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Friday Fandom: The Musketeers

The MusketeersA few months ago, my cousin sent me this pic of a DVD cover she’d found while browsing Barnes & Noble. We immediately agreed it was a show we MUST watch! So, I thought it’d be fun to bring her in on the commentary for this week’s Fandom for The Musketeers. Welcome Katie!

Though The Musketeers isn’t technically fantasy, it DOES have exceptional worldbuilding, character depth and caliber of writing/production so we’re saying it TOTALLY qualifies for a fandom spot.

Here we go!

 

The story

For me, the musketeers is a theme I’ve always been drawn to since childhood – like King Arthur and the roundtable, or Robin Hood and his merry band. It’s a great assortment of adventure, romance and chivalry with a side of bromance, so I was excited to see how BBC would freshen it.

Katie: It is an incredibly solid show. Everything fits together. Everyone’s vision is so clear, the directors, the writers, the costumer. And everyone’s individual visions have all come together to create this incredibly authentic, believable and amazing world. Everything down to the very last detail fits together seamlessly and never leaves you wondering about a certain plot hole or anything.

The characters

Katie: The characters themselves are incredible. They are well written, excellently portrayed and incredibly believable. And the best part is, they’re human. Each of them have incredible strengths and yet they’re not constantly achieving everything they set out to do. Even the “bad guys” have redeeming qualities and the “good guys” have flaws. The Musketeers are yes, the heroes and the savers of the day, but not without group and personal consequences. They get hurt, emotionally and physically. Their actions take a toll on them. This show does an excellent job of keeping our heroes grounded.

  • d’Artagnan – The kid of the group! He waltzes into the Musketeer camp looking for revenge with no idea what larger scheming he’s just stumbled into. The show does a wonderful job of showing his loyalty, his coming of age, and his admiration of the Musketeers. Plus, Luke Pasqualino’s facial expressions are to die for!
  • Athos – From the very first head-in-bucket moment, we loved his character! He’s loyal to the core, but oh so tortured and brooding. His history with Milady is cast perfectly in this adaptation. I also really like him as a somewhat reluctant mentor figure for d’Artagnan. His dry wit is hilarious. In fact, the repartee among all the characters is second to none. And the acting–for the love of Alexandre Dumas–the acing is excellent!
  • Porthos – We love Porthos (Well, as you can see, we love them all!). He’s the most swashbuckling of the gang and, though he works his strong London accent in 17th century France, BOY DOES IT WORK! He gets some great one-liners, cool battle sequences, and a heart of gold. Plus, a surprisingly complex backstory.
  • Aramis – It says a LOT that he pulls off the chivalrous lover archetype without it ever feeling like a stereotype. He’s passionate about his country, his brothers in arms, his rifle … and other things too. Like ladies. And his queen. But the show brilliantly anchors him with a couple of fantastic twists that bring his “lover” consequences home to roost. He’s got a huge heart and a strong faith. When you think chivalry, you think Aramis.
  • Cardinal Richelieu – At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like the far more understated take on this character vs. Tim Curry’s gleefully exuberant villainy in the Disney version. But it works fantastically! The cardinal’s tension between wanting power and wanting to empower his country at all costs is fascinating to watch.
  • Rochefort – In the running for one of the creepiest villains ever, yet so elegantly conniving you can’t help being mesmerized.
  • King & Queen – It sounds simple, but these actors are exceptional in their roles. Even you’re yelling at their actions, it’s a delight to watch because they utterly transport you to that period.
  • Constance – A badass in training and, somewhat contradictorily, the main source of steadiness for d’Artagnan and the others. One thing I didn’t like as much about the Disney version was its mild approach to Constance. She gets her wings in BBC’s adaptation (And guns! And disguises!). The show does a good job balancing her quiet, sometimes feisty strength with the jaded badassdom of Milady De Winter.
  • Milady – One of the best female assassin characters ever written, she shines in nearly every episode. The love/hate tension between her and Athos is breathtaking to watch. Milady knows her way around multiple weapons, is beyond clever, and gets THE BEST period costumes!
  • Treville – He’s the loyal captain of the Musketeers and everything you’d want in a leader while remaining fallibly and endearingly human. He breaks out a few badass moments himself and, every time the king doubts the Musketeers, Treville takes the brunt of it. By the end of the first season, you’re ready to have his back as quickly as Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d’Artagnan!

Katie: The actors blow my mind. As someone trying to be an actor, I would be honored just to be a cup bearer in this show!

