The Merlin Conspiracy – Diana Wynne Jones

The Merlin ConspiracyOn the Cover: When the Merlin of Blest dies, everyone thinks it’s a natural death. But Roddy and Grundo, two children traveling with the Royal Court, soon discover the truth. The Merlin’s replacement and other courtiers are scheming to steal the magic of Blest for their own purposes.

Roddy enlists the help of Nick, a boy from another world, and the three turn to their own impressive powers. The dangers are great, and if Roddy, Grundo, and Nick cannot stop the conspirators, the results will be more dreadful than they could possibly imagine.

Published: 2003

Why I Chose It: I have always enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ books, and wanted to read this one again!

The Review:

One of my favourite parts of Wynne Jones’ writing is the complex worlds that she creates. On one hand we have Nick’s world, which is rather similar to ours. Then we have Roddy’s world, that relies on magic to the point where it’s part of the political system. Then on top of that, there are multiple other worlds all layered onto these worlds, each with their own rules for magic. Wynne Jones creates rules not only for the magic, but how to move between these worlds, how these worlds depend on one another, and how all the magic is connected – and all of this is revealed within a very short amount of story telling. I love that her writing makes everything seem simple at first glance, and it’s only as you get deeper into the story that you realize how complex her world system it, and I love every piece of it!

In addition to the world creation, Wynne Jones crams her books full of interesting types of magic. I absolutely loved the idea of a Merlin being a political post rather than a single person – a post filled with a new magical person every few years. But on top of that are the different magics that Roddy and Nick encounter on their travels. There is hedge magic used by common house hold witches, old magic that relies on flowers and herbs, magic that relies on magical creatures, and even back-to-front magic used by Roddy’s friend Grundo. I love how these all co-exist within Wynne-Jones’ world, and how different characters would rely on certain types of magic. The magics allowed for an added dynamic to the story that I found very intriguing.

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I also love how Wynne Jones creates her characters. At the beginning, they appear to be quite simple. I really liked Roddy as a character, but I didn’t really care for Nick. I enjoyed the way Roddy thought about her actions, and I liked her internal viewpoint. Yet when the two of them come together, we get to see each character from the other’s perspective – and my opinions of the characters changed. I find it incredibly interesting that by gaining the external observation of character, more was revealed about each person, allowing them to become instantly more complex within the story. It was definitely interesting to read and I really enjoyed the process.

I have always been attracted to Diana Wynne Jones’ stories, and I think in large part it is due to her writing style. Everything in this story is smooth and effortless, so that magic, time manipulation, and world jumping are taken in stride, and make sense with the story. This is an enjoyable story because it such an easy read, yet there’s enough substance to it to make it great. I will always come back to Wynne Jones’ books, because every time I read them they make me smile. :)

Rating: 4 / 5

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Quotations:

“I loved watching Dad work. I found I was smiling lovingly as he stepped over to the weather table. At this stage it was unactivated and was simply a sort of framework made of gold and copper wires resting on stout legs that folded up for when we traveled. The whole thing folded away into a worn wooden box about four feet long which I had known for as long as I could remember. It smelt of ozone and cedarwood. Dad and that box went together somehow. He stood beside the table with his head bent. It always looked as if  he was nerving himself up for something.  Actually, he was just working the preliminary magics, but when I was small I always thought that weather-working took great courage, and I used to worry about him.” (Roddy: OverDrive, 2003)

“Arnold dumped down the bag he was carrying on the spot Dave said was the exact North and snatched out of it five big sugar-shakers full of water. “Ready blessed,” he said, jamming one into my hand. Then they shoved my behind them and stood in a row gabbling some kind of incantation. After that, they were off, shouting at me to come along and stop dossing, pelting down the arched concrete space, madly sprinkling water as they ran and shoving me repeatedly so that I didn’t tread inside the wet line, until Dave said, “East.”  They stopped and gabbled another invocation, and then they charged on, sprinkling again, until Dave said, “South,” where they stopped and gabbled too. Then we pelted off once more to gabble at West, then on round to North again. The water just lasted.” (Nick: OverDrive, 2003)

Maleficent (2014)

maleficent_ver8From imdb.com: A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

Why I Chose It: I always love fairy tale re-tellings, so I was super curious about a story centered on the character of Maleficent.

The Review:

I was immediately drawn in to this movie by the visual landscape, and I really enjoyed how this movie brought Maleficent’s world to life. The faerie world was absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed spotting the different creatures that were present in the landscape. It truly felt like an “enchanted” land and I could totally believe that Maleficent had grown up here. The creatures also felt like they belonged to this world, and I appreciate how they were involved in protecting the land from humans.

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The character Maleficent was really interesting to watch because visually she was a very stunning character. I really enjoyed the costuming and different special effects that were used when she used magic. I loved how dark this character seemed, and yet she remained beautiful, stunning, and endearing. I particularly enjoyed Angenlina Jolie in this role, as I could completely believe that she was Maleficent throughout the entire movie. She managed to give a lot of emotion in very little facial expressions and it only added to the powerful persona of Maleficent. She was a very cool character, and was pretty much the only person I paid attention to throughout the movie.

Aurora

While I enjoyed the enchanted land that was created and the character portrayal of Maleficent, I think the weakest point of this movie was the storyline. Now, there were good parts to it: the movie does go into Maleficent’s background, showing why she is the way she is and how she goes from a good faerie to something much darker. But aside from establishing that main event, the movie really focuses on someone else: Aurora, and the story of the Sleeping Beauty. While I get that we all know Maleficent from this existing story, I was really eager to see more of Maleficent’s life outside of this particular tale. Instead, the movie tells the same story from Maleficent’s perspective, with a bit of background thrown in. I really think there was a huge opportunity to genuinely explore this character to a deeper level, and that opportunity was ultimately missed.

Overall this was an entertaining movie that was visually stunning. It will probably win over a new generation of fans but unfortunately doesn’t bring anything new to those already familiar with the story. Still, I think this is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy fairy tale re-tellings. :)

Rating: 4 / 5

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