Literature and London Part 2: Hogwarts and Harry Potter

Technically, most of the Harry Potter stories don’t really figure into London, and even the Warner Bros. Studio (which houses many of the original scenes and prop decorations) lot isn’t located in London. But I suppose it wouldn’t be a “Literature and London” series if I called it something different every time, heh.

And I did say I was going to write about my Harry Potter experience.

Which was much easier to say than to do. At first I’d thought it would be almost impossible to do just the one post about a series that originally spanned seven books. I mean, seriously, what pictures would I have to choose? What quotes would fit each picture? And did I really need to add 30+ Quidditch-related pictures? No? Darn.

But what I will add, is this stunning depiction of the Great Hall entrance in all its glory. Because I totally got emotional just seeing them open. I’m not a sap, promise. Okay. Maybe I am. #sorrynotsorry

Seriously, I could go on and on about the series and how much of it has been a part of my life. I could go on and on about how I walked the halls pretending I was kinda sorta there, in my own way, down at Leavesden, inside the Warner Bros. lot. But at the interest of brevity, I won’t go crazy, and have limited myself to blogging about a few choice pictures.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

It’s the first sentence quite literally heard ’round the world. And it’s the first location within the HP books that readers paid attention to. Not so much because of its perfectly normal, English quaintness, but because of the things that happen right after. Like cats reading maps and owls flying by day and a cloaked man putting out the lights with a cigarette lighter in the middle of the night.

It didn’t come….he kept on running…he opened his eyes.

A scarlet steam engine was waiting next to a platform packed with people. A sign overhead said Hogwarts Express, eleven o’clock. Harry looked behind him and saw a wrought-iron archway where the barrier had been, with the words Platform Nine and Three-Quarters on it. He had done it.

I hadn’t been able to visit the King’s Cross Station platforms much, even though I had walked by that way a few times to transfer lines. That said, it was still fun to walk into the HP Studio to find myself transported to Platform 9 3/4, with a full-blown train set on makeshift tracks, just waiting for people to board it. And I didn’t even have to walk through a wall!

There was a loud “Oooooooh!”

The narrow path had opened suddenly onto the edge of a great black lake. Perched atop a high mountain on the other side, its windows sparkling in the starry sky, was a vast castle with many turrets and towers.

I had originally selected a different picture, one of a much larger model of the Hogwarts grounds. Unfortunately, WordPress didn’t seem to like showing it because it’s one of those weird panorama photos, so I had to make do with a miniature model of what set designers pictured Hogwarts would look like. Still, it’s rather impressive. And if you were standing before a much larger model of the castle, you’d be severely knocked out with awe.

“You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art of potionmaking…I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses…I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death…”

Confession: While I probably would have excelled in Arithmancy (because math-ish magic? Yespls!), my passion would have probably been Potions class. And not because I think about using it for evil or anything…um. Let’s hide any evidence I try to poison people through my concoctions…*buries the Dark Mark cookies under pillows and stuff*

Honestly, though, the Potions class boasted an excellent ambiance and well-stocked equipment. I wish I had the kind of budget for my future science classroom, but alas.

“The Chasers throw the Quaffle and put it through the hoops to score,” Harry recited. “So–that’s sort of like basketball on broomsticks with six hoops, isn’t it?”

“What’s basketball?” said Wood curiously.

Quidditch! Anything that can let you fly on broomsticks is a fun game to me. And yes, I do have a position I prefer to play, which is kind of fitting, considering I’d probably end up being one of the more violent ones on the field. Unintentionally, of course. I mean, as a Ravenclaw I’d be sort of expected to be able to approximate the trajectory with which to send a bludger careening down the opponent’s head, right? Right? Okay. That joke was made in poor taste. #sorrynotsorry

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.

This was quite honestly one of my favorite props there. Apparently the door–which opens up into the Chamber of Secrets–is made out of several snakes that actually do move through a series of mechanisms.

With a yell, he rolled back onto the pavement, just in time. A second later, a gigantic pair of wheels and headlights screeched to a halt exactly where Harry had just been lying. They belonged, as Harry saw when he raised his head, to a triple-decker, violently purple bus, which had appeared out of thin air. Gold lettering over the windshield spelled The Knight Bus.

Also another of my favorite descriptions of things Harry Potter related. This one happens to operate in London in the books, and for the longest time, I actually did think that buses in London were triple-deckers. Of course, I eventually realized that normal buses were only two decks, not three. And none of the official transport was purple, either. How unfortunate!

