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Book Review: “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney (3 Stars)

A heroic fantasy blending in just the right amount of horror for young readers to delight in.

Our young hero is the ill-fated, seventh son of a seventh son. Thomas Ward was born to a farming family living out in the countryside. His Mam has a little something extra going on with her, and planned quite an interesting and unique future for her youngest born. Through his mother’s influence, it has been decided that Ward will take on an apprenticeship with Mr. Gregory. This strange vagabond has the auspicious profession of being a sort of ghost-hunter or witch-finder. Dangerous, but necessary work for keeping the darkness at bay and insuring that the local people of the County can be free from unruly harassment or worse from the ghosts and ghoulies prowling about.

This is a Young Adult story that moves at a good pace (after it gets going). The words are easy to digest for young readers and the occasional big word that comes around gets explained succinctly and in context. However, all this is contrasted with dark tonal themes. There are a few more visceral elements and descriptions that “up” the horror meter into a more mature level. Fans of the darker genres will delight in the real risks at stake: cannibalistic witches, missing limbs, and the typical creepy ghosts born of horrible tragedy. Some of the antagonists are down right scary (Mother Malkin is straight out of Terminator 2).

Also, the creepy settings that are done very well; I could really picture Ward’s struggles as he tangled with the various antagonists. The author does a good job of bringing this element in without going over the top. More sensitive readers might not care for the imagery, but many of us enjoy a scary tale now and again. So, I felt this element added in abundance to the narrative.

Another thing Delaney does, is develop a nice perspective for the protagonist. Traditions, methods, outcomes are all questioned. Right and wrong are not so simple to figure out—even when dealing with ghosts and witches (blood-witches at that!). Ward and his mentor are always conscious of the possible consequences of their actions, they seek to avoid undue cruelty less they find themselves acting just like those they are fighting against. Some of this is typical “Saturday morning cartoon” morality, which gets wrapped up a little too easily. However, I felt like the horror elements balanced this out, so that it didn’t always feel like things were being resolved too conveniently. Perhaps the tone is just right for the YA audience?

A particularly great character is that of “Alice.” She is a girl around Ward’s age who has been raised by witches, but is not quite a full convert. Ward is warned about her, but he is also told to follow his instincts. Alice provides great elements of mystery as we go along for the ride with the protagonist as he constantly wrestles with how much he should trust her. This seems to be setting up a long-standing conflict for books to come.

The world-building elements were also a nice touch. At times, it almost felt like the author was establishing rules for a future role-playing or table-top card game. I enjoyed learning about the different types of monsters that populated the County and looked forward to encountering them. I could see looking forward to reading other books and discovering even more. Ward’s mentor and his mother fill in back story in just the right amount and at just the right times (Always fun exploring new worlds without being overwhelmed). I also really enjoyed all the folklore learned by the apprentice—especially when his mentor explained the different methods that were available with dealing with the creepy-crawlies and things that go bump in the night.

I feel that this story is great for fantasy fans and those interested in dabbling in horror. The elements blend well. The story doesn’t get so deep as other great fantasy authors, but there is something really good here. Perfect for a Young Adult Audience.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website.

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney – “Seventh Son” by Sergei Bodrov (Jeff Bridges)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E2 – The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Seventh Son*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…A heroic fantasy blending in just the right amount of horror for young readers to delight in…

Wilk: 3 Stars “I liked this book. But I would of liked it better if I was a twelve year old boy

Rick: 4 Stars “…The book adopts an environment and characters perfect for indoctrinating your preteen with haunted tales...

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Book: “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Alternate Title in UK:”Wardstone Chronicles: The Spook’s Apprentice”

“For years, Old Gregory has been…

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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Podcast

 

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Preview Episode (Pratchett Tribute and The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Seventh Son)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

Podcast preview episode

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PREVIEW PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2P2 – Preview Episode (Pratchett Tribute – The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Seventh Son)*

SUBJECT MATTER:

“The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Book: “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Alternate Title in UK:”Wardstone Chronicles: The Spook’s Apprentice”

“For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried—some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.

Only Thomas Ward is left. He’s the last hope, the last apprentice.” (from Amazon.com)

*** * ***

“Seventh Son” by Sergei Bodrov (Jeff Bridges)

Movie: “Seventh Son” by Sergei Bodrov (Jeff Bridges)

“In a time long past, an evil…

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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

Book Review: “Horns” by Joe Hill (3 Stars)

A fluidly crafted fiction of magical-realism that twists away from common story-telling pitfalls.

