Book Review: Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Hey there…

There’s nothing like the feeling I get when I discover a new writer. It’s like opening a door to a brave new world. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t like what I find on the other side. But then there are those rare moments when I get there and don’t want to leave. Discord’s Apple from Carrie Vaughn drew me in from the opening chapter and didn’t let me go until I finished the book just a few hours later.

This is the story of Evie Walker, a successful comic book writer from Los Angeles, and her trip home to Hope’s Fort, Colorado, to help her father Frank face his own mortality. It’s also the story of Alex, a stranger who has truly seen it all who is looking for something he can’t seem to find. Together, Evie, Frank, and Alex face new challenges as the mysteries around them deepen and things really hit the fan.

Let me start by saying that, though I love Colorado authors, I’d never read anything by Vaughn. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, which is only a couple of hours away from me in Colorado Springs. And evidently she’s been writing about a werewolf named Kitty for a while now in a series of urban fantasy novels – the latest of which is called Kitty Goes to War. So how have I managed to miss her?

Discord’s Apple was paced amazingly well. From the subtle beginnings of Evie’s drive into the tiny town of Hope’s Fort to the way she slides characters from myth and legend into play alongside the heroes of the comic book Eagle Eye Commandos, the plot builds and beckons the reader ever forward and back from present to past and back again.

But not since reading Dan Simmons‘ books Illium and Olympos, which managed to weave the Trojan War and Greek gods together with a far flung science fiction, have I seen those stories made relevant. Vaugn masterfully tangles the tale of Sinon, the liar who encouraged Troy to open its gates, with a different spin on the Greek gods that grants Sinon the curse of immortality.

Somehow she also manages to mix in the tales of Longinus, Arthur, and the glass slippers of Cinderella while bringing in elements of the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where a nameless government employee stashed the Ark of the Covenant. Add to that a sprinkle of a world where the balance of power has tipped enough to make everyone paranoid…

However, at no time in the novel did I feel that any of these elements was ever out of control. Somehow she tames these tornadoes, each of which has their own Oz attached, and pulls them into a coherent tapestry of plot, character, and story. I don’t know how she did it. I only know that I really enjoyed it and want to know what happens next!

So if you’re looking for a book for summer reading, be sure to add Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn to your list. It’s a fun ride. Now I have to go back and see what all the fuss is about this werewolf named Kitty…

For more information about Vaughn, be sure to check out her website at CarrieVaugn.com and look for her books published by TOR/FORGE!

This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Carrie Vaughn books below!

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Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Hey there…

Yes, I know that there are people who on principle skip anything Jerry Bruckheimer produces. And yes, I know that there are those people who try to miss anything Nicolas Cage appears in because they simply don’t like him. And there are probably a third group who believe that Fantasia is sacrosanct and must not ever be touched again by human hands… But I’m evidently not one of those.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical that it could be done. Who could possibly write a script for a two hour film that’s based on the short animated feature as part of 1940’s Fantasia from Walt Disney? How could you take Mickey Mouse and the dancing mops, brooms, and buckets and modernize it for today’s audiences?

Well, I think they actually managed to pull it off. We went as a family and all of us really enjoyed The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Cage, Jay Baruchel, and Alfred Molina playing the lead roles. Hopefully it will make more money than it has so far so that we can continue to see the adventures of “Dave the Sorcerer”.

What is it about? It starts in medieval times with the saga of Merlin (James A. Stephens) and his three apprentices – Veronica (Monica Bellucci), Balthazar (Cage), and Horvath (Molina). When Horvath turns on his friends and master to join the evil wizardess Morgana (Alice Krige) in an attempt to take over the world and killing Merlin – Veronica sacrifices herself and binds Morgana’s soul within herself, and Balthazar captures them both in a Russian Doll magic item. That starts a war between the Merlinians, with Balthazar at the lead, and the Morganians seeking to free Morgana to take over the world.

Balthazar spends the next thousand years trying to find what Merlin called “the Prime Merlinian” – an individual with the potential to take Merlin’s place in the world. Along the way, he captures other evil wizards in the doll as they continue to try to release their queen.

When young Dave stumbles into Balthazar’s magic shop while on a field trip, it’s revealed that he is the Prime Merlinian Balthazar’s been looking for all this time… But through a series of mishaps, Dave unwittingly releases Horvath and a battle ensues that eventually finds the two ancient enemies locked away for 10 years. That gives Dave some time to get some therapy for what nobody believes he saw.

And that brings us to the present day, with Dave having become a physics geek working with electricity and plasma. I won’t spoil the rest, but suffice it to say that it’s a wild ride where Balthazar and Dave must work together to try and save the world from Horvath and Morgana.

Before I saw the film, I read a few reviews chastising the exposition at the beginning that sets the stage for the transition to the modern day. As such, I was a bit concerned. Turned out that I need not have been. Though director Jon Turteltaub might have chosen to “show, not tell” that section of the story, I think it would have added another 30+ minutes to the already two hour long film. As such, to keep it short enough to play frequently at most movie theaters I think it was a good choice to avoid the lengthier storytelling option.

It was obvious that Cage and Baruchel had a good time working together. The relationship between Balthazar and Dave seems genuine and the Master/Apprentice ties that bind them together lead to some touching moments. Molina simply ate up the screen as Horvath and cut a dashing figure in what looked like a late 18th century/early 19th century suit, hat, and cane. Even Teresa Palmer as Dave’s eventual girlfriend Becky played the “fish out of water” character well, even going so far as to play a pivotal role in the climax.

The only character I didn’t like was Toby Kebbel’s magician Drake Stone, the evil wizard who helps Horvath set Morgana free. Stone played a Criss Angel-type stage magician who was in it more for stroking his ego than for any perfection of his art. But I think we were supposed to dislike the slimy character – so if that was the case then bravo to Kebbel’s acting chops.

The special effects were spectacular. From the dragon in Chinatown to the car chases on the flip side of a mirror, the effects seamlessly transported me into a world where magic exists. I found myself watching, wide-eyed and enjoying every minute in that world – wishing there was a bit more magic day to day in our own.

For me, Bruckheimer has struck again as he did with films like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and National Treasure. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice offers escapism and a big budget popcorn movie where you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

If you don’t like Bruckheimer, Nick Cage, or the idea that a Mickey Mouse cartoon could be made into a big budget live action adventure movie, I’d recommend that you stay home. But I’m certainly glad I went to see it.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

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Merlin Season 2 Trailer!

Hi all!

Though the first season of Merlin that aired on NBC last year was a bit uneven in spots, everyone at my family looked forward to seeing what trouble young Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, and Morgana would get into in Camelot. The chemistry between characters, action, and story lines were enough to keep us all intrigued.

Well, according to Geeks of Doom, Merlin will be back on April 2 for Season 2! Yay!

They’ve posted the trailer for season 2 and I’ll embed it below:

Take a look at the post on Geeks of Doom for more details on the season 1 marathon that happens this weekend as well!

–Fitz

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