Tag Archives: alternate universe

The Flash: Hocus Pocus

Author: Barry Lyga

The Flash (Media Tie-In Novels), vol. 1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Flashpoint never happened, and Barry and his friends go on about their lives saving the people of Central City, never knowing the heartache of different choices in a different timeline. But in this timeline, there’s plenty of trouble to go around. Central City finds its citizens at the beck and call of a street magician styling himself “Hocus Pocus”–and really, the nerve of him, going and naming himself before Cisco gets a chance to! Although Hocus Pocus’s magic tricks are nothing impressive, his ability to control people and events around him–from getting people for blocks around to applaud to making trees move at his will–certainly seems almost like magic. But Barry is not about to accept something so implausible as the solution; there has to be a reasonable explanation of this magician’s powers. The crew at Star Labs had better be finding out a solution quickly though, because Hocus Pocus has managed to gain power over The Flash, and there’s no telling how much trouble he could cause with a speedster in his control.

I’m a big fan of The CW’s version of The Flash, which features a fabulous cast, a great sense of humor, and an excellent balance of action and drama. Plus, I’ve enjoyed the writing of Barry Lyga in the past. So I was pretty thrilled to find that Lyga had written the first volume of a media tie-in series for the show. And generally speaking, I was quite pleased with Hocus Pocus. It reads very much like an episode of the show, both with the arrival and subsequent handling of the villain and with the family drama that tends to go on at Star Labs. And of course, the element of angst that arises when things get complicated–can’t have a proper Flash story without a touch of angst. The characters are well done and keep in character nicely. Sure, there weren’t any moments where (like in a good fanfic) I was just like “ooh, that’s so such-and-such” and got all full of feels or anything. But on the other hand, there weren’t any grating moments where I had to wonder if the author had ever even watched the show, either. There was just generally a stronger focus in this particular story on the action, the plot, than on the feels . . . which is fine, although the feels are kind of my favorite part. I found it very interesting that they chose to put this in an AU/alternate timeline in which Flashpoint didn’t happen. My guess would be that this is to allow the tie-in series an element of autonomy and perhaps its own larger-scale plot, since its being an alternate timeline didn’t really affect much of anything that happened in this volume. I’m curious to see what happens with that in future volumes. I did enjoy where this story was placed chronologically in the lives of the characters–for one thing, having H. R. as part of the cast just makes everything more fun. Recommended for fans of the CW series . . . not sure how well it would hold up for fans of The Flash as a general media franchise, although Lyga is reputed to have been a fan of the comics since he was a kid, so. . . .

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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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Catch Me Now (Supernatural Fanfic)

Author: BatTitan

FanFiction ID: 8980147

Status: Complete (35 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

With one misstep, Ariel finds herself falling, not down the stairs at her school as she thought, but right out of her safe college life and into an airplane . . . right next to the Winchesters! Of course, she knows they’re the Winchesters (and not Jared and Jensen); she’s enough of a fan of Supernatural to know that. Also, enough of a fan–and in enough shock at being dragged from her own universe into theirs–to attract their attention. Not necessarily the best of things when they’ve just been dumped on the same plane themselves and are still reeling from the madness of it all. Things get sorted eventually,  and Sam and Dean decide to keep Air (as she prefers to be called) around since she must have been dragged into their world for a reason–possibly something to do with the impending Apocalypse ? Ariel becomes almost a part of the extended Winchester family, offering her opinions readily, helping where possible, and trying not to be too obvious of a Destiel fangirl whenever Dean and Cas are around each other. And then there are the dreams she begins having. . . .

