Tag Archives: Europe

The Grand Tour: of The Purloined Coronation Regalia

Authors: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

Cecelia and Kate, vol. 2

My rating: 4 of 5

Following their weddings, cousins Kate and Cecy–along with their husbands Thomas and James and Thomas’s mother Lady Sylvia–embark on a grand tour of the Continent, a honeymoon to be remembered. Or, well, that’s what it was supposed to be. And it certainly is. Memorable, that is. Nearly from the start, the party find themselves confronted with strange happenings–mysterious visitors, falling ceilings, magical illness, secret messages, and strange magical rituals performed in ancient ruins, among others. Certain that something odd is going on, they begin investigating, because really, could these people ever leave something that intriguing alone?

The Grand Tour proved a solid follow-up for Wrede and Stevermer’s first volume, Sorcery & Cecelia, although with some marked differences. If I could compare the first volume to Howl’s Moving Castle, then The Grand Tour could better be compared to one of Elizabeth Peters’s Amelia Peabody stories, just with magic. The dates are completely off, of course, as is the location, but the whole well-to-do British travelers in foreign parts getting involved in mysteries and intrigue involving some antiquity or the other? Definitely fits here. As for the writing, this volume is told more as journals or memoirs as opposed to letters, so the tone is a bit different–actually quite a bit, really. There’s a touch of dissonance at first, to be honest, like the authors are figuring out who their characters are all over again when seen in this different light. After that first bit, though, you get to see more of the characters’ individualities coming through, you get more facets to them than might have been seen if this were also told as correspondence. And the characters are, well, quite the characters. Without the decorum demanded by Regency-era society, they might be quite shocking, and even while attempting to exercise decorum, they push the bounds at times. But in a very enjoyable sort of way. On the whole, I quite enjoyed The Grand Tour and would recommend it to those who enjoy Regency-era stories, historical fantasy, and intrigue.


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A Christmas Prince (2017 Movie)

Netflix & Motion Picture Corporation of America

My rating: 3 of 5

In the search for her first big scoop, fledgling reporter Amber Moore (and does anyone else find it hilarious that her last name is still Moore here?!) travels to the small European kingdom of Aldovia to cover the coronation of Prince Richard. Or his abdication.  The prince does have a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and nobody’s really sure if he’ll step up and fill his late father’s shoes or not. Through an unexpected mix-up, Amber finds herself mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, giving her unprecedented access to the royal family up close and personal. And what she finds is not at all what the rest of the press had led her to expect.

First off, I can’t believe I actually watched this; it’s exactly the sort of Hallmark-y film that I usually avoid like the plague. . . . But Rose McIver is kind of irresistible, and moreover, she actually manages to make the movie palatable.  It is very much your expected cheesy Christmas romantic drama, with loads of improbability, predictability, and sentimentality. Even the music and the camera filters used scream “classic Christmas film”–as in old, maudlin film. Yet surprisingly, I found myself liking the characters. McIver does a great job (the one thing that’s not surprising) portraying her character, drawing out the uncertainty, clumsiness, awkward curiosity, and compassion of Amber quite effectively. Ben Lamb’s portrayal of Prince Richard is more expected but still well done, and I quite enjoyed Honor Kneafsey’s work as young Princess Emily and her growing friendship with Amber. Other than that, there’s not much I can say–I enjoyed A Christmas Prince, which is more than I can say for most films of this sort, but I also found it to be pretty typical of the sentimental Christmas movie genre on the whole, for what that’s worth.

Written by Nathan Atkins/Directed by Alex Zamm/Produced by Amy Krell/Music by Zack Ryan/Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb,  Honor Kneafsey, Tom Knight, Sarah Douglas, Daniel Fathers, Alice Krige, & Tahirah Sharif


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Galavant (2015 TV Series)

ABC Studiosgalavant

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Once upon a time, our hero Knight Galavant had it all: fame, success, the love of the fair Madalena. That is, until King Richard kidnapped Madalena and she chose fame and fortune over true love. So, our hero did what any good hero would–lost himself in drink and self pity. Which is where the spunky Princess Isabella found him when she brought him a quest to save her family and win back Madalena’s love. But the road to true love and success is never as smooth as it first looks, especially for the music-loving Galavant.