“What we need,” said Dumbledore slowly, and his light blue eyes moved from Harry to Hermione, “is more time.”

“But–” Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. “OH!”

It takes a very trusting teacher to give a 13-year-old that much hold on time. Hell, I barely trust my 12- and 13-year-olds to do anything right when given that much responsibility. I mean, you’d think that after two years people would get the idea that Hermione broke almost as many rules as Harry and Ron did during their time at Hogwarts. That said, wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff was interesting at best.

The lid creaked slowly open. Dumbledore reached inside it and pulled out a large, roughly hewn wooden cup. It would have been entirely unremarkable had it not been full to the brim with dancing blue-white flames.

No flames in this particular cup, but then again, this one isn’t exactly the Goblet of Fire. This one happens to be the Triwizard Cup, a prize given to the player who makes it through the third task first. Of course, things don’t go exactly as anyone would expect, but things sort of pan out slowly by the end.

The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables had vanished instead, there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people.

I always thought the Yule Ball was much better done through visuals than description. It was cool to see how the Great Hall was decorated, and how it had changed once the music went from a classical style to The Weird Sisters. Also, the food and drink must have been grand!

And that’s where I’ll stop. I had hoped to have seen a couple other places like the Department of Mysteries and maybe even Xenophilius Lovegood’s house, but I suppose there’s room for them to add to their exhibits later on. When I went, the Forbidden Forest had just opened up, which was cool to see. The Ministry of Magic also had a few highlighted areas, but again, not enough in my book. I would have loved to have seen more.

That said, I did end up walking out of Hogwarts and back into London with a spring in my step and a sweater to tout off my Ravenclaw pride.

For the first Literature and London post, please click here.

Coming up in the last Literature and London post: Odds and ends and a bit of Shakespeare.

Mini Reviews: Snow White, Camelot

Oh, blog. I know I have neglected you. Come to think of it, I’ve been neglecting many things lately. In lieu of the end of the year shenanigans, I’ve been generally swamped with grading, exam writing, teaching, and more grading. I’m behind on my Goodreads goal, I’ve not written a blog post since the end of May, and I’ve completely dropped off the face of the editing and short story writing circuit.

Buuuut…

I needed to get out of this slump/hiatus. And it’s ALMOST the end of the school year. And I have a ton of catching up blogging-wise, so hang onto your, uh, figurative hats, yeah?

Anyway, got a few blog posts I need to write for the next few weeks, I just need the actual time to write it now!

So first, a couple of graphic novel reviews. I went back to reading some Fables goodness because it was high time I finish reading this series once and for all. My goal this year is to at least finish a couple of completed series, novels and graphic novels included!

** Note: These two graphic novels are Volumes 19 and 20 of the Fables series by Bill Willingham, so while I do attempt not to spoil the story so far, there is a bit of a jump.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Anoshe || A Conjuring of Light Review

Initial Thoughts:

Anoshe.

Oh god. Stop. STAHP. These are not tears. I am not crying, you are.


A CONJURING OF LIGHT

by V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, February 2017
Adult fantasy, adventure, romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Honestly, it’s still pretty difficult for me to be writing this review without tearing up from time to time. And it didn’t help when the last few chapters practically begged for me to let go of the story.

INTERESTING LANGUAGE FACT: The word anoshe really resonated with me because of many things, but none stronger than the thought that, funnily enough, I’d been recently thinking about foreign words and how people said goodbye to each other. According to Schwab, Arnesians didn’t have one word to say goodbye, and that anoshe isn’t truly saying goodbye, but rather it was a way of saying that those parting from each other would see each other again. Which is GREAT, because I’ve always liked the idea of a “next time we meet” kind of ending. Anoshe became a special word for me, much like when I had Japanese students last year, and when a few left the school for good, it wasn’t sayonara or sarabada or any other form of definitive farewell that the parents uttered to me and to the fellow children, but mata ne, which roughly translates to see you soon.

Anyway, enough of the obsession with the word and onto the story itself.

I have to hand it to Schwab. She pulled all the punches in A Conjuring of Light, because it was damn near perfect as a conclusion to an already brilliant trilogy. ACOL picked up the shredded cliffhanger pieces that A Gathering of Shadows left me in by continuing directly after. It then proceeded to take my emotions and drown it in a large body of water, only to bring it up again, dry it up, and continue the process. I quite literally bawled my eyes out several times throughout the book, and the last 100 pages sent me to tears every. effing. chapter. I was a mess, and Schwab is to blame.

