Time Travel Part 2

The Dark by Marianne Curley

This is the second book in the trilogy that started with the Named. It’s got the same interesting, time traveling, evil bad guy kicking plot points as the last book, but it’s large problem is also becoming clearer: very weak characters.

I will summarize the story. Female Heroine and Generous Mentor figure, who also happens to be her soul mate, go on a mission together to stop the murder of a young woman in the past. They are attacked by Mindless Evil Minions who kidnap Generous Mentor. Generous Mentor is then tortured but refuses to betray his people, so he is taken to be the bait in trap by the Moral Bad Guy. In the trap he meets the ghost of his former pupil Ethan’s sister, the Surprise Crazy Prison Acquaintance. Mean while, back on earth Female Heroine, Male Hero, Over Protective Brother, Grumpy Mentor and Fun Mentor try to launch a mission to rescue Generous Mentor. However, they are blocked in their efforts by the Greater Power, who insists it’s too much of a risk. After a few missions with the Bitter Turncoat, Female Heroine, Male Hero and Over Protective Brother defy Greater Power with the help of Benevolent Council Members. After meeting the Lone Moral Minion and turning the Moral Bad Guy to their side, the rescue mission is a great success, they all get back to face the Greater Good’s judgement, are forgiven and we all buckle down for the next book.

The trouble with this book is not the story, which might be generic but still interesting, particularly with the time traveling to different ages to stop history from being changed, which is potentially awesome, but the characters. I want Professor Snape, not Grumpy Mentor who has no character traits other then grumping and guiding the kids. I wand Grover not Over Protective Brother because one trait doesn’t make a person whole. I want the Council of Elrond because they make mistakes and screw ups and then they own them and that’s more interesting then the Benevolent Council who never do anything but appear to offer wisdom, help or guidance when the plot is really stuck. I don’t want soulmates who can’t help but love each other, I want love, which is real and hard and full of a lot more then just blushes and first kisses and destiny. I know I’m being snobby, but the reason this book isn’t in the same league as Harry Potter or Percy Jackson is because everyone’s a trope and no one steps off the page.

Having said that, I’ll totally be reading the next one.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Boyhood, but I didn’t get much out of it.

Last episode I watched:

Leverage! I can’t even. They are all my favourites.

New Batman, New Joker and all the old favourites! Although some of them have eye patches

Batman Beyond: 10,000 by Adam Beechen and Norm Breyfogle

Batman Beyond is always pretty awesome. As far as I know (and let’s face it, it might not be that far) Terry’s story line has mostly been left alone by DC, so it’s pleasantly linear (with the exception of an episode of the Justice League cartoon from the 1990s). It’s also usually well written and smart, with its only distinct feeling, as well as all of the iconic Batman-iness.

I actually kind of loved this one.

Terry’s personal life has collapsed after his girlfriend dumps him, the same week her brother is released from prison (remember that later, it’s probably important). Jokerz, criminals¬†inspired by the original Joker, are flocking into Gotham, so Terry and Bruce have their hands full, and call in favours from old favourites like Barbara Gordon, Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, but not in time to stop a deadly attack on the city. In the middle of the story there’s Jake, the man who shot Terry’s father, while working for Derek Powers. Unable to live with his guilt, he ends up putting on a mask himself and becoming Vigilante. He and Batman fight side by side, and I am excited to see the story where everyone’s secret identities are revealed and that gets worked out.

One of the things that Batman Beyond does really well at is the future Gotham City. It has a different feel from the old Gotham, from the high rise lives people now live (more things for Batman to fall off of!) to the technology (now the Batmobile flies now to accommodate the high rises schools, hospitals and parks), the street language and slang (used by the young characters in contrast with the older ones), the Jokerz (slightly edgier then the often suit wearing Joker) and Batman’s look and utility belt. But the Cave, Wayne Manner and the original Bat Family feature just enough to remind the reader of a different time.

Terry is also kind of a more relatable Batman. I mean, I’ve never been rich enough to build a cave under my mansion. Terry comes from a divorced, working class home. He goes to high school and has a girlfriend. Compared to Bruce Wayne who traveled the world to meet monks and sword masters – it’s not hard. I was most of the going to high school thing, and that’s a kind of nice experience, a Batman who’s super power isn’t wealth.

So all in all if you enjoy Batman comics or just comics in general or feel like picking up a character that does not have seventy four alternate realities to shift through, I suggest this one.

Last movie I watched:

Ocean’s Eleven. Good time.

Last TV episode I watched:

Leverages. One of the best scripted TV shows ever.

…. And no, I’m not considering a career as a master criminal. Why do you ask?

The eagles are coming! No, it’s not Tolkien

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis

Prue is babysitting her brother in the park one day when a flock of crows fly down and pick him up, carrying him out of Portland and into the Impassible Wilderness. Determined not to loose him, Prue goes after him. Curtis, a classmate who’s never really fit in anywhere is determined to help her, and together they set out. But when they run into an army of coyotes they get separated. Oddly enough, a kidnapping flock of crows and an army of coyotes aren’t even the weirdest thing either of them will experience on their adventure, as they discover an evil villain who’s plan will destroy all of Wildwood and kill Mac, Prue’s little brother.

To me, there are two really unique things about this book, in addition to it’s charming, humourous writing style and fairy tale-esque feel: the coming of age stories and the wonderful cast of supporting characters. Really, when that’s what you’re working with, you come out with a great book.

Here there be spoilers.

