Ready Player One – Geek-fest thriller and blockbuster in the making

This book has been on my To Be Read list for a good couple of years now, and with Spielberg’s film adaptation just around the corner, it seemed like now was as good a time as any to pick it up. And it barely took me any time at all from opening the first page to logging off at the last.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

30 years in the future, most of humanity spends all the time they can spare logged into the OASIS, a global virtual reality universe, to escape the harsh reality of their slowly dying planet. And when James Halliday, the mastermind behind the OASIS passes away, he leaves his fortune to the person who can solve the hidden riddles and puzzles he left scattered throughout the OASIS.

After years of searching, by millions of people, Halliday’s Easter Egg remains no closer to being found. That is, until Wade Watts discovers the first key in the puzzle, and the contest kicks off in earnest as thousands of players compete to be the first to find Halliday’s Egg, and the stakes are raised to new and dangerous levels.

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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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Strange Magic – Everything I never knew I needed

Well … so maybe that title is a slight exaggeration of the truth. But the point is, this little film was exactly what I wanted it to be, without me even realising it. I didn’t know how much I needed a film like this until last night. Okay, let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start).

The film Strange Magic first came to my attention as a recommendation from my aunt, and I’ll admit I was a tiny bit sceptical about it, having not long watched a film she hated that I really rather enjoyed. And I’m pretty sure she only watched it because her 6-year-old daughter wanted to. But that’s beside the point. What I need to tell you about is how bloody fantastic this film is. It’s magical and uplifting and fun. But more than that, it’s refreshing.

**SPOILER FREE POST**

All based around the almighty Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, though not too closely I might add, the story revolves around Marianne, an independent young fairy after coming off the back of heartbreak, and her flirtatious sister. As the Bard once said, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and chaos ensues with the introduction of a powerful love potion, all backed by a glittering soundtrack.

But wait. Don’t turn your nose up just yet. Not just because it’s a family adventure film.

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Dissension: The Work-in-Progress Act of Penance – The Patreon campaign

The eagle eyed among you may have recognised the style of the title from a post I wrote a few months ago, and that would be because I’m talking about the same books. (If you didn’t recognise it and are feeling left out, or you need to jog your memory, my previous post is here for you to peruse at your pleasure). And if you’re too lazy to do that – which would be a crying shame because that’s a good post, if I do say so myself – then you can have a little catch up…

**SPOILER FREE POST**

Attrition: The First Act of Penance is the first novel in a trilogy of fantasy fiction penned by the talented S.G. Night, and self-published by him at the age of 18. It’s a fantastic book and comes with all my highest recommendations of course. There’s a synopsis and more of a review in that post I mentioned earlier if you think it sounds like your cup of tea.

Well, now S.G. Night finds himself writing his Second Act of Penance, a student and self-published author, as yet unrepresented by a commercial publishing house … however, that could well be set to change, should the winds blow in his favour. Anyway, this now brings me to the point of my writing this post (finally, right?) which is this: Night has set up a Patreon campaign for Dissension: The Second Act of Penance.

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The Shannara Chronicles – Game of Thrones’s younger sibling

The MTV (I know, I know, just get past it) fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles first came to my attention via social media, and while the series has been broadcasted in its entirety in America, here in the UK, we’re six episodes in and I can’t get enough of it!

So let me give you a basic run-down before we get into the details and, ahem, spoilers. The series is based on the book The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks, which is the second book in his original Shannara trilogy. He has since written a mind-blowing 22 other novels set within his world of Shannara, and was heavily involved with the creation of the TV series – always a good sign. Also, a little trivia, the series stars John Rhys-Davies, Manu Bennett and Jed Brophy, who all had places in Peter Jackson’s films set in Middle Earth.

The story goes something like this. Wil Ohmsford is a young half-human, half-elf who inherits the magical elfstones from his deceased father. Meanwhile, Amberle Elessedil is an elven princess who is selected in an annual ritual as one of the seven Chosen, tasked with protecting the ancient Ellcrys tree, however, for the first time in history the Ellcrys is showing signs of sickness. Enter the druid, Allanon; he reveals that the Ellcrys actually harbours magic that protects the Four Lands from a demon uprising, and with the dying of the tree, the magic is failing. So Wil and Amberle set out with Eretria – a human girl of questionable motives and loyalty – to a place known as Safehold, where they hope to unriddle the mystery of restoring the Ellcrys. But there is danger at every turn, for as the Ellcrys’s health wanes, the Dagda Mor creates an army of demons to cover the Four Lands in darkness, and sends out his pawns to destroy anyone who opposes him.

