Category Archives: Media Review

A Different Path (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: angel-castiel-rules-the-world

FanFiction ID: 11478940

Status: Ongoing (currently 127 chapters)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Warning: Rated T/Mild Slash & Spoilers through end of Season 10 (AU from end of this season)

In the wake of Dean’s plan with Death to save the world (again), Castiel finds himself suddenly bereft of both his best friend Dean and of Sam–both of whom are basically his family at this point. But he’s not alone. A certain King of Hell makes a point to come around the bunker and pester him in his research regularly. And research Castiel certainly does. Not content to let things end this way, the angel desperately searches for a way to bring back his friends–searches for years without result, until one day he finds a book on the bunker’s bookshelves that wasn’t there. And this book promises a way to turn back time, to see influential turning points, and to make different choices. So taking along Crowley (to maintain the balance, as directed in the book), Castiel travels back to the first time Dean (nearly) died, determined to change the Winchesters’ lives for the better. He’s not going to lose them again, no matter what.

A Different Path is a really interesting Supernatural fanfic that starts with an AU ending for Season 10 but quickly jumps back to be an AU from the beginning of Season 2 and on. We get a picture of events occurring with Cas and Crowley in the picture, Cas with his own experiential knowledge of certain events as well as the Winchesters’ stories to go from, Crowley with a much greater knowledge of events (having read the books)–not that he’s volunteering information readily. For added interest/complication, Cas refuses to tell the boys that he’s from their future, and he tries his best to keep Crowley a secret. You can imagine how well that works, with the king of snark hanging around! I really have enjoyed what the author has done with this story and the way the AU element unfolded. The characters are captured well, and I love the way the altered events and relationships play into the way their characters develop. Likewise, the adaptations to the episodes’ plots are both fitting and interesting, showing a good understanding of the characters and the storyline while still being original. This fanfic is  very much a slow-burn Destiel fic, and I enjoyed the way the author developed that; it seems to fit their characters and situation so much better than a lot of the Destiel stuff I’ve seen. But for those who aren’t big into slash, it’s all pretty mild and there’s a lot of other aspects of this story besides that (although it’s still a pretty significant focus in this fic). I will note that there are some typographical/grammatical issues (mostly wrong words, lacking capitalization, and occasionally lacking punctuation) which can make this story more complicated to read, but they’re mostly the sort of thing a good editor could quickly correct, and the underlying writing style and flow is still quite readable and enjoyable. Enough so that I intend to stick with this story for as long as the author continues to write it–which could be a while, considering that we’re still in Season 2 at 127 chapters with no specified ending point so far. I’m looking forward to where this story goes!

Note: You can find A Different Path at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/11478940/1/A-Different-Path.

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Love Nikki – Dress UP Queen (Mobile Game Review)

Publisher: Elex

Platform: Android

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Nikki gets dragged from her ordinary life in fashion design school and dropped–along with her cat Momo–in a strange place called Miraland. There, the enigmatic Queen Nanari tells her that she has a destiny that is tied to the fate of Miraland. Not that that actually tells Nikki much. But what an odd place she’s landed. It seems that fashion design is a huge thing here; conflicts are even resolved through design competitions! Looks like her design skills are going to be tested as she meets new people, learns more about the land and its people, and tries to figure out what on earth Nanari was talking about. Now if only Momo could find a satisfactory supply of grilled fish, they might be in business.

I generally don’t play mobile games much–like, ever. But Love Nikki is one that I’ve actually enjoyed. It’s basically a fashion design/styling game, but it has a lot more to offer than it looks like at first glance. You’ve got a main storyline in which you encounter other characters and advance along a storyline. It’s not too complex, but it’s cute, and the fashion competitions there are pretty challenging–but there are plenty of tips to help if needed. There are also two levels, if you need a bigger challenge. There are also a number of other arenas in which players can engage with each other, whether competing directly against each other or teaming up in associations to complete tasks together. Plus, the publishers are really good about keeping fresh events to keep some variety. You also have several options for getting outfits–as rewards for completing levels, by purchasing them in the store(s), by completing special events, or by crafting them yourself. There’s a wide variety of outfit pieces to choose from (like, seriously huge), and they’re attractively created. Overall, the whole game aesthetic is really cute/pretty–kind of an anime sort of style. There’s definitely some strong Japanese influence (I think maybe it’s originally Japanese and has just been translated, actually). But yeah, the gameplay is pretty fun, and the style is cute. Plus, it’s free (okay, you can pay for extra stuff, but it’s entirely possible to play completely free, so why on earth would you pay for it?!). I would definitely recommend Love Nikki for those interested in an above-average mobile game.

