’s going to kick major ass and become queen of Westeros or at least Warden of the North in Winterfell or something. But with the path she is on, she could just as well become a master assassin who lost her identity and shifts through the world, looking for a purpose. Which also: Ouch.

Quentyn Martell’s journey
While the Martell saga leaves me kinda cold, so does the character of Quentyn Martell. And actually the whole story of crossing the sea and losing all the friends and how loyal those friends stay and finally making it to Daenerys etc. BUT what I absolutely and unconditionally love about it though is how it ends. This total subversion of the usual hero trope: Him dying a gruesome death. And for his own mistake really, cause just like über-confident princelings usually go, he thinks “yeah, some blood of the dragon, this might work just fine…” and BURN. He does. Where in other stories you’d expect him to come out next chapter walking a dragon on a leash, because whoa! surprise, it actually did work and his princeling-super-qualities kicked in, this story does tell you to suck it, ‘cause the hell no.

Barristan Selmy
His newly introduced POV was a nice insight into the developments around Daenerys’ character, and might I add, even more interesting than Daenerys’ own POV. I love how we get to have a glimpse on Mereen and the undercurrents of Mereenese court life from his perspective and some reality checking on what Daenerys does and thinks and says and what her role in Mereen really is. And of course he totally kicks ass. Duh.

Reek
So, Theon Greyjoy is back. And boy is he. Or rather not. Cause he is transformed into this other being, humble, shy, submissive thanks to the wonders of … flaying. It is cruel and horrible and I feel for him, but it’s also a damn cool storyline and one that creeps me out. Fascinated by the quasi love-affair between him and Ramsay in this sado-masochistic relationship where obviously Ramsay has much more need of Theon than Theon of him. Without both of them realizing it.
And I like how deep the submission goes, how deep it has been ingrained into his personality. Crazypants. I also really enjoy to read about his altered appearance thanks to the wonders of torture and general shit happening, right down to his pain when eating because of the smashed teeth. Not because that is what I wish for his character (which I don’t) but because it gives the whole narrative so much more realism than to have him just be a little submissive, get rescued and become a shining prince (he never actually was) again. Does not = me likes.

The snowstorm halting Stannis’ march on Winterfell
While it also makes the plotline come to a halt, the snowstorm chapters are interesting because all of a sudden what seemed to be a series of triumphs for Stannis becomes something that looks like his looming defeat. And by the end of the book, well, it seems he was defeated after all (by the Boltons, yuck) although I don’t buy it and rather think that Ramsey just made that up. However, I think we can all agree, that nobody expects Stannis to survive through to the end of the series and actually make it as the king of Westeros. Sorry, dear, but that just ain’t gon’ happen.

Tyrion’s journey to Volantis
Tyrion in general is of course a grand character, because he’s fun and sharp and such an underdog to root for that it’s not even funny anymore, but in this book I wasn’t entirely feeling all his chapters. The first ones though, especially the passage from Magister Illyrio’s house to Volantis was neat. Like extra neat. Because instead of focusing on what the actions and interactions of the characters in these novels are, it gave some more depth to the world the narrative takes place in. All with a historical sightseeing tour, some thoughts on illness and superstition and the revelation that not all stories fed to kingdoms in the west actually are true, especially when it comes to baby heirs to thrones. This was a neat little journey.

The return of Varys the Spider
Because: duh.

via thewertzone.blogspot.com

Things that I am CONFLICTED about:

Jon Snow is dead
That came as a tremendous shock and I must say … I liked that. I liked what it did to me as a reader and I liked how it grounded the story in reality again, because I did not believe the other guys on the Night’s Watch would put up with his plans. So they stab him and I am shocked and all. But then again, the whole thing feels stale, because it seems very certain that he is going to come back. Either Melisandre will breathe life into him again à la Thoros to Dondarrion or Dondarrion to Catelyn. Or she will do the burn-healing thing like Morroq for Victarion. Or he will continue his existence warg-style in Ghost’s body. Or become a zombie like being like the cold man who escorted Bran to the Three Eyed Crow. Or whatever, but I’d really rather have him stay dead.

Cersei
I wanted to write “Cersei Redeemed” but she is not really, is she? But good to have her back, though just like Theon, we get to enjoy a more submissive persona now. Not sure if I like it and not sure where that will take us. Frankly, the ending of Dance with Dragons kind of felt like we will not be seeing all too much of her in the future, which would be a pity, cause hate her all you want, Cersei is central to this story, and boy, is her trouble and bullshit fun to read about.

via thewertzone.blogspot.com

Things I DID NOT LIKE:

My Characters!
Yeah, an exclamation mark, y’all, cause this problem right here is really just me being all whiny and shit. I wanted more Sansa, I wanted more Sam, I wanted more Bran and I especially wanted more Brienne! But hey, we’ll eventually meet up with them again, so this complaint is really just me expressing irrational nonsense. But it needs a let-out, so, there.

Tyrion the slave
While some parts of Tyrion’s journey in the book are really awesome, others are, ermh, not so awesome. I didn’t consciously mind them, but in hindsight I realized how the whole meet-up with Jorah Mormont, the interaction with Penny, his time as a slave and his outsmarting sellswords (again) weren’t actually to my liking. I enjoy the character, and I liked parts of it (like the curiosity cabinet of Yezzan zo Qaggaz), but as a whole I am kinda dissatisfied, and I can’t even really tell you why. Maybe I hoped for another direction for his character? I guess so.

Victarion Greyjoy
Oh, the Greyjoy family. I can well deal with Asha and Reek Theon, but the rest of the lot really get on my nerves. Plus, I find that I actually don’t really care about them and their storylines and wonder why I’d be supposed to care about them. Like, what is going to be the significance of Victarion or Aeron in the grand scheme of things? My guess is: none, really. So I just kinda shrug. Oh and yes, I also do not approve of the leverage his newly healed hand gives to R’hllor.

Daenerys
Meets up with Khal Jhaqo’s Khalasar and this one is not pleased (oh btw Missandei? You fucking rule. Rule. RULE!). I was not unhappy about leaving the Dothraki and their depiction behind, not because I didn’t like them per se, but I did not like the racist imagery their portrayal feeds into, but hey, seems we’re at it again. The whole Daenerys gets kidnapped by Drogon and is lost in the wilderness thing feels a little forced. It sort of makes sense, and I appreciate what happens afterwards in Mereen, but it also seems like too convenient a plot device to get her the fuck away from Mereen and do we really have to go from queen to maybe bed-slave of a Khal again? Please no.

 

In conclusion I was very happy with A Dance with Dragons, although a few developments did not thrill me too much, but so did some in Game of Thrones and look how that has kept me from reading on and loving the shit out of this series. I also have to make honorable mentions of the names of characters who come from the East: all those Ys and Zs and Qs in their name – I just love it. Keep ’em coming.
I dread the prospect to have to wait years and years until the next instalment hits us, but hey, what can I do? Despair? An option that is, true.
Questions remain, however. Like: How much more awesome than before will Brienne be next time we meet her? How long will it take for her to become queen of the world? Will Rickon go supercrazy and slaughter everyone he knows? Will he return as a wight?
And even more pressing: What can we do to ensure that Jon Snow is really dead and remains so? When will Cersei’s crazy bitch-mode kick in full force again? How can we be happy about a novel that is centered around Arya alone and not miss Sam (or Brienne)? When will the final battle with the Others a.k.a. apocalypse finally hit us?
Maybe you have an answer, and if so, feel free to provide it in the comments.

Yes, this is the book I just read.