So, the premise of Catch Me Now may be the sort that is both overdone and consistently messed up . . . but in this story, it works and does so brilliantly. A lot of that is due to the author’s obvious talent in spinning a quality tale; the writing itself is excellent. Equally impressive was the character of Ariel and the way her story was woven into the plot of Supernatural so seamlessly. Because this fanfic is essentially season 5, and other than the character insert, it pretty much sticks to canon (even when I really wish it wouldn’t!). Ariel is a really well-written OC, and I truly appreciate the work the author took to create someone who would work in the context of the story and the already existing characters, adding flavor and character without completely altering the course of the story. I especially appreciated that she wasn’t 1) a completely flat self-insert sort of character, 2) overly stereotyped in some way as OCs often are, 3) an awkward love interest for Sam or Dean, or 4) somehow automatically a great fighter or otherwise equipped to be a huge help in the fight. She’s funny, quirky, opinionated, smart, geeky, and compassionate–which is just what is needed for these guys–but she’s also just a normal college girl. As for the plot, the first few chapters are basically just the associated episodes as seen through Air’s eyes, which is interesting enough as it is. But as the story develops, we get more of her own story, sometimes as a part of whatever is going on in a certain episode, sometimes elsewhere, doing her own thing (often with Gabriel–I adore the amount of Gabriel we get in this story, it’s brilliant). The author did make a couple choices here and there that threw me a bit–like changes the person in which the story is written partway through (for a really good reason) and sticking with the plot where I would have loved to see some divergence (see above)–but in all those instances, there were solid reasons behind those choices and I respect them. They certainly didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the story, and I would highly recommend Catch Me Now to anyone interested in a fun, engaging Supernatural fanfic.

Note: You can find this story at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8980147/1/Catch-Me-Now.

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No Game No Life, vol. 1 (Light Novel)

Author: Yuu Kamiya/Translator: Daniel Komenno-game-no-life-1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Urban legends speak of a gamer with an impossible record of zero losses, a player who goes simply by “ ” or Blank. What the legends miss is that Blank is actually two players, a brother and sister pair who are as awful at real life as they are amazing at games. So when the two get sucked into a world where everything is decided by playing games of one sort or another, Sora and Shiro don’t do the expected and try to get home. They set their sights on the throne!

I really enjoyed reading No Game No Life, but I have to admit rather mixed feelings when looking at the light novel objectively. There are some things about it that are really well done and interesting; others, not so much. The concept, for instance, is brilliant–an alternate world with a fantasy flair that’s run entirely on games rather than wars and such is just remarkable. And the characters that Kamiya chose to stick in this setting are just perfect–I seriously think Sora and Shiro as a pair are about the most interesting characters you could possibly choose for this setting both because of the dynamic between them (which is intriguing in itself) and because of their mindset when it comes to games. The overall writing style is pretty average, I’d say typical for a light novel if not stellar. And I’m not even going to complain about the fanservice because 1) No Game No Life is just that kind of story, and if you want to totally avoid the fanservice, you’ll have to avoid this sort of story entirely, and 2) the fanservice in this volume is actually not that bad. What did bother me in that regard is the mild lolicon/incestuous verbal insinuations that were scattered throughout–they never amount to anything, but they’re kind of creepy still. Also, the fact that Sora uses a command that can’t be disobeyed to make a girl love him is kind of wrong, even though the author makes a point to show all sorts of ways the girl could have gotten around the command without directly disobeying. (And I know, I’m making this sound like a totally hentai story. It really isn’t that bad; I just feel the need to point out these parts since they bothered me personally.) The other notable negative is that at points (whether this is the original style or a mistake on the translator’s part, I’m not sure), the text is a series of somewhat disconnected phrases posing as sentences. . . . You can understand what’s going on, but it kind of catches you off guard and looks weird. But in spite of the negatives listed above, I would recommend No Game No Life for anyone looking for a fantasy/gamer light novel (who doesn’t mind some ecchiness); I’m planning to continue reading the series in any case.

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A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade final for IreneAuthor: V. E. Schwab

Shades of Magic, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Kell lives in a London where magic is the norm, where children play games involving testing their magical abilities from the time they’re young. But unlike any other citizen of his world, Kell has been to other Londons where things are very different. You see, he is an Antari, one of the last, an individual who has the ability control the magic that allows one to cross between the worlds. As a loyal subject–and adopted prince of what he terms “Red London”–Kell works for the king and queen, delivering messages to the royalty of the other Londons, “Grey London” and “White London”. He’s been known to carry other items across the boundaries between worlds as well, which is technically illegal but also profitable and exciting. Kell’s smuggling habits become a bit too exciting, however, when a package turns out to be a trap. And the help of an unmagical, Grey London girl may be his only hope for surviving the ensuing mess.