I think that Galavant is the sort of show to be extremely polarizing–some will adore it while others will think it’s utter rubbish. And I should say at the outset that, if you don’t like musicals, you should avoid this show, for sure. I have to compare it to a Disney movie in that regard; at any given moment, the cast is liable to burst out in song. Plus, you know, Alan Menken is hugely involved in the writing of the music, so there’s a strong Disney feel to it there also. Also, the whole focus on true love and basically the whole story line follow that feel as well. But in a more adult way (well, at least with more innuendo and language) that is oddly combined with a middle-school boys’ locker room flavor (with all the bodily noises and awkward sexuality that goes with that). Actually, looking at the story objectively, it sounds kind of awful, but in the moment, it’s kind of enjoyable. There’s a lot of humor, some of it actually funny. Plus a great deal of fourth wall breaking and commentary on current events. And the cast is actually well-picked for their roles. Personally, my favorite is Timothy Omundson, whose character is kind of pathetic and despicable both at the beginning but who grows wonderfully over the course of the two seasons. Also, he’s just a great actor, and it’s fun to get to hear him sing. So yeah, Galavant is definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy musicals and Disney–and are interested in a more adult-focused story in that style–it might be worth trying.

Created by Dan Fogelman/Executive Producers  Dan Fogelman, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, Chris Koch, Kat Likkel, John Hoberg, &  John Fortenberry/Produced by Marshall Boone & Helen Flint/Music by Alan Menken, Christopher Lennertz, & Glenn Slater/Starring Joshua Sasse, Timothy Omundson, Vinnie Jones, Mallory Jansen, Karen David, & Luke Youngblood/Narrated by Ben Presley

Note: This series consists of 2 seasons with a total of 18 episodes.



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Lupin the III: The Castle of Cagliostro

Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Produced by Yutaka Fujioka & Tetsuo Katayama/Directed by Hayao Miyazaki/Written by Hayao Miyazaki & Haruya Yamazaki/Music by Yuji Ohno/Based on the Manga by Monkey Punch

If there’s danger, mayhem, and questionable motives, Lupin is bound to be in the middle of the fray. Naturally, when he encounters a fortune–in counterfeit bills–he’s determined to get to the root of their origins. When he traces them to the small country of Cagliostro’s current ruler, he’s determined to break in and cause as much chaos as possible–and when he finds that the beautiful princess of the country is being held against her will, well, that seals the deal for sure. Lupin and his comrades descend upon the castle, wrecking havoc and confusion as they go . . . and even more madness when Lupin’s old nemesis, the leader of the Japanese police, shows up with his troops!

The Castle of Cagliostro is a grand old adventure–more romp than anything else, to be honest. In a lot of ways, it makes me think of an old European action movie (or an extended episode of Scooby Doo) more than of a Japanese anime. I think my brother puts it best: “I love how it’s so Miyazaki and yet not at all!” That’s truly my experience of the story. It’s a grand romantic adventure in the best sense, with plenty of action and plot twists, but really, you can’t take it seriously at all. There’s just too much that’s comedic–or incredible and absurd–and I think it’s meant to be that way. The art is really old-school, which works beautifully with the story in a super-retro kind of way. Basically, this movie is just meant to be a lot of fun, and it excels at that. Do be warned that there’s probably more language than would be appropriate for most kids. For teen/adult audiences who are in the mood for something off the wall and fun though, The Castle of Cagliostro is a great choice.

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gosick 1Author: Kazuki Sakuraba

Illustrator: Hinata Takeda

My rating: 4 of 5

Gosick (light novel), vol. 1

Japanese transfer student Kazaya Kujo recently began attending Saint Marguerite Academy, nestled at the foot of the Alps, in the small country of Sauville. Saint Marguerite is a breeding grounds for rumors, such as the Black Reaper who comes in the spring (a rumor quickly attached to poor Kazaya), the ship that sank 10 years ago but comes  back to the surface occasionally to lure others to the ocean depths . . . and the mysterious extra student who never comes to class. However, some of these rumors may be more than that, as Kazaya well knows. He already frequently climbs the maze of staircases in the academy’s vast library to find said extra student–a living doll who spends her days in the arboretum at the top of the library. This living doll, Victorique, quickly belies her tiny stature, cascading golden hair, and huge green eyes, however, by her pipe smoking, her incredible rate of reading . . . and her penchant for solving seemingly impossible mysteries through logical reasoning. When Kazaya and Victorique become accidentally involved in a macabre re-enactment of a fortune-telling experiment from 10 years before, Victorique’s brains and Kazaya’s bravery may be the only things standing between them and a watery grave.

Gosick is a brilliant re-envisioning of the Sherlock Holmes concept. Of course, seeing someone reason out what seems impossible to deduce in clear steps is always fascinating, and Sakuraba pulls this off smoothly. The historical setting of Europe in 1924 is also convincing–the atmosphere is just what I would expect from a country on the border of France and Switzerland during this time period. However, the key to this story’s appeal is the characters, particularly Victorique. She is exceedingly well crafted–unexpected, charming, delicate, brilliant, demanding, and enigmatic all combined. My one complaint when reading this was that some words in the translation are confused with their homonyms–for instance, the translator uses “hollow” when intending “hallow”–however, this is a minor problem, and the translation over all is quite acceptable. Gosick is definitely a recommended read, particularly for those who enjoy Doyle’s writing.

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