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Lily Wight

Updated 03/06/2014

     Despite obvious extensive research and the Stoker seal of approval belated Dracula sequel Dracula The Un-Dead is a wasted opportunity which panders to modern tastes instead of keeping faith with the original vampire classic.

     Dacre Stoker and collaborator Ian Holt throw in everything from Elizabeth Bathory and Jack The Ripper to The Titanic creating a convoluted yarn which, although fast paced, struggles to find themes and focus.

     This sort of  Victorian Gothic Alternative History, or Literary Re-imagining, has been done far more successfully before by author Kim Newman whose Anno Dracula series is both effortless and ingenious in its use of similar settings and characters.

     The Un-Dead reads more like a sequel to Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula movie and when Dracula intones to Mina’s son “I am your father!!!” you may just die…

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Lily Wight

Updated 03/05/2014

     Erikson is a writer at the top of his game with the fourth book of his Malazan series delivering more of the same and then some!

     Fans will be familiar with the author’s distinct style and structure featuring unlikely pairings undertaking strange journeys that impact upon the martial and political landscape in unexpected ways.

     Erikson’s tales mimic the evolution of real history so those who prefer traditional quest-driven yarns may feel frustrated by the lack of conclusions.  There is however a realism and sense of immediacy seldom achieved by the Fantasy genre.

     House of Chains concludes most of The Whirlwind Rebellion plot and getting there is a brilliant, challenging and addictive read.

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Lily Wight

     Updated 06/03/2014

     Here is an early Easter Egg for you, crack it open and you will find a golden and glowing review of John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things…

   

      It is hard to beat Angela Carter’s potent re-imaginings of traditional Fairy Tales but John Connolly may boast a valiant and successful attempt.

     Young hero, David’s struggle to adjust to his step-family under the shadow of The Blitz is realistic and heartfelt but unfortunately the tone alters and the pace flounders during a flabby middle section inspired by tired and predictable medieval quest romances.

     Connolly’s work suffers a little under too many influences; Narnia, Oz, Wonderland, Labyrinth and even The Box of Delights are all thrown into the mix.  Focus is restored most triumphantly however in a dramatic ending which…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 11/02/2014

     A recent quest to the local library led to this booty; Retribution Falls: Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding.  Space Piracy is a darned tricky genre to master.  Get it right and you have Han Solo and the Falcon, get it wrong and it’s Disney’s Treasure Planet all over again.

     Wooding succeeds in delivering an entertaining, if simple and linear romp with some excellent characters.  Captain Frey owes much to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and his ship and crew will be familiar to fans of Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

     The Science Fiction and Steampunk elements are sketchy and rather ill-conceived.  Airships and the odd cyber-limb do not make a fully realised Secondary World.

     The Fantasy elements are better integrated and more intriguing with Wooding doing a fine job of…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 06/02/2014

     Kate Mosse’s début novel, Labyrinth was much-loved and promoted by Richard and Judy’s TV book club allowing Mosse to swiftly and decisively establish herself as the female answer to blockbusting airport favourite Dan Brown.

     Sepulchre, Mosse’s second standalone novel, combines folklore and history to weave a simple yet compelling treasure-hunt mystery with Tarot magic and the lush French countryside thrown in for good measure.

     As with Labyrinth the past and present intertwine around the comparable adventures of two female protagonists but the Nineteenth Century heroine easily trumps her modern-day counterpart whilst secondary characters are frustratingly underwritten for a novel with such a hefty word count.

     It is Mosse’s descriptive and lyrical prose which prevents accusations of peddling pulp and Sepulchre stays the right side of sentiment; emerging as the thinking woman’s…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 28/01/2014

     It’s almost a decade since Stephenie Meyer’s first Twilight novel was published and here is the last review of our four book retrospective…

     Breaking Dawn is undoubtedly the most mature and entertaining book in the series with more incident, action and horror than all the previous volumes put together.

     Discerning fans might try to excuse, scan or simply ignore Edward and Bella’s nauseating honeymoon and enjoy instead Jacob’s first person narration of the birth of their monster offspring.

     The Twililght Series has always tended to be a little tame and anaemic but by introducing that classic horror staple – the “demon-child” – Meyer invigorates the tale creating, arguably, a better starting-point for the entire series.

     Unfortunately Meyer bungles the ending by rushing the introductions to an influx of interesting new characters and…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 25/01/2014

     We’re three books – and three reviews in – yet The Twilight Saga refuses staunchly to improve or evolve as its little flashes of brilliance are swamped with so much melodramatic waffle.