Feasting on A Feast for Crows – Reviewing Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire

I kind of did not fulfil my promise to myself to review the Song of Ice and Fire novels shortly after reading them, because now it’s been a good few months since I read its fourth instalment A Feast for Crows and I am already well into novel no. 5. Can’t help that now but can certainly help not having a review of AFFC yet by, well, posting this very one.

via fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com

A Fest for Crows, of course also written by George R. R. Martin, is the fourth novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series and was published in 2005, after much delay and some shuffling of chapters, cause initially what is now book 5 (A Dance with Dragons) was set to be the title with the two volumes incorporated, which would have been way too long. As it stands, they are two separate books, with both of them covering some of the same in-story time, thus running parallel, although focusing on different characters in different locations.
I will stick to my drill of talking about the things that I really liked about this novel, about the things I didn’t like, about what left me going whatevs and provide some little why.
As usual, a SPOILER ALERT: I will be talking about everything that has happened until the end of this book no. 4, maybe even glimpse at events in book no. 5, so if you haven’t read them yet and intend to do so in the future I strongly recommend you to save the read of this review for later.

Really Good:

Cersei POV
I was positively surprised with the Jaime POV in the last instalment and I am ever more so positively surprised by the Cersei POV we get in this one. Plus, I’m also really digging that we now have both kinda side-to-side that give us a perfect insight into what is the deterioration of the relationship of Jaime and Cersei because a) Jaime continues to become a better person and an ever more likeable character, and b) Cersei continues to suck and it even grows worse, now for all of Westeros to see. The demise of Cersei is inevitable, but my bet is, that the big bang has yet to arrive in that plotline. I wonder if in the end there will be some insight on her part, but as of now, it is like a horrible car-crash happening in slow-motion and you just can’t look away. Painful to watch, painful to read her making up arguments as to why her actions are justified and right, but also oddly fascinating at the same time.
What I am not a super-fan of though is that apparently all the female characters have to have their share of lesbian sex and female admirers while the same is not happening at all on the male side, leaving me wondering: what in-story social conventions justify these occurrences, my answer being none, thus my suspicion being that the author gets to write out some fantasy of his. But hey, I might be wrong.

King Tommen
Oh, Tommen, you poor boy. Having to have Cersei as a mother and being king while having no clue really, but let us all just admit it: Finally, rid of Joffrey, he is kinda awesome, because he is so cute and might just become an awesome king, if there wasn’t, umh, his mother. But still, his love of putting seals on documents, his friendship with Margaery and his budding defiance of his mother: all pluses.

Lancel
Becoming all pious and shitting all over his Lordship? Sweet, actually. I can’t even really tell you why, because the whole pious/religiously-fanatic thing pisses me off story-telling wise a lot of times, but in his case it works to his favour as a character. And I respect him much more now.

Jaime
Ok, I am obviously on a Lannister roll here, but hey, we clearly cannot ignore them. Jaime continues his journey to The Side Of Awesome and restores order where he can, sees how vile and stupid Cersei is in what she does and ends a siege that was set to be a bloodshed bloodlessly. I am just speculating here, but we probably will read about more kick-ass-ness from Jaime and the future and frankly, whoda thunk that after Game of Thrones?

via thebookpeople.co.uk

Brienne
Jaime leads us of course to Brienne who continues to rule and does what Arya did before: give us eager readers insights into what it is like to live in Westeros as one of the common folk due to all her meeting-ups with guys and gals all over the riverlands, tracing the false hound (who deserves honourable mentions for extra-creepiness and appalling levels of violence) and connecting to people she’d never thought she had to and would connect with, which is, I guess, an ongoing theme now in Ms. Tarth’s life, and for the better. She also meets up with Catelyn again and that obviously does not go so well, but I guess it’s safe to say that the final verdict on her POV has not been spoken and we are probably all right in suspecting that she will be the one to get Lady Stoneheart back on the right track again.

The Tyrell’s at court
Well, Loras kinda sucks, but let us all see how his near-fatal wound plays out. But my oh my, Margaery? Gurrl is finger-snapping in Cersei’s face with every move she makes and does so very cleverly and skilled. Obviously, she has had some good teaching from her grandmother, but I am really liking the direction this is going. Busting Cersei’s ass and having her imprisoned by the Faith? Oh no she didn’t!

Arya
Reminiscent of Jaquen H’qar Arya enters the House of Black and White and dude, does that place seem to be creepy. I’m not the biggest fan of her having-to-go-out-in-the-real world shenanigans and would rather read more about what actually happens in this temple, but I admit to liking the encounter of Arya with Sam (who of course also continues to rule, because he is fucking Samwell Tarly), even though both of them did not realize whom they have just met. I am intrigued to learn about which direction Arya’s stay there will take. Will she really lose herself and become thus – what? A better person? A better assassin? A better queen? Or will it help strengthen her without ultimately having to give up her identity as a Stark? This is actually one of the storylines really keeping me on edge.

via fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com

Really Bad:

The Faith Militant
And shit is going to hit the fan.
Wow, not that we needed more religious fanatics going all nuts over everyone else in Westeros, now the insitutionalized Faith of the Seven gets back its rights to organize militarily and boy is that going to get shitty in the near future. No fun there. And having Cersei’s plan backfiring on her leading to imprisonment in the Great Sept, kinda nice, but then again, this is going to go horrible for her and I already feel kinda bad. I see Lord of Light and Faith Militant groups slicing each other up all over the continents, and I am not liking it. Plus, I feel cheated. The Seven seemed to have so much more potential as something myserious pitched against the Old Gods, now they are just being instrumentalized for military purposes. It is a pity, says I.

The Greyjoys
I don’t know why, they still leave me supercold. I like to read about Asha, because she is fun, but everyone else in that family? Assholes left and right. And their struggling for leadership isn’t exactly what I’d call endearing, so no, no love from me for the Greyjoys and their storyline.

via fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com

Really Undecided:

Lady Stoneheart
I still don’t know how I feel about Catelyn coming back as Lady Stoneheart, for several reasons. My major issue is that it diminishes the impact of her death-scene that hit me so unexpected and came as a real shock (probably the first real shock after Ned’s execution). My second issue lies with the leverage it gives R’hllor, that sick bastard of a God, cause we all know he’s being credited for her resurrection now. I like the idea of her being this corpse-like existence now (it’ll be fun to see that played out in the TV series), but I am not sure what I feel about her being only driven by vengeance. She was so before to a large extent, but with her humanity intact, and now that this is gone she is really just a hateful monster. Which diminishes the still-alive-Catelyn as a character IMHO. My guess for the wrap-up of that story-line is that she has to die for realz next time on the hands of somebody who loves her, my bets being on Brienne, but I also believe that we’re gonna see her wreak a lot more havoc on everyone’s asses until then.

Dorne/The Martells
The story of the Martells intra-family struggles to avenge the death of Oberyn Martell and seek vengeance for what happened to Elia Martell years past is a messy one. It is interesting, it is sad, cause the side we get to see does not succeed, but somehow I am not overly invested. I guess a lot of that has to do with the fact that these characters are just too new for me to care so much about them. I understand their rationale and their emotions, but I am just not very pro-Martell, wishing for them to get what they want, cause they all also seem like hot-tempered, scheming dicks, girls and boys alike. Nice to see them fight for gender equality, but it feels a little cosmetic to be honest.

The numbers reveal my stance, I guess, with seven points on the really good side against tow each on really bad and really undecided about. And yes, I loved it, but what do you expect. I would not go through the trouble of reviewing the fourth novel in a series if I didn’t like it (though wouldn’t that be fun? And masochistic?), so no real surprise that I am really invested in the story. Some strands of it make me fear that there’ll be events and plotlines little to my liking, but so far Martin has done an amazing job at subverting my expectations, especially my fears.
Maybe we should also start to speculate at this point, for there are several important questions that the series as a whole will have to answer.
Who is the three headed dragon to rule Westeros? Or rather, which three characters will be future kings/queens? I feel most people assume that Daenerys is a given, and so do I, but what if we are wrong? A lot of bets are placed upon Arya and let us be honest, it would kinda rule. And the third? Another stark? Jon seems like a candidate, especially with him potentially being the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, but as of now it seems more likely that he is set to defend the Wall. Bran maybe? Not unthinkable. Or someone totally else? Tyrion (though I doubt it)? Asha (though that would be a bit too much…but then again, an all female trio would be nice)? Or who knows, maybe even Brienne (which would be so freaking amazing, it hurts. Unlikely, though)? Who is your pick for future ruling trio?

