Category Archives: Media Review

Iron Grip (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Sydelle Rein

FanFiction ID: 8249420

Status: Complete (21 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Something is off about Merlin; Gwaine can tell. And he’s determined to find out what. When he does discover what’s going on, it’s a bit more than he was expecting–blackmail, evil plots, oh, and Merlin has magic, that’s new. Not entirely surprising, though. In any case, Gwaine’s determined to help his friend out whether Merlin wants help or not. Of course, that might have worked a bit better if they had both had a complete grasp of the nature and magnitude of the issues they were facing.

If you’re looking for a good Merlin fanfic, Sydelle Rein is one of the top writers I would recommend. And Iron Grip is admittedly one of my favorites even among this author’s excellent body of work. The writing is very readable and enjoyable, the plot is credible and true to the conceptual style of Merlin in general. And I love the way the author fleshes out Gwaine’s character and the friendship between Gwaine and Merlin. I mean, their friendship is one of my favorite things about the TV show to begin with, and there is definitely not enough of it in the show. So seeing it developed more here is fabulous. I think the author did a good job of balancing that with Merlin’s relationship with Arthur as well–the bromance and banter is still definitely present. As is Gwaine’s picking on Arthur, which is lovely and very funny. Overall, Iron Grip is a nicely balanced and very enjoyable fanfic which I would certainly recommend.

Note: You can find Iron Grip at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8249420/1/Iron-Grip.

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Of Swords and Warlords (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Jae’s Stories

FanFiction ID: 11300978

Status: Complete (24 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Rated T for violence/whump

If only Merlin had been a bit more careful about concealing his magical protection of the king and his knights when they were attacked by the mercenaries. Sure, Arthur and the others had never particularly noticed the falling branches and overheating enemy swords, and sure, these mercenaries weren’t the brightest bunch, but the fact was, they noticed that Merlin had magic. And that was something the self-proclaimed warlord whom they worked for was very interested in. Because magic means power–possibly even enough power to take over Camelot. But he didn’t count on Merlin’s stubborn loyalty, and he made the possibly fatal mistake of underestimating Merlin’s power. Will loyalty be enough to convince Arthur when he finds out about Merlin’s magic, though?

I really enjoyed reading Of Swords and Warlords, and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the author’s other fanfics. This particular story starts out pretty whumpy, so fair warning there. The author does a good job of bringing out the individual characters though, and I really enjoyed the way the reveal was handled. I also found it amusing that this one started out with Merlin being discovered completely by accident–not by some group seeking out the legendary Emrys, not even by someone out to get the king, but by a group of mercenaries who happened to see too much. Throughout the story, there’s a nice mix of humor and caring/protectiveness that goes a long way to balance out the violence and the angst (not that this is that angst-heavy of a piece to begin with). A lot of that comes from Gwaine, naturally; the author does a great job with his character, and I really love the friendship sections between him and Merlin. Incidentally, I also love that he already secretly knows about Merlin’s magic; I’ve seen about a 50-50 split in fanfics regarding this, and it’s always amusing to see which direction an author goes with that.  Other random stuff that I enjoyed in this story includes a country doctor in a small independent village between Camelot and Cenred’s kingdom (not something you see much of) and Merlin’s “sleep-magicing” like some people may sleepwalk or talk in their sleep (not the best way to keep his magic a secret!). As for the writing itself, there are a couple minor typos and a bit of a tendency towards run-on sentences, but overall it flows, is quite readable, and is engaging and interesting. Of Swords and Warlords would definitely be among my recommended Merlin fanfics, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (which is currently being released).

Note: You can find Of Swords and Warlords at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11300978/1/Of-Swords-and-Warlords.

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Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (Video Game)

By EasyGameStation & Carpe Fulgur

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ditzy and warm-hearted Recette finds herself left with her father’s enormous debt and no way to pay it off. But in the interests of protecting their investment, the creditors contract the straitlaced fairy Tear to help Recette pull her act together and open an items shop in order to pay off her debts. A shop with Recette immediately names “Recettear,” a combination of their names, with a huge grin on her face. Excited to face this new adventure, Recette begins the process of acquiring items, building relationships with customers, and honing her haggling skills. Poor Tear’s got an uphill battle to make this thing work!