     Stephenie Meyer obviously missed the writer’s workshop on “show, don’t tell” because those pages of circular dialogue do not equal plot momentum.

     An inspired chapter on Quileute folklore provides too brief a respite and elevation by delivering a tantalising glimpse into a better book that never was.  More of this and less of Bella might have given the saga more depth to match its breadth.

     Meyer has an unfortunate habit of disappointing readers with ideas and plot-strands which fail to flourish.  She denies Bella the opportunity to embrace the fate of The Third Wife thus denying Eclipse…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 18/01/2014

     It is nearly a decade since the launch of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga so New Moon, the second book in the series, may already seem like old news to the next generation of teens.  Let’s take another peek under the cover…

     The Twilight Saga becomes increasingly derivative as it seeks for ideas to expand upon its potentially intriguing but ultimately restrictive central romance.

     Things get off to a promising start with Meyer adding a third-party to her ongoing variations upon the classic and reliable “Beauty and The Beast meets Romeo and Juliet” yarn.  Replacing static lust-object Edward with the earthier and charismatic Jacob makes for a more mature and complex romance, whilst the Native American Shapeshifter lore feels original and fresh.

     There is also some vastly improved prose. The stormy build-up to Bella’s…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 11/01/2014

     It is almost a decade since Stephenie Meyer’s genre-busting archetype-twisting début novel Twilight was published.  Now that this much-loved yet contentious saga is definitely over and RPatz and KStew have gone their separate ways (or have they?) perhaps it is time for a reassessment.

     Fans of hardcore horror and esoteric gothicism will feel vaguely violated by this dilution of Vampire Mythology for the Young Adult market but Twilight heroine, Bella Swan is as clingy as a Spider Monkey 😉

     Unfortunately Twilight’s magnificent PR campaign will forever be superior to its subject and style – melodramatic teen diary destined to alienate literary-minded adults.  It also commits the unfortunate crime of being a mere introduction to better things to come.

     Heroine Bella details her chores one minute and snipes about her perfectly nice and…

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     The year’s best blog posts were selected by the readers of Lily Wight ~ The Arcade of Arts & Arcana.

Lily Wight

12/12/2013 TOP BLOG POST!

      If you checked-in for yesterday’s post you will already know that Sherlock Holmes is Dracula’s only significant rival when it comes to literary characters with the most big and small screen adaptations to their credit.

     An alternative world mash-up featuring Robert Downey Jr.’s movie detective versus the BBC’s Benedict Cumberbatch (with an army of self-styled “Cumberbabes” in tow) would be quite a spectacle.  In the meantime I’m recommending the Stephen Spielberg produced Young Sherlock Holmes as the perfect accompaniment for a Father’s Day afternoon nap.

     The arcane and occult plot-stylings undoubtedly influenced Guy Ritchie’s Twenty-First Century Holmes reboot and (although plaudits go elsewhere) Young Sherlock Holmes is a film that utilised groundbreaking CGI effects; just check-out the stained glass knight in one of the movie’s many not-so-family-friendly moments!

     Indiana Jones meets Gothic Victoriana…

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     Welcome to the wonderfully audacious and wickedly macabre world of Resurrection; the realm of Requiem, Vampire Knight.

     Nickel Editions Franco-British collaboration features the dark imaginings of Pat Mills (Sláine) and the art of Olivier Ledroit (Black Moon Chronicles) in a wildly addictive graphic novel series best avoided by the faint of heart!

     Volume 1 begins as Nazi war criminal, Heinrich Augsburg is reincarnated as a vampire in an ingeniously inverse Hell dimension; landmasses have switched places with seas of flame and cursed residents grow ever younger and forgetful.  Heinrich’s quest to be reunited with his lost love refuses to pander to any conventional ideas of supernatural romance as war, violence, treachery, occult science and good old-fashioned sexual deviancy tussle for page space.

     The Vampire Knight series (also known as Requiem Chevalier Vampire) is magnificently rendered in such exquisite detail that it demands repeated browsing and there are numerous historical and movie references to discover among the lush design and proliferation of ideas.

Mills’ and Ledroit’s work belongs to an adult audience with a taste for extreme Horror-Fantasy.  The humour is cynical and the banter often falls flat so there is little light relief but it seems churlish to complain when graphic novels simply don’t come any better than this.

 

Next Post 26/10/13 (14.00 BST) ~ Lego Pick of The Month for Halloween

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     We have reached the third book in Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula (or Red Reign) series in which each novel, although uniquely different, is consistently strong.

