The Series Series: Throne Of Glass By Sarah J. Maas

You know how like, when you’re at a house party and it’s late and someone says “let’s order pizza!” and you say, “YEAH!” And then you’re psyched because you’re going to get pizza but then they ordered Dominos, and you eat a slice and think, “Dominos is better than I remembered,” because you’ve really been craving pizza, but then you get a second slice and remember that Dominos is a pale imitation of pizza?

That’s sort of what happened with me while I was reading Throne Of Glass. 

I miss Westeros so much you guys, that I was overlooking the uh, less than great-ness, of parts of this series, because it shares some, well, stuff in common with A Song Of Ice And Fire and Game Of Thrones.

Namely, an exiled fire queen with a prophecy on her head and a tendency to burn her enemies.

That said, there’s a lot to like about Throne Of Glass on it’s own and I did like it. Let’s dig in.

The Books

Throne Of Glass

Crown Of Midnight

Heir Of Fire

Queen Of Shadows

Empire Of Storms

Tower Of Dawn

Kingdom Of Ash

The Author

Sarah J. Maas began writing Throne Of Glass as a teenager on Fictionpress before the series was picked up to be published conventionally, which is pretty damn cool. She was inspired by epic fantasy and apparently by Disney princesses which means I bet we’d get along pretty well. (Hey Sarah! Call me!) Since Throne Of Glass she’s written two more series, which I haven’t decided if I have the bandwith to pick up.

Series Structure

Seven books which tell the story of assassin Celaena Sardothien, who is really Queen Aelin Galythenius and her quest to regain her throne and destroy a great evil that is threatening her world. What I thought was most interesting about this series is the way it develops. It clearly started in a world where Harry Potter and The Hunger Games ruled in genre stories. There’s an oddly biased love triangle, a rigged contest, a magical castle with mysteries to solve, but by book three, the wind had changed in what fantasy held sway, and suddenly, a fire queen, sexy sex, beheadings galore and more characters you could really keep track of if you have a normal person brain ruled the day, and the series moved in a completely different direction.

It’s frankly, completely fascinating to behold the shift, and Maas pulls it off for the most part.

Themes

Legacy, I guess? Also letting go of the past to build the future. There’s a lot of both of those things, which are fun themes to explore. There’s also some shades of choosing light and life rather than giving into despair, but that’s pretty boilerplate for this sort of thing.

Favorite Book

My god, I loved Heir Of Fire, which shows Celaena/Aelin off in a Faerie realm with the Male who would become her mate, Rowan, (it is complicated) while her dueling would be lovers from the first two books, Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol Westfall realize they are in over their heads in their homeland, and that something is definitely up with Dorian’s father. It has a third act twist that gut punched me in a way I haven’t felt since The Red Wedding (though it is not as good, but it’s as brutal and out of nowhere)

Least Favorite Book

I do not like Throne Of Glass, which means, if it weren’t for this project of finishing what I start, I probably would not have continued. I’m glad that I did, because the series is pretty rewarding if a bit much in places. Maas’s sex writing in particular is very repetitive. At one point she’s got Dorian fucking a witch with ACTUAL IRON where humans have Keratin and the most she can do is put her on top? Come on lady! Show some creativity.

Favorite Character

Manon Blackbeak is a 500 year old witch of two royal lines who gets Spiked like YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE (To “Spike” a character is to have them begin as a very fun secondary antagonist and eventually become the best of the good guys and the problematic lover of one of the heroes. Origin – Buffy The Vampire Slayer) She’s also a military genius, and executes two of my favorite tropes ever, a character who rejected connection learning that love is not weakness, and calling the cavalry when all seems lost.

Also, she just rules.

Reread Possibilities

I really enjoyed the series, but part of what I enjoyed were the twists and turns and “WTF?” moments. I don’t think it would hold up on a reread, and frankly, it’s too long to reread without love, which, I liked and admired it a lot, but I didn’t love it.

Next up will be The Great Libary series by Rachel Caine, although it might be a bit though because there’s a scene in Kingdom Of Ash where Aelin is falling through multiple world that made my heart call out for yet another world.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed…”

I half expected her to have to have a conversation with That Fucking Turtle. 

Magical Movies Tour: Beauty And The Beast

As much as I personally prefer The Little Mermaid (and it is quite a bit.) there’s just no way to deny that Beauty And The Beast is an outright masterpiece of a film, and should be on those lists of “perfect movies” and yet it somehow never makes it.

Beauty And The Beast is flawless, the stunning animation, the pitch perfect voice performances, the simple and yet emotionally resonant love story, those songs. My God, those wonderful, wonderful Ashman and Menken songs, “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Something There,” “Gaston,” “The Mob Song,” and of course the title track, performed with heartfelt timelesss musical theater precision by Angela Lansbury and then with deeply of it’s moment pop gusto by Celine Dion and Peabo Bearnson.

