Attending midnight viewings makes one feel suspiciously hungover the next morning, even when there was no alcohol involved. How is that possible? Is it because I’m old now? I am 24 years old after all.
Last night, Wicked Cool Riley, her friend Chris, and I attended a midnight showing of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince. A review to follow, but I did promise to review NAAMAH’S KISS by Jacqueline Carey, didn’t I?
Review of NAAMAH’S KISS by Jacqueline Carey
I freaking love anything Jacqueline Carey writes that is at least somewhat set in Terre d’Ange. I was first introduced to the KUSHIEL’S LEGACY series by Mandu way back when I was a freshman in college, but never actually picked them up until Robin told me to during senior year finals. There have been two trilogies set in this world, Phèdre’s and Imriel’s, and NAAMAH’S KISS marks the first of yet another.
I will own, I like Phèdre’s books best. She is unabashedly somewhat of a Mary-Sue (beautiful, unique, “special”, etc.), but for some reason, she is all the more loveable for it. I also like that she is shallow, vain, and unapologetic about who or what she is: a kinky, masochistic, bisexual courtesan-spy. YES. Phèdre’s story is about bringing balance to the world as she knows it through her gifts and her love for others.
Imriel’s trilogy I like, but on the whole, I find him less compelling than Phèdre, mostly because he’s so brooding and emo. His story is one of redemption and salvation through the Power of Love™. I hate this romantic trope. I also don’t really believe in his love for Sidonie, which rather undoes the premise of the latter half of the trilogy. He goes through such lengths to save the one he loves. Why? Imriel falls into the “have sex once, fall immediately in love” trap that annoys me, but I forgive him this because Carey is a phenomenal writer.
Carey returns to a female voice in NAAMAH’S KISS with Moirin mac Fainche of the Maghuin Dhonn. The Maghuin Dhonn were the primary antagonists in KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE (the second of Imriel’s trilogy), a tribe of fey and wild people in Alba. Moirin is a descendant of several of the main characters in Phèdre and Imriel’s trilogies, but for the most part, her story is her own.
For as long as she can remember, it has always been just Moirin and her mother, living in the wilderness, keeping themselves hidden with what little magic is left to the Maghuin Dhonn. Once they were a powerful race of magicians, but their gifts and numbers have sadly dwindled and diminished with time. Now all that is left to the people of the Brown Bear are small magics: the ability to cloak themselves from the gaze of others, the ability to command woodland animals, the ability to alter memories, etc. They are ever mindful that their powers can be used for ill as well as good—in years past they were once able to take on the guise of a bear, but that gift was taken away from them by their diadh-anam, or “god-soul”, when a magician abused their abilities (please see: KUSHIEL’S JUSTICE).
Being part of the Maghuin Dhonn is all that Moirin has ever known, but as she nears womanhood, she begins to understand that she is different: her father was a D’Angeline priest of Naamah, Terre D’Ange’s goddess of desire. In addition to being a child of the Brown Bear, Moirin is a child of D’Angeline deities and she has been chosen to fulfill a great and terrible destiny in a land far away from everything she has ever known.
I liked Moirin a lot and I liked especially that she reads as most decidedly un-D’Angeline. Phèdre had all the snobbery and pride of her people, and while Imriel could acknowledge the insular tendencies of D’Angelines, he still thought himself superior to other countries. Besides, the whole “we’re angelically beautiful” shtick was getting old. What I liked most about Moirin is that is utterly comfortable with her lusts, that she takes her sexuality as it comes and takes joy in it. While “licentiousness” is a trait of D’Angeline culture, Moirin’s pleasure in her body’s desires is not something she takes for granted, as Phèdre and Imriel were wont to do.
As is expected of anything by Carey, NAAMAH’S KISS is an intricate, epic journey spanning different countries and cultures, this time to Ch’in. I thought Carey managed to get a good feel for an Asian setting and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I will admit to missing the time spent in Terre d’Ange. Mostly because I, like the D’Angelines, am shallow and I just want to read about pretty, pretty bisexuals getting it on.
In this case, the strongest relationship is between Moirin and Jehanne de la Courcel, formerly Jehanne nò Cereus, the foremost courtesan of her day and the second wife of King Daniel de la Courcel of Terre d’Ange. Carey’s real gift lies in writing relationships between women: the most pleasurable parts of Phèdre’s trilogy was reading about the complex dynamic between Phèdre and Melisande Shahrizai. Where Phèdre and Melisande explored the line between hatred and love, sympathy and antagonism, Moirin and Jehanne explore where friendship and romantic love intersect.
I will admit to sniffling at the scene where the two part, with Moirin going onto her next great adventure in Ch’in:
“Ah.” [Jehanne] touched my cheek. “Because it will always be this, Moirin.
I’ll always be young and beautiful in your memory, and you in mine. You’ll always be the beautiful witch-girl that I saved from herself and claimed for my own.” Her eyes were bright with tears. “You’ll never grow up and forsake me for another, never be tempted to betray me. And I’ll never grow fickle and restless and seek to replace you.” Jehanne wound her arms around my neck, kissing me. “It will always be this, and this, and this.”