    This time the action relocates to a super suave Rome on the cusp of 60’s cool; an era of glamourous movie stars, paparazzi, familiar super spies and legions of the un-dead.

    Newman’s light style and knowingly referential wit bring charm but also surprising depth to a serial killer mystery that unites some familiar characters.  The setting is vibrant and there is an insightful sensitivity to the handling of female characters during a period sometimes tinged with misogyny.

    Back in 2012 this reviewer hoped for a further sequel to this series and it seems Mr. Newman makes wishes come true!  Anno Dracula IV: Johnny Alucard is ready and waiting to be read. 

Next Post 17/19/13 (18.00 BST) ~ Lily Wight’s Tarot Reading For Autumn

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     Updated 16/10/2015

     The Bloody Red Baron (1995) is the second novel in Kim Newman’s superlative and ever-expanding Anno Dracula series.  Newman continues to weave effortlessly both history and fiction to conjure a world in which Dracula – formerly wed to Queen Victoria – has joined forces with The Kaiser to bring terror to Europe.

     The shift in time and tone may surprise some readers expecting more of the first book’s Victorian gothic.  Book two is a World War I novel that successfully captures the tropes of military fiction whilst broadening its appeal with genre-mashing wit and just the right amount of girl power so you won’t miss those smog bound cobbled streets whatsoever.

     A running theme of genetic experimentation and weird science ensures that the series becomes increasingly pertinent and there is plenty of action too as Newman’s cinematic prose turns aerial dogfights into something captivating and unique.  Have you shelved your old copies of Twilight yet?

Next Post – Book 3: Dracula Cha Cha Cha

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Lily Wight

     Updated 16/10/13

When bookshops are heaving with Twilight knock-offs it’s a travesty that this superb novel is out of print in the UK  and had to be sourced secondhand, from overseas.”

     At least that is what a certain reviewer (ahem) said the last time they considered Kim Newman’s superlative Anno Dracula – the first book in a truly diverse, enlightening and remarkable series.  Since then Newman’s twenty-two year old vampire novel has received a  well deserved new edition and relaunch to go with its brand new sequel, Johnny Alucard (2013).
     Part Dracula sequel, part alternative history, Anno Dracula is a tour-de-force of literary and historical research enlivened by Newman’s light touch and rich detail.   Fans of The Age of Empire will enjoy recognising and sourcing the characters and events which are effortlessly woven into an…

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     John Polidori (1795 – 1821) is best remembered as Lord Byron’s travelling companion and personal physician but his short story, The Vampyre (1819) is the first significant vampire tale in English Literature, following on from Lady Caroline Lamb’s less revered Gothic Novel, Glenarvon (1816).

     The Vampyre is rather prosaic and melodramatic for modern tastes yet its brevity and vital role in vampire mythology make it an essential read.  The Vampyre himself, Lord Ruthven, is the original frilly-cuffed brooding immortal; a character endowed with the dangerous dilettantism associated with the Romantic writers and artists who, for many, have come to define the tastes, fashions and attitudes of the Georgian era.  Ruthven’s style of vampirism bridges the gap between the demons and monsters of folklore and the modern vampire anti-hero with his magnetic charisma and troubled conscience.  This new archetype was later perfected and explored by Anne Rice throughout The Vampire Chronicles then de-fanged and romanticised for a younger audience in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.

     Some critics suspect that Byron himself penned The Vampyre following that same stormy night of drug-fuelled storytelling which gave the world another great genre icon, Frankenstein’s Monster.  The tale’s pedestrian prose suggests otherwise but the mystery of its authorship has allowed this slight story to claim a significant place in Gothic Literature’s evolution.

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With Star Wars Episode VII on the way is it time to give Disney’s John Carter another chance?

 

Lily Wight

     Updated 26/02/2015

     Disney’s John Carter would seem to be an earnest attempt to launch an old-fashioned Sci-Fi saga in lieu of the purchase of Star Wars.    

    Those involved in the making of the film have much to be proud of.  Those involved in the marketing and promotion of the film should perhaps consider alternative careers for John Carter was lumbered with an insignificant release date, an uninspiring trailer-campaign and a dull title which foolishly dropped the “from Mars”.

     Edgar Rice Burroughs’ space opera lacks the instant familiarity of Star Trek or Wars – even Battlestar Galactica – yet it is, of course, the forerunner and inspiration behind those films, television shows and many more.

