Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: _Tapping the Dream Tree_ by Charles de Lint

What if magic really existed in our world? Magical creatures could be encountered on a city street. this happens in the fantasy sub-genre of Urban Fantasy. Charles de Lint is a master of this sub-genre. His creation of the Fantasy city of Newford has been the center of many collections of stories and books over the years. Tapping the Dream Tree is another collection of Newford stories that range through different aspects of the city and its denizens.

“The Buffalo Man” is a story mixing Native American and Celtic myth elements. It is the story of saving a spirit that lives as a homeless man. He is dying. Meran, an oak king’s daughter, and her bard husband Cerin try to help with their magic, which draws the young girl Jilly into a dangerous situation. This is an entertaining story that leads to a satisfying conclusion.

In “Forest of Stone,” Geordie faces changes with his life that he is not ready to undergo. His story coincides with a homeless who has lived a strange life. He wants to go to a Celtic h eaven but can’t until he dies. Geordie is torn about his long distance relationship and deciding to join his girlfriend. He must meet the request of the homeless man that helps him make a decision. Mr. de Lint creates a vivid story of characters dealing with change and the magic in the world.

“Embracing the Mystery” is an entertaining story with a nice theme. Sue wants to hear her friend’s dog speak again. She does not believe in magic, but explores ways to reconcile her friend’s suicide. Along the way she encounters a living Internet web site and the dream city of Mabon. Mr. de Lint provides a good story with the positive theme of there being some mystery in our lives. It is an entertaining story.

“Granny Weather” is the story of Sophie. Her friends keep telling her that she has fairy blood, but she does not believe it. She is a true dreamer and can enter another world of magic. Sophie is drawn into the dream world to save a witch and her boyfriend, but is not sure how to do it. This is a good story with a lot of twists. Mr. de Lint creates a vivid other world and interesting plot.

The last story, “Seven Wild Sisters,” is the longest in the book. This is the story of seven sisters whose family is touched by the world of fairy. Sarah Jane Dillard helps the older woman Lillian who lives in the hills behind her home. She hears stories about fairies from Lillian but does not believe in their existence. One day she finds a little man made of roots full of tiny arrows, taking him to Lillian. This drags her six sis Bters inadvertently into a struggle between two different groups. The story gives the reader a sense of wonder with its vivid descriptions and memorable characters. Some readers might find it the most entertaining story in the book.

Tapping the Dream Tree by Charles de Lint is another entertaining collection of Newford stories. The stories in this Urban Fantasy collection range from dark and edgy to humorous. Most of the stories are entertaining. They contain interesting characters and moving themes. It is a nice addition to stories of the Fantasy city of Newford.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Once Upon a Time" Review

Fantasy TV series are scarce on broadcast television. Few networks will take a chance on these programs because of fierce competition for ratings. This year there are two programs, “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm,” shows that are based on fairy tales. The first one is doing well in the ratings, gaining more viewers every week. “Once Upon a Time” has an interesting story, appealing characters and familiar themes.

“Once Upon a Time” takes place between two worlds, ours and the fairy tale one. Regina, the queen from the Snow White tale, places a curse on the fairy tale world causing the characters to live their lives in our world without memory of their fairy tale ones. Emma, a daughter of two characters, escapes the curse. She is pulled to the town of Storybrooke when her son she gave up for adoption comes to get her to help break the curse. Each episode focuses on a different fairy tale woven into the overall arc of the struggle between Snow White and Queen Regina. Using a different fairy tale each week keeps the story building interest for the viewer.

Next, the creators of the series make the characters appealing to draw the viewers into their stories. Each week a character from a fairy tale is focused on in our world. Flashbacks to their lives in the fairy tale world enhances the character’s story to explain what they are like and why they react the way they do in our world. Viewers see growth in the characters each week. This growth and the insights gained by each flashback keeps the character appealing and the viewers coming back for more.

Finally, viewers are drawn to the show by the familiar themes. The show has many themes that resonate with people. There is the the theme of good versus evil between the queen and Emma, Snow White and the prince. Love is a large underlying theme that drives character s to do heroic or cruel deeds. The importance of family is a strong theme throughout the show, demonstrating how families are helpful or can be destructive to their loved ones. Fairy tales are a good source of themes for the show to draw from since they contain many of these themes. These familiar universal themes keep viewers returning to the show each week.

“Once Upon a Time” is an entertaining new fantasy television series on broadcast television. Blending characters from fairy tales living in our world due to a curse creates a strong series with an interesting story, appealing characters and familiar themes. As viewer numbers grow, the series should be renewed for next year. Hopefully there will be more fantasy series tried in the future.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Where Do I Start?

You want to read in the Fantasy genre or expand your reading further. Where do you start? The genre is huge, with books ranging from the epics to those based on role playing games. Trying to make a choice and find something worth reading can be daunting when you stand in front of the section in the bookstores. What books should you read? Do you want something entertaining or something that will make you think? This article will try to answer that question. There will be some suggestions from each of several subgenres in this article.

First, let's start with Foundation books. These are the books that provide a base to start from in your reading adventures. They are works responsible for expanding the literature to what it is today. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien are good starting places. The books have a great story to tell full of deep meanings and adventure. For a fairy tale quality, there is The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany or his The Charwoman's Shadow. These lyrical storie travel through many fantastic scenes, vividly described by the classic author. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin is a powerful coming of age tale. Many other books form the foundation that spread into several subgenres.

Epic (High) Fantasy is probably the largest part of the genre. Bookstore shelves are full of stories about heroes and great battles between good and evil. Some of the books grace the Bestseller list at times. There are many places for the reader to start here. The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Wiliams is the grand story of a poor boy who must overcome great obstacles in the world of Osten Ard. Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster of Hed is a good place to start too. The tale of Morgon and his search for riddles is a masterpiece. These are just a couple of the many books in the large subgenre.

Another popular subgenre is Contemporary Fantasy. The books take place in our modern world where magic intrudes to make our world a little more enchanted. Many of these books take place in urban settings, some with a dark edge. Charles de Lint is one of the masters of this subgenre like his most recent book Forests of the Heart or any of his other books. Emma Bull's War for the Oaks is a classic about the realm of Fairy mingling with our world. Many other enjoyable books come under this umbrella.

There is another subgenre where readers can find good books. Adult readers avoid these books under the young adult marking. They are missing some wonderful Fantasy books. All Ages Fantasy is the subgenre of books targeted for a younger audience, but contain layers of complexity. These books contain something for readers of all ages. One example is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, which tells the stories of young people combating magical forces. The Owl Service by Alan Garner combines Welsh myth with a modern English country setting to tell a powerful story. Another book is the beginning of the "Prydain Chronicles" by Lloyd Alexander. The Book of Three is a coming of age tale about Taran the boy who takes care of a prophetic pig. All of these books have something that an adult reader can appreciate.

These are a few of the starting places you can try to gain an appreciation of the Fantasy genre. There are many other subgenres that weren't mentioned in this article, but book titles in those areas will be found on the reading list that follows. Hopefully you'll find something to capture your interest. The list will be added to this site and I hope to expand it with time. What books do you think should be added to this list? Put your ideas on a discussion.