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Tag: magic

A MOVIE A DAY #5 – Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)

I am not entirely sure why I didn’t go to see this one when it was in theatres, but I think mostly it was for two reasons: 1) the previous Fantastic Beasts movie wasn’t that fantastic, and 2) the replacement of Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelson as the pre-Voldemort fascist allegory, Gellert Grindelwald.

It’s not that I don’t approve of that decision, given the problematic nature of Depp as a person. (Though, one might argue, he’s not that much more problematic than J. K. Rowling.) It’s just that, though their time on screen was limited, there was a very real chemistry between Depp’s Grindelwald and Jude Law’s Dumbledore, and for all Mikkelson’s accomplishment as an actor of great presence and menace, I just don’t see him as a romantic lead.

Of course, the story here isn’t really about the one-time romance between these two enemies, back when they were united in their ideals and wanted to change the world together. (Their dynamic is all very Professor X and Magneto, actually, except that their once tender feelings are made explicit, and any Charles/Eric love story belongs squarely in the realms of fanfic.) Instead, we mostly deal with Grindelwald’s growing cult of Dark Side wizardry as they attempt to wrest control of the Wizarding World and ultimately go to war with Muggledom, mostly for the usual “pureblood” reasons, because that is the only motive for any evil megalomaniacal wizard to go to war, apparently.

Of course, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his CGI magical creatures, along with sundry sidekicks and the titular Dumbledore, find themselves in constant peril as they strive to save the day, and while there are a few moments of tension, it all feels a little bit by-the-numbers—and some of those numbers simply don’t add up, as we are treated to such plot nonsense as a crazed mob first cheering the prospect of a war on Muggles, and then setting of wand-based fireworks in joy at the election of a non-warmongering witch with amazing taste in gowns—and that is just one example.   

I’m also not sure that too many of Dumbledore’s secrets were actually revealed here – except for when he kept on outing himself, I guess – so the title seems a bit misleading, too. But it was all… fine… I didn’t dislike it… there were some decent character redemption arcs, one excellent line that especially resonated with me (NEWT: “He doesn’t want to lead you, he just wants you to follow him.”), and I do enjoy the Wizarding World in general, so I’m happy that I watched it.

No disrespect to Mads Mikkelson, though, but I do think it would have been better with Johnny Depp in it. Is it just me?   


Based on characters created by J. K. Rowling
Written by: J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelson, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam. Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Richard Coyle


READING THE TBR, DAY 231: Shades of Milk and Honey (2010) by Mary Robinette Kowal

A Regency-esque novel with magic — I am always going to be a sucker for that exact mashup. Add in the fact that this one was written by an author whose work I was actively seeking out at the time and obviously it was an autobuy for me.

The story centres on two sisters, sensible Jane and spoiled Melody. Melody is pretty and precocious, the belle of the neighbourhood while Jane is a good student of Glamour, the magic system that this mannered world mostly uses to make their houses look grander than they really are, decorate for parties and occasionally hide a blemish. 

Into the neighbourhood arrives skilled Glamourist Mr. Vincent, and of course he and Jane are at loggerheads almost immediately. Meanwhile, wealthy squire Mr. Dunkirk is spending a lot of time by Jane’s side, which she is convinced can only be for the sake of the pretty Melody because Jane has, basically, zero self-esteem. It’s a problem, and I suppose a relatable one, but also enough to make you want to slap her occasionally.

Still this was a fun little romantic Regency tale (as compared to a Regency Romance) with lashings of a fascinating magic system that I hope will be further explores and explained in later installments of the series. It could have done with more humour, for my preference, but then, Jane is a very serious young woman, and her suitors are even more serious gentlemen, and some people just are, you know? So I can’t consider it a flaw, just—not my favourite. 

I definitely want to read more, though.


TBR DAY 231: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal
GENRE: Historical Fantasy
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.  
PURCHASED FROM: Minotaur Melbourne.
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 198: The Secret of Platform 13 (1979) by Eva Ibbotson

A hidden magical realm, a lost prince, an intrepid rescue party, a spoilt brat (who surely inspired Harry Potter’s cousin Dudley), and a ticking clock all combine to bring this adorable, hilarious story to life. I am pretty sad I didn’t read it as a kid, when I would probably have been more astounded by the bait-and-switch central to the plot, but I am no less glad to have read it now, or to recommend it to anyone who will listen. Like Which Witch? it does not pull any punches or its young intended audience — there are some particularly hideous characters in here, both human and otherwise, as well as several abductions, while the book in no way attempts to euphemise, well, anything — and, also like Which Witch?, it uses a magical landscape to explore some very real topics and feelings that might be experienced by, not only kids, but people in general. 

A treasure.


TBR DAY 198: The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson
GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Magic
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: Collins Booksellers
KEEP: Yep!

READING THE TBR, DAY 197: Which Which? (1979) by Eva Ibbotson

After reading Eva Ibbotson’s wholly delightful historical romance The Countess Below Stairs, I thought it was time that I explored the children’s tales for which she is so famous. Justly, as it turns out — because Which Witch? is just a whole lot of buoyant silly wonderment.

In this world, there is dark magic and there is light, and the ancient and venerable — but very good looking — dark wizard Arriman the Aweful, frustrated by the tardiness of the prophesied heir to his throne, decides to take a wife from among the worst witches in the land. Clearly, he must procreate!