I have a lot of opinions about this movie and the many pop culture conversations that have sprung up around it, and, thankfully, the conversation has turned from the “Belle has Stockholm Syndrome” narrative that dominated a few years ago. (Nope. It’s just that your high school English teachers failed you and you don’t know how to parse a pretty straightforward narrative about growth and forgiveness without taking everything so fucking literally.) But it’s difficult to somehow say that this movie is widely and universally acclaimed and yet still somehow, underrated?

It is so good though, so beautiful and special that it is somehow, universally loved and acclaimed and yet somehow underrated. Watch it again, any time you get a chance and see something you hadn’t seen before, because there’s always something.

Next week, none of us have ever had a friend like Aladdin. 

 

Viscount Aaron

Y’all I’m so excited to start Aaron and Athena’s love story.

And it mostly starts with her thinking he’s an arrogant moron.

The Marina Chronicle

From just about the moment he strode in, all confidence and that clear smile, I did not like Viscount Aaron of Pantona.

“Did my mother leave you two on your own?” He asked. “That isn’t like her.”

“She was checking on The Princess,” I said. “I’m sorry your Grace.”

“Aaron,” he said. I frowned. “I’m glad you’ve come, it’s gotten very dull around here.” I swallowed.

“We’re here to protect the Princess,” Tristan said, “not for a visit.”

“Oh and she’s in so much danger here,” The Viscount retorted. “I’m not trying to undermine your mission, Sir Tristan, but I have a feeling however long you’re staying will feel more like a visit.”

“I doubt that,” I said sharply. He looked at me and smiled curiously. “We’ll have to see what she knows. Surely she doesn’t expect to just stroll into Dovetail and sit on the throne?”

“She doesn’t stroll…

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Reenie & Meg’s Shore House Improvised Margaritas

Yet another Fangirl Recipe!

This one is very straighforward. I mentioned that while I was stuck at home in quarantine I decide to teach myself to make cocktails and that I’m particularly proud of my margaritas.

Well, here’s a variation on that, story to follow the recipe

This was not the ones Meg and I Drank. This was me recreating the drink at home on Tuesday

Serves 2

2 Shots Gold Tequila
4 Limes
1 Shot Simple Syrup
1 Clementine
Ice

Add Ice to a cocktail shaker. (If you don’t have one, I’ve found travel coffee cups work in a pinch)

Add all ingredients to shaker and shake until chilled.

Strain into glasses over ice

Enjoy cirtusy sunshiney goodness!

Storytime!

So, this Sunday, I was at my family’s shore house. (Previously my grandmother’s but when she passed this winter, well, you know, it’s the family’s now) We were celebrating father’s day so in addition to my parents, my brother Mike and his girlfriend Meg and my sister Mary and my brother in law Joe were there.

As we were leaving the beach I told Meg that I’d make margaritas. I hadn’t made them in a while and they’re her favorite, plus it was 85 degrees out and we’d spent all day at the beach. That is PRIME margarita drinking conditions.

After we got back to the house and showered and got appetizers out, I went to work. I juiced 4 limes, I pulled out the tequila I had purposely asked my parents to bring for these margaritas. And then I sighed.

“There’s no triple sec!” I explained. “So I guess these are just going to be tequila and lime.”

Quick with improvised solutions, Mike suggested we use the electric tea kettle to make a quick simple syrup so we did that, and I knew that would solve part of the problem. I asked if we had any orange juice and got a sad head shake, but Mom, in her infinite wisdom said, “We have clementines!”

So I juiced a clementine, why the hell not.

I strained them into wine glasses. My parents and aunts and uncles are not cocktail people, so I can’t blame them for not having the proper glassware here. Except for my dad who drinks gin martinis (SO MANY MARTINI GLASSES) they mostly just drink spirits either on the rocks or with soda. Or just drink wine and beer.

Mostly the second one.

Anyway, I brought them back out onto the patio and explained to Meg what I’d done. I’m not a good culinary improviser. I learned cooking from baking, where if you deviate it winds up tasting terrible. This does not always work in regular cooking and ESPECIALLY in mixology, there are lots of chances to fix something, ways to get around a missing ingredient. Anyway, we cheers’d and took sips.

I am extremely proud of this concoction. It’s a little more light and tart than a traditional margarita, the sweetness is nicely balanced, and you don’t get the burn of the tequila, which is the main danger of an improvised tequila drink.

Happy Summer Y’all!