Another major question is the Stark-kids business. How will they reconnect? Who will? Will Jon, Arya, Sansa, Bran and Rickon have a merry reunification at some point? Where the hell is Rickon, what is his role to play? Will Jon remain Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch til he dies? Will Bran become the messiah to some age-old religion? Will Arya become queen of Westeros? What will Sansa do? And how do their wolf-dreams play into this? They are obviously all Wargs (except for maybe Sansa), so what effect will that have and in how far will it ultimately be important to the story?

Well, I will it end it here. I know, I know. Questions over question over questions. And no answer in sight Maybe you would like to speculate in the comments?

Oh and you have to imagine a photo of me with one of the covers pictured above instead of this text here right now, because stupid me forgot to snap an effin’ picture before giving my copy away.

A Storm of Words – My humble review of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords

I just mentioned the word humble in the title to lure you in. So, now that you’re here let’s get this review started.
Talking of course about the third (or third and fourth) novel in the Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R. R. Martin. Let’s keep this shit real: by now I am addicted to this series like Whitney Houston to crack. Only with more positive side effects.

via wikipedia.org

I guess I read the UK paperback issue, cause I read two books: A Storm of Swords – Steel and Snow and A Storm of Swords – Blood and Gold. Which tells us that the thing is long and which of course makes us giggle a little, cause heehee, we’re in on it, right? Steel and Snow, that’s like Jon SNOW on the wall (arms and all) and Blood and Gold, if that’s not referring to the Lannisters, to what else, asketh I. It is the third instalment in the series (my reviews of no. 1 HERE and of no. 2 HERE) and was published in 2000. I’ve already confessed my addiction to the saga, but nonetheless there is stuff that I liked and some that I didn’t, so keeping with trahdishion I give you a rundown of Minuses and Pluses with a little Could-Be-Both in between.

Janos Slynt
The whole “Jon Snow is a turncloak” and the ensuing election of a new commander of the Night’s Watch left me all a little underwhelmed. Granted, it wasn’t horrible, but it was a tad too obvious and Janos Slynt in combo with Alliser Thorne was just too bad a villain to be taken as a serious threat. So Jon Snow is Commander of the Night’s Watch now? How will that tie in with him being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna and supposed future king…oops, just wondering about some theories there. Unfortunately he became a bit of an asshole, which is sad, cause he was a favorite character before.

Melisandre
Oh, the fuck with the whole Lord of Light business. R’hllor sucks, that’s what it is. As a god and kinda as a storyline. His whole Christian god yet not Christian god shenanigans get on my nerves and Melisandre better start bringing some kickass bad or she’ll be the blandest mysterious women all in red in the history of gods who set swords on fire. Can somebody just shoot her and make her go away?

R’hllor
I’m being a bit unfair with Melisandre here, cause my real issue lies with R’hllor and the potential storylines I see coming with him/her/it. But then again, Melisandre’s character is basically nothing but a spokesperson for team R’hllor, so there.
To my non-joy there is also the whole Dondarrion/Thoros fraction praising his ass and we don’t even wanna go into Lady Stoneheart territory.

The Ironborn
The whole Greyjoy family, well maybe for the exception of Asha, sucks, at least IMHO. I get it, we are supposed to get an insight into their plotting and we need a setup for Crow’s Eye and the havoc he is about to wreak upon Westeros and its political system, but – and I can’t even explain why – I just don’t like to read about them, least of all about the Drowned God and this whole bullshit. I remember being really pumped about the whole religious systems co-existing in Westeros in the beginning, with the Seven and the Old Gods, but now all we get is some Norse myth in masks and pseudo-Christianity and the fun of reading about religious underpinnings is gone. Can the Old Gods please make an appearance? Like, let all the weirwoods cry blood?

via best-selling-books-uk.blogspot.com

Handling of the wildlings
In my last review I bitched and moaned about how I didn’t wanna read about the wildlings cause I expected what, well, actually happened. That’s us being told that they’re all actually human and have their own sorrows and their own honor and alla that which is blurgh, cause: really? I could’ve told you three years ago. Having said that making them all just fodder for a mandatory epic battle that turns out to kinda not be so epic feels like betraying them and what they actually could have been and the threat they could have posed to the Seven Kingdoms. Now that they are gone as a storyline I kinda miss them, but most of all because of the potential they actually had as such.

Littlefinger
You know what, Littlefinger used to be such an entertaining and interesting character. And now he is just a vile manipulator that schemes his way into positions, Lysa Arryn’s bed and poor Sansa’s life and innocence. Argh, he really is the scrupulous fuck he always claimed to be and it ain’t half as much fun as thinking he might just be saying it and actually be an awesome kid.

Lysa Arryn
She sucks more from a meta-point-of-view in that she feels so totally like a constructed character that is there to serve a purpose that it makes it hard for me to believe her actions, words and supposed motivations. Also, despite the Eyrie probably being a really pretty place, all the shit taking place there since book one continues to cement its status as most dreadful places of them all in the Seven Kingdoms, complete with a caricature of a female ruler, which is really just a little pathetic.

-/+

Daenerys
What leaves me neither hot nor cold is once again Dany. Her storyline isn’t actually bad, the whole Unsullied business and freeing slaves all over the east (not to mention glimpsing at those ancient cities) is pretty neat, but then there is the whole “was Rhaegar really the greatest man in all of history I wonder” business mixed with the “Oh no, Ser Jorah betrayed me, and you too Ser Barristan whose name I just learned, but I forgive you” and the “cute, my dragons are like kittens, they hiss and fly and kill, heehee, cute” thing. Ermh, I don’t know, it’s all not terrible but it is also not great and reads rather like some teenage girl-grows-up-to-be-a-princess thing which, well, aren’t there other options?
But since we all know that by the end of this saga Daenerys is going to rule the entire world, let’s see if coming plot-twists will make her journey a tad more interesting.

via buecher.de

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Ygritte
Admittedly, I wasn’t an Ygritte fan at first, but damn, girl grew on me fast. Her practical down-to-earth-ness and her keeping it real all the time with anyone made me give her my reading heart and also admittedly her tragic death kinda cemented that status.
You know nothing, Jon Snow. Nuff said.

Jaime chapters
What a shocker, we get to read Jaime’s POV. And even more of a shocker: it is actually really kinda awesome. Cause of course he’s an asshole-ish prick, but hearing about his motivations and learning about his outer and inner journey made me really appreciate him as a character. Plus of course, his totally seeing what goes wrong with his twin-sister and her attempts of keeping the peace.
I am also really really fond of him losing his hand and what it does to him in terms of finding the inner human being again. Not even mentioning the potential love-story unfolding here.
And how heart-wrenching is it that he lied to Tyrion all these years and finally admits it – only being lied to in return (and setting up some major future conflict here). Poor Lannisters, they just don’t know how to.

Brienne
Speaking of potential love-stories unfolding: How incredibly gorgeous is Brienne of Tarth as a character? Not only is she righteous and honest and dutiful, but girl is so out of the box for everyone and goes against anything that the Westerosi belive in that it chokes me with tears, because she is Samwell-Tarly-level of awesome in being the ugly duckling that is really just the mightiest of them swans in all of birds on water history. Can somebody please give her a little kiss on the cheek from me? Kthanx.