Competition is joined, and hags from across the area attempt to prove themselves worthy of this most desirable of life partners. Among them is the beautiful Belladonna, whose greatest shame is that she seems to be a good witch who makes flowers bloom rather than decay, and can heal rather than curse, but she loves Arriman to distraction (for no clear reason) and so is determined to win his hand, if not his heart.

Helping her is an orphan boy, a worm and Arriman’s much-smitten assistant, while her biggest rival has a necklace made of human teeth and also there is a ghost who was formerly fond of murdering his wives on the slightest pretext, or none at all. This is a book for kids, but it doesn’t always act like one, and has no compunction about throwing in some very Dark concepts, along with all the humour and silliness, of which there is much. 

This is just a really comical, entertaining romp, not just for kids but for anyone with a bent toward sly wit and utter ridiculousness. I am now very much looking forward to diving into the other Ibbotson kids’ books I have held onto for so, so long. Can’t wait to see what wackiness I encounter next.


TBR DAY 197: Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson
GENRE: Children’s Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 15 years.  
KEEP: Yes.

READING THE TBR, DAY 50: Indexing (2014) by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire is one of my favourite authors. I love her October Daye series, her InCryptid series, and especially her latest series, Wayward Children. I am also highly enamoured of her work under the name Mira Grant, the zombie-fied Feed series, in particular. All her books are autobuys, for me.

(And she did some Geek vs Geeks for me a couple of times.)

But this one… let’s just say, it’s not my favourite. 

Part of the problem, I think, is that this book was originally released as a serial novel, so explanations and descriptions are repeated, and it’s annoying. (On the other hand, backstory repetition is something of a McGuire quirk — the InCryptid books are redolent with it.) Still, some casual editing would have eliminated that issue.

 The story itself is intriguing, and largely enjoyable, if utterly surrealist. Fairy tales are real, and the mystical “narrative”, ie. fate, is determined to act them out, using unsuspecting people whose lives make them targets. (Blonde girls who live near the woods might become Goldilockses, gifted musicians might be Pied Pipers, etc.) Entrusted with stopping these “incursions” from manifesting is the ATI Management Bureau, peopled mostly by individuals who are themselves affected by these tales in some way. Our lead agent, Henry Marchen, is a Snow White, and she is our first person protagonist — except, when she’s not.

I’ve always found it disorientating when my book’s perspective shifts from first to third, and this one does that all the damn way through. (The worst is when we see inside the head of hateful, shrill “Wicked Stepsister”, Sloane. Ugh.)

Yeah, so… no, this one is not my favourite. But it does make me want to dive into the five or six other McGuire books I have awaiting me on my shelves (she is very prolific, it’s hard to keep up), because while this tale didn’t entirely capture me — and I will not, unusually for me, be reading its sequel — it is a solid reminder of her immense talent and imagination, and makes me excited to get back to those of her worlds that I do genuinely adore.   


TBR DAY 50: Indexing (Indexing #1) by Seanan McGuire
GENRE: Alternate History, Fantasy
PUBLISHED: 2014 (serialized: 2013)
TIME ON THE TBR: 4 years.  
KEEP: Yep.

READING THE TBR, DAY 49: Whispers Under Ground (2012) by Ben Aaronovitch

My friend Geonn enthusiastically endorsed the first book in the Peter Grant series, Rivers of London, back in 2011, and I bought the first two installments soon thereafter. He was right about their appeal: a London police constable is drawn into a hidden world of magic and spirits and becomes an apprentice wizard while also solving crimes. London’s river spirits are chatty and manipulative, there are all kinds of creatures hiding just below the surface of the city’s winding streets, and moreover, the books are a love letter to their location, which is just fine by me, because I am very, very fond of London.

I read the first two in the series back-to-back, and enjoyed both mightily, especially growing to care for our first person protagonist, the naive but canny Peter. Of mixed heritage, a working class background and a deeply geeky bent, he is attractive in a way that makes you feel weird about it, since he’s an invented person in a book and why do you have a crush on an invented person in a book? But book crushes are real, and Peter is one of mine. Which is probably the reason it took me so long to read this, his third book, even though I found it and the following two titles in the series, all steeply discounted, several years back.

Too many feelings.

Here, Peter is as devastatingly appealing as ever, investigating the murder of a well-connected US citizen who might also have ties to the specialized magical community of which most people know nothing. (Though the rate at which Peter divulges the secret, they’re going to have to come out of the shadows, vampires on True Blood-style, sooner rather than later.) He’s funny, he’s cocky yet self-effacing, he’s witty yet nerdy as hell — he recognizes Tolkien elvish on sight, references Star Trek and Discworld and oh my God, he is my perfect man — and is developing a slow-burn romance with his partner in all things mystic, Leslie, despite the unfortunate accident that has damaged her face beyond repair. The mystery is a bit lacking this time, its various circumlocutions seeming to go through the motions even as Peter’s magical abilities… really don’t progress much, either.

Nevertheless, the book is a good time, and makes me eager to read the next in the series–even if I am a little uncomfortable about being so fond of a fictional character that I wish he was real, and my friend.

I know everyone does this. But I don’t like it, and on the rare occasions it happens to me, I rarely pick up another book about that character ever again. Too much commitment. And I get too sad that they can never truly be in my life.

Tragic, isn’t it? 


TBR DAY 49: Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant #3) by Ben Aaronovitch
GENRE: Alternate History, Fantasy
TIME ON THE TBR: 3 years.  
PURCHASED FROM: The Book Grocer, Brunswick.
KEEP: Yep.