The four men playing the Musketeers work seamlessly as a unit and yet do this great job of bringing forth their own personalities. And yes, you can stereotype them if you’d like. “Porthos is the big cuddly bear/funny guy.” “Athos is the brooding, intellect.” “Aramis is the romantic artist.” “D’Artagnan is the newbie with honor, fighting for a place in the ranks, and has a bit of that young lover vibe as well.” But you’re never slapped in the face with these stereotypes.

They have me completely invested in every one of their stories. I am genuinely concerned about the outcome of these characters, probably to an unhealthy point. Haha! Even when you dislike a character, you appreciate the actor so much, you can’t quite fully hate them. It’s beautiful. In this world we don’t have just good guys and bad guys. Everyone has a bit of both in them and a TV show that addresses that and shows us that in its characters gets big points in my book.

The world

I love it when a show takes the time to get small details right, and The Musketeers nails it!! From period details and recreated streets to the myriad of Musketeer weapons, viewers get some really cool elements.

Katie: The costumes are actually time period and accurate (Sorry Reign.) They address issues of society, mainly rich vs poor and the role of women, but they also note that there were people who rebelled against it and got away with it. Without going too much into it, these women are strong. Super strong. Equally as strong as the men. But like the men, have their own flaws as well, mainly the way society portrays them. The locations where they shoot the show are beautiful. The dialogue is poetic and believable. Everything. Just everything about this show is spot on. 

You can tell the entire cast has put in their training, and it pays off beautifully. And BE SURE to watch the DVD extras for behind-the-scenes footage of how it’s all created. Amazing! Sign us up for prep school please!

The weapons

Katie and I are particular fans of their handy back daggers…and the swords…and Aramis’ rifle…this could go on a while. The show’s choreographers are among the best we’ve seen, and several scenes involve sequences using multiple individual weapons in succession. It never feels staged, forced or overdone.

Katie: It’s entertaining. It makes you think. It shows us history while paralleling life today. It has strong characters, both male and female. It has great baddies you love to hate. It has romance, comedy, enough twists to keep you guessing. And well, let’s just say it once so we can get it over with…it has an incredibly attractive cast.

As you can probably tell, we could talk ALL DAY about how much we love this show. But why read our praise when you could be watching it for yourselves? Go! The Musketeers await!

Nicole’s Review: PROMISE OF BLOOD & THE POWDER MAGE TRILOGY

Is this not the most gorgeous cover ever? I LOVE the excerpt lines on all three of the trilogy's covers. Brilliant!

Is this not the most gorgeous cover ever? I LOVE the excerpt lines on all three of the trilogy’s covers. Brilliant!

Title: Promise of Blood, The Crimson Campaign, The Autumn Republic

Author: Brian McClellan

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 608

Synopsis: It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king…
Field Marshal Tamas’ coup against his king sent corrupt aristocrats to the guillotine and brought bread to the starving. But it also provoked war with the Nine Nations, internal attacks by royalist fanatics, and the greedy to scramble for money and power by Tamas’s supposed allies: the Church, workers unions, and mercenary forces.

It’s up to a few…
Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail.

But when gods are involved…
Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should…

Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed PROMISE OF BLOOD and the entire Powder Mage Trilogy! Brian McClellan pairs highly compelling characters with a gritty setting that seems an alt mix of the French and American Revolutions era. It’s one heck of a fun read!

While each of the POV characters is well written and engaging, it’s Tamas and Taniel (individually and in their dicey father-son dynamic) that kept pulling me on. They’re very different and intriguing each in his own way.

Taniel is young, already a frontier war hero, but a little anchorless and hot-headed. It’s a fun combination to read, especially when McClellan pairs him with a feisty mute frontier mage named Ka-Poel. Their chemistry is delightful, all the more so because it’s unspoken.

Tamas is the brilliant veteran Field Marshal who simultaneously rallies the country and seeks revenge for his murdered wife. He’s borderline arrogant, carries of a burden of responsibility that makes Atlas look like a lazy child, and somehow always seems to find the solution. He’s one of those leaders who does what needs doing no matter the cost and, even when I didn’t like or agree with him, I still admired him and wanted others to follow. I LOVE seeing characters like this done well!

McClellan also does an excellent job blending his magic system with the technology and weapons of the time–guns and guillotines, not the chivalrous longswords of traditional fantasy. Instead, soldiers known as powder mages can internalize gunpowder themselves and manipulate its effects in battle in a range of skills that unfold into incredible fight sequences. They’re just plain cool!