Tyrion
He ruled ever since, right? Everyone loves Tyrion and everyone should, cause he survives and he saves Joffrey’s reign (though he hates his guts), he is the most awesome unwanted husband anyone could ever have (Sansa, be grateful), he treats his favorite whore nicely (and she is being a dick in return) and ta-dah: he finally kills the super-villain that is his father and does away with his stuck-up-ness and frees us from the one on team evil that can actually hold it together and make evil work.
Wonder where he is and when he’ll show up. Miss you, Ty, come back soon, please.

via theinquisitveloon.blogspot.com

Arya and Sandor Clegane
Awww, the Hound, good old houndy Hound, how we always kinda knew you had a heart of gold and now that you’re with Arya who is cool in all the right ways (despite having to learn a lot and grow a lot and endure a lot and a lot of a lot else) you show all your true colors and we would all really like to hang out with you more and learn how to be such a scapegoat with a heart of gold. I’m kinda sorry that their time together was so short.

The Unsullied
Yeah, Daenarys, blah, but the unsullied, I mean, man. Man. M. A. N.
That is one rough existence right there. Wouldn’t wanna be in their shoes. Kill your puppy dog? Kill a baby? Castration? No wonder that don’t sound like the most appealing job description ever. So they become the greatest killing machine consistent of thousands but what makes them really awesome is the moment they go all like: we’ve hated this existence for like ever, we just didn’t let y’all know and kill the slave-masters and support Dany and her slave-freeing shenanigans. I mean, awww, man, fucking: AWWWW! Touched my heart right there.

Samwell
We cannot not mention him. From staying true to the Watch to freeing Gilly, meeting and helping Bran and ultimately of course him killing one of the Others, Samwell continues to be the favorite overweight clumsy young man in all of ASOIAF.

The Red Wedding
This book tries to bring some epic moments, but if there ever was one in this very instalment, it would of course be the Red Wedding that takes home the price. There we all were believing the Frey’s to forgive Robb and then – BAM – they not only kill him, but most of his host and unbelievably also Catelyn. And even though we are all well aware of Martin’s tendency to kill off major characters I have to confess that Catelyn’s death really was a blow (while Robb’s was anticipated, really) and left me with a few moments of disbelief. Now we know that there is a twist to Cat’s death, but let’s wait with judging that one.
Other than that, the whole set-up of the Red Wedding: super-neat. From both Martin on the meta-level and the Frey’s and Lannister’s on the in-the-story-level. Thumbs up for the chill, dudes.

So, I conclude this lil review here, knowing full well that I left a lot (like really a super lot: Davos, Sansa, Bran, Oberyn Martell) out and that, if you don’t know the novel, you have no fucking idea what I am talking about here. If you made it to this sentence nonetheless, kudos to you! What I hope you got from this rather eclectic review (note to self: review shortly after reading the book, not long after it, having already started subsequent novels) is that I really really really enjoyed the ride and can totally recommend you take it as well.

Winter is coming (now also officially here in Frankfurt, Germany. Thank you, the Starks).

Closing the book on my first read of A Clash of Kings

I just came to realize that it has been almost a year since I’ve read A Game of Thrones (my review is HERE), the first part of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Since then the series has experienced some (more) hype because of HBO adapting it as a TV series that is supposed to be rather decent (meaning: Alex has not seen it yet, kthanx). I meant to pick up the second volume named A Clash of Kings way earlier, but well, I did not. These past few weeks have been partly spent wandering and wondering through its 700+ pages and now I am here to review the shit out of it.

via amazon.com

First things first: I liked it a lot. More so than I like A Game of Thrones and exceeding the expectations I had about it massively. There’s a variety of reasons why that is so and since this is a review I’m going to give them to you. I will start with what I loved, continue with what I disliked and will finish with what made me shrug indifferently (aka room for improvement).
MASSIVE WARNING: I will be SPOILERING, so if you have not read A Clash of Kings or even A Game of Thrones yet and don’t wanna ruin your reading experience you should stop reading this review right now and come back to it later, cause secrets will be exposed. Just so you know.

Undying eternal love for:

Sansa
Gosh, how I hated on her in my last review and how I loathed reading her chapters in volume 1. But this time? Whole ‘nother story, folks. I’m kinda astonished myself, but this time around the Sansa chapters were really enjoyable, since she’s really come a long way from the pretty stupid thing in Game of Thrones. Mind you, she still is that, somehow, but there is a growing understanding of the world in her and it’s not all that cheesy I feared it would be. Plus, her character gets to interact with some of the most intriguing characters of the series, amongst them the Hound of course, but also Cersei and Joffrey, thereby providing a well developed focal point on crucial events shaping the whole saga. Thumbs up for Sansa!

Tyrion
Other than Sansa I loved Tyrion’s chapters in the first book and I continue to do. There is the big similarity in that Tyrion interacts with a bunch of very interesting characters like Cersei, but most of all Varys. The Eunuch is going to give us all some more good story, I tell ya. On top of that Tyrion’s character is of course tailor-made for instant identification. We all feel odd and ugly and out of place a lot of times, just like him, but he overcomes it with his incredible wit and cleverness and comes out on top of everyone trying to fuck with him. Except for maybe what happens in the final battle. To that I say: ugh, and: poor Tyrion. Ow.

Theon
Hello new POV! I cannot remember having Theon’s POVs in A Game of Thrones, but I might be mistaken. Nonetheless, here is one POV likely to aggravate you, cause his character is designed to make you hate him. Being a sexist prick totally in love with himself, witless and scrupulous, it is still fun to read. Admittedly I suppose that is because I am so hoping to see his inevitable fall. Which brings us to his maybe-death in Clash of Kings. Is he or isn’t he? My vote goes to he is not dead and I guess we’ll see him round, cause while Martin was happy killing major characters in book one, this time it is only characters like Stannis and Renly that had to get out of the way anyhow. And with Tyrion and Bran and Rickon we got some supposed deaths that turned out not to be, so I call bullshiz on this one.

Davos
Another new POV. Nothing particularly exciting about Davos, except for maybe his firsthand experiences of the dark powers of Melisandre, but nicely written and interesting to read anyhow. Won’t be seeing more of him though, I suppose.

The Stark tombs
Granted, the tombs of the Stark family have been interesting all along, but this time around with Bran and his bunch hiding down there? Wicked shit! All the namedropping made me wanna hear all their stories and the line “they reached the twisting stone stair that led up to the surface, and down to the deeper levels where kings more ancient still sat their dark thrones” made me instantly wish for another book solely consistent of their stories. We could also just call it worldbuilding at its best.

Arya
I semi-hated on Arya the last time, but much like Sansa her character improved by factor 1000. Loved her storyline and all her tribulations – and the dark path she is heading down. Slitting peoples throats? Oh my, gurrl. I was particularly in love with the whole Jaqen H’ghar plotline and can’t wait til we meet him again. Which I am sure we will. Yay!

The grittiness
People lose their guts and die of really ugly wounds to the head, women get raped, are threatened with rape or threaten to rape each other and a lot of dicks are touched, sucked, ridden and whatnot. And you know what? For the better. There is an undeniable appeal in A Clash of Kings’ grittiness, because it feels a lot more real than a lot of other fantasy sagas do thanks to not shying away from these topics.

Religion
Also interesting: To read about the various religious systems in Song of Ice and Fire. The whole thing with the godswoods, the Seven and the thing with the Lord of Light…. I feel this is going to become way more important and I am actually really looking forward to it.

Oh, really? eyerolling for:

Jon Snow and the Wildlings
The Jon Snow chapters were better in book 1. There, I said it. They were not bad this time, but a little underwhelming. Jon enters the North, leaves the wall behind and all we get is this? Come the fuck on. The Wildlings are also only humans, oh my, what a surprise. And from the look of it we’re going to get hundreds and hundreds of pages telling us how Jon manages to stay alive among them, struggles with his conscience all the while (cause of the Nightwatch, yawn) and gives us and insight into Wildling life. Puhleaze. It bores me already. I can see “we have our own honor” and “life is harsh beyond the Wall” conversations hitting us left and right and I really don’t want to hear about it. The plot twist of him having to join the Wildlings and having to kill Qhorin could be seen from a mile afar. Bwrah, sez I, cause there was more potential.