Because Carey writes exquisite female relationships, her male-female ones suffer in comparison. I have found this to be so in every book she’s written: Phèdre and Joscelin, Imriel and Sidonie, and now Moirin and Bao. I like Bao a lot and I like the two of them together, but coming on the heels of the gut-wrenching Moirin/Jehanne affair, I was underwhelmed. Later in the book I was more interested in the relationship that begins to unfold between Moirin and Noble Princess Snow Tiger. It might be a little unfair as Moirin spends relatively little time with Bao compared to the two women and their romance is somewhat squashed into a short period of time between Jehanne and Snow Tiger.
I loved NAAMAH’S KISS and I actually liked it a lot more than any of the books in Imriel’s trilogy, although I will say I miss the element of algolagnia present in the others. Moirin specifically has no desires in that regard, which is sort of a pity, but understandable. She belongs to Naamah, not Kushiel. Absolutely, wholeheartedly recommended, especially for fans of Carey’s previous work.
Review of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince
Last night while I was waiting in line at the concession stand, I managed to strike up a conversation with the woman standing behind me. We were of an age and I remarked how amused I was to see everyone at this midnight viewing was our age (mid-20s) or older.
“Hell yeah,” she said (with the thickest Queens accent I’ve ever heard), “we’re like, the originals, you know?”
It’s true. Wicked Cool Riley and I were discussing the concept of “true fans.” We are fandom snobs. I am okay with this. I will be a lifelong dork and I have accepted it for the awesome it is. HARRY POTTER has been a part of my life for 12 years. Those who never waited in agony for the next book to be published, never sat down with other dorky friends and speculated on what would happen next, did not attend the midnight release of GOBLET OF FIRE dressed as a character would never be a “true fan.” Even those who got into the series when it got to be a runaway phenomenon (around ORDER OF THE PHOENIX) will never be “one of us.”
Chris, Wicked Cool Riley, and I are certainly three of “the originals,” as that woman put it. We had a lively discussion about our favourite books in the series and why they’re our favourites before we were let into the theatres.
David Yates, you are awesome. You are. You also tend to make the Harry Potter films really creepy, which is unexpected, but brilliant. While the books certainly get darker, Yates manages to convey a sense of creeping, horror-like menace that’s uniquely his own. Like Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince was a beautiful film and a joy to watch.
That being said, I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped. There were parts that were great and parts I thought were extraordinarily well-done. All the sections with Draco were wonderful and heart-breaking. The comedy was surprisingly good; Daniel Radcliffe in particular was amazing. And Alan Rickman as Snape. Oh Snape. You are the real hero of these books.
The reason I didn’t really enjoy it is because the film highlighted everything I disliked about the book. This book can really be summed up as “the one where hormones finally kick in and Dumbledore dies.” Except for the very end of the novel, I found it “filler” and the romance bits made me grit my teeth. Thankfully, the romances in the movie were every bit as awkward and hilarious as teen romances are in real life, except they were rather pointless with regards to plot.
I realised over the course of the film that nothing actually happens in this book. Harry spends a lot of time poring over Tom Riddle’s backstory. (Of which there wasn’t much in the movie.) Ron and Hermione have spats. Harry has a “monster in his chest” about Ginny. Then, finally, at the very end, Harry and Dumbledore go through this epic adventure to find and destroy a Horcrux…
…only to find out it was all for naught. And then Dumbledore eats it.
For those who know me, I was a Harry/Hermione shipper (and sort of still am). I have no problems with Ron/Hermione, but I am vehemently against Harry/Ginny. Oh god, this movie made that relationship SO PAINFUL TO WATCH. There are several problems with this. First, it’s an issue of “too little, too late.” While Ginny might have carried the torch for Harry for a long time, she isn’t really part of the Trio and therefore we don’t really see a lot of her. In the films too, she has like…two lines at most (in Goblet of Fire, I don’t think she had a single one).
Now, in the movies, I can accept Harry suddenly noticing Ginny because she became hot overnight. Except (and no offense to Bonnie Wright), she didn’t. She looks exactly as she did in all the other movies. There is also absolutely no screen chemistry between them, although this isn’t the actors’ faults as they were all cast so young. This is somewhat of a problem for Ron and Hermione as well because Emma Watson has better chemistry with Daniel Radcliffe. And I don’t even mean it in a romantic sense; I simply mean the camera likes the two of them together—when Rupert Grint is onscreen, one’s eyes tend to slide away. (And I love Rupert Grint, but he and Bonnie Wright lack the same screen charisma as Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.) Regardless, I thought the Ron/Hermione angles were dealt with well and the whole Ron/Lavender fiasco was hysterical.
The other quibble I have with this movie is the writing. Steve Kloves has returned as screenwriter. I don’t mind him, but I thought Michael Goldenberg (who did Order of the Phoenix) was phenomenal. The problem with Half-Blood Prince is that if you haven’t read the books, then you will have absolutely no clue as to what’s going on. None. And I thought Prisoner of Azkaban was bad (in that regard—otherwise it’s a stunning film). The revelation that Snape is the Half-Blood Prince comes as a shock, especially as that issue and the mystery of his identity doesn’t form a large part of the plot (in either the book or the movie). Also, it seems to bear no real relation or significance for Harry.
I give David Yates props for making a lovely film, but I think the source material is inherently flawed to the point where I found this entire experience muddling and underwhelming. There are moments that are worth praising but overall, I feel pretty ambivalent about this.