If I had to boil Recettear down to one word, “cute” would definitely be it. The anime-like art style, the character designs, the music, it’s all basically adorable. The premise draws on the concept from your typical RPG of the ubiquitous items shop. But while in most games, these shops are pretty generic, this story takes it from the shop owners’ perspective, selling to adventurers and townsfolk alike. It definitely plays like an RPG, but the majority of the focus is on resource management in the shop. Not that you can’t go dungeon crawling if you want to–and sometimes the variety is nice. While the whole buying and selling thing can be a bit repetitive, you are faced with time-management challenges and an increasingly complex market as time goes by. Plus, there are some fun character interactions mixed in, especially between Recette and Tear. I think the adorable relationship between these two–and the stark contrast in their personalities–is what truly makes this game. It’s certainly what I enjoyed the most. As for sound, the music is simple but cute. There is some minimal character voicing, mostly just set phrases, which is all in Japanese but is quite well done; the timing and quality of the actors really does add to the overall flavor of the game, although none of the actual words will make sense unless you have at least a basic understanding of Japanese. All the written text has been translated to English, though, so it’s completely playable–also, the translation is actually quite good. So yeah, it you’re looking for cute RPG that’s a bit different from the norm, I think Recettear is a fun option to try.

Note: You can find Recettear on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/70400/Recettear_An_Item_Shops_Tale/.

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Hurt and Comfort in Camelot (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: PenPatronus

FanFiction ID: 8759369

Status: Complete (49 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

You guessed it: here we have a collection of hurt/comfort short stories set in the Merlin-verse. I’m not even going to attempt a summary proper, since the stories are unrelated for the most part, some even contradicting others in the collection. But basically, this is a miscellaneous group of short stories, drabbles, and a few multi-chapter fics (“Throw the Boar”! :D) focusing mostly on Merlin and Arthur, but also including the knights, Gwen, Gaius, and a few other canon characters. The flavor of the stories is generally focused on hurt/comfort, but there’s a nice mix of really dark stuff (lots of angst and even a couple of deathfics–fair warning) mixed with some lighter bromantic, humorous pieces that are pretty cathartic. Also, there are several reveal fics included–again ranging from insanely dark to kind of amusing–and a good bit of whump (again, fair warning).

I love short stories, and I love Merlin . . . so what’s not to love about a collection such as Hurt and Comfort in Camelot? The stories were interesting, developing themes that I enjoy seeing in Merlin fanfiction while also presenting ideas in a different light and providing fresh, interesting scenarios. The writing itself was quite good–very readable with solid grammar and a pleasant style. The author’s understanding of the characters and portrayal of their relationships and personalities was spot on and fun to read, even when it broke my heart or made me cry . . . and there were times that it made me laugh as well. I liked that balance, even though the primary focus of the stories was generally a bit on the darker side. I would definitely recommend Hurt and Comfort in Camelot to Merlin fans just about across the board, but especially for those who enjoy hurt/comfort stories (obviously) with significant themes of angst, friendship, and bromance.

Note: You can find Hurt and Comfort in Camelot at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8759369/1/Hurt-and-Comfort-in-Camelot.

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Merlin (2008 TV Series)

BBC

AKA: The Adventures of Merlin

Status: Complete (5 seasons/65 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 (if I’m being honest about the show’s merits) or 6 of 5 (if I’m expressing my undying love of this amazing show)

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to try to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but there are certain events which are so deeply a part of Arthurian legend that I can’t honestly consider them spoilers and as such, I may discuss the show’s treatment of them, at least a bit. So if you want a completely spoiler-free impression of this show, just go watch it . . . seriously, what are you waiting for?

Into the heart of Camelot, a kingdom where Uther its king has long made the practice of magic a capital offence, wanders a young man for whom magic is such an integral part of his being as his own breath. Merlin. He’s been sent by a desperate mother to be mentored by the one person she trusts, Uther’s court physician Gaius . . . but deeper and more ancient forces of destiny are at work than a mother’s worry. Merlin rapidly becomes fast friends with the Lady Morgana’s serving girl, Gwen, and just as rapidly gets on the bad side of the prattish prince Arthur. But just because Arthur’s a prat doesn’t mean Merlin wants to see him dead, so he manages to save the prince’s life (secretly using magic) and get himself rewarded by becoming the prince’s manservant (what an honor!). Destiny is at work, though, bringing these two together–the Once and Future King and Emrys, the greatest sorcerer to ever live who will help this king unite the land of Albion, little though they may know it. They may, in time, even become friends, although you’d be hard pressed to get Arthur to admit it.