Ig Perrish has been tried and convicted for the rape and murder of his longtime girlfriend—in the court of public opinion. However, he has not been tried in the court of law. Instead of taking the reader on a crusade to clear the good name of the protagonist, the author takes a side turn into a supernatural introspection on good and evil.

I really enjoyed the supernatural elements present in this book, and the modern underplaying and unique twist on classic Christian mythology. Ig Perrish grows horns. Quite literally. This aspect of the story was fun and well balanced, just as you might find in other modern writers like George R.R. Martin. The protagonist has “powers,” but there are logical and understandable limits that allow this aspect of the tale to inform the story, devoid of any kind of deus ex machina contrivance. The nuances are played well, and imagery artfully constructed from well-established traditions. The pitchforks and snakes were fun and fitting elements to give the story an ethereal feel without feeling extraneous or over-played. One of the elements of Ig’s special powers is that people’s darkest secrets and desires are revealed to him. This idea has been done many times over, but the author’s take on it feels fresh. Ig’s not consumed with seeing the worst in people—at least that doesn’t make up the bulk of the story. There are other stakes at play.

The book is divided into chapters, which in turn are grouped into five major sections that allow for time and point of view switches. In one sense, this is a short tale—what really happened the night that the protagonist’s girlfriend is murdered? Yet, I found myself moving along at a decent pace and feeling like the author was close to wrapping up one of the mysteries, when the story would stop and switch gears providing new revelations from a different perspective. This is a sort of classic “mystery” or “crime-story” device that works well as we masticate over the various details we’re allowed to chew on. With each new pass, we learn just enough to keep us hooked for another run—cumulatively inching toward the conclusion. Effective story telling.

The characters were written well. The chief antagonist is believable in the classic sense of a true sociopath, and we really see how much havoc can be caused by an utter detachment from life as a fatal flaw. The protagonist and his strained relationship with those close to him were developed well also. Especially notable was the complicated relationship between Ig and his increasingly detached best friend, Lee. The push and pull struggle which the protagonist agonizes over regarding their friendship felt real and was very compelling. This was the strongest element of the story.

There are some interesting esoteric aspects in this book. Is the protagonist the devil, or is he becoming the devil? Who is the devil and what does it mean to be the devil, or a devil? Is there purpose behind the plight of the anti-hero? A wonderful aspect of this, is that we don’t have to waste time with some kind of annoying struggle where the protagonist fights to hang on to his humanity and free his sole from damnation. None of that comes into this story. An easy trap to fall into, but done to death. So, Hill gets kudos for that.

Still, I would have liked to see a bit more depth in the book. The story flows quite nicely. The main characters are real enough, and their actions are believable in the contexts their given. I felt that we were digging very deep into the emotions at stake. We cared about the characters and the awful things happening to them, and we rooted for the hero (or anti-hero) to raise his flag and champion his cause. Only, what was it all for? There is revenge, yet not so much vindication. Maybe that’s a good thing—maybe that’s more original than other authors might have attempted? I’m not sure.

Another minor gripe I had was the over-the-top puns that increase in the second-half of the story. The author’s style becomes rather tongue-in-cheek as he plays off trite devil references, like classic songs about or mentioning the devil or using the word “damn” a lot. Not a big deal, it just became silly.

Hill has a fluid writing style. He sets up a few key mysteries and drops in reveals at appropriate times so that the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion. This is a well-crafted tale of magical realism intermixed with elements of mystery and crime.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Horns” (book/movie) Joe Hill – Alexandre Aja (Daniel Radcliffe)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New podcast Episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E1 – Horns (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…A fluidly crafted fiction of magical-realism that twists away from common story-telling pitfalls…

Wilk: 3 Stars “… …

Rick: 4 Stars “The story itself was fairly simple but Hill made it a suspenseful page turner with a narrative that methodically and semi-sequentially spoke through each character’s perspective of the tragic events...

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Horns” by Joe Hill

Book: “Horns” by Joe Hill

“Joe Hill’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning debut chiller, Heart-Shaped Box, heralded the arrival of new royalty onto the dark fantasy scene. With Horns, he polishes his well-deserved crown. A twisted, terrifying new novel of psychological…

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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

Book Review: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne (3 Stars)

Captain Nemo’s slow but compelling rise to the surface gives this adventure enough buoyancy to savor the flavor of a Victorian travelogue (and early science fiction progenitor).

Many who read this classic, very early work of science fiction will complain about the lists. Oh the lists! The countless words, commas, scientific classifications, and rampant cataloging of sea creatures and sea plants. Yes, Verne occasionally provides some curious and interesting descriptions of these plants and beasts to help paint the setting, but many times he simply lists them in typical travelogue fashion (i.e. I saw this, and then this, and then this, and then we saw this eat that.). I count myself among these nay-sayers—to an extent. I’ll admit to having my eyes gloss over the lists.