The world of PROMISE OF BLOOD includes a few other “magics” as well. Privileged are those who can touch an essence of magic known as the Else. They fill the role most familiar from other fantasy series, where characters can “tap into” the magic and wield it at will. Part of what I loved about the Powder Mage trilogy, however, was these traditionally high-power mages weren’t front and center. They’re side characters–important, to be sure–but they take a back seat to the far more fascinating military prowess of the Powder Mages.

I also enjoyed the “Knacked” class of magic users in the trilogy. These are everyday folks who happen to be very gifted in one specific area (i.e. having a knack). Not needing sleep. Having a perfect memory. McClellan takes full advantage of the Knackeds’ abilities, and it’s brilliant! Olem, Tamas’ right hand man who requires no sleep, is one of my favorite characters.

The presence of Knacks left me wondering why we fantasy authors have overlooked this simple trick in the past.

If I had one nit-pick it’s that I wanted a little more creativity in the naming of places and landmarks. Everything (and I mean everything) stems from the country’s name of Adro – the capital city of Adopest, the Adsea, the Addown River, etc.

But, beyond that niggle, McClellan’s world is beautifully and deeply crafted, anchored in detail. It has to be since so much of the stakes revolve around saving the nation of Adro. McClellan adds multiple high fantasy layers, with warring gods and prophecies, but at its heart, the Powder Mage trilogy is about soldiers’ love for their country and the lengths to which they’ll go to keep it free and alive.

And I absolutely loved it!!

5star

Five stars.

Find this book on Amazon

 

Friday Fandom: ALL THE FANDOMS!

Okay, not really ALL the fandoms! But we have tons of awesome, fun trailers to share with you today!

In no particular order, we shall begin!

First, SHERLOCK!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sherlock never disappoints me and I am so excited for this Victorian Christmas Special.

Next, SHADOWHUNTERS!

 

I’m super excited for SHADOWHUNTERS. I wrote a Fandom Post about this here. The acting is a little cheesy, but I love the casting choices, and I think the changes are going to be great. I think with this one, we want to think of the series as a adaptation of the books.

You can see more sneak peaks of SHADOWHUNTERS here and here!

And last is the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES trailer!

Can I just say, I want to watch this movie sans Zombies?! I love Lily James as Elizabeth Bennett! Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this movie, but I think it will be both hilarious and kickass!

Tell us what you think! Which fandom are you most excited for? Which trailer did you enjoy most?

Friday Fandom: Top 10 Ships (Space and Nautical) of All Time

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So, it occurs to me I must really like ships. My first series features a fleet of tall ships—I toured several and sailed in one as part of my research—and my most recent novel is a space opera… with ships of a different kind! There’s just something grand and cool about how a ship can take you away. (And judging by a certain beloved pirate, I’m guessing Ashley agrees!)

Of course, when I realized that, I couldn’t resist a countdown for this week’s Friday Fandom. Here are my favorite fictional sea and space vessels. What are yours?

10. The Boru Karn, Gabriel’s Ghost and Shades of Dark
Props to Linnea Sinclair for making me love a ship I’ve never seen on the big screen. She’s got great description not only of the ship, but of how it moves through space. And, like so many others on this list, it’s got a charismatic captain!

9. The Sky Vessel, Stardust Stardust
It’s a tall ship. It flies. It catches lightning. That’s the trifecta! Now, throw in its colorful Captain Shakespeare, and you can’t lose.

8. The USS Enterprise, Star Trek
Before people get all feisty, this ranking says more about me than the ship. I came to the series late and have mostly only seen the new ones, so I feel like I can’t *really* do the ship full justice. Though it is one awesome ship!

7. The Indefatigable, Horatio Hornblower
My mom loves this series, and I got hooked on the VHS’ before I got a DVD player set up in my apartment. It’s partly the inspiration for the name of my most recent spaceship.

6. Shield’s Helicarrier, The Avengers
Why has no one actually created this yet?! It makes the list for sheer awesomeness of concept.

5. Serenity, Firefly and Serenity
They made this ship come alive! It felt like a home to the characters, and I couldn’t get enough! She’s scrappy and beat up, but still kickin’. Just like Mal.

4. The Inferno (AKA One-eyed Willie’s ship), Goonies
The one that started it all for me. I adore this movie, can quote every line, and when the ship sails free at the end I want to pound my chest in joy just like Sloth.

3. The Millennium Falcon, Star Wars
C’mon, it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. What’s not to love?

2. The Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean
You may have heard of her captain. His name is Sparrow. Plus, this is just a downright gorgeous ship.