Magical Movies Tour: The Rescuers Down Under

There was a window of years where American Pop Culture was really into Australia. I was quite young for this but I still remember it reasonably clearly. Nerf Boomerangs abounded and The Rescuers Down Under came out. (Oddly, in my mind this movie and Fievel Goes West are linked. I looked it up and they didn’t come out near each other so I think it’s just the way time works when you’re little.) I don’t know if it was because of Crocodile Dundee or because we were all smitten with that Mel Gibson fella (boy, do we regret that one now) but we were super into Aussie crap in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Which brings me to The Rescuers Down Under, the last Disney animated flick to not be a super mega hit for about 10 years. It’s a charming little tale, and if like me you’re enamored of Bernard and Bianca, then it’s a straight hit. I don’t like it quite as much as The Rescuers because it’s technical marvels and huge natural scope are less charming than the original. Also Cody, a little boy kidnapped because he caught poacher in the act is nowhere near as endearing or well drawn a character as Penny. (He’s also a good deal less pathetic. Just a dead dad, his mom’s waiting at home for him.) Also I can’t figure out why he’s American? What the hell is an American kid doing running around the Outback?

There’s some great details here, the restaurant for critters in a chandelier in New York, the collection of animals that Cody’s befriended. (I assume the rules of this universe dictate that children can talk to animals and it’s just something we all forget as we grow up?) Bernand constantly trying to propose but Bianca getting sidetracked, an evil Geela Monster named Joanna, this is all good stuff. It’s just not quite as good as the stuff in The Rescuers.

Next week it’s onto the undisputed crown jewel of this era in Disney Animation, Beauty And The Beast. 

Magical Movies Tour: The Little Mermaid

God, I love The Little Mermaid. I love it so much. I love the music and the story and the characters and the animation and every inch of every frame. I wish I could separate this love from any critical appraisal of it, but for all that it’s hard for me to do that, it’s also easy to say the The Little Mermaid is also an incredible film.

It’s a wonderful musical, with the gold standard of “I Want” songs and a handful of kick ass group numbers, and a lead who’s overflowing with agency and personality. (Spare me your “Ariel gives up her voice for a boy” takes. Love is not weakness, and questing for it in a fairy tale is not a failure of feminism) Even silent, Ariel exudes warmth, fun and delight. Her discovery of the human world, exploring the market with Eric, dancing with him, learning to drive a coach, is probably my favorite sequence in Disney Animation, or was before this project. (I’d say Wort and Merlin as fish and Lady and Tramp looking over the city have supplanted it.)

I count The Little Mermaid as one of the defining influences on my taste and writing, (the other two are Les Mis and Dawson’s Creek) which is why I named my sailor prince after Eric, have “scored” many love scenes to “Kiss The Girl,” (read any of my slow quiet lead ups to a kiss, it will usually fit the rhythm) and love few things more than a couple who rescues one another.

Watching it this time (Again, about a month into quarantine,) it felt like wrapping myself up in a warm blanket and being safe. It’s the best, I love it very much.

Next week is The Rescuers Down Under which I have only a few sketchy memories of, and am very much looking forward to watching again, since I loved the first movie so much.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian

The thing about becoming a pop culture blogger, and excited fandom tracker and frequent Comic Con goer (I’m really missing cons this year. So much) is that you just accumilate junk knowledge, but it also can suck the magic out of stuff, because a part of this kind of work, which I love doing, is figuring out how to see the strings.

So I decided to let the magic of The Mandalorian linger for a bit and not watch the behind the scenes Disney Gallery specials about the show. But as I realized that I’d maybe watched The Imagineering Story too many times, I decided to check it out.

First of all, I loved the format of the show, which reminded me of Jon Favreau’s delightful Dinner For Five. (I’ve heard The Chef Show does something similar, I might watch that too) Favreau used to host a show where he held a dinner party for five people and rolled cameras. It’s an intensely fun way to have a talk show. On Disney Gallery he takes a similar approach, doing roundtable interviews with different people involved in The Mandalorian, talking about their experience with Star Wars in general, this show in particular, and laughing a lot.

Some really cool stories come out, and there’s interesting behind the scenes talk about the technical and writing processes, tons of info dumping from Dave Filoni, and Bryce Dallas Howard telling an incredible story about a childhood trip to Japan. (This is in the “how did you find Star Wars” section. She starts with, “so when I was six, my dad,” and everyone just groans. She laughs, “I know, OK! But I promise this is cool!”)

The stuff about Baby Yoda is cool, but I was really fascinated with the way Favreau talked through building new tech as he moved from Iron Man to Jungle Book to The Lion King and now in The Mandalorian. And not for nothing, it’s always a joy to watch someone talk about something passionately, and if there is anything I know from following his career for most of my life, Jon Favreau loves movies and loves artists and loves film history, so talking about how special effects have grown to be able to create something as special as The Mandalorian is a real treat.