Okay, so you’ve all been telling me for . . . what seems like ages that  A Darker Shade of Magic is amazing. So I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, and I agree. I probably should have read it before, but there you have it. V. E. Schwab crafts quite the exciting and enjoyable story. The writing style is very approachable, with a good balance of description and action. I really appreciated the third-person style that the author used; you see so much first-person writing now that a well-done third-person story is quite refreshing. One of my only complaints about the writing is the use of different languages for people from the different worlds–and I totally get why this was used, it was just annoying to me to try to read unpronounceable words that I ended up just skipping in the end. Minor issue on the whole, though. The characters were fantastic, and I really grew to care for Kell, Lila, and Rhy by the end of the story. I also really loved that the story developed in the way it did–worlds-impacting choices and meaningful camaraderie as opposed to unnecessary and forced romance (which I see way too much of). I would definitely recommend A Darker Shade of Magic for those readers out there who haven’t read it yet, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading the subsequent volumes of this series–as well as anything else I can find by the author.

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So You Want to Be a Wizard

Author: Diane DuaneSo you want to be a wizard

My rating: 5 of 5

Young Wizards, vol. 1

When Nita finds the book in the children’s section of the library (where she’s hiding from the bullies who find beating her up prime entertainment), she thinks it’s probably a joke. . . . But maybe not. Either way, she takes the book home, captivated by its promise of a life of magic and imagining the power that would give her over the bullies that make her life a misery. Reading the Oath aloud, Nita soon finds that becoming a wizard is no joke, but it’s not the blast of fulfilling power over the petty worries of her life either–rather, it’s so very much more. Nita befriends another young wizard, Kit, and the two embark on an adventure, a quest even, that will alter their perceptions of life, magic, and themselves in ways they can’t begin to imagine.

I knew So You Want to Be a Wizard had the reputation of being a great fantasy novel, but I had no idea it was so enjoyable, or I would have read it much sooner. It’s a children’s story–and is totally appropriate for kids–but has deep-rooted messages and a mature enough writing that older readers can enjoy it as well. I’m tempted to compare this story to Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It has that way of looking at things, that sense of describing a reality more true than real life–and in doing so, of giving a greater weight and meaning to life. And maybe that’s just my perspective and no one else would get that impression upon reading this book. In any case, this story is a wonderful fantasy featuring the age-old struggle between light and darkness–with the fate of the world resting squarely on the shoulders of two kids, a displaced white hole, and a bedraggled animated Lotus (car). I do have to say, this is the first story in which I’ve ever had real friendly feelings for a white hole or a car, which just shows the quality of the writing. I am looking forward to reading the rest of Duane’s books, and highly recommend So You Want to Be a Wizard to any of you who enjoy a solid fantasy.

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The Big Over Easy

Author: Jasper Ffordethe big over easy

Nursery Crimes Series, vol. 1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

In a world where detective work is valued as much for its entertainment value as for the actual societal benefit of bringing criminals to justice, detective sergeant Mary Mary dreams of becoming Official Sidekick to a recognized, published detective. Instead, her transfer to the Reading branch lands her in what seems to be a career dead end, working under Detective Inspector Jack Spratt in the Nursery Crime Division. But things pick up a bit when the death of Humpty Dumpty–originally believed to be accident or suicide–is discovered to have been a murder. And not just any murder, but one steeped in schemes, plots, and old loves lost. This will be a case that will try DS Mary’s loyalty and skills to the max, but it might just be the case that will win her loyalty for her sometimes bumbling superior as well. And you never know, it might even get them published.

Yet again, in The Big Over Easy, Jasper Fforde has crafted a strange and unpredictable world . . . one oddly reminiscent of our own. I love it! It’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed a detective story as much as I did this one. As I said, the alternate universe he presents is unique, quirky, and interesting–full of mysteries and oddities at every turn–and yet is similar enough to reality to bring poignant perspectives on our own lives. I love the multitudinous (and sometimes subtle) allusions to nursery rhymes and fairy tales that are mixed throughout the story, as well as the tongue-in-cheek way they are used. The plot itself is solid and surprising, bringing in a number of unexpected elements . . . and also pleasantly intermixing the detectives’ own personal lives. The characters themselves are well written, although again, full of that quirky, tongue-in-cheek style–some more than others. Jack and Mary, at least, are more normal, credible individuals–and because of that, more full of real individuality and character, which is nice. I would definitely recommend The Big Over Easy to those who like detective stories (as long as it doesn’t have to be too particularly realistic) and to those who enjoy a good romp in fantasy–or in Fforde’s quirky worlds, at least. It was a very good story.

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