     As tastes for the coming movie season veer towards alien planets and space travel Carter may…

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     In a world where Mark Wahlberg’s overage slacker can pull feisty young professional Mila Kunis a bear possessed by the spirit of Peter Griffin requires little suspension of disbelief.

     Ted is an irreverent childish comedy that takes an age to get going and has little purpose or direction beyond its titular gimmick.  Yet, like that annoying bloke at a party who insists you have one more drink, Ted wears you down with his unique blend of cute and irritating.  This is a buddy movie:  You, Me And Dupree with fur.

     Seth McFarlane’s comedy flies, just like Family Guy, when it mocks and reveres classic movies.  Similarities to the bond between E.T. and Elliot won’t go unnoticed and Ted features the best homage to Sam J. Jones’ Flash Gordon: ever.

     Most remarkable of all is the effortless believability of a special effects composite in a lead role when, just a few years ago, audiences analysed every pixel of Binks and Gollum.  Ted is an achievement in himself, he just needs to ditch the sidekick and get himself a good agent.

     Verdict ~ If you are looking for subtleties in the relationship between a boy and his toy choose Toy Story.  If you love 80’s Flash (Ah-Ahhhhhhhhh!) it’s Ted all the way.

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     Every once in a while a film comes along – Laugier’s Martyrs, Cronenberg’s Twins, von Trier’s Antichrist – that transcends conventional horror tropes to produce something challenging, thoughtful and even profound: Excision is just such a film.

     The usually glamourous TV starlet, Annalynne McCord ditches the bleach, make-up and pretty much everything else to give a tour-de-force performance as troubled Pauline; a teen who practices DIY dissections whilst fantasising about a perfect clinical world of shiny surfaces and necrophilia.

     Hunched, surly and awkward, Pauline exudes typical outsider bully bait yet writer-director Richard Bates Jr. has created a collision of opposites; making her outspoken, manipulative and forceful.

     Pauline is psychologically broken whereas her beloved younger sister is physically sick: the focus of love and compassion as her health deteriorates through cystic fibrosis.  As Excision peels away layer after layer of urban domestic mundanity then startling fantasy it becomes apparent that each sister has something nasty inside that needs to come out.

     The ending arrives as a triumphant and appalling epiphany; inevitable, perhaps guessable, yet as shocking and unforgettable as a slap to the conscience.  When that final scream begins you’ll want to join in.

     Verdict ~ An astonishing collaboration of talent on both sides of the camera – the discerning and intellectual horror fan’s horror film.

*WARNING* not suitable for little eyes!

     Dust off the August 2012 archives for more on movies…

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     French animator Michel Ocelot may lack the marketing appeal of a certain mouse but his movies cast more enchantments than a month at Disneyland, Paris.

     Tales Of The Night is an anthology of  little known silhouette folktales, imagined by would-be moviemakers against a jewel bright backdrop of ancient and exotic locations.

     The roots of familiar stories lurk beneath the strange beauty of Ocelot’s shadow theatre in a primal and dangerous form; cunning and tenacity are worth more than might, princess brides are not what they seem, animals speak, werewolves roam and Happy Ever Afters have a high price.

     Children used to big-eyed cuteness and easy moralising will be entranced, while grown-ups will feel like children all over again.

Verdict ~ Lovely, hypnotic and bizarre.

If you enjoy silhouette animation click here to watch Lotte Reiniger’s Cinderella in full..

 

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     Streaming and downloads are fine for Minimalists but how can you really own a movie until it’s sitting on your shelf for nosy visitors to judge and define you by?

     Video cassettes are dangerous – especially if a dusty box-full of them falls on your head when you’re rummaging through the attic – and V/H/S takes us back to the days when terrifying box art damaged childhoods, when James Woods morphed into a human video recorder and Sadako crawled all the way from Japan, straight out of the TV and into your living-room.

     V/H/S is an anarchic, schizophrenic horror showcasing promising young directors with a mixed-bag of shorts tied-up with a warning – if you must break into a dead guy’s creepy home don’t watch his videotapes.

     Like all anthologies the quality varies and the tonal shifts are disorienting but, on the plus side, nothing outstays its welcome long enough for you to question why anyone would convert their phone footage or Skype conversations onto clunky old video cassettes.

     The best found footage movies find innovative ways to incorporate the act and products of filmmaking into the plot itself; so a seemingly routine teen slasher becomes sharp and memorable through clever use of that familiar and idiosyncratic chewed-tape distortion.  Meanwhile, Generation YouTube Trick or Treaters disrupt a dubious ritual yet continue to record the mayhem and danger – laughing when they ought to be screaming.

