Tag Archives: Fantasy

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

The Ursus Versus by Nathan Waddell book cover. Image on cover is of a cartoon bear standing behind a tree stump, peeking out, and waving. Title: The Ursus Versus

Author: Nathan Waddell

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 66 pages

Source: I purchased it.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking for something to do? Because that’s what I like and this is my chapbook which captures that spirit of fun and terror and the comfort of a good fun book.
This is the first in a series of chapbooks containing poetry and flash fiction and short stories with themes ranging from those mentioned above to deeper explorations of humanity. But honestly the themes mentioned already are all about that too.

Review:

Now is the perfect time for lighthearted science fiction.

Ordinarily, I’ll pick out a few short stories, poems, or essays from collections like these and share my thoughts about them. There were so many funny themes covered here that I thought it was best to allow other readers to discover them for yourselves without spoilers, especially since the later entries often referenced earlier ones.  All you need to know is that this is heavily based on science, science fiction, fantasy, and mythology. Start at the beginning, relax, and enjoy.

This is the sort of young adult science fiction that easily crosses over into adult audiences. The humour in it is tongue-in-cheek and does rely on a certain amount of understanding of the types of scientific concepts generally taught in high school, but it explains most of them well enough to appeal to preteens who haven’t taken Biology yet or older adults who might have last thought about the Paleozoic era half a century ago. In other words, don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’re “Young Adult” enough for this collection. If you’re interested, there will almost certainly be something here that appeals to you.

Some of my favourite sections were the ones that relied on puns and jokes. Yes, there were the usual quips about what bears do in the woods, but that was the only the beginning of the many reasons to laugh while reading this collection. Honestly, what could be better than finding the humour in speculative fiction no matter which branch of it the narrator happens to be visiting at the moment? I sure can’t think of many things.

Be sure to read the author’s explanations of why he wrote select pieces of this collection. The explanations are all located at the very end, and it was really interesting to read their backstories.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Everything published here was first written about twenty years ago, and Mr. Waddell’s writing style has evolved quite a bit since then. If you want to follow along as he shares that journey, The Ursus Versus the perfect place to start.

Heading Home: A Review of Abominable

Everest the yeti cuddling with the three teenage protagonists of Abominable. Content warning: vomiting and references to the death of a parent. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

Abominable is a 2019 American animated children’s fantasy film about three teenagers who travel from Shanghai to Mount Everest in the Himalayan mountains to return a kidnapped Yeti they nicknamed Everest to his home.

They must accomplish this while avoiding the wealthy businessman who wants Everest back and the zoologist he hired to track down this rare and valuble creature.

 

Characters

Chloe Bennet as Yi
Chloe Bennet as Yi

Yi was a violin-playing teenager who lived with her mother and grandmother. Their family could afford the basics in life but had to budget carefully for anything beyond their simple lifestyle. 

The cool thing about Yi was that she was always looking for a way to pay for her own treats. She wasn’t afraid of hard work if it would get her access to things that her family couldn’t otherwise afford.

Albert Tsai as Peng

Peng was a friend of Yi’s and Jin’s cousin. He was a playful, fun-loving teen who sometimes had trouble thinking through the probably consequences of his actions before trying something new. 

Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin
Tenzing Norgay Trainor as Jin

Jin was a friend of Yi’s and Peng’s cousin. He’d always lived in a very financially stable home and sometimes had difficulty understanding why other folks were cautious with their possessions and money. 

Joseph Izzo as Everest
Joseph Izzo as Everest

Everest was the the young, impulse, friendly Yeti at the heart of all of this conflict and adventure.

Eddie Izzard as Burnish
Eddie Izzard as Burnish

Burnish was a wealthy man and head of Burnish Industries. He wanted to have a pet Yeti all to himself. 

Sarah Paulson as Dr. Zara
Sarah Paulson as Dr. Zara

 

Dr. Zara was a zoologist working with Burnish to capture a Yeti for him. She was an intelligent and resourceful woman who looked for every opportunity to get what her client wanted.

My Review

What an adventure this story was!