1. Moya, Farscape
She’s a living ship. She gives birth to a baby warship. Game, set, match!

From Farscape.wikia

From Farscape.wikia

Nicole’s Review: MAGONIA

MagoniaTitle: MAGONIA

Author: Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 320

Synopsis: Aza Ray Boyle is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—but as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war between Magonia and Earth is coming. In Aza’s hands lies fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

Review:

I was a little surprised by how much I liked this book. A race of birds? Songbirds that fly in and out of people’s lungs? Sky vessels and squallwhales? There’s plenty of quirkiness to go around, and while it might catch some readers off guard, I found it utterly charming and entrancing!

The worldbuilding was fresh and delightful. I mean, sky vessels?! Maybe it’s a holdover from Disney’s Peter Pan or my love for Goonies and, more recently, Stardust, but I’ve always been captivated by the idea of tall ships sailing the skies. And squallwhales?! I love the idea of giant cloud-wreathed leviathans breathing our weather into being with their songs. MAGONIA fueled my imagination in that rare way that calls to mind childhood wonder and daydreaming just for the joy of it.

Speaking of songs, music lovers will enjoy how Dahvana Headley positions the magic of her music in MAGONIA. It literally has the power to create and destroy. Though this isn’t a new concept in fantasy, her approach feels unique and strangely subtle, given its importance in the book’s climax.

Yet, as much as I loved the worldbuilding, my favorite aspect of MAGONIA was its characters—especially Aza and Jason. They are quirkily perfect for each other and, unlike the insta-love of many YA books these days, readers get to see their deep friendship and love grow throughout the book without being hit over the head with it. Their commitment to each other feels real and extremely strong.

That’s thanks in large part to the fact that they’re both individually strong characters and hilariously funny at times in a dead-pan, inside-joke way that made their voices distinctive and fun to read. They’re each smart, sarcastic and clever. I laughed out loud more than once!
One caveat though: You’ll know by the end of the first chapter if Aza’s voice works for you or not. She can come close to being overpowering or too stream of consciousness-y. I enjoyed it, but it won’t work for everyone.

The first third of the book is almost entirely about battling Aza’s illness on Earth and has an almost “Bridge to Terabithia” feel to it, which I found endearing. The second third introduces readers more deeply to Magonia, the world in the sky, and its inhabitants, and the third wraps up a nice break-in / sky-singing battle climax.

Each of these sections carried a slightly different tone and pacing, and it’s Aza’s and Jason’s voices that anchor the reader and keep drawing us in. The plot does veer a little thin about half-way through the book, or at least I kept expecting more from it, given various hints along the way. The climax itself is very satisfactory, though without the personal stakes of Aza and Jason, I think the external stakes (stealing plants – albeit really rare and cool plants!) would have fallen short for me.

For all the time Aza spends in Magonia, I wish we could know a few of the characters better—especially Dai, Aza’s crewmate and singing partner with a tragic background and mysterious allegiances, and Zal and Ley, captains who played a big role in Aza’s time on Earth and who still have major scores to settle. But, part of my reason for wanting more is that Dahvana Headley paints beautiful descriptions and mysteries that make you want to dive in and learn ALL the reasons.

I did really love Caru, the heartbird. He is everything majestic, free and loyal that you could possibly imagine about a bird of prey. I also had a soft spot for the batsail, who is at once noble and sad. These are great examples of how MAGONIA moves beyond a typical YA to touch deeper heartstrings, deeper lessons of life. I love, love, love books that do this well!

Another element that made me tear up was Dahvana Headley’s lovely and loving portrayal of family. The simple yet ever-strong ties between Aza and her Earth-bound family are frankly breathtaking in several places, and Jason’s family too is close-knit and wonderful.

So, MAGONIA, a bit of quirk, a dash of wonder, and a whole lot of fun!

Four stars.

4star

Find this book on Amazon.

Author’s Couch: Q&A with Kelley Lynn

I first met Kelley Lynn shortly after we discovered we were both WI authors and shortly before I read her FRACTION OF STONE debut. Since then, she’s hit her publishing stride with the rest of the Fraction series, as well as a number of successful titles in contemporary YA. We snagged a few moments of her time to talk about the Fraction series in particular!

-Nicole

Fraction of StoneSynopsis

Wind tunnels, torrential rains and earthquakes tear apart Casden. The cause of the world’s imbalance is unknown, but the mounting occurrences suggest there’s little time before life ceases to exist.

