Tag Archives: mythology

Feature Presentation: Moana

uk_moanaMoana starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel Hall, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2016. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Moana Waialiki is a sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of navigators. When her island’s fishermen can’t catch any fish and the crops fail, she learns that the demigod Maui caused the blight by stealing the heart of the goddess, Te Fiti. The only way to heal the island is to persuade Maui to return Te Fiti’s heart, so Moana sets off on an epic journey across the Pacific. The film is based on stories from Polynesian mythology. – from IMDB

I’m always a fan of ancient cultures and myths being woven into our more modern tapestry. In a lot of ways, I feel like this puts us more in touch with the world at large and gives insight into where we came from, and perhaps more importantly, where we will go. There’s also something to be said about the message that while it might be uncomfortable to leave home/safe spaces/the familiar, we can achieve even more both personally and culturally when we stray off a beaten path. I’m reminded of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich quote, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”. In many respects, Moana is a well-behaved young lady: she desires to do what is best for her people and to follow the path that has been determined for her. And yet, she is still plagued by the classic dilemma of doing what is right by her family and doing what she feels is right for her, to help her become the woman she wants to be. Clearly her desire to get in touch with her voyager roots and venture beyond the island reef wins out, or this would have been a short movie. And like the Disney heroines before her, there’s a couple of musical numbers that assert her confidence in her decision to venture out on the ocean and the uncertainty of the success her journey may or may not bring. She still has moments of despair, but it is her stubbornness and quick wit that help her push through the obstacles that hinder her voyage. Despite the range of reactions to Moana, I feel like the film did a credit to the Polynesian culture and made it come even more alive for the viewer. I liked that native dialects were used in some of the songs and that the animators made trips through the islands in the South Pacific to do their research. It’s a coming-of-age story that encourages us once again to discover who we are inside and how we can share our purpose and passions with the world around us.

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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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The Hammer of Thor Review

hammer_of_thorThe Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160922

Synopsis: How do you follow up almost starting Ragnarok? Well, in my case, you do it by hastening it. I know what you’re thinking: Magnus, how do you hasten the end of the world? Answer: Because Loki. The God of Mischief has something mischievous up his sleeve (metaphor, since he’s y’know, tied to a rock with poison being dripped in his face presumably not wearing much clothing) and he’s gotten not only my Uncle Randolph roped in, but he’s using his kids as pawns too. Which is bad news for Sam since she’s the one that seems to have the most to lose – even in a best case scenario.

Why I picked it up: I like wise-cracking teens and Norse Gods. Especially together.

Why I finished it: I mentioned in another review that Riordan’s books seem formulaic; while this one isn’t any different in terms of the formula department, Riordan has at least mixed it up a little for his readers by going a little bit more outside the box with his characters. They feel more rounded somehow, like even though they are involved in this supernatural world there is still the real world to contend with as well. The fluidity with which the real world relates to the supernatural seems much more urgent and apparent, perhaps because of the juxtaposition between Magnus and Sam. Magnus is dead, but can still cross over to the real world while Sam is still alive and can cross into the world of the dead. Sam still has family and school and everyday teen problems to deal with on top of whatever supernatural duties go along with being a Valkyrie, helping ground the reader even as we are rocketing among the Nine Worlds. Magnus’s wit and sarcasm add a certain spin to the dire situations in which our characters seem to find themselves, keeping the reader eager for the sort of tongue-in-cheek style that has defined the protagonist. I think it’s somewhat poignant that Riordan has introduced a gender fluid character to the cast – it shows he’s keeping with the times and getting in touch with his audience. Really I think what I got most out of this volume is the idea that we might not be able to change where we came from, but we can define who we are in a way that is true to ourselves and how we want the world to see us. We don’t all fit the labels that society wants to place on us – we need to be able to defend our identities and be comfortable in our own skins. We all need to have confidence in who we are and what we believe in, even if it might seem strange or hard to understand. And on the flip side, we need to be understanding and supportive of those around us, even if we don’t always agree with their point of view – that’s how I see it, in any case. It’s a surprisingly fast read considering the book is a hefty 480 pages and I’m eager to see what new adventure and danger Magnus and his friends will face when the third book comes out in the fall.