Bran and Rickon are dead? Or are they?
Theon definitely gets major a-hole points for killing random kids in order to make everyone believe that Bran and Rickon are dead, but as soon as the statement pops up it’s pretty clear that it didn’t really happen. The only thing that made it exciting is the memory of volume 1 where major characters were killed, so there was a little thrill in thinking: maybe they are really… But then: Nah, haha, they been cleverz y’all, and still alive. And I feel that I maybe shouldn’t think so, but I can’t help wondering if killing Bran and Rickon would have made for a more interesting story.

Wolf dreams
While I’m at hating Bran why not take it a step further and discuss the wolf dreams that bother the shit out of me. For once because it reminds me so much of Wheel of Time’s Perrin, right down to his reaction of refusing to embrace the wolfdream, though Bran admittedly is a little faster in accepting them. However, the whole “we’re all brothers and sisters, and not just the wolves but also the children who possess the wolves, and thus we can telepath back and forth” smells like the lamest plot device in the history of icy firesongs. I’m afraid I’m not going to like the developments in that department.

Things that felt a little blah was the whole beyond the wall scenery since I had expected so much more. Also the Melisandre and Lord of Light thing, mainly because I feel this is going to get a little Christian on our asses as we move along and I am not particularly fond of taking that route. Catelyn could kick more ass and doesn’t, which is sad. And Daenerys’ storyline didn’t really evolve, did it? Okay, the dragons grow, your people suffer, you’re yet again dependant on somebody else’s riches and continue to embody the young but mighty queen…kinda been there, done that. Something needs to happen there.

To wrap it up: really enjoyed it a lot. The pros outweigh the cons by a hundred tons, since so much of what I loathed the first book around grew on me due to believable character evolution. Also: Mention of a song of Ice and Fire. Ahaaa! There is the name-giving song mentioned in the very text. That will be one interesting thing to learn about, I guess. I am really excited to read on and see where the story takes us, which king will prevail in the end, and what wonders and horrors will descend upon the characters. It will definitely not take me another year before I start book 3.

The Last Unicorn is so rare, it has books and films written and made about it

Every Christmas here in Germany “The Last Unicorn” animation film is shown on TV (usually on crappy RTL2). I’ve grown up watching the movie, I know it by heart, and ever year I force my poor family through another screening of the thing. By now, I got my sister hooked, so I’m not the only one forcing it unto other members of my family. Just recently I read the book after years and years (and years) of not doing so, so I thought: Good time to write about one of my favorite movies in the entire world!

via wikipedia.org

The Last Unicorn was written by Peter S. Beagle and published in 1968. It has turned into a classic, although it initially wasn’t overly successfully apparently. By now more than five million copies of it have been sold and it has been translated into many languages, and I’d like to think a lot of that has to do with the movie. The movie has been produced and directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. for ITC Entertainment, and its screenplay had been written by Peter S. Beagle as well (who stated that he thinks the movie is magnificent). It has been released in 1982.

via wikipedia.org

There are a few differences between the book and the movie in terms of plot and characters. The main difference is the whole storyline about the town of Hagsgate that prospers and knows no death because the rest of King Haggard’s country has to suffer, and the whole connection that Prince Lír has to the village, the foretelling about him bringing down the king and his castle and his subsequent ascendancy to the throne. There are also minor differences like the four soldiers in King Haggard’s castle in the book, the extension of the scene of Schmendrick with the enchanted tree in the movie, and the physical description of characters (most notably when it comes to Mommy Fortuna). Apart from that a lot of the dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book and reading it I felt like watching the movie. I read the book in German, so I guess a lot of its beauty in English is lost to me (well, I can still go and read it in English another time), but the German version was well-written and didn’t read like a translation, so, no complaints there.
Would you ask me to pick I probably would go with the movie. Part of that is without a doubt me growing up watching it every year, but I also like the concise point it makes, more so than the book with the Hagsgate storyline (which is short, admittedly) that reads overly moralistic in a book that already asks a lot of moral questions. Then again, the film version has its own flaw: The musical interludes. Yep, sometimes the characters sing, and it is especially painful when Lady Amalthea (aka the Unicorn) and Prince Lír profess their love for each other in song. Argh, now that I think about it maybe I should rather pick the novel over the film. Bottom line is, they are both really good.

via animatedviews.com

So, what is The Last Unicorn actually about? Other than the plot of a unicorn finding out about being the only one and saving all the others.
The question is not that easy to answer, which has to do with the different characters and the different things they stand for, I guess. One possible answer is: happiness. A world without unicorns is a world without happiness. As much as King Haggard is portrayed to be the villain, he is also one to identify with: There is little that makes him happy, entertainment, money, power, they all do nothing for him, even human contact doesn’t. But to look at unicorns and feel the joy, that is what keeps him alive. But what then is happiness? Possessing beautiful things? Pets? Enslaving other creatures? Hardly. So we could dig deeper and ask what the unicorn potentially stands for, and obviously there is also a moral tale. The unicorn and its close relationship to the forest is a strong symbol for the unity of all living matter, the necessity of cooperation between creatures and nature to make things work, to create a beautiful and healthy environment. However, the unicorn also stands for magic, being a magical creature it is a symbol of human imagination, of the things and the beauty human beings can come up with when they dream. The novel does not endorse just any sort of dream though, because as it repeatedly makes clear: you have to be pure-hearted and kind-spirited to be able to recognize the unicorn for what it is.

via laidown.com

One thing the unicorn is, is immortal. And another major theme of both novel and movie is the relationship we human beings have with death. The unicorn cannot die and once it is trapped in a human body it feels the flesh dying, something it has never felt before. Now, we don’t exactly feel ourselves dying, but we feel ourselves getting older, and facing the reality of our own death is something we all eventually have to do.
The Last Unicorn presents and comments upon various concepts of dealing with death and decay. There is Schmendrick, a sort of antithesis to the unicorn, because he is a mortal who becomes immortal temporarily (which is a paradox, I know thankyouverymuch), but wishes to age and die, because for him immortality is not just a symbolic sign of stagnation and zero development, but actually a very concrete reminder of his own inability to use magic the way he is supposed to be using it.
Molly Grue as a character feels like people we all know I’d say: Someone who hasn’t aged well, not only in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual one, because she had dreams and hopes and nothing ever really came of it. “Where have you been?” she asks the unicorn, “how dare you come to Molly Grue now that I am old?” Which is touching, because I’ve seen people like that time and again. And I always think that those people should not give up, which is what saves Molly Grue in the end. She thought that she had reached a point where it was all that is to it, but then there is the unicorn, the ability to dream of magic, and adventures ensue, which for her really mean doing chores somewhere else, but also expanding her horizons, meeting challenges and forming intimate bonds with other people.
King Haggard on the other hand has obviously been around far too long. He doesn’t even want to live, and he knows it, but he isn’t strong enough to let go. He is a slave to the Red Bull and/or the Red bull is a slave to him, the relationship is so old that they both don’t really remember, I suppose. He has never been happy, and he probably never really will be, cause his greed has brought him only one thing: Loss. He lost the ability to enjoy what he has, to appreciate it, and the only time he remembers what it means to appreciate what you have is when he looks at something he possesses but doesn’t really have: the unicorns and their connection with all living beings.

