Movie Review: Thor: the Dark World

In preparation to see Thor: Ragnarök, I watched Thor: the Dark World, as I had not seen it yet.

“When Dr. Jane Foster gets cursed with a powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor is heralded of the cosmic event known as the Convergence and the genocidal Dark Elves.”

I’m not really sure what to say about this movie, which usually doesn’t bode well for my thoughts on a movie. I mean, I guess the movie was okay for what it was but the entire concept was kind of ridiculous and didn’t really fit with the Marvel world-building for the other movies so far. I get that Thor is an Asgardian and their world is vastly different, which means this movie didn’t necessarily need to fit into Marvel’s current storylines, but it still felt incongruent.

I also feel as though the characters could have made a bunch of much better decisions about the way things went. Jane gets teleported to a random, very dark and unpleasant cave and her first scientific instinct is to go and touch the creepy looking thing? You would think that as a scientist, she would want the proper equipment so as to not contaminate whatever was going on, or even that she would want to find out how to get back where she came from as a first priority. Science is about exploring the unknown, but if you don’t know how the unknown is happening and you can’t replicate it, it’s not really science. Science is about understanding the world, so yes, there is a certain level of exploration, but it’s usually done in a way that can be proven or disproven later.

What did Erik’s lack of pants have to do with anything? There was absolutely zero reason for him to have a thing against pants except if they were trying to use his experiences with being mind-controlled by Loki in the Avengers as a show of mental trauma, which is a horrible thing to do as it makes fun of people who have experienced really crappy life events which have potentially given them bad coping mechanisms. I think they probably thought they were being funny by using this example but it really just came off to me as being heartless and cruel and it seriously served zero point in the story.

Why, exactly, did Frigga, one of Asgard’s most beloved fighters, get killed? Oh. Right. It’s because male Hollywood writers feel that all women of value must be broken or killed because heaven forbid women are able to do something other than be motivation for the male characters, and usually that motivation is revenge or grief-based on the loss of someone who only mattered because they were killed.

Which then brings me to Sif. Why does Odin keep trying to hook Sif up with Thor? Maybe Sif doesn’t want or need to be arm candy to some prince. Maybe Sif is happy out battling Asgard’s enemies and a relationship would only tie her down, especially a relationship to Odin’s son and all the baggage that goes with it.

Why must every woman in every movie ever always be some sort of love interest for someone? Even Darcy has to have a love interest. But we don’t see old Erik running around, finding love interests everywhere. The everyone must be a love interest thing appears to only apply to women. Because OF COURSE women are only there to be someone’s love interest. What other purpose could women serve?

Ugh.

So overall, I’d definitely rate this movie as a very low two or even a one on my rating scale. I may or may not watch it again if someone else was already watching it and I certainly have no desire to own or watch this movie ever again on my own.

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Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel by Cressida Cowell

I’m working to close out all the books I read in 2017 before 2018 hits and the tenth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel (Young Adult 389 pages) by Cressida Cowell was one I actually read and finished several months ago, before my life went straight down the busy toilet.

“The dragon rebellion has begun – bringing the Vikings’ darkest hour upon them. Hiccup has become an utter Outcast, but that doesn’t stop him from seeking answers to important questions: Where is the Dragon Jewel? What happened to Fishlegs? And … when will Hiccup see his mother again?”

As usual, there is absolutely no way I can talk about the best parts of this book without massive spoilers. So if you haven’t read this book (and, to be honest, the whole series to this point) and you want to be surprised by the events in this book, I recommend you stop reading this review right now so nothing is spoiled or ruined for you.

This book starts out with Hiccup in a very bad place, bruised, beaten, starving, exhausted, and cut off from everything and everyone. He’s tracked into the forest by an amazing warrior, who just happens to be his mother. While the two don’t exactly have a dialogue, this opening scene definitely set the tone for the entire book.

