Tag Archives: adventure

Oh! My Useless Goddess! (Light Novel)

Author: Natsume Akatsuki/Translator: Kevin Steinbach

Illustrator: Kurone Mishima

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World, vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

When Kazuma Sato’s sad, shut-in life in modern-day Japan ends abruptly–the one time he actually goes out!–he finds himself presented with a most unusual offer. Proceed to the afterlife or life out the rest of his life in a fantasy-like world with the intention of defeating the Demon King who is plaguing the people of that world. Bonus: he gets to request any one special item to bring along. But rather than choosing a normal item, Kazuma picks Aqua, the goddess who is offering him this choice–surely a goddess has some pretty handy stuff when dealing with monsters and such, right? But rather than the glamorous life of fighting monsters with beautiful girls at his side, Kazuma finds himself working odd jobs in the lowest level starter town, fighting animated cabbages, and looking after three relatively useless (although admittedly pretty) girls. Not exactly what he had in mind.

Oh! My Useless Goddess! was an amusing and funny light novel that I quite enjoyed. It falls into the somewhat ecchi shounen genre, but it kind of parodies a lot of the stuff you typically see in that genre. Instead of a protagonist with a lot of drive who keeps getting better, you get a protagonist who’s lazy and average (but manages to be an engaging character in spite of that, surprisingly, perhaps because he’s relatable). Instead of big, glamorous fights, you get slimy frogs, cabbages . . . and the occasional flashy “Explosion” from Megumin. Instead of your typical shounen “harem,” you get a quirky, weird set of girls who are basically hopeless despite having the best possible qualifications and being from impressive classes–okay, maybe that’s not too different from the typical stories in this genre, but still. Aqua, Megumin, and Darkness do have distinctive (read almost stereotypical) traits, but they manage to be interesting characters in spite of that. The plot is funny, largely due to the character interactions and the impossibility of Kazuma’s task in this new world. Plus it was interesting that, while the basic plot device of having a modern-day teen dumped in a fantasy/video game world, this story used a novel method for getting him there. A couple of things I found interesting on a side note: 1) The author mentions that this originally started as a webnovel, which I thought was pretty neat. It’s cool to see web-based stories get picked up by publishers and turned into physical novels. 2) The chapters in this light novel are weird. Meaning that there are only 4 official chapter divisions in the entire book; however, each chapter is divided multiple times into smaller chapter segments. So it works out as though there were several chapters, it just doesn’t look like it at the start. Weird. Well, this light novel is weird in general, but in a fun sort of way. Recommended for those who enjoy the genre in general, mostly.

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Men of Legend (Merlin/Supernatural Crossover Fanfic)

Author: hells_half_acre

AO3 ID: 748772

Men of Legend, vol. 1

Status: Complete (10 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Camelot is being plagued by attacks from mysterious creatures from another world. At a loss for what to do, Merlin goes to the dragon and is given instructions to summon two great warriors from the same world as these creatures, men who fight these beings, men who show up in the legends of Camelot as heroes. When they arrive, the two brothers aren’t exactly what Merlin expected–nor are they particularly happy to have been summoned across dimensions. But once Sam and Dean understand the situation, they get on board with Merlin and together the three devise a plan so that King Arthur will let them lead the hunt for these mysterious creatures without knowing that the brothers are truly the legendary hunters from his childhood stories. Meanwhile, Sam and Dean are geeking out at being in Camelot with King Arthur, Merlin, and the knights of the Round Table–people who are just as much legends in Sam and Dean’s world as Sam and Dean are in Camelot!

I was very impressed with Men of Legend. The concepts are really well worked out. I mean, putting the two stories in alternate universes makes so much sense and is honestly more reasonable than making Merlin take place in Supernatural‘s history. Especially considering how much Sam and Dean seem to get dragged into AU’s anyhow. And the whole aspect of making each group be legendary to the other was quite interesting, especially as they got to spend time together and see each other as real people. The things that are legend-worthy are brought out, but so is the humanity, which is cool to see. I enjoyed the characterizations, which seemed pretty spot-on, as well as the interactions between the various parties. The story itself is a pleasant blend of genres, mixing some adventure and some hurt/comfort nicely–there’s enough action to keep things going, but you get Arthur and Dean being protective, too. And we’re working up to a reveal, which I believe is to be handled in a sequel–yay! Definitely a recommended fanfic, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Note: You can find Men of Legend at http://archiveofourown.org/works/748772/chapters/1396965. For those of you who don’t have an AO3 account, it is by invitation, but if you request an invite, you will typically get on within the next few days. It’s a great fanfic resource and definitely worth joining.