I love Merlin so very much, and it’s one of those shows that gets better with time–both as you get further into the series and as you watch it again. Certainly, it has its faults (which will be discussed in a bit), but the characters grow on you so very much and their relationships are so rich that the problems with the show are easy to overlook (or at least I have found it so). Essentially, this show is a loose retelling of Arthurian legend–and I mean it when I say it’s a loose retelling. There are certain things that carry over strongly from the classic tales such as names/characters (Arthur, Uther, Merlin, Guinevere, Sir Gwaine, Lancelot, etc.) and events (for instance, you can probably guess how the story ends right from the beginning, the tragedies of Morgana and Mordred, etc.). There’s a lot of original material too, though; the Arthurian legends are only a rough framework for what is essentially an original story. As I said above, there are some things this show doesn’t do so amazingly. The first couple seasons can be a bit repetitive (there are memes; just saying) if you’re looking at the plot of each episode in relation to the other surrounding episodes. This does get better as the show progresses, and I also find that it becomes less noticeable as the characters and their relationships grow on you–the episode framework becomes a background on which the characters are displayed, rather than the main focus of the story. The passage of time is a bit strange and hard to keep track of, too; obviously, only about 5 years passes for the actors, but clearly more time does in the lives of the characters over the course of the show . . . it’s just hard to tell how much time, since the actors haven’t aged to match the passage of time (ignoring the times when Merlin goes old, which are fabulous). The other problem I’ve noticed (and I know I’m not the only one) is that certain characters, particularly Uther and Morgana, are (while brilliantly portrayed by their respective actors) written in an overly one-sided sort of way. For instance, I find it hard to believe that Uther could be so utterly single-minded in his hatred of magic as he is portrayed to be. And Morgana’s change of heart seems too abrupt, too lacking in internal conflict, even considering all that she went through to get to that point. But despite its faults, Merlin is one of my absolute favorite shows ever. Merlin’s character is just brilliantly portrayed (thank you, Colin Morgan), with enough internal conflict and richness of character to totally make up for any lacks elsewhere. And there are so many other brilliant characters–Arthur (obviously; Bradley’s work here is fabulous), Gwen (highly underrated; I adore her), Gaius(amazing mentor character), Gwaine (how can you not love him?!), Leon (also highly underrated), and so many others. The relationship between Merlin and Arthur is so good, too. You can clearly see how they both change over time through their growing friendship, going from basically despising each other to “you’re the only friend I have and I couldn’t bear to lose you.” There’s this great bromance between them, full of sass and humor and teasing, but stemming from a friendship that runs deep. And Colin and Bradley do such a great job of portraying this!!! There are plenty of other cool fantasy/legendary aspects of this show, heartbreaking plots, breathtakingly funny bits . . . but it’s their friendship that makes me love this show so very much.

Created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps, & Julian Murphy/Written by Julian Jones/Produced by Julie Gardner & Bethan Jones/Starring Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Richard Wilson, Anthony Head, Nathaniel Parker, & John Hurt/Music by Rob Lane & Rohan Stevenson

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016 Movie)