via tvmovie.de

There is not much to comment on with Prince Lír. Other than his father he too experiences loss (the love of his life, no less), but he becomes a better person for it, grows because of it, instead of stagnating like his father. Captain Cully becomes a better person because of losing his wife and men, singing and touring across the countries. And yes, of course, the Red Bull himself … There is a lot he potentially stands for and just because I can, I leave this one untouched for now.
A pet-peeve of mine is inconsistency within fictional universes. Now, The Last Unicorn is clearly fictional, although there is the occasional hint at a connection to our world, like e.g. the whole Robin Hood scene that brings Molly Grue to Schmendrick and the unicorn. And I can accept that, that is mighty fine with me. But what bugs me, is the butterfly and his crazy talk which would be okay if it weren’t for him talking about events that happen in a time that is clearly in the future (at least in my head) for the characters within the story. Or are we supposed to think that the world in The Last Unicorn is set in the future of our world? Then there is no representation of noble deeds other than Robin Hood? C’mon, really? It’s like this point in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says to wakening Frodo in Rivendell “It’s October” and I’m all like: Wait what? You invent whole languages for peoples populating this fictional universe and you won’t even come up with other terms for months? Or another system of counting time, a different sort of calendar? Can’t accept that, sorry. So, Mr. Butterfly, you get little love from me.

via brer-powerofbabel.blogspot.com

However, there is one part of the story I particularly like. In the movie even more so than in the novel, probably because that is really my image of the character. It is of course the part about Mommy Fortuna, how she captures the unicorn and Schmendrick, who we meet there for the first time, sets her free.
What I love about the whole passage is how it sums up so nicely what the rest of the story tries to convey: we are all mortals, trying to find a way to immortality, but we probably couldn’t even handle it.
Mommy Fortuna knows that she is a minor witch and will never become a great person that all humankind will remember infinitely. But she managed to capture two immortal beings, the unicorn and the harpy. She doesn’t say it in the book, but if I remember correctly says it in the movie: This is her kind of immortality. She might be long gone and forgotten by all other mortal beings, but the harpy cannot die, she is immortal and will forever remember the time she was held prisoner by Mommy Fortuna – and that is Mommy’s kind of immortality, being remembered forever by the harpy she humiliated by capturing. I love the brilliance of the concept, the sharpness of the honesty that Mommy Fortuna is able to tell herself that she isn’t made for greatness, but that the unlikely event of capturing immortal beings grants her a place in history that will be remembered longer than any history that human beings write down and pass on. And although I think we should not get stuck on dichotomies, I kinda really like the dichotomy of two immortal beings who are so very different from each other that one of them is willing to kill the other.

Okeyi, sum-up time. Needless to repeat it, but I do so nevertheless: The Last Unicorn, both novel and film, is a great story. It is grand exactly because it knows how to avoid mere gestures of grandness, the characters do not need to be stereotypical heroes and princesses, but they need to be flawed beings (even the unicorn, who has to learn that a mortal existence is no less of an existence than hers) in order to be able to achieve greatness and thus make the story grand and epic.

Get it, read it, watch it.

The Wheel of Time wheels us right over to the Towers of Midnight

Wooheeee everyone, happy new year, y’all!
I’ve been a little lot posting-lazy the past few weeks days, but what the hell? it’s 2011 (twothousandeleven) now, let’s just go!!
So to officially start the new year on this blog, let’s go for something familiar (review) of something really good (Wheel of time).

What initially inspired me to start blogging was my joy in finding people online expressing their opinions on things that they liked or didn’t and realizing how many of these things resonated with me – either positively or not so much, thank you.
One MAJOR reason was the Wheel of Time Re-Read by Leigh Butler over at tor.com, which is the website of the publishing house of the fantasy saga Wheel of time. This re-read is just heaven in so many different ways, so definitely go check out the thing here.

via tor.com

Before I get started: SPOILER WARNING!
If you intend to read on, you should do so either having already read the latest Wheel of Time novel entitled “Towers of Midnight” or planning to never read it, or so far in the future that you will have forgotten about this review. Because I’m gonna SPOIL, and with a passion, at that.

Soooo…..
I loved it.
Hah. Surprise. In all seriousness, I mean, it is the mothereffin’ Wheel of Time, so chances are predictably slim, that I would not like it. I have to say though, that I enjoyed the previous novel “The Gathering Storm” more than “Towers of Midnight.” I guess that stems from the particular and singular super-über-awesomeness that was Verin and her revelation in TGS, a surprising event that doesn’t have an equal within TOM. Plus, it probably also owes to TOM being less coherent POV-wise, since TGS was so very centered around the developments of Egwene and Rand, and it worked beautifully for that one. And yeah, Verin. There is still very little that tops that.

via fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com

Furthermore, there are a few things that bug me. Big time example being “Wheel of Time 90210.” I guess by now we all kinda figured out that the major underlying theme of the whole narrative is the whole yin-yang schtick with male and female force having to work together and be on equal terms. But does that really necessitate that all the main characters have to fall in love? With other main characters at that?
The couple I want to single out in particular for TOM is the unholy Berelain-Galad union. What the heck? I mean, come on. “The most beautiful woman in all Randland” and the “most handsome man in all Randland” fall in love with each other because they find each other so damn…attractive? This gets no originality points from me, sorriez. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being attracted, but pretty please, could it be a little less than mega-super-eternal-love at first sight? As much as I dread some plotlines associated with Faile and Perrin, at least I believe that they fell in love with each other and therefore care about each other. Hell, even the whole Morgase – Tallanvor thing, I kinda buy into, and that says a lot, cause that relationship comes off as terribly constructed. But Berelain and Galad? Sorry, no fan.
And while we’re at it: Moiraine and Thom? The last book made it kinda clear already, but: why, oh why? Moiraine and Thome were awesome characters in their own right, and hey, let them have love, but what I decidedly do not want to read about is a love-affair that does not hold any credibility for me whatsoever, just to finally have the two be with someone. Urgh. Undo, please.

To be honest, that Thom-thing sort of ruined the whole rescue-Moiraine-action for me. I was soo looking forward to it, much like anyone, I guess. I mean, girl got out with a fucking bang, and I was pumped to see her coming back with an even bigger one. But what we got felt kind of mediocre. To me, the whole Eelfinn/Aelfinn episode felt much too short, I didn’t feel that we were farther from the entrance than two steps even though I was supposed to and then it got all like: hey, there she is, take her, run and out with the magic stick. Whee, dunnit. I expected half of the novel to be about the rescue mission and wondered for 750+ pages if we’d even get there. I wanted to read more about this other realm, I wanted more creativity concerning the bargains and the getting out, and yeah, I wanted more Moiraine. Not just the unconscious/swooning over Thom type. Blah.

via cinemablend.com

Another part that left me underwhelmed was the one about Aviendah’s visions. In the past these sort of chapters were among the best and most interesting to me, and even this one is kind of awesome in what we get to see and experience, I just felt that the order was the wrong way round. From a narrative perspective it might make sense to start with what lies farthest in the future, so that we readers don’t immediately grasp what the whole thing is about, but the closer we got to actual events, the lamer it felt, especially since the whole outcome was suspect number one already after the first paragraph. I wanted it to progress from now to extinction, with a little more people in between. I’m a greedy fan, I know.

I was content with the amount of fake-reality-scenes for Nynaeve’s chapter in the Ter’Angreal, though. What I could have done decidedly less with is Elayne-chapters. Ok, hands up now: Who actually likes the Elayne character? The whole Succession storyline was not exactly a thrill IMHO, and her appearances in TOM made me all go: you scheming little brat. Gee, she sucks. There she is surrounded by cool characters like Birgitte and then she is just such a manipulating little thing. Made me realize once again: This whole Rand and three girls thing (which I have major issues with for its rampant sexist notions) is just not believable to me, because I feel like the only virtue Elayne possesses is looking pretty, and this getting you married to the Dragon Reborn does not pleaseth me, mind you. I also don’t buy the Aviendah-Rand part of the rectangle, even though I like her. I think she’s interesting, but I don’t think either her or Rand know each other (and I think she should have gotten more screen time in TOM) all too well. And then there is just Min, who is all kinds of adorable and awesome and like the real companion of Rand, so: what the hell?

via monkeysloth.net

Up until now, this turned out to be a rather whiny review, right? But then again there is the singular awesomeness of making Perrin an interesting and likeable character again. Thanks, light, yay! Yay! I mean, Perrin, where have you been? The whole rescue-Faile plot was not only too long and too sexist in its implications, but you were also a total a-hole in it, and the issues that you resolve in this very novel weren’t even resolved by the shitty plotline preceding it. But now: Cookies and milk, y’all, Mr. Blacksmith is back blacksmithing mighty hammers and leading people in need and being incredibly noble about rescuing foes and submitting to law…. Awww, fantastic. There was a time when Perrin was my favorite character, which was ca. 10 books ago, but now I at least remember why that might have been. Even Faile didn’t suck as much as she used to. Oh, and of course extra-honorable mention of the wolf-dream a.k.a. Tel’aran’rhiod and all the wolf-spirits. Bye Hopper (sniff) but whoa, Boundless, that was a twist I didn’t see coming and loved for what it did. Thumbs up!