Curtis and Prue both have really well developed coming of age stories. Curtis, newly captured by coyotes begins his journey by joining the Dowager Governess and her armies. But when Curtis realizes she isn’t who she appears he chooses to resist her, the first real choice he makes since his arrival in Wildwood, and it is made alone. He ends up thrown in prison for his defiance and there he meets his fellow prisoners. They are all adults, but it’s Curtis who facilitates their escape, with the help of Septimus the rat. After that, Curtis falls in with the Bandit King, but he’s just enlisted into the army and marches to war. In the end he ¬†chooses to stay in Wildwood instead of returning to his family in Portland. He’s no Harry Potter, with Dumbledore, Siris Black or Remus Lupin looking out for him – every choice he makes is his own, guided only by his sense of what’s right and wrong and his own courage.

Prue’s experience is different. First she meets a friendly postman who helps her along, but he sends her to the Governor for help. However, the Governor has no intention of helping her. Luckily Owl Rex, the Crowned Prince of the Aviary District moves to help her but he only sets her on the path to North Woods to get help from the Mystics before he is arrested for treason. Prue flees to the Aviary District with the help of a few friends, meets the General, who again offers his help, only to be killed before he can get her to North Woods. Once again alone, she is rescued by the Bandit King, who agrees to help her but is captured by the Dowager Governess. The Governess even acts as a mentor to Prue, encouraging her to simply return home and promising that she will protect Mac. Prue, in desperate need of an adult to help her, agrees. But even when she returns home she finds out that her parents knew about this risk to Mac and that they cannot offer her any comfort, so she once again heads off into the forest, where she finally finds the Mystics. There at last she finds an adult who is willing and able to help her. Despite all the helping hands Prue gets along the way, she alone is responsible for the journey she takes and she takes it alone.

For a child, it’s a pretty empowering story because adults are either very temporary, forcing the children to work things out on their own or not to be trusted, in which case they are outsmarted and everybody enjoys that, don’t they?

It also saves you from sad mentor death, because there really isn’t one.

Wildwood also has a wonderful bunch of supporting characters, from the talking animals like Septimus the Rat, Dmitri the defector Coyote and Evner the Swallow to Brandon the Bandit King and Richard the Postman all the way to the Mystics, all of whom are all wise and powerful without loosing their character. The writing is careful, beautiful with a mix of serious subject matter, like human sacrifice and sweet innocent moments, like Curtis trying to teach the bandits Mustang Sally.

It’s a thick book, good for an older strong reader or a read aloud with parents who are looking for something a little more complex and I would recommend it highly!

Last movie I watched:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. Feel free to judge me starting now.

Last TV show I watched:

Second last episode of Buffy EVER!! Man, those script writers were ON FIRE.

Time travel doesn’t make any sense. But it’s fun. So fun.

The Named by Marianne Curley

The copy of this book that I read is a prime example of why you should always put a blurb at the back cover, because I read the prologue and was terrified, thinking I’d accidentally picked up a horror novel, despite it coming to me very highly recommended.

But no, the first chapter was a description of the brutal murder of a little girl, witnessed only by her four year old brother and then after that it totally shifted into a much less frightening story. It’s the story of two teenagers, Ethan and Isabelle, and the story is told through alternating first person perspectives. After the death of his big sister Ethan was found by the Guardians of Time, a secret, magical order that sends agents back in time to ensure that history unfolds the way it’s meant to, as an evil Order lead by the Goddess of Chaos tries to gain power by interfering with the past. Now a teenager, he is given his next mission: to train a new member of the Guard. Isabelle is Ethan’s former best friend’s younger sister, and has had a crush on Ethan since she was a little girl. Together they end up with the future resting on their shoulders, as they begin to understand the Prophecy that they are each a part of.

While this book wasn’t the most subtle in it’s writing style or narrative, it was a really fun, face paced story. It’s one of those books that I’m surprised hasn’t done better then it seems to have. It has most of the classic and key elements on children’s novels including but not limited to: tragic past, mysterious love-ish interest, soul mates, cool superpowers, secret back story, shocking reveals about family members, sword fights, training montage, epic solo quests, somewhat questionable and suitably removed authority figures and a really, really intense final battle. Really, the only thing that real sets it apart from similar stories is the writing style and a general lack of humour. It’s a bit of a shame because the time travel is really interesting.

Just an observation but there is no way for fiction to make sense if there’s time travel in it. Writing time travel is demanding complete suspension of disbelief and trust in the illogical without question. Reading it is the biggest leap of faith. Presumably that’s why we all love it so much. Other than physicists who get hung up on the details of how it makes no sense.

In this book we see Ethan struggling with his nonfunctional parents. His father has withdrawn since the death of his child and his mother struggles with clinical depression. Isabelle’s drunk and abusive father left her when she was four and she’s still struggling with that. Rochelle’s father beat her mother to death. While that’s maybe a little much for one novel, I think it’s a pretty good thing to talk about consequences of abusive, absent or unwell parents again to give kids who have these experiences. Not only is it important to see yourself reflected in this stories, but these characters are heroes, so much more than the sum of their parents’ struggles and that’s really what matters about them.

There’s two more in this set, I’m looking forward to getting to them soon, and would totally encourage anyone interested to pick these books up and see what you think!

Last movie I watched:

Still Georgia’s Rules. Speaking of shitty parents and child abuse….

Last TV episode I watched:

Once Upon a Time. Oh god Henry!!! Actually, there’s another one with difficult parents.