Monthly Archives: February 2012

Book Review: Casting Shadows by J. Kelley Anderson (Goblins & Witches & Cogs, Oh My!)

The blurb describes this book as a “quirky amalgamation of Contemporary Fantasy and Magical Realism, with a sprinkling of Classical Literature, Necromancy, and Russian Folklore added for good measure.”  This pretty much sums Casting Shadows up nicely; it’s different to everything else I’ve read of late.

Set in the small town of Hurst, Ohio, the story opens with Edward hanging out at a cemetery in the rain.  This was a beautifully written scene and sucked me in straight away.  He’s there to raise an undead servant from the remains of a corpse.  The servant Vincent is a strange being to get your head around; try to picture a skeleton with charred bones that seems to be on fire.

Edward wants to destroy mankind.  After losing his parents & sister, he’s naturally angry at the world, and falls under the spell of a demon who takes advantage of his grief, setting Edward on a quest to bring destruction down upon humanity.  Of course Edward can’t go through with this, and instead finds himself thrust forward as a warrior of protection.  With his new mystical senses, he is privy to the hidden magic in the world, and in a dark forest he practises using his magical skills, preparing for the day he will have to face his enemy Briar Rose.  Deep within this forest, he comes face to face with war-hungry goblins and friendly cogs.  I loved the cogs: imagine branch-like/praying mantis-shaped creatures that speak. The goblins seemed to possess the strange Irish accent only American actors playing Irish characters can produce:).  Think of Tom Cruise’s voice in Far and Away and you’ll get the idea.

This story usually wouldn’t be my cup of tea but the descriptive writing drew me in from the first page. The prose is beautiful, evoking vivid images all the way through.  On his unusual quest Edward encounters the giggling and deadly Briar Rose, another creature out to rip humanity apart at the seams, and the grandmother figure Emma who is actually a witch, and very, very old.   We also get to spend time with the cursing,  piss-taking cop Michael, Edward’s only friend in the world.  He’s the sort of easy-going guy I’d enjoy going out for a beer with.  I liked him much more than Edward who comes across as a sulky teenager for most of the book, rather than the 24 year old man he is.  Too much time was spent on Edward’s training, leading to what I felt was a disappointing battle.  I would have also liked more focus on Briar Rose.  Her eerie giggle and child-like mannerisms belie her more sinister self.

This novel was easy and enjoyable to read, and I know I mention covers a lot in this blog but I love the artwork for this one.  The figure half hiding in the trees, shrouded in his hoody is the perfect embodiment of the outsider Edward.  Despite what sounds like heavy subject matter, Casting Shadows is a light read, perfect to while away a few hours. ****

Check it out HERE

TV Review: Hex (Kind of like Buffy with a hell of a lot more sex & alcohol)

I re-watched this show recently on youtube, so a shout out has to go to EllaHex who diligently uploaded every episode of both seasons. For some bizarre reason, Hex was canned halfway through season 2, leaving the viewers to imagine the outcome of the battle between good and evil at Medenham, the British boarding school where the show was set.

The short season one introduced us to Cassie, a shy teenager whose only friend at  Medenham was her lesbian pal Thelma.  Thelma died early on and came back as a ghost, happily haunting Cassie who soon found herself stalked by the fallen angel Azazeal, played by none other than Michael Fassbender.   Yes ladies, if for no other reason than to see what Mike was up to before Hollywood beckoned, watch this show.  Azazeal was a smouldering, devil-like character who sought to impregnate Cassie with his seed.

Season 2 saw the arrival of The Anointed One, Ella Dee, a tough, 500 year old warrior.  She basically filled the void left by the departure of Cassie, settling into life at the extremely laid-back Medenham and befriending Thelma and her fellow student Leon.  (Side note: The kids at Medenham have no problem heading out to the pub, getting pissed and having sex.  Authority is very lax which makes for great entertainment for us viewers).

It’s hard to review this show without leaving massive spoilers so I’ll just say this.  Hex was sassy, sexy, hilarious at times, somewhat violent and brave in its depiction of teen drinking, sex and drugs.  It was more daring than most American shows of that time (2004/2005) aimed at the same audience.  The plot wasn’t amazing but at its core Hex had grace and heart, delivering a great cast of vibrant characters.

Thelma stands out above everyone else.  Played by Jemima Cooper, she had the best one-liners and played her role with glee.  She was witty and refreshing, a lesbian ghost in love with her best friend, who was basically betrothed to the devil.  I found Cassie to be a little anaemic at times but I guess she suited the overall atmosphere of season one, which was the quieter season, the calm before the storm.  The arrival of Ella changed the course of Hex from a slow moving supernatural drama to an action hero show.

Each season shone in its own way.  Of the two lead characters, I preferred Ella (played by Northern Irish actress Laura Pyper); she was tougher than Cassie, both physically and emotionally, and more fun to watch.  Leon’ s change from silly schoolboy to a sweet and earnest young man was great to see.  I have to mention the theme tune, #1 Crush by Garbage; I’ve never heard a theme song so suited to a show before.  “I would die for you.” Quite apt really.

For all you Klaus lovers from The Vampire Diaries, Joseph Morgan also stars in this show.  (See pic to the left.) His hair was a wee bit longer back then but he was just as delicious.

It’s a real pity the bigwigs didn’t see fit to give it another season.  If you wish to check out this show, you can watch the first part of season one right here.