That said, I also fond myself perusing the internet to look up some of these crazy beasties and subsequently fall into a loop of YouTube videos to see them in action. Verne did that too. And that’s good writing—making someone want to learn. Even when Verne got some of the descriptions wrong (though he probably had them right for the knowledge that was available at the time), he still opened up the sea to me, just as well as a fantasy writer might create a new world – except I live this world and these things do exist and I can check them out on the internet (or in person if I ever wanted to go the non-virtual route). So, while I did feel the listing went on ad nauseum– it also drew me in at times.

Verne has interesting characters in his book, which can easily be dismissed as “flat” by the casual reader. Professor Aronnax, the chief protagonist is a true professor at heart. He is drawn into the wondrous scientific adventure unfolding around him and finds it difficult to resist. He’s balanced against the other protagonist, a Canadian Harpooner who is a man of action and common sense that prefers to make decisions based on his instincts. In between them is Conceil, Aronnax’s agreeable sidekick. All these characters seem to fulfill a role and play to their respective typecasts throughout the story. However, they do grow (albeit slowly), even though their actions and words might seem generic at first. The pieces eventually fall in place, and we see that Aronnax cannot rationalize everything for the mere scientific adventure of it all. Land’s cantankerous attitude is fitting, and we watch him struggle when it fully sets in that he is trapped in an environment that stifles his attributes as a hard-working “doer.” In fact, Land’s bitterness and gut-instincts prove to be the grounding force to which Aronnax must cling when things go bad for the protagonists. Even the reticent and happy-go-lucky Conceil makes a transition by developing a bond with the increasingly disagreeable Land–as if he thinks the Professor might be too far adrift in the sea of academia.

Then there is Captain Nemo. He’s the farthest from flat among all the characters in this book. At first, he is a fearless and seemingly unbeatable force of stalwart principle. Admittedly, Nemo is kept in the shadows for most of the book. He is off screen a lot, and when he comes back on stage it is usually with much bravado. Also, he never really fails in what he does. Yet, the little nuggets of insight, which Jules Verne does reveal, tumble out with significance. These short glimpses into this compelling character paint an inner darkness that is interesting and disturbing. The plot of Captain Nemo, in and of itself is excellent and fitting.

It’s hard to review this book without at least mentioning how far-seeing Verne was by writing about submarines, tasers, and untethered underwater breathing devices that didn’t exist at the time. This is the stuff of “great” science fiction. These elements of hard science and using the minds creativity to go beyond the limits of contemporary advancements are amazing. What a great mind.

Oh yeah, there’s adventure too! Verne’s hard science is intermixed with a good number of dramatic conflicts. Sometimes they are simply man versus beast. Other times he pits the men against Mother Nature. Then there is the subtle man versus man conflict between Captain Nemo and his uninvited “guests.” Some of these scenes are downright tense, and they get better and better as the story progresses.

Verne also had some interesting progressive views going on in this book. For example, the characters make admonishments about over-fishing. Yet, this book is about seamen, so plenty of good fishing takes place. It’s perhaps an interesting conflict, yet a refreshingly realistic viewpoint as these types of issues are not often so black and white.

The adventure aspect of this story works too. The oceans come alive. Besides his descriptions of underwater flora and fauna, Verne’s description of things like the “Gulf Stream” give you a better sense of the various ecosystems that inhabit this planet and how they fit together—very cool. Like a master fantasy writer, Verne makes the sea seem as foreign and as familiar as a made-up world.

My only regret is that this is a work of translation and apparently, some of the English translations of this book cut out significant portions of the author’s original work. I can only wonder how the author’s work reads in his native tongue. What did I lose out on? Even still, I enjoyed the work and not just for what it is or given the context of its time. Mostly I enjoyed this story for the traveling undersea adventure that made me want to learn a bit more about the world’s oceans.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (book/movie) Jules Verne – Richard Fleischer (Kirk Douglas) – Rod Hardy (Michael Caine)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast Episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S1E12 – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…Captain Nemo’s slow but compelling rise to the surface gives this adventure enough buoyancy to savor the flavor of a Victorian travelogue (and early science fiction progenitor)…

Wilk: 4 Stars “…If you are interested in reading a classic this would be an excellent place to start. Especially if you have a short attention span, like the author of this review…

Rick: ? Stars “…(to come) …

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne

Book: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne

“The “man who invented the future,” French novelist Jules Verne fanned mankind’s desire to…

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in News, Podcast

 
 
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