While Hiccup intends on sneaking onto the prison to search for the dragon’s jewel, but because of his attached dragons, he winds up as a prisoner instead of having free reign through the area. It’s heart-wrenching to see what’s become of Hiccup’s tribe and his family and even the members of his tribe who didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with him. He even has to choose what to do about Snotlout, who is put into several very uncomfortable situations that Hiccup can actually help him with. This was a really interesting part of the story for me – here is a character who has been nothing but rotten to everyone, including and especially Hiccup, for the last nine books and he’s in a lot of trouble. Snotlout could be killed during the amber runs or he could be left behind. He could be killed by Alvin and the Witch and Hiccup had to make the choice to save Snotlout’s life, even though Snotlout had never really done anything in his entire life that would motivate someone to want to save him. Hiccup chose to save Snotlout because it was the right thing to do, which is what makes Hiccup the hero and the “good guy” for this story.

Heroes aren’t made by doing the easy thing; heroes are made by making the right choices, regardless of who is watching or what those decisions will do to the hero.

Page 343 really sums up what being a hero is like: “Alone, Hiccup had stood up against Alvin the Treacherous and the entire weight of the Tribes. Alone, he had stood up for what he believed in, for what he felt was right, even when everyone else thought he was wrong.”

Camicazi also demonstrates that sometimes, you have to learn how to be a hero. Sometimes, you have to learn how to stand up for what you believe is right and learn how to not bend to peer pressure. When she encounters Hiccup in this book, she apologizes to Hiccup for turning her back on him like everyone except Fishlegs did when Hiccup’s slave mark was revealed in the last book. And once she finds him, she refused to abandon him again, instead becoming a vocal and motivational supporter.

This entire book, especially the last half, is so full of emotion and so much happens that I do think you should read it for yourself. Overall, this book and the series continues to be a high three on my rating scale and I’m definitely glad I own this book and will definitely reread it again in the future.

Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

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Movie Review: Atlantis the Lost Empire

“A young adventurer named Milo Thatch joins an intrepid group of explorers to find the mysterious lost continent of Atlantis.”

Atlantis: the Lost Empire is another of those movies I was introduced to because of someone who meant the world to me, though I did not watch this at that time, it was listed as a movie I should watch. Tonight, while sorting some files, I decided to keep making a dent of the list of movies I haven’t seen.

Milo is your typical scholar who spends all his time studying his passion. He doesn’t interact very well with the “outside” world and works in the basement with the boiler and that is the only part of his job that the university appreciates, as they certainly don’t appreciate his knowledge and desire for understanding. I really liked that his knowledge was useful and important in helping to save Atlantis.

This movie is actually really, really good and I’m glad I watched it. The cast is remarkably diverse. Audrey, the chief mechanic, is a teenage woman who said that her father wanted two boys, one to run the shop and one to be the middle-weight champion, and she was the one who got the shop. She is on the expedition to save up enough money to buy another shop. She isn’t white or thin and she is interesting.

Then there’s Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet, who is a very well-muscled doctor, which seems like contradictory things, but he’s a really nice guy and a great character. The demolition expert who grew up in a family of florists, the mole who is an expert on dirt and geology, and the military personnel who make the expedition go forward.

Princess “Kida” Kidagakash is a fantastic representative of a true princess; someone who thinks first of her people and taking care of them. Her only thoughts are providing actual life for her people, in the sense of keeping their culture alive and thriving, not just surviving and making ends meet. She doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself when her city requires it. She’s adventurous, smart, and caring. She takes the travelers in and shows Milo around. He helps her translate the murals and shows her the history of her people.

Overall, this movie is a solid three on my rating scale. I need to officially add this movie to my collection so that I can watch it whenever I wish. It’s a good movie with a lot of really interesting characters and an intriguing story.

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Book Review: the Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

One of my newest holiday traditions is to read a book at the same time as one of my friends and then discuss the book as we both progress. I picked the book for this year because it’s actually rather complicated to find new books for us to read. The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington (fantasy 693 pages) was chosen because a local bookseller recommended it for people who like Brandon Sanderson, the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan, and massive world-building video games.

“As destiny calls, a journey begins. It has been twenty years since the godlike Augurs were overthrown and killed. Those who once served them – the Gifted – were spared only after accepting the rebellion’s Four Tenets, which vastly limited their powers. Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. When he discovers that he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in a forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is … And in the far north, an ancient enemy begins to stir.”