Note: You can find more information on the game, including lots of helpful tips at https://lovenikki.world/.

 

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Beyond the Vale (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: BeyondTheStorm

FanFiction ID: 7418736

Status: Complete (28 Chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

Merlin told Arthur it was a bad idea–not that Arthur listened. Did he ever? No, but of course they have to get a small group of knights together to go after the patrol that went missing, and of course Arthur has to go along. Never mind that they know nothing about what they’re getting into or that Gaius can’t even find any solid information on the area or that the few rumors that have turned up are anything but reassuring. In the “no one ever returns from there” kind of way. Naturally, Merlin can’t let his dollop-headed prince go on this suicidal mission without him, so he joins Arthur, Gwaine, Elyan, and Lancelot on their journey. Good thing, too; for once, Arthur may discover just how much he needs his manservant around.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy BeyondTheStorm’s writing (such as Healing Spells), and Beyond the Vale may just be my favorite of this author’s stories to date. There are just so many aspects of it that are really enjoyable. The writing style is quite pleasant to read, for one, and it captures Merlin’s sass nicely. The choice of characters to involve in this story was interesting, but I found I liked the dynamics of this particular group. Seeing more of Lancelot and Elyan, in particular, was fun, and I always love when Gwaine is involved in a Merlin fic. Everyone felt in character, and it was really neat to see the character development over the course of the story. There were some well-written and interesting original characters as well who added a lot to the story. Actually, that’s another thing I like about this particular author’s work: there are almost always great OCs who have a lot of character development and who are integral to the plot (which is also usually quite complex and developed, yay!). I found the author’s choice to make this story a reveal of a lot of what Merlin has done for Arthur and for Camelot without revealing that he has magic to be very interesting. But you know what? It works. And it’s cool to see Arthur and the knights (even Lancelot, who knows about Merlin’s magic) truly appreciate the kind of person Merlin is and the sacrifices he’s made–without the complications of betrayal and such that bringing his magic into the picture entails. I enjoyed seeing the relationship developments that occurred as a result. And yes, the plot! Fascinating story drenched in history, with plenty of mystery and tension to go around. The story is very well developed and executed. Highly recommended.

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Orphan Black (2013 TV Series)

Temple Street Productions, BBC America, and Bell Media’s Space

Status: Complete (5 seasons/50 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Accomplished grifter Sarah Manning walks into the train station and witnesses the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like Sarah herself. Both curious and ready to take advantage of the situation, Sarah assumes the identity of the woman, Beth Childs, with the help of her foster-brother Felix. What follows is a whirlwind of monumental proportions as Sarah discovers that she is but one of many clones. Meeting her newfound “sisters” is just the beginning as they face their own dark past, those in the present who would destroy or manipulate them, a defect built into their own DNA that is slowly killing them, not to mention being completely unsure who to trust. But at the same time, they discover a new family and a strength in each other to help them face the maelstrom with defiance as they choose their own ways to live.

Orphan Black is one of those shows that, as incredible as it sounds at first, delivers so much more than it initially promises. It’s really quite amazing. Well, Tatiana Maslany is amazing, that’s for sure. She manages to pull off multiple clones with distinct styles, mannerisms, personalities, etc. and keep them all unique–sometimes with multiples of them in the same room conversing and even physically interacting with each other. Her grasp of each of the characters is incredible–to the point where you can even tell where one sister is pretending to be another sister by super-tiny but well-realized tells. Maslany’s acting in this series truly blows me away! Not to mention the sheer cinematography required to pull off some of the scenes; it’s seamless and beautiful. The characters are great as well–thoroughly developed with uncertainties and flaws and emotional subtlety and moral ambiguity and all the complexities that make people truly human. You’ve got a ton of diversity, even just among the clones, too. And the other characters are brilliantly cast and played as well. Felix is quite possibly my favorite character in the whole show; he’s the heart and the artist, the home-like softer side of things, which is kind of hilarious since he tries so hard to be defiant and brash. I love him, though. And Siobhan, Sarah and Felix’s foster-mother–all the mystery and protectiveness in her character is fabulous! As for the plot, well, again it’s so much more than we are initially promised at the beginning. I mean, you start out with a girl taking over the life of a cop who looks like her, encountering a couple other girls who claim to be her clones, dealing with trying to be a mom to her daughter–intense stuff for sure, but fairly contained and small-scale. But by the end of it, you’ve got decades-long, multinational plots and huge, interconnected organizations and hundreds of clones and major life-or-death situations. It’s all pretty overwhelming and hard to keep track of, to be honest–the main reason I can’t give this a full 5 of 5 rating, actually. Still, it all ties up better than I expected by the end, and the conclusion was enough to make me cry but also be quite satisfying. This show is definitely not for the faint of heart and is only for a mature, adult audience, but I would still highly recommend Orphan Black for many, many reasons. It’s a great show that I will enjoy re-watching many times over.