Rydan Gale and Akara Nazreth are the only humans with the ability to wield magic. The tattoo on their necks and the discovery of an ancient book explaining the importance of a blue stone, dictate they are the key to the world’s survival.

But the greatest obstacle for saving mankind isn’t the natural disasters, extreme betrayals and magic-fearing men hunting them.

It’s that Akara doesn’t believe the world is worth saving.

 

Q&A

  1. What’s the story behind the story? Tell us a little about where you got the idea for your book.

The Fraction Series started on a plane. Which isn’t that surprising since I travel a lot for my day job so I’m on planes all the time. It was NaNoWriMo 2011 and I was working on a different book (a contemporary boy POV about baseball. I have genre commitment issues.) Anyways…I was halfway through that book and wasn’t into it anymore, so I asked myself what I wanted to write. Akara, one of the two main characters in the Fraction Series, popped into my head. This broken, used, defeated girl who is one of two people in the whole world who has magic. The first draft of FRACTION OF STONE was finished ten days later.

BFF: Wow, 10 days?! I’m jealous! But, seriously, Akara is a fantastic character and your opening chapter sucks in readers in an instant!

  1. What’s your personal favorite part about the story? A character you loved writing, a scene that gives you shivers in all the best ways, etc.

I have a hard time picking “favorites” as a general life issue. Haha. But… let’s see. I really love Tristan. He’s one of the main secondary characters whose been holed up in a decrepit village all his life with no one but his grandmother. He’s covered in tattoos (because what else do you do if you’re by yourself?) and really funny. He manages to still be the optimist even the world is trying everything in its power to change that mindset.

  1. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

That even when the whole world is against you, all it takes is one person to make going through all that crap worth it.

BFF: What a great lesson and perspective! 

  1. Who/what are some of your favorite authors or books? Can you share how they’ve inspired you?

Ah! Favorites again! (Kidding, kidding). Well, I was influenced by Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE when I wrote FRACTION OF STONE. I had just read it, and it has such beautiful prose, wonderful world building. I also love Harry Potter and The Wheel of Time Series and Sword of Truth.

BFF: Have you been looking at my bookshelf lately?! We seem to share the same title-love.

  1. What is most likely to draw you in to a book?

I have to be drawn in within the first two chapters. If I’m invested in the characters, want to know about them and their journey, I’m in.

  1. Tell us a little about your publishing journey.

I started writing in July of 2011. Since that time, I have finished around 13 manuscripts. FRACTION OF STONE was my first published work. By the end of 2015, all four books in the Fraction Series saga will have been released. I also have two novels through Bloomsbury Spark, ROAD TO SOMEWHERE (YA Contemp) and ONE WISH AWAY (YA Science Fiction).  And another YA Contemp will be released through Tulip Romance in November 2015.

  1. What’s next on your plate?

I have two series that are dying to be written (we’ll see which one is talking louder when it comes time). I’ve also got some work with my agent that we’re on submission with.

BFF: Lots of excellent things happening for you! Can’t wait to see your next projects. But, first, on to the fun stuff!

Favorite dragon: Saphira
Favorite Shakespeare: Hamlet (I memorized a monologue from it once)
Favorite fantasy food: Mist Mead (It’s the booze in the Fraction Series)

BFF: Props for naming your own booze creation! Have a Mist Mead on us. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by the Author’s Couch!

Kelly LynnMore About Kelley

Eventually the day came when the voices in Kelley Lynn’s head were more insistent than her engineering professor’s. So instead of turning to her Thermodynamics book, Kelley brought up a blank page on her computer and wrote. Somewhere along the way, she became a Young Adult author.

Kelley’s enjoyed working with Bloomsbury Spark (ROAD TO SOMEWHERE and ONE WISH AWAY) and Tulip Romance (STAGE KISSED, Nov. 2015). As well as publishing work on her own. Feel free to hang out with Kelley at her Facebook Page or see what she’s tweeting about. (@KelleyLynn1) She loves to get feedback on her work through authorkelleylynn@gmail.com.

More About FRACTION OF STONE

 

Fandom Post: Plume Web Comic

This Fandom Post is short and sweet. Let me introduce you to the awesomeness that is the Plume Web Comic.

This Comic follows the life of Vesper Grey and her supernatural protector Corrick. Their relationships is hilarious and a little complicated. Did I mention it’s set in the West? And they’re mission is to uncover stolen artifacts? Of course, it isn’t that simple. There are plenty of bumps along the way.

What are you waiting for?! Read Plume NOW!