This is probably the largest fiction book I’ve read in a long, long time. I read the entire book during the two days I spent on the train, traveling for the holidays. This book is definitely the first book in a series, which means the book ends at a place mostly okay for the main characters but there is definitely a lot left unresolved by the end of the first book. I was tempted to go out and buy the second book when I returned from my holiday travels but then I realized the third book in the series is due out in 2018. I think I’ll wait until the third book comes out before I buy the second because I feel like there’s just so much going on in this series that I’ll likely want to reread the first book and then binge the second and third books.

A lot happens in this book and there are a lot of characters. I found it mildly difficult to tell the characters apart and I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be paying attention to because random deaths happened throughout the book. It’s probably just me, but I felt like the characters didn’t really have any discerning characteristics that would let me know they were different people. No one was particularly witty or generous or spoke differently which made it complicated for me to tell who was who, except by categorizing them internally as “the chosen, yet powerful nerd”, “the athletic jock”, and “the token female/love interest”. Though another woman does enter the story later, she is also used as a love interest. The characters don’t seem particularly special or memorable, but the mystery of Caeden is fairly intriguing and I think the next books will provide an interesting look as to concepts such as “good guys” and “bad guys”, which the end of this book touches on a bit.

Overall, I’d say this book is probably a high two on my rating scale. It’s not particularly memorable at the current time but I am curious as to what happens with the revelations near the end of the book. I think I’ll wait until I’ve finished reading the entire series before I make a final judgment call as to whether I’m happy I own the books or not.

Islington, James. The Shadow of What Was Lost. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2015.

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Movie Review: the Adventures of Tintin

“Intrepid reporter Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock’s ancestor.”

While I distinctly remember writing a movie review of this movie several years ago, I can’t find a record of it so I’m going to do another review anyway. This movie came out in 2011 but I didn’t see it until I was travelling elsewhere in 2013. Since then, I have watched it several times with the residual memory of where I was and the individual with whom I originally saw this movie.

This movie had a lot of really good points about it and I liked how it showed problem-solving and intelligence, with a combination of understandable action. One of the really good things about this movie is near the end where Tintin experiences some self-doubt and Captain Haddock tells Tintin never to let failure defeat you.

While the lack of women in this movie is a little concerning, it also means that there was a distinct lack of a romantic or sexual subplot, which is oddly refreshing. I sometimes just wish that more movies would disregard the romantic or sexual subplot but also have women in them at the same time.

Overall, the movie is interesting and combines a detective story with humor and interesting animation techniques. I rate it as a solid three on my rating scale. It’s a movie I’m happy to watch every now and again.

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Sometimes things work out. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you just need to walk your own paths for a time to figure out who you are by yourself in order to make a stronger match in the future.

Learn. Grow. Make the world a better place. Always thank the stars for giving you the beauty of night-time to wish, dream, and feel. Breathe in the night air and wonder if dawn will come again.

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How art actually works

Every day, I see fantastic things posted to my tumblr. Wonderful art work with cute stories; doodles that may have taken the artists minutes or years and stories written so well my heart aches. I see those posts start with such a tiny amount of notes and then they get reblogged and shared and liked and I soon see the same post shared from a variety of the blogs I follow. The blogs I follow apparently have hundreds or even thousands of followers and all those people like and share the posts, which generate more interest for the original post.

Cognitively, I acknowledge it takes years to develop followings and to garner support for your online presence. I know that you have to consistently post content readers want to see. You have to interact with the people who follow you and encourage them to feel like part of the story.

While I know all of this, I still feel unpleasant thoughts and feelings when I post creative things which I’ve drawn, colored, or written, things that move my heart and mean something to me, things I’ve invested pieces of my heart and soul in, only to have these things with so much of my heart ignored in the void of the internet. I know that if I posted more consistently and if I posted more viable content that I would have a larger following and might even have people who would share some of my soul when I post it for the void. I also know that people are uncomfortable being the first one to “like” something or the first one to “reblog” something. People are worried about how their own followers will view the content of their blogs and they don’t want to be seen as someone who is supporting the unknown. People like being a part of the band wagon – they like feeling as though they are not the only ones who found that art work moving or that cat video hilarious.