I’m also completely in love with Gina Carrano. My God, that woman is beautiful and funny and charismatic as hell.

Pantona

You want to know what’s the most fun about writing Athena, rather than Marina and Annalise?

She is much less in her head. This chapter is a perfect example of that.

The Marina Chronicle

I haven’t spent much time in the midlands before. but I can see why so many people are drawn to it. The fields are green, and the orchards are beautiful and people, with their pink skin and auburn hair are thrilled to come out and greet their Lady.

The hills are even nice. Not the mountains and foothills like home, here they roll and split the horizon, they’re small, and comfy and coming over one to see another farm or village feels like a thrill.

Tristan is unsettled. He has been since we started moving. I never would have thought that he’d be more attached to Dovetail than I am.

“There it is,” Countess Olivia smiled as we crested a hill. A small village, surrounded by farms, headed by a large, though not as large as I would have thought manor house. “That is Pantona.” I exhaled.

“It’s beautiful,” I…

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Magical Movies Tour: Oliver And Company

There’s a definite thematic connection between Oliver And Company and 101 Dalmations. If the older film captures the feel of everything going on in London in the 60’s, there’s some real true 80’s NYC vibes.

It also happens to be the first Disney movie I can really remember falling in love with. We had both the soundtrack cassette, with those great songs, “Once Upon A Time In New York City” sung by Huey Lewis, “Why Should I Worry” by Billy Joel, “Perfect” by Better Midler, and the less high profile but still excellent, “Streets Of Gold” and “Good Company,” a read along Golden Book cassette featuring actual sound samples for the dialog, (“Yeah, yeah! When we gonna get those hot dogs?!” was oft repeated by the Nayden children) and the movie itself on VHS. Mary had a stuffed Oliver, we knew the movie by heart.

Retelling Oliver Twist with animals, casting Oliver as a teeny adorable kitten was a stroke of genius, and since most of America knew Dickens’s novel best as a musical anyway, that also follows. As an adult I have some questions, but they’re the kind of thing that I can brush off in a children’s film. Things like, “Fagan is definitely a heroin addict, right?” “Is Sykes with the mob, or a drug dealer? Like, what’s his deal?” “Did 5th Avenue types have butlers still in 1989?” Regardless of these niggling questions, the movie is a great watch.

Look, in the coming weeks I’m going to have trouble evaluating these movies with any kind of clear critical eye because I adore them so much. We’re into the Renaissance now, the movies that defined my childhood and lifelong Disney fandom.

Yes, next week we dive deep into nostalgia, with The Little Mermaid. 

 

Better Than It Has Any Right To Be: The Legend Of The Three Caballeros

Remember back when time had meaning and I watched The Three Cabelleros and Saludos Amigos and was completely and utterly charmed. Well, this week, in an attempt to escape from just you know, life in general, I rewatched Gravity Falls(On second viewing, still totally rules) and then the first season of Duck Tales, and then a few episodes of season 2, until I got to “The Town Where Everyone Was Nice” which is where Scrooge, Webby, the boys and Donald go to Brazil and meet up with Jose and Panchito, who in this story were in a band with Donald in college. (They’re also, like Donald, lovable losers.) (They have an episode in season 3 as well, “Louie’s 11” and it is a delight) (So much Caballeros this week you guys!)

Then I remembered that the long whispered about in the corners of the internet where we all talk about how Duck Tales is better than it has any right to be, that The Legend Of Three Caballeros was also better than it had any right to be. I could have this conversation about Duck Tales infinitely, because Duck Tales is incredible and I love it so much. (Also I miss Aless and our morning after a night of fun ritual of ordering breakfast sandwiches and watching Duck Tales.)

But hanging with Jose and Panchito again, I decided to check out their show.

And it is, indeed, better than it has any right to be, and suiting The Cabelleros, it doesn’t make a lot of sense and is super silly. It subtracts the racism for the most part so, yay! The idea is that Donald, Panchito and Jose’s ancestors were mystical adventurers and it’s their turn to take up the mantel. There’s also a whole thing with a trapped goddess named Xandra, a villain who has been transformed into a magical staff, Daisy’s nieces, April, May and June. (They are fine, but I miss my boys).

The animation is great, and the story is bonkers and the jokes are good and you get to hear “The Three Caballeros” 13 times, because that’s how many episodes there are. (There are a few other songs too.) Donald gets angry a lot, a Jose flirts with every woman they meet and Panchito dives into adventure without thinking and it’s great.

Because I love those stupid birds and their dumb guitars and their absurdly catchy song.

“THEY SAY WE ARE BIRDS OF A FEATHEEEERRRR…”

It’s on Disney+ and I think people should check it out.