Jul. 3rd, 2012

Fancast/pimping: The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

So far, 2012 has been an excellent year for new fandom discoveries. Between Revenge and The Middleman and Teen Wolf, I already don't even know which way to swoon first, and that's not even taking into account all the great books.

So here's another book rec, because I am seriously bursting with love and I need to share: The Demon's Lexicon is a young-adult urban fantasy trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan, whom some of you may remember from her Harry Potter fanfic days and the epic win of "Underwater Light", and whom the rest of you need to start reading, like, NOW.

The trilogy consists of three books: The Demon's Lexicon, The Demon's Covenant and The Demon's Surrender. I read the first one years ago when it came out and wasn't that impressed; then I reread it this year and fell violently in love. Go figure.

I suck at plot summaries, so here's what the blurb for the first book has to say about the premise:

"Sixteen-year-old Nick knows that demons are real. Magicians call up demons in exchange for their power. The demons can appear in any shape, show you marvels, promise you anything - until you invite them in and receive their mark.

What happens next?
First you get possessed.
Then you die.

Nick's been on the run his whole life, ever since his mother stole a charm from the most feared magician of them all, and the only person he trusts is his brother Alan. Alan's just been marked by a demon. Only Nick can save him, but to do so he must face the magicians - and kill them. The hunt is on, and Nick's going to discover things he never dreamed were out there."


So yeah. There's lots of drama and darkness and violence and running from things and running after things. Lots of saving each other's lives, and also risking each other's lives. And of course there has to be time for snarky one-liners while doing either. And for hitting on people. Or rejecting people. Or becoming friends with people you really, really didn't plan on being friends with.

On my personal scale of awesomeness, which measures everything in this particular genre against Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I should find a name for that - the Buffy Meter?), this gets about 90%. The writing is smart and fun. There's snarky dialogue and a clever sense of humour ("My life was going to flash before my eyes, but it decided to hide behind my eyes and quake with terror instead."). There's heartbreak. There are clever twists and the pacing is great. When Nick and Alan are forced to team up with another marked boy and his sister - who is as determined to save her brother as Nick is to save his - the obligatory teenage love tangles ensue, but there are no cliché turns here. This story does one of my favourite things really well: reversal of stereotype. The women are smart and strong and nobody is annoyingly perfect - on the contrary, everyone is fucked up in the most delicious ways, lol. There's a strong focus on unconventional friendships and family ties, especially sibling relationships, complete with twisted loyalties and betrayal and agonies of all sort. It is fabulous.

Above all, it has well-crafted, compelling characters. That are insanely shippy. I love every single one of them so much that I can't even pick a favourite, so instead, I've done a fancast and am just going to throw all of them at you. With the proviso that if/when you read the books, you are grudgingly allowed to imagine them completely differently ;) And if you're very keen on not being exposed to someone else's physical idea of characters, don't click on the cut or don't read on.

Thus endeth the rec.


(Basically this was my excuse to collect a bunch of pretty pictures of pretty people and flail embarrassingly about beloved characters at the same time. Everyone wins, especially me.)

((Also this is spoiler-free. I am not giving away any major plot points.))

Character fancast picspam! )

May. 30th, 2012

Fancasting & long-winded book rec: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

The other week, while I was running and desperately needed something to occupy my brain (something that wasn't "oh god oh god, I am going to die" or "a pox on all those bloody liars who claim this gets easier or fun"), I thought of Tad Williams and wondered what he is up to these days.

Specifically I wondered if he ever feels cheated when he sees stuff like A Game of Thrones and those terrible Terry Goodkind books scored telly adaptations in the wake of the Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy craze, and his own work didn't. He's probably way too cool for such tacky thoughts but I'm not, so I'm more than happy to munch some sour grapes on his behalf ;)

Who the hell is Tad Williams and why should you care? Tad Williams is one of my long-standing favourite fantasy authors and an all around Very Cool Dude.

Photobucket

He's written some excellent "traditional" high fantasy (those quotation marks are there because he's great at putting a fresh spin on traditional things), as well as Otherland, a fantastic series about virtual realities, and War of the Flowers, a steam-punky novel about a fairie realm that's moved on into the industrial age and beyond.