But I continue to post those things which matter to me because they matter to me. And I guess this is just my way of keeping track of my own life anyway. I post for me, to keep a record and make sure I’m making progress in my life. It matters to me and that should be enough.

The truth about art is that it’s mostly a solitary pursuit and it’s really easy to feel isolated and alone and as though nothing I say or do matters. It’s really easy to listen to the poison in my head that says my feelings, thoughts, and opinions have no value. It’s a struggle every day to tell the stupid negativity in my head to shut the hell up. Sometimes, I’m strong enough to defeat the negativity in my head, sometimes, I don’t have the energy to do anything other than let it drone on, and sometimes, I am so exhausted that I find myself believing all the horrible things those negative thoughts say. Maybe what I have to say isn’t important. Maybe what I have to say evokes no emotions in others.

So it goes.

And here’s my very own example of art that means something to me but is unlikely to ever be seen by someone who has any sort of emotion because of my words.

20171202: A letter to someone who I miss with all my heart. [text reads: What would I say to you if you would listen to me right now or read the words I write? Would I tell you the same things I say out loud a thousand times a day to my empty life and my empty apartment? About how sorry I am for what happened, about how I know what I did was wrong, about how much I’ve changed and grown because of you? Would I tell you how much I love you and how much I miss you? Would I tell you the positive things in my life, the multitude of days working on technique and actually becoming a better rock climber? Would I tell you about all the times I laughed, wishing every time you were laughing with me? Would I show you the novels I’ve written in your absence about our make-believe adventures in space and how much I wish you were here so we could make graphic novels together? Would I try and express my understanding about being neurodivergent; depression anxiety, mood and attention disorders, and how to be supportive? Would I try and tell you about the people I’ve met online and how I’ve tried to help? Would I turn on the rainy day slow dance playlist I made and ask you dance? Would I tell you about my daydreams of us sharing a life together and how it’s the quiet days of you drawing and me writing which always make me smile? Would I tell you how I wish every night your life is filled with laughter, love, friends, family, joy, and happiness? Would I tell you how hope is the driving force in my life; the hope that someday, you’ll give us another chance?]

I guess what I’ll say at the end of this is that when you see art work you like or when something moves you, let the artist know. If you cried at the end of a novel because of the character, let the author know. Creative art in any capacity is usually created by an artist or a writer or a dancer or a musician who feels like nothing they do matters and they wonder every day if they should just quit and hire themselves out as a professional poisonous fungus taste tester. Art is a part of the heart and soul; it’s what makes everything worthwhile.

If you’re an artist in any capacity, continue making your work. Continue creating those fantastic works. Continue practicing your craft and getting better. Share the things you feel motivated to share and ask for commissions for those things which others ask of you. I believe in you and your work matters 🙂

Oh, and don’t steal other people’s work and pass it off as your own because that’s a total dickhead thing to do. If you like an artist’s work, support them and try to make it so they aren’t starving to death in a cardboard box under a sewer drain in the winter. If they starve to death, they won’t be able to make more fantastic content for you.

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Extended Silence

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been super busy with grad school (again) and things have been extra stressful at work. I’ve got a lot of thoughts in my head and some of them need to be mentioned so maybe I can remember to write about them later.

1) It Gets Better posted a question about whether or not there’s enough asexual representation in media and entertainment and all the comments are filled with so many people talking about how asexuals aren’t discriminated against or are sociopaths or so many other negative comments. I don’t think I saw any comments by asexual people because, if they’re anything like me, they’re absolutely exhausted of fighting battles everyday with everyone who likes to be discriminatory just because they can. I spent 34 years of my life feeling absolutely broken because I don’t experience sexual attraction. And then I learned that there are other people like me and there’s a community and it made everything a lot easier. But that community isn’t allowed in “gay” spaces and it isn’t allowed in “het” spaces and it’s just … heartbreaking and confusing, I guess, is the best way to describe it. Religious people don’t mind asexuals because we mostly aren’t participating in hedonistic sexual activities but as soon as you say you experience romantic attraction to the same sex, you’re right back in the toilet. It’s especially bad if you aren’t willing to be a breeder and just pop out some kids because it’s your womanly job to do so.