     V/H/S is a perfect combination of old school and experimentation in search of stronger themes.  The miscreants in the opening are suitably punished for their criminal misuse of technology and most of the stories are driven by strong female protagonists but these are issues left hanging in the wake of a simpler urge to shock and entertain.

     Sequel S-V/H/S is scheduled for a July 2013 release and with lessons learned, a bigger budget and more of what works we could be looking at a five-star follow-up.

     Verdict ~ A rich and diverse eye assault of memorable images to leave you pondering.  Yep, there’s still life in the old tape yet!

     

*WARNING* Red Band Trailer, not for little eyes!

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     Cabal is the natural evolutionary step from Clive Barker‘s groundbreaking short story collection, Books Of Blood.

     This slim novel offers post-Cronenbergian body horror, Freudian identity issues, an original mythology for monsters and includes a rampant serial killer: more than enough material for a lifetime’s worth of sequels and spin-offs.

     Cabal’s naturalistic dialogue, deft character strokes and punchy yet eloquent prose render the most extraordinary flights of fantasy entirely plausible so it remains a great pity that – despite an open ending – Barker has never returned to continue the journey of anti-hero, Boone.

     Fans will have to make do with Barker’s own darkly brilliant movie adaptation, Nightbreed; recently re-edited for a must-see Director’s Cut.  Click the link for further information http://www.clivebarker.info/morenightbreed.html

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     Updated 22/04/2015

     It is nearly forty years since Anne Rice refined and defined our contemporary Romantic Vampire archetype with her seminal and controversial novel Interview With The Vampire.

     Rice may have returned to The Universal Studio Monster Vault (vampires, mummies and now wolfmen) but her latest foray into the supernatural is distinctly light on familiar Gothic tropes and offers something entirely current via the imagination of an author steeped in history and mythology.

     The Wolf Gift is a superhero origin story with the werewolf or “Morphenkind”, Reuben Golding, glorified and elevated into a shape-shifting biological missing-link: a creature designed to track and destroy the very essence of evil.

     The bright, breezy world of modern San Francisco offers architectural and natural majesty a world away from the grim, historical Grand Guignol of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.  There is surprisingly little Fantasy here as Rice comes closer than ever to explaining her story’s wonders with real science.  Religion and Catholicism, once Rice’s most prevalent concerns, are here reduced to the passive, infrequent presence of an agnostic family priest.

     Rice loves to pepper her work with pop-culture references resulting in an astute self-referentialism which makes The Wolf Gift the most playful of all her novels.  Reuben himself is aware of the looks and career which define him as a “Superman”.

     Those who have found Rice’s previous novels unwieldy will discover a brisker pace and a manageable cast of characters, each of whom – in typical Rice style –  is more admirable, brilliant and beautiful than the next.  Rice is an unashamed aesthete who favours all that is sublime in nature, art, craft and engineering.  Her prose is lush, richly detailed and decorous although her critics may find this cloying.

     Rice loves to flaunt her extensive research and a suggested species mythology promises a new series that will unfold, much like The Vampire Chronicles to take in history, travel and esoteric enlightenment.

     The Wolf Gift is the book that fans of vintage Anne Rice have been waiting for.

Reuben in the Window.  ©Valeron.  Image features Matt Bomer, Anne Rice’s preferred casting choice for Reuben Golding.

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     Updated 21/01/2015

     Recommended reading 🙂

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     Updated 15/01/2015

     Vampire: The Masquerade‘s role-playing world offers plenty of intrigue and diversity but the chronological re-editing of multiple novels tends to mar an otherwise engrossing series.

     Vampire Hesha’s story is over-written and uneventful yet it dominates this second collection whilst the laboured build-up to major events causes structural shortcomings.

     With future volumes offering more conclusions and twists this is still a series worth sticking with and a great introduction to the realm of role-playing games.

     Click here for a review of Volume One 🙂

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     Updated 11/12/2014     

     Students of English Literature should be eternally grateful for this Graphic Novel adaptation of a core curriculum classic.

     The simple black and white noir-style graphics contemporise the satirical content whilst aiding differentiation between the many realms and circles in Dante’s compelling trawl through a unique afterlife.

     Chwast’s vision is a brief and entertaining read that may just inspire you to seek out – and perhaps better appreciate – Dante’s original.

     More Graphic Novel interpretations of Literary Classics please!

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