REVIEW: "The Girl in the Tower" by Katherine Arden

Spoiler alert: The Bear and the Nightingale was one of the best new books I read in 2017, period, let alone best new fantasy. Written by Katherine Arden, Nightingale takes place in a fantastical medieval Russia, where house demons are real and frost kings rule the land. Our protagonist, Vasilisa “Vasya” Petrovna, is a young girl who has the ability to see these demons around her, and so she befriends them, knowing that they are benevolent creatures who help keep the house and farm running smoothly. She also meets Morozko, the winter king of legend and childhood fairytale, and… well, if you want their whole backstory, you should absolutely read Nightingale, hint hint.

The Girl in the Tower is the next installment of Vasya’s adventures as she rides across the frozen Russian wilderness on her trusted horse, Solovey. On the way she reunites with her older brother Sasha, who is now a monk – albeit a bit of a warrior monk. Sasha has been helping the Grand Prince of Moscow — their cousin, Dmitrii — track down a group of bandits that have been burning and destroying villages and stealing the girl children away into the night, all without leaving a trace of them behind. Vasya, determined to save these children and catch the bandits, joins Sasha and Dmitrii’s men in an effort to help out – all while disguised as a boy. The result? A white-knuckle adventure full of magic and danger.

REVIEW: "Three Dark Crowns" by Kendare Blake

Kendare Blake is the author of Anna Dressed in Blood, a book that I fell in love with years ago and devoured as quickly as possible, as well as its sequel Girl of Nightmares. In 2016 Blake returned with a new young adult fantasy series, beginning with Three Dark Crowns, which tells the story of three magically-gifted sisters, one of whom is destined to be queen. In order to claim her crown, though, she must kill the other two and emerge the victor.

REVIEW: "A Secret History of Witches" by Louisa Morgan

Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches follows five generations of the Orchiére lineage, beginning in 1821 with Nanette Orchiére and winding its path over a century later to the beginnings of World War II with Veronica Selwyn. What makes the Orchiére women so special is the fact that they’re witches, their power passed down from mother to daughter throughout the decades. The daughter gains her power when she hits puberty, and she, like her ancestresses before her, must not only learn how to hone and wield this power, but keep it a secret from those who’d do their family harm.

To put it bluntly, I’m a sucker for a good witch story, and I’m also really into generational tales. Putting the two together? I’m in.

Our Favorite Things: Werewolf Transformations

Whether you’re Team Vampire or Team Werewolf, you have to admit: on-screen werewolf transformations can make or break a scene. And because writers feel free to cherry-pick from werewolf mythology to their heart’s content, these transformations can look and feel very different from one another. You’ve got classic skin-shedding moments from movies like Van Helsing and hairy-faced half-wolf high schoolers from Teen Wolf. You’ve got morphing werewolves like Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. You’ve also got the quick skin-bursting werewolves from Twilight, which… eh, let’s give those guys a break for now.

We’re here to talk about a favorite on-screen werewolf transformation, and one of the best I’ve personally seen in my more than two decades on this planet. Everybody, we’re talking about Peter Rumancek from Hemlock Grove.

"The 100" Has a White Feminism Problem

“From the ashes, we will rise” is the tagline of the new and current season of CW’s The 100. It’s catchy, pithy, and fits in well with the show’s whole radiation nuisance that’s always hovering in the background of every season. But while radiation is certainly an upcoming threat, another issue has begun to rear its ugly head in the show: white feminism.

But first, what is white feminism? Traditionally, it’s feminism that focuses on the oppression that white women face and puts their struggles first, while failing to address or otherwise recognize other injustices faced by women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled women, and so on. It’s Tilda Swinton’s emails to Margaret Cho where she essentially asked for a personal lesson plan in whitewashing and race in Hollywood from a woman of color. It’s Scarlett Johansson shrugging off the whitewashing in Ghost in the Shell by reminding us all how important it is to have a franchise with a female protagonist, even if that protagonist was meant to be Japanese. It’s the continual ignorance of white women to the intersectional nature of feminism and the failure to recognize that not all forms of feminism are equally beneficial to all women.