Created by Graeme Manson & John Fawcett/Executive Production by Ivan Schneeberg, David Fortier, Graeme Manson, & John Fawcett/Produced by Russ Cochrane, Alex Levine, Claire Welland, Tatiana Maslany, & Aubrey Nealon/Cinematography by Aaron Morton/Music by Trevor Yuile/Starring Tatiana Maslany, Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Michael Mando, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Évelyne Brochu, Ari Millen, Kristian Bruun, & Josh Vokey

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The Most Deadly Alliance (Harry Potter/Merlin Crossover Fanfic)

Author: Emachinescat

FanFiction ID: 6282390

Status: Complete (32 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Fed up with the difficulties he’s had disposing of one brat–the young wizard Harry Potter–Voldemort crosses time itself to form a dark alliance with Nimue, High Priestess of the Old Religion, combining forces to also help her with her own personal annoyance, the warlock Merlin. Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione find themselves stepping out of Hogwarts and into the past, meeting the man who is a legend in their time . . . only Merlin isn’t quite what they were expecting. He’s young and clumsy and a servant, while they were expecting someone old and imposing. Oh, and the king he’s supposed to advise and help isn’t even king yet and he has no idea that Merlin even has magic! Still, Harry and his friends come to see the greatness of the man of legend buried beneath the youthful exterior, and they and Merlin soon become fast friends. Which is good, because they’re going to have to work together if they are to survive the dark machinations of Nimue and Voldemort.

Emachinescat is a wonderful author, and I love everything I’ve read of hers. Having said that, I think The Most Deadly Alliance is one of my favorites. The premise and all the interlocking pieces of time travel and legend are just fascinating. But even more than that, the little choices of the timing within each story, the characters to involve, the details that are drawn in–it’s all expertly executed. I loved how well thought out the character interactions were. The people involved behaved in character, even when it made them clash or seem abrasive. And the people who should have hit it off with each other did so. There were even instances where character interactions caused changing points of view. (Arthur’s interactions with Hermione and his changing views because of that, notably, although Harry’s relationship with Morgana is also a great case in point. Actually, the development between Harry and Morgana may have been one of my favorite parts of the story, which kind of surprised me.) All of that was just crafted in a very credible and in-character way that I truly enjoyed greatly. Additionally, the larger-scale story was interesting–the tension and mystery, the complications of time travel, the flaws in Voldemort and Nimue’s alliance, all of it worked well and was fun to read. The writing style itself was also quite excellent, being fluid and natural and easy to read. On a technical side, there were a couple of chapters where chunks of text were transposed into the wrong place (like, into the middle of another paragraph or even into the middle of a sentence), making the reader have to sort through what is supposed to go where. But it’s all there if you’re willing to figure it out, and it’s only in a few places–probably a tech issue in the editing or uploading process. If not for that, I would have given The Most Deadly Alliance a whole 5 of 5 rating, but as-is, it’s still a new favorite of mine that I would highly recommend.

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Doctor Who, Series 10 (2017 TV Series)

BBC

Status: Complete (12 episodes)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

The Doctor has made a vow. No more gallivanting off through time and space, no. He’s committed to staying at a  college, teaching a class, all the while guarding the vault hidden beneath the school and the secrets it contains. He could have just managed it, too, if it weren’t for her–Bill Potts, the chip girl from the school cafeteria who’s been attending some of his classes–standing in his office with her eyes full of that rare combination of wonder and wit and compassion and curiosity and  intelligence that The Doctor can never resist. After all, what’s the harm of just one trip, so long as Nardole doesn’t find out and scold him over it.