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Film Calendar 2016

As we welcomed in the new year with fireworks, bubbly, and those odd people we call ‘family’, there was something I realised looking forward to the year ahead. This year is going to be an expensive one. But expensive in one particular area: the cinema.

There are some incredible films to look forward to this year, and I can see that cinema trips will be frequent on account of the sheer number of exciting films set for release in 2016, though my bank account probably won’t thank me for that. And while there’s such a hype about the film calendar this year, I thought I’d dedicate a post to my top films of the year, the ones I’m most excited for.

**SPOILER FREE POST** (I mean, duh)

My homemade categories consist of: Superheroes, Sci-fi & Fantasy, Disney & Animation, and Sequels.

Superheroes

  1. Captain America: Civil WarSeeing as the Cap is my favourite Marvel superhero, naturally this one’s top of the list, but even without that little bias this film looks like another epic box office hit. There seems to be a trend at the moment in cinema about epic-ness and world-defining narratives, but the audiences are loving it, and I’m afraid I’m no exception. Particularly exciting about this film, is the dynamic between Captain America and Iron Man that we see in the trailer: while we know they don’t get on all that well at the best of times, here they are actually pitted against each other. This film is certain to divide opinion, and probably the internet too.
  2. X-Men: ApocalypseFirst things first, Sophie Turner Sophie Turner SOPHIE TURNER. As you can probably tell, I’m a Thrones fan, and quite excited about seeing the young Miss Turner in the role of Jean Grey, and that’s the first thing that hits in the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse (props to the promo team). This is another film that looks epic and high stakes, and I’m wondering where this fits on the X-Men timeline after Days of Future Past. I’ll be interested to see what they do with this one, particularly where Charles Xavier’s hair and the antagonist (who remains somewhat of a mystery) are concerned.
  3. DeadpoolA superhero film with a difference. This is the superhero for the older audience, the first of his kind in the Marvel franchise. Interesting, I hear you say. Indeed it is. But from what the trailer shows us, it looks like he’s going to be a fantastic new hero to add to the Marvel cinematic universe. Also, notably for Game of Thrones fans, Ed Skrein has the role of Ajax in Deadpool – possibly the reason for his sudden departure from the show after a measly 3 episodes in the role of Daario Naharis (if you even remember him at all); he did say that he left the show to follow a path into film, so maybe this is it.
  4. Ones to watch. Other noteworthy Superhero films for the year include: Doctor Strange, which is national treasure Cumberbatch’s next gig; DC’s Suicide Squad which is creating A LOT of hype; and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice which promises to be a great crowd-pleaser, provided everyone can accept Ben Affleck as the Bat after Christian Bale’s ownership of the role in the recent films. Is it too soon? Perhaps. A final thing worth noting here is the edition of Wonder Woman and the promise of a female-led film of her own next year. My bets are that Marvel will feel the need to follow suit for fear of criticism. After all, everyone’s been crying out for a Black Widow film for a while now. What DID happen in Budapest…?

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Attrition: The First Act of Penance – The new fantasy superpower

There’s a new player in fantasy fiction, and it’s going straight into the big leagues.

Of course, that’s my personal opinion, but as a lover of fantasy I can highly recommend S.G. Night’s Attrition as a shining example of fantasy at its best. I’ll give you a basic run-down, shall I?

The story takes place in the world of Io, which has been suffering under the oppression of the Demonic Dominion for over a century. The demons exiled the elves, all but enslaved the humans, and almost completely wiped out the Majiski battle-mages…almost. Racath Thanjel is one of those Majiski, now living in the shadows as an assassin, and fighting against the demons, but the assassins’ leader seems to be keeping more secrets than the demons themselves. Racath is plunged into the fight and forced to choose his destiny. Can he become the saviour Io needs, or are the demons to great a force to overcome?

**SPOILER FREE POST**

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