2) I watched the first episode of Supergirl season 3 last week on Thursday (I think) and I don’t think that show is getting enough credit. I’ve seen so many people post that Alex and Maggie’s relationship is stereotypical and that it isn’t a good “lesbian” story and it just makes me so very, very frustrated. I think they’ve done a great job with showing what it’s like to be a full-grown adult with a job, a life, and a family having to work through what your actual feelings are and why. Especially when you have to fight your entire societal upbringing about your own internalized views on love and relationships. I want to see Alex and Maggie happy because “bury your gays” is too common of a trope and it’d be nice to see a non-hetero couple on mainstream television actually have a happy story because so far, most of them don’t.

The series as a whole also has engaging and interesting villains who also happen to be women. The women presented as villains are relatable and not the typical unstable, selfish, catty jerks that women are typically seen to portray when dealing with most mainstream entertainment. I also think the show is doing a good job at showing how the real world works. In the first episode of season 3, Lena Luthor is in a business meeting and she’s the only woman present, which is still how most of the world is; most of the dominant and powerful positions in the world are still held by men and women still make only 75% of what men make.

Many other reviews I’ve seen on various social media sites say that they don’t like Mon-el at all and that he’s basically just there as a screw-toy for Supergirl. I think that, as a character, he was someone who really pissed me off earlier in season 2, but I also saw that he did his best to learn and grow and understand the world a lot better. He learned how to cook, he watched shows Kara liked, he tried his best to do better. More importantly, he made Kara Danvers/Supergirl happy. How many people in the real life have seen relationships between people who made zero sense whatsoever, but the couple clearly and unequivocally loved each other? I know I’ve seen it. And anytime there is a divide where a person starts out as a not very good person because of their societal upbringing and works to learn and grow and become better, I automatically want to give them that chance. I am also sick and tired of DC Comics and their opinion that all their heroes must be miserable and the only way you can truly tell who a hero is centers around their sacrificing of everything important to them. It’s like the standard comic book storyline of a superhero having a love interest and that love interest must either be kidnapped or killed or support the entire “girlfriend in the fridge” trope. Is Mon-el a perfect character? Absolutely not. But he did a lot of things to become a better person and I respect that greatly. He also made Kara happy, which is more important in my mind.

3) I have enough poems marked in my black book that I’ve written in sporadically over the last five years that I think I should start working to compile them into something publishable. I have apparently written many, many poems over the years and as much as I’d rather have my first real works available to the world be my Explorers trilogy, I think it’s long past time I realize that I also have a thing for poetry. I could, and probably should, start going through all my old files and finding all the random scraps of poetry I’ve written when I magically have couplets in my head (which happens more often than I’d like to admit). So I guess I’ll start researching some small or university presses in order to find a home for my (really bad) poetry.

4) The political situation is getting absolutely out of hand. Several of my coworkers are those who are in love with their guns. They conceal carry everywhere they go, have their own arsenals, encourage everyone around them to have their own arsenals, and even answer the door with their gun. These same people will argue loudly and passionately that “the left” is the problem and that all the mass shootings in the U.S. in the last several years have all been perpetrated by registered Democrats. These coworkers also talk about how transpeople are all “weirdos” and they don’t want them anywhere around them. My coworkers are small-minded bigots and it makes me feel unsafe because I am also a “weirdo” to them, even though they don’t know it, because of my asexuality and being non-heteronorm. They don’t know that I’m not just like them. One of them also talks about how the Boy Scouts of America letting girls in is a horrible distraction because of all that sexual tension. It never once occurred to that coworker that boys and girls don’t always experience attraction towards each other. So when I made a comment about how, “if those boys and girls are inclined towards the opposite sexes, then yes, it’s a distraction” and that coworker looked at me like I had three heads, as though even the idea that people weren’t heteronorm was horribly offensive to him. My thoughts then turn towards how the social climate of the U.S. will continue to deteriorate because the leadership will not support a truly diverse environment. How long will it be before people like me are dragged from our homes and situations like World War II and V for Vendetta become our true reality?