Yi was such a memorable main character. She had a sweet but sometimes stubborn personality that shone through no matter what combination of emotions she was currently experiencing. I thought the screenwriters did an excellent job of capturing the ups and downs of being a teenager, especially one that had already been through as much adversity as she had.

I enjoyed Pen’s innocent approach to the things he and his friends experienced. He seemed young for his age in the sense that I wondered if his parents were much more protective than the parents of his friends.

It took me a while to warm up to Jin because of how different our childhood experiences were as far as knowing the cost of common items and our expectations surrounding the shopping process go. I couldn’t imagine shrugging off some of the financial stuff he did, but his maturation in this area went a long way in endearing me to him. Some kids genuinely do grow up in families that buy them anything they want. I envied those kids a little when we were peers, but this film did a great job of showing the eventual downside of that sort of lifestyle.

The storytelling itself was marvellous. I loved the way all three main (human) characters reacted to Everest and how compassionate they were when they realized he needed to be protected and brought back home. There were so many heartwarming moments between all four of them.

The Yetis in this film were quite different from the ones I reviewed in Smallfoot earlier this month. I’d better not go into detail here, but I would recommend taking the time to compare and contrast them to anyone who watches both of these films.

Abominable Snowmen are fascinating creatures in general, and I’m glad to see them getting more attention in the media. Every reinterpretation of what they might be like if they were real creatures only pushes them into the limelight once again, and I like that.

This tale was filled with adventure from beginning to end. I had such a good time following along on the main characters’ trip to the Himalayan Mountains. The only piece of constructive criticism I can give to it is that I wish it had spent more time showing what Yeti society was like in general. Smallfoot did a great job of showing Yetis at many different ages and stages of life.

Everest was a very young Yeti, and there weren’t too many examples of other members of his species. So there were a few times when I wasn’t sure if his behaviour was due to his species or the fact that he was probably the equivalent of a preschooler or young child as far as his development went.

With that being said, this is a minor criticism. The rest of this film was well written and entertaining. I am planning to rewatch it and hope anyone else who gives it a shot enjoys it just as much as I did.

 

Abominable is available on Crave and Apple TV.

A Review of Fangs & Fairy Dust

Fangs & Fairy Dust by Melissa Monroe book cover. Image on cover is a cartoon image of a vampire wearing a maid's uniform and holding a fairy in the palm of her right hand Title: Fangs & Fairy Dust

Author: Melissa Monroe

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 14, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 63 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A vampire baker —before she opened shop — sinks her teeth into a local mystery.

If you love paranormal witch cozy mysteries, you’ll love this book!

Review:

Content warning: kidnapping. I will not be discussing it in my review.

Not every vampire is a villain.

Most of the vampire fiction I read is firmly rooted in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to read about a vampire who had a strict code of ethics and stuck to it. I didn’t always agree with the decisions Priscilla, the main character, made, but I knew she’d stick to her deeply-held beliefs about what was right and wrong. She was principled like that, and I admired her for it.

There wasn’t much character development in this tale at all. I understand that this was the beginning of a new series, but I still would have liked to see Priscilla change in some way as a result of her earliest experiences with her fairy godmother. She had plenty of opportunities to do so. Seeing her end up the same person as she was in the beginning dampened my enthusiasm to keep going with her adventures.

It was nice to see a mystery wrapped up so quickly. Priscilla wasted no time in trying to figure out what was really happening with it. No, I can’t go into details about what was going on there without giving away spoilers due to the short length of this story and what a small role it played in the plot, but I can say that I appreciated her determination to get to the truth no matter what.

I also would have liked to see more attention paid to the plot development. Once again, I wouldn’t expect a novella to be as well-developed as something full length, but there was so much more the author could have done with a vampire who remembered life in the 1600s and could tell people about it in the present day.

The punchy dialogue kept making me smile. There were some clever one liners thrown about, and they were pretty evenly distributed among the main characters. It’s nice when the spotlight can be shared among multiple characters like that. No, the dialogue didn’t match the way people actually spoke in 1665, but I assumed Priscilla translated all of the thees and thous into modern, conversational English for the sake of her twenty-first companion who was hearing about the beginning of her relationship with her fairy godmother for the first time.