But hell, by the end of it, I was crying not because my heart had broken. I was crying because the story ended and, as Schwab mentioned in the final bits, it’s just really hard to let go, and as a reader, I was fighting against my commitment issues and being asked to let the world and characters of Red London go by getting to the end of the book. And that was pretty much the main reason why I am still having a hard time writing up this review, because having reviewed it once pretty much confirms the fact that I’ve read the book, and the magic of reading A Conjuring of Light for the first time has trickled out of the pages.

That isn’t to say I won’t re-read this trilogy again. And it certainly isn’t to say that I am ready to face the emotional turmoil that I found in the books. I’m pretty sure if I read it multiple times, I’d still cry the same amount, and I’d still squee the same amount. The only difference is I know when to expect them.

Feelings out of the way, just some character developments I absolutely adored in ACOL (and this is where my SPOILER ALERT comes in):

Rhylucard, Kellila – The chemistry between the pairings and the chemistry between each other were always some of my favorite bits in A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. The fact that there was more going into ACOL, and the fact that there is resolution in the ships (one way or another) made me so happy.

Maxim and Emira – Just, hold your fort, we get the entire Maresh line POV? Hell yes. I simply loved these brief breaks out of the four main characters, and the only thing I would have loved to see was more of the Steel Prince at work! I know a prologue may not be in the picture, but holy shit, can there be a novella plsthx? I’d have loved to know more about Maxim Maresh before he became the king! And Emira! Gosh, I’d give my left kidney for a story in the past, in any shape or form.

Holland – Seriously, ever since I started seeing the Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe in the trilogy (which started at the end of ADSOM for me), I saw Holland as the Zuko of the series. Which meant I had high hopes that he would also undertake his own suffered journey towards redemption. And, while Schwab hoped that she could change her readers’ mind about Holland (I suppose to a more positive light), she really didn’t have to do much on my part. I already loved Holland in my own way. I mean, he isn’t Kell, but who is? All the same, I was absolutely loving that Holland’s story comes full circle.

I mean…this is how I pictured all the fighting to have been happening with Holland…WHICH IS TOTALLY SPOT ON.

Rhy and Lila – I throw these two in together because I thought their character development followed a similar route. For Rhy, we see him grow from a prince that did not like confrontation to one who stood for his people as a shining beacon of hope and comfort. It made me tear up whenever he walked his darkened city, often alone, and often with sadness. As for Lila, well…she, too, changed for the better. Like Rhy, when the going got rough, often her first instincts were to run. However, by the end of AGOS, she’s running towards danger, and the fact that she stayed to fight for a London that wasn’t her own made me ultimately love her. I was admittedly on the fence with Lila for a long time, but ACOL cemented my love for her, and it’s really no wonder Kell gravitates toward her. She’s effing badass.

Alucard – You know what, I would have loved to have seen Luc’s story fleshed out even more. Which is weird, considering we see enough of his past to fully develop him as a character. And boy, that shit was depressing. Still, I wanted more, and he was pretty much the only one of the characters in the main four that still had some secrets to unravel at the very end.

Kell – I don’t really need to point out I’m still in love with this guy. I’ve said it often enough in my previous reviews of ADSOM and AGOS that I’ll leave it at that.

A few other tidbits that made this book fabulous:

Three Antari and a pirate traipse into a boat… You’d see this as a running joke, too, but egads, the boat scenes made me oh so happy. Particularly the image of irritated and drenched Alucard. And Kell teaching another Antari a few blood spells (can Kell teach me, too?! *cough*).

Death comes to Red London. It was difficult to read about so many characters dying, and I had expected some casualties, but not in the scale that I’d care for almost all of the ones who did die. You’d think someone who’s read G.R.R. Martin and gotten desensitized to main character deaths would have expected this from someone writing a high fantasy. But egads. The deaths in Schwab’s books hit me much harder than any of the A Song of Ice and Fire deaths to date. And that’s saying something.

A darker shade of character study. Once again, Schwab shows mastery in her character-driven story. Everything was alive and personified. Even the big, bad villain–a magical entity that technically didn’t even have a corporeal form for the most part–had become personified as a creature with a particularly singular motive: to devour and recreate the world in his image. Yes, the four Londons still feature prominently as the backdrop, and description has always been vivid with Schwab, but she’s always shined where her characters are concerned, and this book is no different.

So yes. This is me gushing over this book. Because honestly, it was practically perfect in every way.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now excuse me while I find the tissues.