It’s always interesting (and just a bit scary) coming into a new series of Doctor Who when you’ve got a new Doctor or a new Companion, because there’s a different dynamic that’s not fully developed yet. I quite enjoyed the dynamic that developed between Twelve and Bill over the course of Series 10, however. Bill is unexpected, her reactions sometimes coming from a completely different line of reasoning that what I was expecting. It works, though, and she’s exactly who The Doctor needs at this point, someone who will challenge his way of viewing the world and who will make him feel alive. Adding Nardole into the mix is fabulous as well–I’m soooo glad they kept his character on for this season. His sass and worry-wart attitude serve both to keep The Doctor grounded and to keep the humor in the story, even in the dark points. And yeah, there are some pretty dark episodes here, although there are also some classic running-around-hand-in-hand-saving-people episodes. But I feel like, overall, this season’s a bit darker. It works, though. I feel like Twelve’s personality really shines through well, and he’s forced to wrestle with some stuff he’d rather not confront about himself. Ooh, and we get some more Missy involvement in the latter parts of the series, which is always fun. Also random, but kind of notable, while Doctor Who has always been a haven for diversity, I feel like it’s a more intentional focus in this series, in a good way. I enjoyed Series 10 quite a lot, and am eagerly anticipating the Christmas special–because we got left with quite the cliffhanger ending!

Produced by Steven Moffat & Brian Minchin/Written by Steven Moffat, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Sarah Dollard, Jamie Mathieson, Peter Harness, Toby Whithouse, Mark Gatiss, Mike Bartlett, and Rona Munro/Starring Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, & Matt Lucas

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Healing Spells (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: BeyondTheStorm

FanFiction ID: 6022745

Status: Complete (27 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Rated T for blood, violence, & non-suicidal self-harm. (I would probably rate T+/16+, just to be safe.)

With Gaius away to help a village dealing with a mysterious outbreak of illness, Merlin has a chance to do things that his mentor would usually fuss at him for doing. And after that fiasco of a showdown with a rogue sorcerer in which both he and Prince Arthur got injured (and where Arthur found out all about Merlin’s being a warlock), it seems like it might just be time to finally figure out how to make healing magic work. Turns out, it’s not easy, nor is it something for which Merlin has a natural knack. So, being Merlin, he decides to practice on himself, stretching his abilities thinner and thinner until Arthur, Gwen, and Morgana are all worried about him–because of course it would be far too easy to actually tell them what’s going on, right?! But when Arthur is again endangered, it becomes clear that Merlin’s practicing has had more far-reaching consequences than even he originally thought.

While the idea of a Merlin fic focused primarily on healing magic didn’t initially appeal to me, I have loved some of BeyondTheStorm’s other fanfics and thus decided to give Healing Spells a try. I’m so glad I did, because I really loved the story. For one thing, the writing is just really readable and fun; it has a nice flow and a good balance of description and dialogue and such. But there are so many other interesting choices that the author made that just really increased my personal enjoyment of the story beyond just the quality of the writing. You come into the story with Arthur already knows about and accepts Merlin’s magic–there is a reveal scene, but it doesn’t come until about halfway through, where it’s presented as a flashback. So you’ve got this great dynamic of Arthur realizing everything Merlin’s done for him and who he really is, so there’s a whole new level of trust and closeness between the two that’s really great. You see a softer, more caring, yet still gruff and awkward (because this is Arthur, you know?) side to the prince which is really neat. And surprisingly (yet credibly) there’s a really interesting dynamic of Merlin having a harder time trusting Arthur and still keeping secrets even though he knows Arthur’s already accepted him. I also enjoyed that this was set in season 2, so that 1) a lot of the bad stuff that make it really hard for Merlin to trust Arthur with his secret haven’t happened, and 2) you get some great Morgana friendship (not a major focus of this fic, but it’s there and it’s nice. I miss this Morgana.). Of course, the downside of that is that you don’t get the awesomeness that is the Inner Circle of the Knights, but it works in this story. There are some great Merlin/Gwen friendship scenes; I can’t get enough of that friendship, truly! And a few fabulous fatherly Gaius moments. Plus, there’s a lot of interconnected plot, some big stuff that develops outside of Merlin’s experimentation that ends up influencing the consequences of his choices. So yeah, big plot and some pretty deep ideas are developed as well. All together, Healing Spells was a very interesting and enjoyable story, and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Note: You can find Healing Spells at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6022745/1/Healing-Spells.

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