These are just some of the thoughts in my head. Thanks for reading them and I hope that wherever you are in life and whatever you’re doing, your life is filled with happiness, laughter, friendship, love, joy, family, and fantastic shenanigans 🙂

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Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

As you can’t really read Six of Crows without reading Crooked Kingdom (Young Adult 536 pages) by Leigh Bardugo, I read Crooked Kingdom in the same weekend when I borrowed both from my local library.

“Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s sunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.”

So this book also started with a first chapter from a character who had really nothing to do with the main characters and their story, but is something that is mentioned as background knowledge throughout the story. I still think it’s an interesting way of starting a novel and it seems to be working out very well for this series but I’m not sure it’s something I would replicate in my own writing.

While I didn’t mention it in my review for Six of Crows, one of the big draws of these two books for me has been how each of the characters are absolutely not neurotypical. What does that mean, you might ask. It means that each of these characters have to often battle their own mental health concerns in order to accomplish anything. In this book, there are characters struggling with gambling, drug addiction, anxiety, haphephobia (the fear of being touched), and a variety of other concerns many neurotypical people may not have exposure to. The characters are never magically cured of their mental health concerns, but with the support of the people who care about them and their own strength of will, they are each able to find positive coping mechanisms to make things more bearable. I think that says a lot about the positive message that even a dark and gritty fantasy series like this can have for readers – that life never has to be perfect, there are people who care about you who will love you just as you are, and you can survive just about anything and be better for it.

Jesper’s addiction to gambling is shown as the compulsion it truly is. Jesper knows that his gambling isn’t okay and he knows that his gambling has gotten him and the people he cares about into a lot of really bad situations. He describes gambling as the draw to find that bigger high like when we was losing and then pulls off a massive win and how he’s always seeking that bigger high. Jesper seemed okay with his lifestyle until he realizes that his gambling has endangered his father’s livelihood. Colm, Jesper’s father, loves and misses Jesper so much that he travels to Ketterdam in search of Jesper and a lot of Jesper’s backstory is revealed. Inej says it best on page 338: “There’s a wound in you, and the tables, the dice, the cards – they feel like medicine. They soothe you, put you right for a time. But they’re poison, Jesper. Every time you play, you take another sip. You have to find some other way to heal that part of yourself. Stop treating your pain like it’s something you imagined. If you see the wound is real, then you can heal it.”

Nina’s addiction to jurda parem is painful to read because it shows what kind of special hell withdrawal is for anyone trying to come off any type of massively addictive drugs. Reading about her struggle and how she treated everyone when the effects of the withdrawal impacted her the most was an accurate reflection of how people in that position will often do anything and everything to get more of whatever substance they crave. She sometimes treated the people around her, especially Matthias, horribly and she knew it but there was nothing she could do to change the physical impact of the drug’s withdrawal except wait it out and be as strong as she could. I have to say, that takes a lot of courage and she wasn’t always successful in behaving as well as she would have liked. Matthias and the rest of the crew helped her and supported her through everything and that was really moving.

Nina really went through a lot in this book, as did all of the characters, but she also had to face something like a loss of identity, as she couldn’t use her Grisha powers anymore without severe repercussions. As she’d grown up with her Heartrender powers and those powers are a key identifying component to her former life as a soldier and member of her society, the loss of those powers impacted her to her very core. She also had to face her people again, standing side-by-side with the person who captured her and intended to take her to his people to watch their religious zealotry justify the genocide of her people. She had to defend the man she loved because of their separate cultures, at war with each other. There is a lot in this book about learning and growing and not judging other people based solely on the brainwashing of their culture or upbringing. And that applies just as much to our modern culture today as it does to this series set in a fantastical world.

While the story itself was interesting, it’s definitely the characters who made this book and this series a worthwhile read. Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale and at some point, I might investigate adding this book and Six of Crows to my own collection.

Bardugo, Leigh. Crooked Kindgom. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016.

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Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Based on the recommendation of one of my friends, I picked up Six of Crows (Young Adult 462 pages) by Leigh Bardugo several weeks ago. I actually read it the same weekend I borrowed it from the library but am only just now writing up the review, as life tends to get in the way of just about everything.

“Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price – and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction – if they don’t kill each other first.”

I constantly forgot that the characters in this novel were supposed to be young teenagers and so every time their ages were brought up, it often took me by surprise. The setting in this novel is dark and gritty and absolutely doesn’t sugar coat life on the streets where slavery, human trafficking, violence, and crime are common and everyone is someone else’s property.

I’m not sure if this is a spoiler or not but it’s a minor enough point that it won’t ruin anything about the story. This book is fairly unique in the sense that it started the first chapter with characters who aren’t a part of the rest of the story. While the events that transpire in the first chapter are mentioned elsewhere in the book, the characters themselves aren’t, which is an interesting way of starting a book, in my opinion. I can’t think of any examples where I’ve read other stories where the characters in the first chapter aren’t any of the main characters and are mostly just “throw-aways” like they were here. From a writing perspective, I’m still not sure how I feel about this method of beginning a story. However, this book and its sequel are clearly doing very well so I’d say it must be working for this series and author.

The next viewpoint character is Inej and she is definitely a character I found a great deal to like and enjoy. I can’t recall reading any other series where a main character is such a solid rock climber and the little tidbits about her special shoes and her climb up the super-heated chimney evoked phantom aches in my fingers and toes. I also greatly appreciate Inej as a character for a lot of reasons, probably most heavily because she reminds me a lot of someone who means a lot to me. In fact, most of Inej’s abilities, especially at climbing things, her personality, and her morals remind me a lot of someone who changed everything about my entire life about four years ago. Inej is quiet and observant and seems to always believe the best in the people around her. She’s a loyal and trustworthy friend and she actively works to not hurt people, unless you betray the people she’s loyal to – then she’s absolutely ruthless and merciless. She uses violence as another tool to protect the people who matter in her life and she’s rather brutal when she needs to be. She’s never violent just for the sake of violence. When violence is necessary, she will absolutely ensure that she solves the problem permanently. She also has a really big heart and she cares more about the people in her life than she really lets on, which is remarkable, considering her living environment. Obviously, Inej is my favorite character from this book and I feel like I can empathize with her on many levels. She just sort of makes sense to me.

As I mentioned earlier, this book is dark and gritty and it was often difficult to remember that all six of the point of view characters are supposed to be teenagers. In the world these characters live in, being small and over-looked would be extremely beneficial to survival in a lot of ways, but it also highlighted some fairly nasty aspects of the world in which we actually live. While this story takes place in a purely fantastical world, many of the mentioned social and societal issues are prevalent in our own society today. The brothels, the human trafficking, and the religious vigor with which an entire society will hunt and perform genocide on others just for being different is sickening, but also a part of even our “modern” society today. If you ever did even the basic research on modern sex-trafficking, you would find that old, privileged men are purchasing rights to use and abuse the bodies of young women who were stolen, bought, or sold because the men have the resources and the young women have no options to free themselves from their lives. And all of this is shown in this book – the slavery, the stealing of young women from their families, and those with resources who make leaving the system near impossible.

Did I mention I had problems remembering this is supposedly a YA book with teenage characters?

One of the other really interesting aspects of this book to me is that there is a relationship between Nina, a Heartrender, and Matthias, a druskelle who believes her very existence should be terminated for her special Grisha powers. The interesting part about Nina and Matthias is that they absolutely love each other and neither of them is happy with this situation. The reason this is such a fascinating relationship to me is because this is exactly how love works. Sometimes, love makes sense, but sometimes, love defies all reason and better judgment. I kind of feel like love is a connection that can’t be forced – if you love someone and there’s a connection there, that connection will be powerful and consuming and won’t react well to being ignored. A lot of the relationship between Nina and Matthias showed not only what a powerful force love is but also how much people can change and grow because of love.

As for the story, this novel has a rather interesting heist and a lot of really interesting details. Kaz is clearly a very thorough planner and he also doesn’t share any of his deep plans with anyone. His plans are very in-depth and often present unexpected solutions.

Overall, I’d say this book is a solid three on my rating scale. I enjoyed reading it and I might see if I can find it to add it to my own collection at some point in the future, as the copy I read was from my local library.

Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.

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