Fangs & Fairy Dust was a quick, lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is in the mood for such a thing.

Seeking the Truth: A Review of Smallfoot

Film poster for Smallfoot. It shows the main character holding up an elusive smallfoot (aka human) while other members of his yeti village look on in fear, pride, and/or excitement. Smallfoot is a 2018 American children’s animated fantasy film about a yeti who is convinced that those elusive creatures knowns as “smallfoots” or “humans” really do exist.

Against the better judgement of the leader of his people and nearly everyone else in the village, he seeks out the truth about these mythical beings no matter what the cost may be to him or to his people.

As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I was intrigued. Critical thinking and skepticism aren’t topics that are typically covered by stories meant for children.

No, this wasn’t written for or against any particular belief (or non-belief) system if anyone is curious. Instead, it was about using critical thinking skills to analyze the evidence, determining what it’s saying, and then following those clues to their logical conclusion(s).

In this case, that meant accepting the possibility that Yetis may not be alone on this planet after all.

Characters

As always, I speak of characters in the past tense to avoid spoilers in my reviews. I also needed to leave certain characters out of this for spoiler reasons, so be warned if you google this film before watching it!

Channing Tatum as Migo
Channing Tatum as Migo

 

Migo was a young, intelligent male yeti who was determined to prove the existence of the smallfoot. His father was named Dorgle.

Zendaya as Meechee
Zendaya as Meechee

 

Meechee was a young, intelligent female yeti who yearned to discover the truth. She was the Stonekeeper’s daughter and Migo’s love interest.

Common as Stonekeeper
Common as Stonekeeper

Stonekeeper was the condescending yeti chief and father of Thorp (not pictured) and Meechee. His role in their village was both a spiritual and political one. The stones he wore on his body wrote the laws his species followed, but he also had the ability to speak to the spirit world and discover new laws when it suited him.

Danny DeVito as Dorgle
Danny DeVito as Dorgle

 

Dorgle was a dependable middle-aged yeti who was the village gong ringer and Migo’s widowed father. He took his work seriously and was always on time for it.

James Corden as Percy Patterson
James Corden as Percy Patterson

Percy Patterson was a British human filmmaker of wildlife documentaries trying to get back in the spotlight. Sometimes this desire for fame pushed him into making unethical choices like bending the truth in order to get more views online.

Yara Shahidi as Brenda
Yara Shahidi as Brenda

Brenda was Percy’s co-worker for his show. She didn’t believe in Yetis, but she did have a strong moral code that guided her every move even when Percy thought she was being too much of a stickler for the rules.

My Review

The premise of this film was amazing. Not only were the yetis the protagonists which was a wonderful change from the typical, human-centred approach to stories about mythical creatures, Migo and his people had a well-developed and unique culture that I was eager to learn more about.

One of the most interesting things about their culture were the stones that the Stonekeeper wore as a sort of cloak around him. Each stone contained a different pictograph about something that happened in their past that had taught them a valuable lesson about how they should live.

Discovering and interpreting them was a major facet of the Stonekeeper’s job. I loved the way his reaction to that responsibility was portrayed, especially during the earlier scenes before Migo began his quest to find out if the legend of the smallfoot was true.

A large group of yetis gathered around a fire listening to stories.
Story time in a Yeti village.

I also enjoyed the reactions of the various villagers to Migo’s quest. Some of them supported him, while others were suspicious of his intentions or horrified at the thought that the stonekeeper might be wrong about his interpretations of certain stones.

Yes, there are obvious parallels between these scenarios and our world. I’ll leave it up to all of you to put the pieces together. What you should know is that despite the strong fantasy setting this film is ultimately pro-science, pro-logic, and pro-truth.

It didn’t bash anyone or anything. It simply asked the audience to think critically about what they’re told and compare it to what they’ve observed about the world around them. That is something I find incredibly refreshing.