His fortes are character depth and world-building; whether the setting is medieval fantasy, gothy/urban/retro folktale or highly sophisticated virtual reality, his characters are always layered and their development throughout their stories is real and engaging. He's fantastic at putting you in his characters' shoes, and especially accomplished at doing it with diverse cultures. Whether it's the ageless hauteur of an elf society, the tribal memories of the Bushmen or an Inuit-based people, or a consciousness embedded solely in artificial intelligence, he puts you in their heads and hearts; he does away with the concept of "other". It's a remarkable talent that not many writers have; off the top of my head, the only other two who I think do the same as well or better are Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb.

Tad was also one of the first authors to fully embrace online fandom and the possibilities it opened up for telling stories in new media. Long before the rise of Facebook and its ilk, he was interacting with fans on now-ancient message boards, kept them updated on his current projects, personally answered emails and encouraged active fan participation. His Shadowmarch novels began as an online interactive project where he would post new chapters of the first novel as he was writing it, while encouraging and using fanart for the project, constantly engaging with fans as the story evolved, and being an active part of building the community surrounding it. The project was subscription-based, and unfortunately it eventually petered out (due to lack of funding, if I recall correctly), and the Shadowmarch novels were later published the traditional way; but I'm a sucker for artists who try to do something new with every new project they take on, and I admire Tad hugely in this regard.

Which is why I can't help feeling a little sad/miffy at seeing the current hullabaloo over the Game of Thrones adaptation and the ensuing renewed attention for the books. Not because I think A Song of Ice and Fire isn't interesting - it's good, solid entertainment, or at least it was before George R.R. Martin got so bogged down in detail - and I am genuinely pleased that one of my favourite genres is getting mainstream attention. I don't think GoT was the best choice for a TV series, however; not while there were better-quality options around.

And that's where I think Tad Williams, among others, got robbed. His Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series (The Dragonbone Chair, Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower), written a number of years before A Song of Ice and Fire, has all the elements that presumably landed GoT its TV deal - medieval setting, large-scale supremacy conflicts between a multitude of royal houses, battles and politics and magic and dragons and wolves, sinister religious/mystical happenings including an extended summer/winter conflict, a vast diversity of settings and cultures, an intriguing set of characters and relationships, and even (oh-so-importantly) a throne made out of unconventional material (dragon bone here instead of swords, lol).

Let's look at pretty covers: )

In addition to those things, the books have excellent pacing and momentum (something that especially the later books of GRRM's series lack), greater depth, humour and poignancy and some fantastic friendship stories, and OH LOOK AT THAT, THEY'RE ACTUALLY FINISHED. What they don't have is massive amounts of sexploitation and gratuitous porn (there are sexytimes, but Tad generally fades to black).

So yeah. I'd love to be able to not compare and not feel a little annoyed, but the parallels are just too there to ignore. I love that the Lord of the Rings movies opened up fantasy as a genre to screen adaptations that appeal to a wide audience, but I do wish the projects that were filmed in their wake had been chosen for more than what essentially boils down to "oh look, there's battles and kings and DUDE, ALL THE TITS! SIGNED!"


That... was a much longer intro than I had planned. Actually, during that half-hour run I was mostly daydreaming about who I would love to see cast if MS&T ever did get adapted to the screen, because I love those books and I think they're eminently filmable. So I, like a proper nerd, ended up fan-casting a bunch of the characters and wanted to put it somewhere I could remember, and then somewhere along the way I apparently got wrapped up in a Tad Williams pimp campaign instead.

It happens.

Anyway, here is the actual purpose of this post:

Fan-casting MS&T (dopey kitchen boys, tomboyish princesses, evil priests and tortured noblemen, oh my) )


There's a whole host of other characters that I didn't get to or didn't have anyone in mind for (the other Sithi, all the Norns, Ineluki, Deornoth, Isorn, Vorzheva's father, Camaris, Strangyeard, etc etc) but there's no way I can do all of them. I had fun matching up faces in my head, though. Procrastination: ACHIEVED!

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