This counts as #7 for the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Peter Peter and Sky Eater || Tiger Lily Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For a retelling based off a children’s adventure story, this was kind of a snorefest. Kudos for the transgender Tik Tok at least?


TIGER LILY

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
HarperCollins, July 2012
YA fantasy, retelling, romance
Rated: 2 / 5 cookies

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Okay, so I admit I expected to be writing a very squee-ful review of A Conjuring of Light by now, but my commitment issues got in the way and I’ve been refusing to read the last two hundred pages of Schwab’s book because I DO NOT WANT IT TO END. So I picked up this book that I’d stopped reading in the middle of February for various reasons, and I finally finished it in one sitting.

Unfortunately, the feeling I had for the entire book was really just…meh?

(I’ve tried real hard not to turn this into a rant, but I swear my fingers have a mind of their own…)

So Tiger Lily is a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a story about a flying boy who never grows up. In the original source, Peter takes the Darling siblings on a grand adventure in Neverland, only to find themselves in trouble with Captain Hook and his band of pirates. There’s a lot of shenanigans happening, and in the end, the story takes a cyclical turn, staying true to Peter’s everlasting boyish persona: that everything goes round and round, and will always stay the same where Neverland is concerned.

One of the secondary characters that show up in Barrie’s work happens to be Tiger Lily, the daughter of a tribal chief in Neverland. She is often pitted as the foil to Wendy, because she, too, loves Peter, and has eyes for no one else. Now, the Barrie original has an image of Tiger Lily walking onto Captain Hook’s ship with a knife in her mouth. And honestly, that image alone made this girl the most interesting character in Neverland to date. That’s saying much, considering there are mermaids and pirates and fairies to contend with!

I won’t get into an argument about the depiction of the Piccaninny tribe in the Disney movie, but honestly, I do remember loving what glimpse I had of this feisty little girl!

A lot of the book blurb hinted at some fast-paced, love-at-first-sight adventure romance. I mean, it’s a retelling of Peter Pan, and what wouldn’t be a retelling of Peter Pan if it didn’t have a magical Neverland brimming with mermaids and dangerous pirates and its indigenous, non-colonized people? The entire selling point was that the focus would be on Tiger Lily, one of the most interesting characters in the stories.

Here’s the problem with the blurb, though: it’s another unfortunate, inaccurate write-up. The most accurate it could have gotten was that the focus is on Tiger Lily. However, insta-love doesn’t happen (thank goodness). Tiger Lily is her own character for a majority of the book, and she does fall in love with Peter Pan, but her realization doesn’t even come about until halfway through the book.

Here’s the other problem: there wasn’t much “risk” involved on Tiger Lily’s part. Not once did I feel the need to worry about how the Sky Eaters would react to Tiger Lily’s involvement with the Lost Boys. There was clear and present danger, yes, but nothing immediate, and when dealing with a story where most people already know the ending (heck, the friggin’ fairy already prefaced the story as something that would not end happily for the two lovebirds), it was already predictable that Tiger Lily and Peter would come out unscathed. Probably heartbroken, but largely whole.

And to top it off, meeting Wendy Darling was pretty much the last fifty pages of the book. Honestly, I was half-hoping the entire scene had gone the pirates’ way in the end, because at least that would have been a trifle more exciting. Also, I didn’t think Wendy could get even more boring than the usual persona she is often depicted as, but she did. She got even less interesting in this book, and frankly, even Tinker Bell had developed more personality within the last fifty pages than Wendy did (and that’s saying something, because I swear Tink didn’t have an opinion in her little fairy body either).

It’s gotta be said, Wendy.

My biggest gripe of the story was probably the narration itself. It was hard trying to sympathize with any of the characters when the storyteller kept changing tenses and perspectives on me. The whole book is seen in the eyes of Tinker Bell, a mute fairy whose sole purpose in the book was really just to watch and observe things unravel before her. While I do not mind plot-driven books, the addition of Tink as the unreliable narrator made the storytelling clunky. There were too many POV changes in one scene, and it was sometimes difficult to determine whether or not it was Tink thinking some things or if it was Tiger Lily or another character whose mind Tink can view.

And honestly, Tinker Bell’s limited, single-minded view pretty much distorted the story to revolve around what she wanted to see. Everything else was white noise for her, and unless it dealt with the well-being of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, Tink pretty much just glazed over things. This in itself is irritating when there were darker, grimmer issues surrounding the story that had nothing to do with Tiger Lily and Peter’s doomed romance. At one point, a rape took place, and Tink’s narration of it lasted a couple paragraphs, like it was just some sort of pitiable thing she happened to have come across. Instead of feeling any sorts of disgusted or worried, she doesn’t even bring this shit up to Tiger Lily. Oh, but Tink has time to prank Wendy Darling, though!

