Northern Lights – Not gathering dust on my shelves

With The Book of Dust announced (fairly) recently for release in October, I was reminded of the trilogy I never finished, and was driven back to its pages to rediscover what I missed the last time. Northern Lights was read to me when I was younger – why it was only book one and not the rest of His Dark Materials, I do not know – but I decided it was high time that I revisited the tale, and go the whole hog this time. Now you may have seen the film adaptation The Golden Compass (Weitz:2007), but whatever your opinions of that, stick with me here, because the book has plenty more to offer.

Before starting Northern Lights, I remembered most of the main beats of the story from being familiar with the film version. As a 10-year-old, I had no quarrel with The Golden Compass. Now though, revisiting Pullman’s world as it was originally intended, it’s much easier to see the glaring holes left by the filmmakers.

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The Black Magician Trilogy – A slow burner, but a delight

Trudi Canavan’s fantasy trilogy has been sat on my bookshelves for longer than I care to admit (I’m talking years here). After snatching them up at a secondhand bookshop for an absolute bargain, they always seemed to be at the bottom of my reading list. So a few weeks ago I finally picked them up to read, and it baffles me that it took me so long.

We are brought into the trilogy with the first volume The Magicians’ Guild, which tells the story of our heroine Sonea, a slum girl who is discovered to have unprecedented magical abilities. She treads a fine line between the Thieves (who essentially run the slums) and the Guild, who are tracking her down every step of the way. All magicians must be admitted to the Guild for training, and though Sonea doesn’t know it, for safety. But when the Magicians’ Guild are a bunch of jumped up posh-kids, who have never done anything for the people of slums except drive them out during the annual Purge, joining their ranks doesn’t exactly seem like the most appealing option. While the Guild frantically search for her, Sonea’s fate rests on her powers: how quickly they will develop, how strong they will get, and how long before she loses control.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

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The Handmaid’s Tale – Anyone for a cheeky Scrabble?

Based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale has now come to our screens in the UK – Sundays at 9pm on Channel 4, you’re welcome – and so far it’s been a really intriguing watch.

The central conceit of the show is that humanity has all but decimated the US as we know it, and this has resulted in a “plague of infertility” among the women of the country. Under the rule of their new uber-religious, totalitarian government, those few women who are fertile become Handmaids to the rich and powerful in the militant society, whose only purpose is to provide children for the man and wife the Handmaid is assigned to. This is where we find our heroine, Offred (whose name literally means Of-Fred, the property of Fred, the Commander).

With a mass beating, secret scrabble, and quite possibly the most uncomfortable sex scenes you will ever watch, The Handmaid’s Tale lands us right in the middle of a poignant, ‘what if,’ dystopia.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

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Until Then – The promise of the future

Last night I took a trip back to high school to see their latest play, not led by the drama department (all hail the mighty Richards), but by an ex-student, James Allen. Having been involved with the drama department back in the day, it was fantastic to see how the other familiar faces have grown, and to now watch from an outsider’s perspective was exciting, if a little unnerving.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

The play, Until Then, which was written and directed by James Allen (who also composed the music), tells the story of two couples as they go through life together. Abi Simpkin and Will Griffiths are a perfect match as Philip and Jill, and Lucas Walsh and Pip Hyde complement each other beautifully as Mitchell and Vic. The performance features a minimal set, seamless technical operation from Mark McLean, and a poignant score. It was funny and touching, and I loved it.

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Legion – Not your average superhero story

Legion is a show with a tantalising premise: David Haller is confronted with a reality check when he is informed that the voices he’s heard in his head his whole life are in fact, not a symptom of schizophrenia, but the inner voices of those around him. He is a telepath.

And though it’s based on a Marvel comic, it’s not like your regular I’m-an-all-powerful-mutant-discovering-my-powers-and-saving-the-world story, the FX production handles things very differently. It’s intelligent, sometimes understated, and (fittingly) completely insane. And I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a story of uncovering David’s power, but also the true form of them. David discovers this for himself, along with the team helping him out, and let’s just say things aren’t quite as they at first seem.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Legion is set in the same universe as the familiar X-Men stories, but it seems to fit into a place where mutants are perhaps only just being discovered by the people in high places – the government’s ‘Division 3’ are the antagonistic organisation of the show, and they are researching mutants. There are no direct crossovers that I could find between Legion and X-Men, but I’m sure there will be some somewhere.

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Beauty and the Beast – Something there that wasn’t there before

Bonjour, bonjour! BONJOUR! It feels like we’ve been waiting for Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast (Condon:2017) for FOREVER, and it’s finally heeeere! (Cue the party poppers and champagne corks. And throw in a firework or two if you feel like it.) After the success of the live action remake of Cinderella (Branagh:2015) a couple of years ago, which I thought was just magical, I waited with baited breath in the darkened cinema to see possibly my all-time favourite Disney film burst into new life.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

It was beautiful. The visuals were stunning, the story was touching (which we knew already), the new arrangements of the music were gorgeous. The choreographed sequences were enchanting, and the design of the whole production was magical … Have I thrown enough compliments at it yet? I promise there is more to say though.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – I’ve got a good feeling about this

Yesterday, the latest film in the mighty Star Wars franchise was released, entitled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Edwards:2016). Prior to its release, we knew next to nothing about it, other than it’s placement in the series between Episode III and Episode IV. From that, and some tasty trailer snippets, we gather it focuses on the rebels and the formation of the Death Star. But that was pretty much all we had.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

It turns out, the story revolves around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is sent out on a mission by the rebels, to capture the plans for the Empire’s ‘planet killer’ – the Death Star. Though what she signed up for and what she ends up with, are not exactly the same thing.

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