And while we’re at it: Galad? Like: Galad?? Didn’t see that one coming, meaning, the fact that I now kinda like you even though you’ve been a total dickhead the last 12 books. Even the whole Children of the Light gang is somewhat redeemed, who’da thunk dat?
Same goes for Gawyn and some serious badassery against the evil Seanchan assassins. Well done, and suckitude level of his character lowered considerably. Me likey, a lot.

via edwardcheever.files.wordpress.com

Then we had clever Graendal, whose plans were crossed in any imaginable way, so all the cleverness gone to waste really. And Egwene, who was all kinds of awesome in TGS and turned out to be a little on the sucky side in this one. I guess she has to be, in order to bring the finger-snapping diva-contest between her and Rand to its climax in the next instalment A Memory of Light.
Finally, the secrecy around Morgase came to an end, that kind of was about time.
And finally (a little) more of the Black Tower. And uh oh, major creepiness ahead.
Do I have to mention how much I still heart Nyneave and Mat? No. But I totally want to. I love these characters!

All in all a solid thirteenth novel, which sounds like I’m hating it. I do very much not do so, but it is the penultimate novel, so it has to wrap up things and build up tension, so naturally it creates anticipation without being the book that was written to let shit hit the fan and see people bringing The Awesome. Kewl, that we finally have synched timelines for all our major characters, cause in 2012 we’ll be reading about a lot of Shadowspawn bringing evil of all sorts, battles of epic extent and hopefully a few dead main characters. It’s fucking Tarmon Gai’don, folks.

Haven’t read Towers of Midnight yet? Go and do so!
Haven’t read any Wheel of Time novel? Lower your head in shame and do something about it!

Legendary feathered Guardians

Before I get to finally review a favorite movie again, I’m going to work my way through a review of the recently released (still playing in places) The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.
Oh, what is that? you ask? You’ve got a point there, admittedly. It’s interesting, but while the movie obviously cost quite a few bucks, they somehow didn’t spend too much on advertisement, since basically none of the people I told about this movie had ever heard of it before.
So what is it about? Think of a mash-up of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, re-enacted with owls. And yes, you read just right: owls as in owls, the birds.

See, I’m a big fan of all things fantasy, and Sauron knows how seldom fantasy movies are good, alone in terms of styling, look and alla that (let’s not even start about plot or messages). So I was pleasantly surprised, because being the all around CGI thing that Legend of the Guardians is, it looked amazing. As in really fantastically awesomely amazing. There are several sequences within the movie that are breathtaking, throughout the whole movie the animation of all the owls is superb and there never is a moment when the CGI looks cheap or just downright unbelievable. Seems like animators in China have worked overtime on this one.

via kinofilmtrailer.de

Having said all that, the movie sucks. Since it looks so good, expectations are high (at least when I want it to be a good movie), and I could have done with a mediocre plot and stuff. What ultimately happened is that I left the cinema feeling somewhat betrayed, because it’s all there: Awesome animation, the willingness to tell a story and a whole bunch of potentially interesting characters to work with. All of that didn’t add up because of some horrible mistakes owing to Hollywood-mainstreaming of tropes and characters and left me with the distinct impression, that there was a huge bucket of potential just thrown back in the sea, leaving us with a promise that never got fulfilled. Yes, that dramatic.

via filmonic.com

The storytelling in Legend of the Guardians has two major flaws: Forgetting that it is a fantasy and undermining its own message.
The first flaw is one that we encounter numerous times within the genre of Fantasy (be it books, comics, video games or movies): A fantasy world is created, and while it inevitably will mirror our world and our realities, it is important that it follows its own logic. And not that of our world. This concept boils down to one central question: When it is a fantasy realm, why does everyone have to behave like they’re living in our world and everything take place like there were no other possibilities? It is a frustrating question to pose at Legend of the Guardians, because it starts with interesting premises: There are no human beings in this world (although I got the sense, that there have been humans in the past – do the books elaborate on that?), or at least we never get to see them. There are other species besides the owls, but the story focuses on them, which is fine and works to some extent. Because this is the first step into troubling-questions-territory: Why does the protagonist-owl-Soren have a snake-nanny? And why is she the only snake we ever get to see? Even if she’s just a mere token to add some diverse flavour (which is a whole bag of no-no to avoid), why a snake? Leaving that question open does not create mystery, but confusion, cause it reeks of world-building not thought through.
A similar problem is the owls blacksmithing: The concept itself is so ridiculous and out of the blue that it becomes really intriguing, but the movie never takes it to the level of exploring how owls would come to do this, and how their physical features would lead to the creation of other techniques and tools. What we get is owls working with human tools and human concepts and some (terrific, admittedly) CGI to make it look plausible.
But these two issues are only halfway to what really bothers me. If this is a fucking fantasy world, how come that we have to reproduce sexist gender stereotypes (among owls)? I would swallow a whole lot of the concept if it made sense, since we have a patriarchal owl society with supremacist tendencies, where a group of liberal minded owls struggle for the freedom of all, but while that makes for a nice concept, it never translates into the plot and into the characters, in that they are predominantly male, with the females being a) evil, b) love interests, c) sisters in need of protection, or d) mothers. And for the Bechdel test: the female characters never talk to each other in terms of having an actual conversation, and their interaction remains limited to either being enemies, rivals, or mother and daughter.
This film would have fared a lot better if it would have taken its female characters serious and thought about how this owl society might be gender equal (and still produce supremacist tendencies in some). The closest we get to that is with the evil queen Nyra, who rules and rages, but since she is the only one being that powerful or even round as a character and the unmistakably evil one – well, that makes for an unsettling message.
 

via filmkinotrailer.com

Which leads us to the other flaw:
I applaud the movie for taking up such a subject matter and turning it into a movie for children. It is a creative and slightly subversive way of talking about the issue of racism, about what happened in Nazi-Germany and Apartheid regimes all over the world. However, it goes terribly wrong.
While obviously someone (presumably the authoress) has thought, that the whole “the Tyto-owls are the best” mantra uttered by the bad guys isn’t really countered by, ermh, the hero (and the alterna-owls king and queen in Ga’Hoole…?), and it might be good to come up with Lyze van Kiel to provide a hero that is not of this particular owl-“race,” he ultimately turns out to not be able to really defeat the bad guy and we end up with the message that it is bad to think that the Tyto-owls are better than all the rest, but really, within the main cast, they really are better than the rest. I’m a little stunned that it never occurred to anyone in the production process that the whole morale of the story is basically undermined and that they actually perpetuate the supremacist-owls message. Which is basically like saying: Racism is bad, but what it really needs, is a white guy to free all them black folks, cause they are too weak to do it themselves. Which is, yep, a very racist notion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about either-or, both sides have to work together, but in a struggle against oppression by one dominant group, it is those who are not part of the dominant group by default, who should lead the struggle and define their goals. Soren is in a privileged position, and he rejects it, instead choosing to help, but he ultimately does not focus on the help aspect (which also encompasses letting other owls have their say and support them in their leadership), but becomes the hero by bringing about the sort of change he envisions. We’ll totally get to that in my review of “White Like Me” by Tim Wise, hopefully tomorrow.