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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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First Test

Author: Tamora Pierce

Protector of the Small Quartet, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

A decade after the kingdom of Tortall decided to accept girls to train as knights instead of just boys, ten-year-old Kel becomes the first girl to actually apply. Inspired by tales of the Lioness’s valor and already skilled through her training in the Yamani court, Kel is determined to succeed and become a knight of Tortall. But she is shocked when Lord Wyldon, the training master, puts an extra requirement on her that the boys don’t have to fulfill: her first year is a probationary period, and only if she satisfies him at the end of it will she be allowed to stay on as a knight-in-training. Hurt and frustration are barely the beginning of what Kel feels, but her time with the Yamanis has also trained her to hide her emotions and press on through unrealistic expectations, deep-seated prejudice, bullying, and social rejection until she proves herself.

First Test is such a great reminder of just why I love Tamora Pierce’s books so much. It’s this fabulous mix of fantasy and slice-of-life, encompassing bits of school story (the majority of the tale), culture and history, exciting battles, amusing relationships with various animals, and growing friendships among many other things. Plus it’s an excellent look into changing perspectives on what women are capable of and that whole dynamic. Kel is a powerhouse, incredible character–the perfect individual for this particular story. Her story is so similar to and yet so different from Alanna’s in the Song of the Lioness Quartet that it’s quite interesting to compare the two. And knowing that Kel has Alanna’s secret backing is fabulous. But seriously, I love Kel’s stubbornness and determination, the way she works so hard to get where she wants to be. And the way that she’s quiet and feminine–which is partly stubbornness in the face of opposition itself–but is also ready to get into fistfights when necessary also contributes to a richness of character. Plus her friendships with all the various animals and her  intentionality in standing up for those who are weaker and afraid. She’s just a very well-realized and fascinating character, and I love that about her. I also really love her opinionated and chatty mentor Neal as well–also a richly developed and complex character who is quite likeable. It’s been entirely too long since I’ve read these books, and I’m greatly anticipating re-reading the rest of this quartet. I would highly recommend both First Test and the rest of the quartet to . . . well, basically anybody who likes a solid fantasy. As far as appropriate age recommendations, this quartet (like the Song of the Lioness books) is difficult to place, but I would say that First Test at least is appropriate for middle-grade and up (possibly even older elementary). Just be warned that the later books in the quartet grow up as Kel grows up, so there may be some more mature content there.

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The Astounding Broccoli Boy

Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 4 of 5

Rory Rooney is all about being ready for everything, but the truth is there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Like being bullied by the biggest kid in your class. Or being accused of trying to poison him after he steals your food and has an allergic reaction. Or falling in a river and turning green. Broccoli green. But surprisingly enough, being green is something Rory can deal with. The doctors are baffled, but he’s convinced that his verdancy can only have one diagnosis: super.

I swear, where has this author been my whole life?! I just recently discovered Boyce’s writing when I read Cosmic, and The Astounding Broccoli Boy is another homerun of an absurd middle-grade adventure story. The author does a great job of creating relatable but interesting characters. The situations in which the characters find themselves are absolutely ridiculous–totally the realm of tall tales–yet with enough Truth (the kind that impacts people, not necessarily the kind that is scientifically provable) that the story is still grounded and real to the reader. The author uses the ridiculous, the humorous, and the adventurous events the characters encounter to express something practical and immediate, and I love that. Plus, the story is just fun, full of hijinks and misunderstandings and fun references. I would definitely recommend The Astounding Broccoli Boy for middle-grade readers in particular, but also just in general; it’s good fun.

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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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