Heyday Films

My rating: 4 of 5

1926, New York City. Something magical is wrecking havoc, and the magical community is desperately trying to keep the whole thing under wraps and the muggles out of it all . . . which would be easier if there weren’t obsessive, outspoken muggles crying witchcraft from the street corners. Enter into the mix a bumbling young idealist from England carrying a suitcase (bigger on the inside, naturally) full of magical creatures just dying to get out and roam the city. Obviously, trouble is going to ensue, especially when said wizard manages to get himself and his (possibly illegal) creatures seen not just by a muggle but by a straitlaced ex-Auror as well.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a fun jaunt in the world Rowling’s creation. It’s clearly Rowling’s work, but on the other hand, it’s most definitely not Harry Potter, by any means. And it was odd to me that there was this big plot involving the entire local magical community and tying the story into the whole Harry Potter storyline . . . but that part of the story felt almost artificial or forced to me. Like it was there to tie everything together and to make Newt’s story bigger and more exciting, only I wasn’t really interested in that part of the story. But there were other parts of this movie that definitely made up for my not loving the big plot part. For one, the setting was really interesting–1920’s New York, with the added bonus of getting a peek into American wizardry, what’s not to love?! And all of the creatures . . . there’s a sense in which parts of the story almost feel like just a catalogue of magical creatures, but they’re so interesting/cute/wonderful that it’s totally okay. Even better (absolutely without a doubt my favorite part) are the main four characters and their interactions. Newt Scamander himself is the best. He’s a hearty helping of Eleven, a touch of Merlin (especially the sass and attitude), a bit shy and awkward, but thoroughly idealistic and devoted to his creatures and his mission to protect them and educate people about them. I don’t know; I just really enjoyed his personality and the unusual friendship he develops with the others. Jacob, Tina, and Queenie are also rich, well-developed characters who were cast brilliantly. I really loved that they weren’t your typical likeable protagonist types, none of the four were; they’re awkward or bristly or just unusual, and I loved them for it and for the friendships they formed. I would really love to see more of these characters. I think their small (but significant) personal story was what made this movie, and it is certainly what would make me recommend Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to anyone looking for a quirky, magical tale.

Written by J. K. Rowling/Directed by David Yates/Produced by David Heyman, J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, & Lionel Wigram/Music by James Newton Howard/Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, & Carmen Ejogo

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A Question of Motives (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: Alaia Skyhawk

FanFiction ID: 6319981

Status: Complete (80 Chapters)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

If only Arthur had actually been knocked out like he’d been pretending to be. Then he would never have to have known that Merlin, his manservant (and best friend, if he’d just admit it), has been keeping important secrets from him. Like the fact that he has magic. Which is illegal. In a kingdom where Arthur’s father is the king. Awkward. . . . Now Arthur has to decide how to carry on from here, and Merlin in turn has to determine how to handle Arthur’s newfound knowledge. Of course, if they can work through the initial awkwardness of the situation, hang onto the deep friendship they share, they could turn this transparency between them into something good–maybe even something amazing–for the benefit of Camelot and each other.

Wow, I have to say that the amount of work put into A Question of Motives is impressive. This story follows series 3 of BBC’s Merlin from the latter parts of episode 2 all the way past the end . . . only in this version, Arthur knows all about Merlin’s magic right from the beginning. What’s more, he accepts it and helps Merlin keep his secret! All in all, I think this story is happier and lighter than most of the Merlin fanfics I’ve read (other than the utterly absurd crack ones, obviously). It’s serious, and when events in the show become dark, this fanfic does as well, but it’s lacking the typical angst that is so very common in this particular fandom. And while I do love the angst, I found  A Question of Motives to be a welcome change. It’s engaging and adventurous, full of friendship and laughter. The author does a great job of altering events in the story to fit with Arthur’s newfound knowledge and the growing group of people involved in Merlin’s secret, slipping original episodes in amongst the canon show episodes and even introducing some charming OCs (yes, I do love Liam!). The only things about this story that were awkward or strange to me were: 1) The author has a way of saying “was stood” when you would usually hear “stood” or “was standing.” I’ve seen a few other authors do this, and I’m wondering if it’s a regional thing . . . but it sounds kind of odd to me. No biggie, though. 2) Uther is too nice and understanding. Of course, it could be that the Uther we see in the show is too polarized and we’re missing this side of him. It was nice to see him being nice on occasion. Just kind of unsettling as well. 3) There was an almost RPG feel to the way that Merlin and his gang acquired new skills, party members, status, etc. Not that that’s a bad thing, it was just kind of noticeable. Still, none of these things was outstanding enough to spoil my enjoyment of a fun and well-written fanfic, which A Question of Motives definitely is. It looks like the author has some other fics connected to this one, and while I haven’t read any of them yet, I will try to point out those connections when I get a chance.

Note: You can find A Question of Motives at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6319981/1/A-Question-of-Motives.

 

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