Other related materials: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 3) by Rick Riordan;  Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Trials of Apollo series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath Review

kid_beowulf_1Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449475895

Synopsis: You’ve heard of the epic poem Beowulf. This is the story of what happens before Beowulf becomes the hero of Norse myth and song. This is the story of Beowulf and his brother Grendel before they became enemies. This is the story of how a king broke his word and tore his family and people apart. So forget everything you know or what you think you know about these characters and join them on new adventures before they became legend.

Why I picked it up: I’m sometimes leery of a reworking of the classics, but this one piqued my interest.

Why I finished it: This comic has a little bit of something for everyone: adventure, action, mystery, and more. It takes what we know about the classic poem and makes it into a much more universally understood story about the first European peoples, their thirst for power, and how desire can ruin even the best intentions. The story traces back to Beowulf’s grandfather, King Hrothgar (pronounced Roth-gar), who makes a deal with a dragon in order to gain power to rule. The first couple of chapters are pretty standard myth, really: betrayal, cheating, stealing, sleeping around, uneasy truces. It’s the last chapter that really has most of the meat to it, since that is when we meet young Beowulf and Grendel. Both are unaware of the other’s existence, both having lived their separate lives until they are both captured and offered as entertainment for the Heathobards (the clan at war with the Danes, the clan of their grandfather). Besides the apparent lesson of being careful what you wish for, there’s also an element of think before you act that runs through much of the story. Again, nothing we haven’t heard before, but something about the way Farjado is presenting the story makes it seem a little less in-your face. I’m loving the art in this comic as well – for being such a serious story, Farjadas has infused bursts of color to give it almost a jaunty, fun feeling that draws you in. It gives the characters a more figurative color and we feel more attached to them. I’m so excited for this series and I can’t wait to read more!

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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The Hidden Oracle Review

trials_of_apollo_1The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1484732748

Synopsis: After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’m clearly a sucker for Rick Riordan.

Why I finished it: Well, I’ll be honest: I didn’t finish it for Apollo. He’s a likable enough character, but he’s a little bit too self-centered for my taste and he doesn’t do much to inspire sympathy. What really got me into the story was the plucky demigod Meg that rescues Apollo from his first set of human bullies and manages to secure his servitude for the forseeable future. She’s quirky, funny, and fierce – the exact opposite of her fallen god companion. Plus, she has a little bit of mysterious edge to her that keeps Apollo on his toes. With cameos by some of our old favorites and the introduction of some new faces, Riordan is managing to keep the world of Percy Jackson alive and interesting. He definitely has a skill for crafting stories, as is evidenced by his growing body of work, but this one missed the mark a bit. There’s just so much mythology to draw on and just when we thought the well was dry, there seems to be more…and more and more and more and more to the point where we’re starting to feel a little bit bored. It’s engaging and funny and like I said before, I’m a sucker for Riordan’s work, but the formula is starting to wear on me a bit. We’ll see if I feel the same once I read the second installment, but for the moment, I’m skeptical of this series’ potential.

Other related materials: Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan, illustrated by John Rocco; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan; Demigods and Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis, illustrated by Torstein Norstrand; Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull; The Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh; The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh; Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann; Seven Realms novels by Cinda Williams Chima

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The Sword of Summer Review

The_Sword_of_SummerThe Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2016. 978-1423160915

Synopsis: Magnus Chase thought he had it pretty rough since his mom died two years ago and he’s been living on the streets. But then he’s tracked down by an estranged uncle who starts raving about a lost Viking sword and how Magnus is the only one who can retrieve it. Then, when he finds it, he’s attacked by a creature he though only existed in those mythology books his mom used to read him as a kid. And when he dies, things just get a whole lot rougher….

Why I picked it up: New Rick Riordan? Yes, please!