via filmkinotrailer.de

So, to sum up: The movie sucks because there is beautiful animation, an interesting and highly relevant issue and some interesting ideas (Why only owls? Where does the whole story take place? How is the whole owl-society structured?), but ultimately the thing doesn’t take off, because the producers didn’t dare to make it the fantasy world that it is and even worse, didn’t trust their own message, blurted it out, but rejected it for the actual story. Non-white owls (cause that is what they are by implication) are just as awesome as the white-owls, we are told, but sorry, not awesome enough to carry the story and resolve the struggle, we’ll leave that to the white-owl-dude (cause how could it be a woman, right?). I just realize that I haven’t even talked about the Cain and Abel storyline of brother against brother, but let me say this: I felt it was forced, even though it could have been a lot worse than it was. And the addition of the little sister to make sure we understand on whose side we are supposed to be is blatant evidence of how little the producers didn’t trust their supposed audience to get it. Urgh.

Sum up of the sum up: The movie sucks in a lot of ways, but I’d still recommend you to see it. Not only for the amazing animation, but for the potential buried beneath the dreck. Oh, and it totally got me interested in the books, hoping they’ll prove to be better thought through.

Just read A Game of Thrones

Ok, I know I’m late to the game. But then again it is a book. Books are for eternity and yadda yadda alla that. Didn’t you wonder already why no book-review has happened on this blog so far? You better have, cause here comes one.

via bscreview.com

A Game of Thrones is the first book of a series by George R.R. Martin called “Song of Ice and Fire.” It was published in 1996 and by now the whole series consists of four novels, though at least three more are to follow. Apparently, fans are kind of disgruntled for George R.R. Martin taking so long to finish manuscripts. They seem to fear that he might “pull a Robert Jordan” on them, and if you happen to love The Wheel of Time, you know what that means. And yes, in time we will get to The Wheel of Time. Don’t worry.

My overall impression of Game of Thrones is mixed. I was very underwhelmed in the beginning but the novel kept surprising me in good ways, so that I’m now able to firmly state: I’m going to read on!

SPOILER ALERT: This is not a review that is intended to make you interested. Well it is, but you have to stop reading here, then. Because from here on I tell you why I loved it and it involves some spoilers. The first section – The Minuses – are practically spoiler free, but if you haven’t read it yet, please do so first and skip The Pluses for now.

The Minuses:
It’s predictability in parts – owing to some cookie cutter characterizations.
Some of the characters in this book are just so very fantasy book characters that it hurts. Sansa the naïve princess. Even a worse item out of the cliché-box: Arya, with her being all non-lady-like and tangled hair and stuff and therefore supposed to be earning our sympathies all along. Jon Snow with his torn heart between filial piety and bonds of brotherhood, or whatever. Some of them feel like I’ve encountered them a gazillion times before, and while they were already pretty stale the last few hundred times around they are just too effing predictable this time.

Sansa.
Speaking of clichéd characters, here is one. Pretty, sort of stupid, but a heart of gold. Needs all her dreams to be shattered in order to see how people really are. Urgh. Not only is it uncomfortably sexist to only have a female character be like that, but it’s also so been-done-before and uninspiring that at the beginning of all of her chapters I wish it would just go away. I asked myself: isn’t it good writing when one character gets you on edge like that? It would be if it’d be the character and not the clichéd assumptions and tropes that inform the creation of that character. Sansa is a definite fail, but I guess I have to put up with her until the end, when she becomes all good queen or something. Please not.

The “can’t my father love me” trope.
I’ve read tons of little observations of sons discovering who their father really is and how they can form a bond despite all distance between them lately, but still, the “oh my father rejects me and I want to prove myself to him for his love” trope makes my toenails curl. Because it usually is so horribly oversimplified and downright foreseeable that it makes me cringe, and Game of Thrones unfortunately is no exception. Jon Snow being the prime example. Urgh, no.

Weak princess becoming strong queen. Sort of.
Daenerys, oh, Daenerys. Oh my, barbarians, and then, oh yes, love and sex, and then, oh look, how powerful I am because I am all strong inside now. This reads like something that happened lots of times before and leaves me with the distinct impression that there needs to be a twist to not make me hate that whole storyline. Luckily, Martin came up with one, so see below.

Bran.
Props for having somebody paralyzed but I hope hope hope he will not be recovering, and that’ll be the externalisation of his inner journey. Cause then I’ll hate him even more than I already do, cause honestly, the wide eyed curios boy getting in trouble but eventually overcoming all fears and obstacles thing gets on my nerves.

Robb.
I’m so young, but I gotta rule. Oh my, poor you. Get a cookie and cry some. Don’t get me wrong, responsibility is a burden to bear, but, well, does he have to bear it like that? Is there no other way to make him a likeable and responsible character but having him be the wise warlord? Thanks no.

The Pluses:
The Others.
Oh, why, hello! You are like undead zombies and eventually you’ll set out to kill practically everyone populating these novels? That sounds intriguing. Where do you come from, why do you want to do it, how come you are undead? The Others make me ask so many questions with giddy excitement, I so want to know more about them. Sweet, creepy action when they appear. More!

The Wall.
The Wall is super interesting because of what it represents, and what it represents is a) anything beyond, including the Others, the peoples living beyond the wall, the haunted forests and the like and b) it’s own history that dates back thousands of years. Who built it? Why? How? As with the Others, it’s the mystery that makes me want to read more about it, and more Jon Snow chapters, although I am not his biggest fan.

The Children.
See the Others and the Wall. Who were they? What’s the secret of the Godswoods and alla that? Interesting for being so deep down in the mists.

Tyrion.
His own kind of cliché it is nevertheless very refreshing to read about a character that is considered by basically everyone else to be disabled and therefore useless while he turns out to be one of the most able and clever characters around. I applaud that for its breaking-up of standard-hero-stereotyping.

Samwell Tarly.
The same goes for Sam. Yep, he is a done-before kind of character as well, but my sympathies are always with those overweight who have no interest in picking up the sword and admit to being afraid of the dark. Theses characters rock in their own sort of way, and Sam sure does.

Daenerys’ “book of Job”-like journey.
Ok, so while parts of Daenerys storyline annoy me, there are other parts that are so far on the plus side that it becomes actually interesting. So her brother dies, and a storyline that I though would be with us for like ever, just dies with him. Ace. Then her son who is prophesised to be the Chosen One (yeah, another one of these stereotypical fantasy tropes) never gets to be born. Another annoying storyline perfectly avoided. Her husband who turns out to be cruel but somewhat honorable (or whatever) wants to take her to her homelands and what feels to become a storyline for the next three books just gets burnt down on the grass plains beneath the stars when she sets his body to flames, after having suffocated him. That is some seriously storybending shit at every corner, not to forget her own myth-birth with the three dragons that by now I actually look forward to read more about Daenerys. Well done!

Main characters dying.
You might be able to tell by reading the paragraph before this one: I like it when main or at least important characters die. And whoa, we get a lot of that. King Robert, Viserys, Khal Drogo and most importantly: Eddard. All of that came pretty surprisingly, especially since I saw storylines unfolding that I feared to be around for the next three novels, and now, they never come to be. Creating their own new storylines just like that. Clever twist, and I appreciate it.

I’m curious to see if the next novel can keep the good impression up.
I also read about there being a TV series produced by HBO, and a first trailer is online apparently, but you have to youtube it yourself if you haven’t done so yet, because of stupid regulations I am not able to view any of the online trailers from Germany. Sucks.

So, if you haven’t read A Game of Thrones yet, and still made it this far in the post, I recommend you to do so!