5 Things to Watch on Netflix Instead of IRON FIST

It would be almost silly at this point to regurgitate everything that’s been said about Netflix and Marvel’s Iron Fist series. From the painful Orientalism and white savior narrative to the apparent lack of basic knowledge of storytelling, it sounds, as my roommate succinctly put it, like a “parfait of garbage.”

But it would also be silly to deny that there’s a genuine interest and audience for martial arts in our media nowadays. If you’re one of the many people who’d rather not waste their time with Discount Walgreens Brand Timberlake™ pretending to be a master martial artist, here are, in no particular order, five movies and shows on Netflix with a) martial arts, and b) actual Asian people. Enjoy.

A New Kind of Spider: On Cindy Moon & Asian-American Visibility

When I was a kid, I really wanted to be Spider-Man. I hadn’t read the comics yet, but the Sam Raimi movies inspired me to want to swing around New York on webs while wearing a red-and-blue Spandex suit, because how else would a spider-person dress themselves to fight crime?

I definitely wasn’t unique in this regard – practically every kid I knew was obsessed with the web-slinger after the first movie came out in 2002 – but there was just one little detail about me that not every other kid had to deal with: I’m a girl.

Still, I persisted. I dressed up as Spider-Man for two Halloweens in a row; I cut holes in the sides of the face mask so the arms of my glasses could still hook around my ears. It didn’t matter to me that Spider-Man wasn’t a girl, and I was too young to really dig deep into the question of “Well, why can’t he be?”

REVIEW: "All The Birds in the Sky" by Charlie Jane Anders

I forget where I first heard about Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds in the Sky, but I do know that when I heard the premise, I couldn’t get my hands on a copy fast enough. I’m a sucker for “best friends in childhood-turned-rivals in adult life” narratives – which is a pretty specific taste, I know, but Birds seemed to fit into it nice and cozy, so I was jazzed.

Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead meet in middle school, where they bond over the fact that they’re both social outcasts in their own way: Patricia is a witch and Laurence is a science geek/genius, making them both the perfect targets for bullies. At home, where both their parents have a tendency to punish them for things out of their control, it’s not much better. They forge the kind of awkward-but-close friendship that can only be forged in the crucible that is middle school until events spiral out of their control and they’re forced to part ways.

The Comics And The Times, They Are A-Changin’

I don’t like change. As of writing this article, it’s the first day of the release of iOS 10, and I spent the better part of the afternoon IMing my coworkers and asking them if it was really worth it, because I don’t like change and this was too much to handle. Eventually I caved, downloaded it, and… I’m still getting used to it. Hitting the home button twice to open the phone instead of swiping? Those opaque notifications? There’ll be an adjustment period, for sure.

I don’t think anybody likes change, really – and that goes especially for geek/pop culture fans. If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve said to a friend “The first season of XYZ show was the best” because the first season had been ‘simpler,’ I could pay for a better PR agent for Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson.

BELLAMY BLAKE IS NOT WHITE: 'The 100', Whitewashing, and Being Mixed Race

In traditional fashion, I always feel the need to defend my taste in TV shows whenever I tell somebody “Yeah, I really like The 100. It’s a CW show.”

CW shows get a bad rap – sometimes deservedly so – but generally speaking I’ve enjoyed The 100 for its originality, its willingness to treat its audience like adults and not condescend to them, and of course I can’t speak more highly of its diverse cast.

Anyone who thinks this show is “playing it safe” clearly hasn’t taken a closer look at characters like Clarke Griffin (the female lead and canonically bisexual) and Bellamy Blake (the male lead of mixed race background). Also, how cool is it that all the leaders of the different nations in the show are women? ‘Bout damn time.

But it’s Bellamy Blake (played by Bob Morley) who I’d like to talk about here, because fans and the internet at large need to take note of something pretty important:

Bellamy Blake isn’t white.