Why I finished it: Riordan has a gift for making ancient myths fun and accessible to an audience that might not have that great of an interest in the subject. Sure, he’s taking some liberties with the legends and whatnot, but that’s really not the point of his series. They’re about ordinary kids having the courage to do extraordinary things. And yeah, it probably helps that there are some supernatural forces behind their parentage, but there’s still the sense of adventure and the notion of a quest to prove themselves. Magnus believes that he’s just a typical teenager: wary of the previous generations, sarcastic, and questioning of the unfairness/fairness of life. His largely dead pan responses and general indifference to the concern about his rule-breaking make him an intriguing narrator. Plus, I don’t know of many people that can manage to find their way to the afterlife and back. I appreciate that Riordan has tied in this new series with his world from the Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus books as a way to ground the reader, but I have to cross my fingers and hope that there’s not too much crossover. I feel like this new series has a lot of potential on its own, and has a chance to create a new thread within the same universe that could get muddled and uninteresting if there’s too much intertwining. But we’ll see what happens. Riordan has given us a new cast of off-the-wall, somewhat odd, and always rebellious characters that take the reader on a non-stop, action-packed adventure through Norse mythology that keeps us turning the pages and wishing for more. I’m interested to see what other mischief Magus can get into and how he will eventually save the world. Because, let’s face it, we know he will…some way or another, it’ll happen.

Other related materials: The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2) by Rick Riordan; Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Norse by Leonard Everett Fisher; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myths and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard, illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Favorite Norse Myths retold by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell; Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love, and Revenge by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit; D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aularie and Edgar Parin D’Aularie; The Blackwell Pages books by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr; The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer; The Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends illustrated by Rodney Matthews; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan; The Kane Chronicles books by Rick Riordan

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The Blood of Olympus Review

the-blood-of-olympus-coverThe Blood of Olympus (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Five) by Rick Riordan

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-148472492-7

Synopsis: Heroes, gods, and monsters clash in this epic finale to Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. The crew of the Argo II was briefly reunited, only to be split again when Nico volunteers to go with Reyna to deliver the Athena Parthenos to Camp Half-Blood. Both heroes are being stretched to their limits: Nico’s power to shadow travel is waning, and Reyna must confront the ghosts of her past in order to move forward. Back on the Argo II, Leo is secretly working on a plan that he hopes will save his friends, Jason ponders how he will be able to prove himself, and Piper contemplates the single word she must use that will aid in the conclusion of a now inevitable conflict.

Why I picked it up: I am a borderline rabid Heroes of Olympus fangirl. Plus, I’ve come this far; it would be a shame to stop now.

Why I finished it: Before I start, here’s a Greek and Roman myth refresher. Riordan has presented the reader with a well-crafted finale that harkens back to the previous books, following Jason, Piper, Leo, Reyna, and Nico as the grand journey comes to an end. We begin by paying homage to the story of Odysseus, a mortal hero whose journey home after the Trojan War is familiar to most students. The reader is also treated to introductions of a handful of minor gods and goddesses that, I will confess, I forgot about right along with most of the rest of the characters. But I digress. Though our heroes are still struggling with the roles they will play in the ultimate showdown with the Earth Mother, it’s clear that no matter what their decision, there will be consequences. I like that Nico and Reyna are a large part of the story this time around, Nico because I feel like he’s a little bit undervalued as a character, and Reyna because she’s definitely a character that I knew I would like once I knew more of her story. I thought it was interesting that Riordan chose to deal with the ghosts of the past more closely in this last installment, but it worked well to help polish the characters and showed how these ghosts made the heroes stronger. Leo, in particular, seems to be making some very key decisions as he maps out a plan to defeat the Earth Mother and make his way back to Calypso like he promised. Each of our characters will have a hard choice to make before the book is over, but it is these difficult decisions that endear us to these heroes. We continue to cheer for them, knowing that they will somehow overcome their struggles to be able to be the people they always hoped they could be, to be able to save the day even when everything seems to be working against them. It’s a bittersweet ending that leaves a lasting impression, and just like with any ending to a series, the reader is now left to wonder what to read next.

Other related materials: The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) by Rick Riordan; The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 2) by Rick Riordan; The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan; The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 4) by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Olympians series by George O’Connor; Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome by E.M. Berens; 100 Characters from Classical Mythology: Discover the Fascinating Stories of the Greek and Roman Dieties by Malcolm Day; Oh My Gods: A Modern Retelling of Greek and Roman Myths by Philip Freeman; The Everything Classical Mythology Book: Greek and Roman Gods, Goddesses, Heroes, and Monsters from Ares to Zeus by Lesley Bolton; Greek and Roman Mythology graphic novels by Cirro Oh & C.S. Chun; Underworlds series by Tony Abbott; The Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan

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