“Overneath” by Peter S. Beagle

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I’ve been a fan of Peter S. Beagle’s work ever since I read The Last Unicorn, a cheerfully bittersweet examination of life and fairy tales. I also enjoyed In Calabria, Beagle’s more recent take on unicorns. However, aside from a short sequel to The Last Unicorn, I hadn’t read any of Beagle’s shorter fiction. Overneath is a collection Beagle’s short stories, some previously published and some new to this volume. It’s a great introduction to Beagle’s fiction. Continue reading ““Overneath” by Peter S. Beagle”

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“You Win or You Die: The Ancient World of Game of Thrones” by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov

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Season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones just wrapped up, but the speculation and commentary still rages on. A few weeks ago, I reviewed a book about medieval warfare in Game of Thrones. This time, I take a look at You Win or You Die: The Ancient World of Game of Thrones by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Texas at Austin. This book analyzes Game of Thrones from the perspective of Greco-Roman literature, showing how ancient epics from our own world can help us better understand Westeros.

Continue reading ““You Win or You Die: The Ancient World of Game of Thrones” by Ayelet Haimson Lushkov”

“In Calabria” by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books, so I could hardly contain my excitement when I saw that he’d written a new story about unicorns. In Calabria is a short story about Claudio Bianchi, an Italian farmer whose life has seemingly fallen into a rut. At least until a pregnant unicorn visits his villa. In Calabria isn’t a sequel to The Last Unicorn, but in some ways it serves as a spiritual successor. The book addresses some of the same themes as The Last Unicorn, including mortality, modernity, and mundanity. It also contains the beautiful language and sense of whimsy I’ve come to expect from Beagle’s best works. Continue reading ““In Calabria” by Peter S. Beagle”

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

mv5bmjmxotm1oti4mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwode5otyxmdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is the first Harry Potter movie not based directly on one of J.K. Rowling’s novels (although she did write the script).* The movie takes place in New York City in 1926, over 70 years before Harry Potter first went to Hogwarts. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an eccentric wizard/zoologist, accidentally releases some of his magical creatures while visiting America. He teams up with Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an agent of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). They also encounter Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a muggle—or No-Maj to the Americans—who dreams about opening a pastry shop. Together, the three of them track down Newt’s creatures before they can wreck havoc on New York City. There’s also a subplot involving an anti-wizard movement led by the headmistress of a Dickensian orphanage, Chastity Barebone (Jenn Murray). Continue reading ““Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them””

Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season 6, Episode 10)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowWith only 13 episodes left for the show, Game of Thrones needed to wrap a lot of subplots in order to have enough time to deal with the impending White Walker invasion. “The Winds of Winter” did that, and then some. The episode killed off most supporting characters in a few dramatic scenes. As I’ve argued elsewhere, this downsizing was absolutely necessary. Game of Thrones had gotten too unwieldy; Season 5 seemed so intent on tracking the various subplots that it forgot to tell a story. “The Winds of Winter” violently confirmed that, at its core, Game of Thrones is, has been, and always will be about the three primary factions we met back in Season 1: the Starks, Lannisters, and Targaryens. Continue reading “Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” (Season 6, Episode 10)”

Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowGame of Thrones has become infamous for its unpredictability. Beheading Ned Stark in Season 1 shocked viewers because it defied everything we thought we knew about fantasy stories (namely, that the hero always wins). Over the past season, the plot of Game of Thrones has become increasingly predictable; the show is no longer willing or able to subvert audience expectations (Hodor’s death in “The Door” being a major exception). Instead, how the characters respond to predictable plot developments has become less predictable. This is what makes “Battle of the Bastards” so effective. The plot is about as straightforward as Game of Thrones gets, yet the episode contains moments that subvert what we knew – or thought we knew – about these characters. Continue reading “Game of Thrones, “Battle of the Bastards” (Season 6, Episode 9)”

Game of Thrones, “No One” (Season 6, Episode 8)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowSeason 6 of Game of Thrones has been an improvement over the previous season in all ways but one: Meereen. To be fair, Meereen is far from becoming the new Dorne, but the plot thread isn’t quite working as effectively as I’d hoped. Tyrion’s time in Meereen had the potential to be a fascinating story about political compromise, but the writers seem unsure how to adapt such a story to the show’s format.

At the end of Season 5, the Sons of the Harpy forced Daenerys to flee Meereen. It seemed like a firm rejection of Daenerys’ heavy-handed reliance on military force to impose a social and political revolution. Daenerys abolished slavery overnight and left many dispossessed elites bitter and angry. She proved unable to govern effectively without the support – or at least acquiescence – of those elites. Continue reading “Game of Thrones, “No One” (Season 6, Episode 8)”

Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man” (Season 6, Episode 7)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowBefore Season 6 aired, I talked with friends about my predictions for the story.  As Game of Thrones fans are wont to do, I focused on who would die and which characters might return after a long hiatus. I thought my friend’s prediction that Sandor Clegane (a.k.a., “The Hound”) would return was absolutely inane. As much as I’d enjoyed the Hound-Arya buddy comedy in Season 4, I wasn’t sad to see the character go because I thought he’d already had a satisfying arc. Moreover, Arya left him at the bottom of a cliff after he’d suffered fatal wounds in a battle against Brienne. Surely, he was dead. Continue reading “Game of Thrones, “The Broken Man” (Season 6, Episode 7)”

Game of Thrones: “Blood of My Blood” (S6, E6)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowFor fans of George R.R. Martin’s novels, the biggest revelation in “Blood of My Blood” concerns the identity of a certain “Coldhands.” In the books, the mysterious Coldhands helps Bran and Meera reach the cave of the thee-eyed raven. His identity was never revealed, but fans had long speculated that it was Bran’s uncle Benjen, who in the first book (Season 1 of the show) had disappeared north of the Wall.

SPOILER WARNING for Season 6, Episode 6: “Blood of My Blood”

Continue reading “Game of Thrones: “Blood of My Blood” (S6, E6)”

Game of Thrones: “The Door” (S6, E5)

game-of-thrones-season-6-premiere-date-jon-snowIt seems like the general consensus is that “The Door” is not only the best episode of Season 6 so far, but also the best episode of Game of Thrones since last year’s “Hardhome.” There’s a lot to like, from the earth-shattering revelation about the White Walkers to the wonderful skit in Braavos that reenacted Season 1. It also helped that the episode didn’t waste time with Ramsay Bolton or Dorne. Yet, I think one reason the episode worked so well is that we didn’t expect the big revelation about Hodor. Continue reading “Game of Thrones: “The Door” (S6, E5)”