(In Tink’s defense, I doubt she would have been able to say much to Tiger Lily, who was also unfortunately too wrapped up in her own miseries to be paying attention to what was happening to her own damn friends. Ugh, shame on you, Tiger Lily!)

That said, it could have been worse. Tink could have had a voice…

That all said, there were a few things I liked about Tiger Lily.

The writing had its moments, for sure. I thought the prologue and the first few chapters were the best parts to read, because it had a poetic feel to them, and it was easy to forget that Tinker Bell was narrating the story for the most part. The letter at the end was probably one of my favorite bits, too, it was bittersweet and a bit sad. If I sympathized with the relationship more, I might have cared more, but Peter was kind of a jerk for the most part, and only the letter really indicated how much he changed when he got older.

Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Moon Eye. Honestly, there were some really good characters written into the story. I thought Smee was characterized rather well, though I found this an interesting take on Hook’s most notorious lackey. Pine Sap and Moon Eye were great secondary characters, though I will say that Tik Tok was my absolute favorite. Honestly, Tik Tok’s and Moon Eye’s storylines were the most compelling for me in Tiger Lily, both of which dealt with darker issues. Hell, I was sad for Tik Tok. I was not sad that Peter chose the other woman.

2 out of 5 cookies! It got one extra cookie for Tik Tok and the conclusive situation with Giant. Yeah.

This counts as #6 of my Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Of Book Hauls and Signings

I shall keep this post sweet and short, because honestly all I want to do this morning is play Final Fantasy XV and read A Conjuring of Light (but let’s face it, I’m probably doing neither because I have lesson plans to write and papers to grade *sobs*).

Last week and the week before I was lucky enough to attend two book signings at my favorite book shop! Of course, this meant a breakage in the bank, but OMG my haul is pretty lovely. And the authors were fantabulous.

From the Tor side of things…

So um. A Conjuring of Light came out late February, and obviously the first thing I was thinking was: “WHEN IS SCHWAB COMING TO TOWN AND I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK.” The lines for Schwab were absolutely ridiculous that I was getting paranoid about making it on time. Thankfully, I managed to dash out of work without having to inflict any physical injury on other persons on my way there, hah.

Seriously, you guys, I’m 300 pages into ACOL and LOVING IT. I mean…I totally cried at least once already. Maybe twice. And I totally squeed several times already. And yelled at characters to get a room (an advice they seemed to have heeded occasionally *COUGHSQUEECOUGH*) because my god that tension. And and and…oh god, okay, I’ll review this at some point.

Also! I had been oggling Truthwitch for ages, and borrowed a library copy to read prior to Dennard showing up at Books of Wonder. Unfortunately, the reading didn’t happen on time, but I decided I wanted a copy of at least the first book anyway, because hell, I’ve bought books in the past that I don’t plan on reading at all, and honestly, I feel like I’d actually like Truthwitch. Susan Dennard should totally be my friend. Not only is she a Dragon Age fan, but like Schwab, she’s also an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan. She’s ALSO a Zutara fan. (YES SOMEONE I KNOW IN PERSON IS A ZUTARA FAN, I MEAN, WHAT.)

Not pictured, but I also got a signed copy of Goldenhand by Garth Nix, because I mean, let’s complete that signed Abhorsen hardcover collection I have sitting prettily on my shelf. No, really, though, I do want to read this next book. Eventually.

God, I just love authors.

From the Penguin side of things…

Let’s be honest here, I was totally hoping Flame in the Mist galleys would be thrown at the audience during this tour, but hell, there was a stellar set of ladies kicking off their tours, and I’ve been meaning to get Rebel of the Sands for the longest time. Alwyn Hamilton’s sequel also came out, but I opted to get just the first book for now. Lesley Livingston’s The Valiant also caught my eye because um, hello, princess-turned-gladiator? Yaaaaaas. Livingston herself was such a dork, I loved her.

AND I AM A LITTLE JEALOUS of the girl who actually DID get an ARC of Flame in the Mist from Renee Ahdieh. But omgah, Ahdieh was awesome enough to let me take some swag and a signed poster! I cannot wait to Food and Fandomize Ahdieh’s next book…though I am still trying to figure out the best opportunity to make myself a full-blown Persian meal…