The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

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4/5 stars.
Paperback, 294 pages.
Read from July 07 to 14, 2015.

When  I think about movies that stuck with me as a child, The Last Unicorn falls in my top 3 favourites without a question. It reminds me of lazy Sundays and sleepovers with my cousins. I didn’t know until this last year that the movie itself was based on a book, which was pretty exciting news for me. Normally, I wouldn’t read a book after watching the movie, as I almost always read the book first, but I forgave my childhood ignorance for not knowing about this book’s existence and read it anyway.

The unicorn lives an immortal life and anywhere a unicorn lives is prosperous and inspired. The unicorn in this story has lived in the same forest her whole life and has been completely content to keep things that way. That is until she hears the ramblings of a butterfly informing her that she is last of her kind. After much deliberation the Unicorn decides to leave her forest in search of her own kind. She is presented with a world she doesn’t recognize. People have gone so long without seeing unicorns that many do not see her as one, but rather a pretty mare. After falling asleep one evening during her travels she is captured by Momma Fortuna and who has a traveling carnival of ‘monsters’ and mythical creatures. This is how she meets Schmendrik the Magician. Schmendrik helps her escape from Momma Fortuna and she reluctantly agrees to take him on her quest. Shortly afterwards, another member joins their quest, Molly Grue, after being held captive by some thieves  that seem to think that they’re something similar to Robin Hood and his men.

The three of them get word that the last of the unicorns are some where around the horrid King Haggard’s castle and his terrifying Red Bull. As the three of them come upon the castle a situation unfolds in which Shemendrik has to make a very rash decision with his magic in order to save the Unicorn’s life. The decision will ultimately change the Unicorn forever and lead her to know the truth about where the rest of the other unicorns are and forcing her to make decisions that no unicorn has ever had to make.

The movie plot line is almost identical to the book with a few missing scenes which, as a book lover, was nice to see. It was however also nice to have a few scenes that were a bit different from the movie so that their were some surprises left for me in reading the book.

This book is remarkably adventurous and imaginative, so it’s no wonder that it’s consider a classic among young adult novels. Outside of the adventure the characters are very dynamic and approachable. Schmendrik struggles with his magical abilities, is cursed, and doubts himself constantly. Whereas Molly is stubborn, and strong after years of being controlled by her father before she ran away with a group of thieves, but she still has a softness in her heart for the belief of unicorns and tales of Robin Hood. These aspects make the book appealing at any age. The characters are just complicated enough that an adult can appreciate them but they are also genuine enough that a youth will enjoy them as well. I would recommend this book to anyone young at heart and for those that still want to nurture their imaginations.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 1123 pages.
Read from February 17 to May 05, 2015.

George, listen, you have phenomenal ideas, stories and characters but for the love of God, please allow your editor to do his/her job. Your books are now just unnecessarily long. I’m all for big books when they’re warranted but I felt like this book was allowed to be long for the same reason the Harry Potter books got bigger and bigger, they’re immensely popular and can get a way with it. I mean, these books practically sell themselves now.  Bigger does not mean better. I know that die-hard fans will disagree with me and probably loved that they were able to read a few hundred pages more in their favourite realms with their favourite characters, likely because they knew that the next book wouldn’t be out for a while, but it’s unfortunate as I feel that the quality of the book suffers. I didn’t feel the the intensity of the plot in this one as I did with the first or the third book in the series because the scenes were so drawn out and the book ended becoming such a large commitment. I think that’s why we’re seeing the TV series starting to divert away from the plot of the books so drastically now as George’s writing has become less concise and cohesive as the series progresses.

The Seven Kingdoms is still in unrest and its fate and who will rule it is still being fought over. Tyrion finds himself across the sea in an effort to see Daenerys and to stay away from Ceresi’s wrath. Daenerys’ enemies begin to grow as she realizes that she will have to make a decision that she personally does not want but will be good for her people. On the wall, Jon Snow is living with the stress of being the Lord Commander and is making historically remarkable decisions, choices that are necessary for their survival and preparation against the white walkers, however,  it’s causing tension with other members of the Watch. Arya is unraveling the mysteries of the Seven-Faced God, while Sansa is learning to be strong alongside Littlefinger, however, his personal motivates are still unknown.

There are a few scary scenes in this book where you believe 3 of the main characters to be dead. One of them may be for sure, but I really hope not.  While I’ve already voiced my frustrations with the book, the plot twists in this book are still really good and the book is still pretty darn awesome, I just couldn’t get through it all that quickly as my interest wavered between the interesting plot points. The ending, well, the ending of this book rivaled the ending of the very first book and was absolutely fantastic. Thank God for the sneak preview into the next book or I might have been losing my shit over the ending. I’ll just say that involves Daenerys again, whom is my all time favourite character. The ending almost made up for the areas of the book I lost interest over. The last 300 pages were worth pushing through for.

I’m really enjoying the direction that the TV show is taking. I feel that the show is more of the concise and intense story I was hoping to read from George. For once, I actually enjoy reading the books alongside with the TV shows as usually my favor is towards the book but I think that the TV show does the series justice and provide insight into the story where the books were lacking.

Ultimately, this book is still remarkably better than the last book and I will still pursue the series, provided that Martin does decide to end it at some point. George is getting older and is notorious for taking ages to write his books. I hope that he can end the series how he sees fit and that it doesn’t have to be taken over by anyone else. Onwards to the next book (which will hopefully have a release date soon)!

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 936 pages.
Read from January 19 to February 07, 2015.

I consumed most of this novel while lounging on a beach of white sands and blue water so I’m pretty sure my environment added to the likability of this book as, let’s be honest, it doesn’t really have much going on for it plot-wise and isn’t what we’ve come to expect from George R.R. Martin.  I know that Martin would have preferred that this book and A Dance With Dragons be one book but it would have been waaaaaaay too long. This book ultimately felt like a filler for the next novel and contained all the politic nuances that would have be intriguing had it been balanced with some action plot pieces. All of the characters that you desperately wanted to know about based on the craziness of the last book are not even mentioned in this book, such as Tyrion and Dany. I can only imagine how frustrating that would have been for a reader when this book first came out as they wouldn’t have the same luxury of just picking up the next book in the series as it wouldn’t have been available yet.

I suppose the most interesting part of this novel was the developments with Cersei, which, if you’re not a huge fan of the woman, is kind of annoying. However the ‘big twist’, and I say that sarcastically because it’s quite minimal compared to the previous book in the series, involves Cersei and it is fairly rewarding to read. Jamie develops more as a character and is continuing to become one of my favourites. While I love Brienne, her chapters were pretty boring but the final scene with her in this book is pretty disheartening.

The information in this book is necessary for the series, but the book, as it stands by itself is a pretty big let down. It’s hard to summarize the details of this novel as the essential things that happened in this book are the spoilers. Ultimately, Brienne is looking for Sansa on an oath she made to Jamie, Cersei is still grieving for Joffery and is going mad trying to determine who are her friends and her enemies are, while being overly protective of Tommen. Jaime is figuring out who he is as a person now that he hand is gone, Sansa is developing into smart and wise young woman while pretending to be Littlefinger’s bastard daughter Alayne, while Arya finds herself in Bravvos in a religious temple. There are a few new characters introduced as well, such as the Martell family, who are outraged at the death of Oberyn. You get some small insights into the life of Myrcella since she was shipped off to Dorne by Tyrion to be married in these chapters as well.  The book is one of character transitions as they all take on new identities and for some of them, even new names.

Overall, this is my least favourite book in the series so far but I can at least recognize it’s necessity.