With that being said, I did feel like the filmmakers never quite knew what to do with all of these big ideas they broke down into concepts that small children can understand. The beginning and ending were well done, but the middle sagged for me.

While I do expect animated stories to include silly scenes, there were so many of them in this film that the plot dragged on in places it should have kept up the pace in my opinion. This made it hard for me to keep paying attention even though I was interested in how everything would be tied up in the end.

Was this worth watching? Yes. Would I watch it again? Probably not. But it is something worth putting on for small children or while you’re working on something else.

 

Smallfoot is available on Crave and Apple TV.

The Day Before Christmas Eve: A Review of The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat - a Christmas Short Story by Eldritch Black book cover. Image on coer shows drawing of a blue cat sitting in the snow outside of a village at night. The cat is staring ahead at the reader. Title: The Yule Cat – a Christmas Short Story

Author: Eldritch Black

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 25, 2020

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Holidays

Length: 46 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Strange, scary rumors are flying about the tiny, snowy town below the mountains. Some say a tiger sprang loose from a circus train and roams the snowy meadows. Some say it stalks in the wintry forests. Some say it’s a monster. 

But feisty Maisie Crompton knows that can’t be true. Such things never happen in their sleepy alpine village. 
Or do they?

For soon, Maisie finds herself crossing the path of a spine-chilling legend. The Yule Cat; a fearsome mythical beast collecting snacks for his winter feast. And should Maisie fail in the cat-and-mouse hunt that follows, she might well become the next morsel on his menu…

From the author of Krampus and The Thief of Christmas, The Yule Cat is a short Christmas story brimming with magic, trolls, spooky mythology, and fun and festive chills for readers of all ages

Review:

Be careful what you wish for.

If only I could read that introduction to this review to Maisie! Her envious attitude in the first scene certainly gave me a strong impression of her. I sympathized with her frustration over having to count every last cent so carefully. The holidays are a tough time to be poor, especially for a kid who is watching her best friend show off an expensive new coat. I know the narrator probably wanted us to hope Maisie would learn a valuable lesson about gratitude for what one has. While I had those thoughts as well, I also hoped she’d get a wonderful Christmas gift that matched all of her dreams.

There were a few things about the climax of this story that didn’t quite make sense to me, especially when it came to exactly what Jólakötturinn (The Yule Cat) was capable of. It was never clear to me exactly what the limits of his powers were. Sometimes he seemed capable of things that he hadn’t been a scene before, so I was never sure what to expect from him. It would have been nice to have a firmer understanding of this creature as he was definitely a scary one!

The world building was handled nicely. I appreciated the fact that the author explained a little bit about the backstory of Jólakötturinn for anyone who wasn’t already familiar with that. That attention to detail continued on with the descriptions of the other characters, too. All of their histories were important in order to fully understand how Maisie ended up in such a dangerous predicament on December 23.

Let me end this review with my favourite quote from this tale. It captured the themes of it all nicely.

“He grows when he senses fear, and shrinks when he’s content.”

In Pursuit of Justice: A Review of The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale

Title:The Gest of Robyn Hode & Little Joan According to Alaina of Dale Author: T J Therien Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: May 30, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Length: 83 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: The story as you know it is a lie. Discover… Read More

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention. Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch Author: Jason H. Abbott Publisher: Blue Boar Press Publication Date: October 7, 2019 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the… Read More

Satirical Thanksgiving: A Review of Addams Family Values

Content warning: Childbirth and dark humour. I will go into detail about the latter in this review.  Addams Family Values is a 1993 fantasy comedy film about a macabre but loving family who is trying to rescue their uncle from his new girlfriend who has a dark past and may have ulterior motives for dating… Read More

Vengeance: A Review of Ceremony of Ashes

Title: Ceremony of Ashes – A Horror Novella of Witchcraft and Vengeance Author: Jayson Robert Ducharme Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: May 1, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary Length: 135 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 stars Blurb: Something wicked descends upon Leinster Village Adrian Holloway’s life is turned upside… Read More