Category: fantasy


Not posted on a Wednesday, but hey, I didn’t skip this week. Quick reminder that the giveaway for The People’s Police Giveaway is still going until midnight Sunday the 19th. This book’s one that I bought rather than being send to review. So, enjoy!

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Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band. You couldn’t say why if asked. You couldn’t even really say anything about the lyrics. But their music does something for you. To you. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard, and their singer, Airee MacPherson. She’s fantastic, completely out of this world.  Strange things keep happening with each new track they release. Beautiful Remorse is your new favorite band, and your favorite band cannot save you.

Scotto Moore’s Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You: a tale in ten tracks is a quick fun read that’ll pull you along right to the end. The first two thirds of the book is solid genre fiction, but then it gets to a certain point and everything starts to feel kind of rushed. Think of it a little bit like a love letter to the Cthulhu mythos through the lens of modern internet culture.

There are a few bits that needed more attention throughout the book. Without that, the end isn’t a total big lipped alligator moment, but it does still feel under supported. I’d have liked more exposition on Aimee’s plan or the music itself, though the narrator’s limited knowledge goes a ways towards explaining that away.

My other big issue is with the characters. I legitimately cannot remember the narrator’s name or much of anything about him. The same goes for most of the characters that aren’t Airee, they sort of get lost in her or the music and just don’t come up again. I could easily say that this was a purposeful thing and that a big part of the point was a collective nothingness for humanity. It still doesn’t really work for me in the long run though, at the end of the day I’m still very much invested in character over plot.

More than anything, Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You reminds me of a B movie. Despite its faults, the story is aggressively readable and fast paced. It’s eyes off the action to build tension, which works well in a lot of ways. This is a book that could have been a lot better with a little work, but it doesn’t need it to be a fun book. If that makes sense at all. It’s fun, it’s fast, and at the end of the day I still really enjoyed it.

So, where does that leave us? While Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You has some issues, I still had a ton of fun with it. So, from me at least, it gets a four out of five.

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As mentioned yesterday, I’ve got a giveaway for you all. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor I’ve got two copies of Norman Spinrad’s new novel, The People’s Police, that means two winners.

The giveaway will run from today until next Sunday the 19th at midnight central time and will be open to entries from the United States and Canada.

Standard rules apply: you’ll need to be following this blog to enter, the winners will be selected using a random number generator, and you’ll need to answer a question for your entry here.

So, question time readers, The People’s Police deals with the issues of those in charge caring more about the interests of the richest among us than the people at large. How do you react when it seems like the deck’s been stacked against you and how do you try and make it better?

Hey all, I’ve got something awesome for you tonight. The awesome folks at Tor have given me a sneak peek excerpt of Norman Spinrad’s new novel, The People’s Police, to share with y’all. I’ll also be hosting a giveaway for this novel, details will go live tomorrow. Enjoy!

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Chapter 1
Some folks are still bitching that the Eternal Mardi Gras is a Disney version, what with the traditional Krewes’ parading limited to the traditional lead-up to Fat Tuesday while the big budget corporate floats from Hollywood, Bollywood, and Pornywood parade all year, all long, all over New Orleans, which is sort of true, given that it was Disney I brought in first.

 

But whining that the Mouse has gone and done to the French Quarter what it did to Times Square, and oozed out into the rest of New Orleans like the annual dose of mud during the Hurricane Season, and calling yours truly, Jean-Baptiste Lafitte, a swamp rat traitor to the true soul of the city is going a tad too far, seeing as how the Quarter had fallen far off its fabled glory days even before Katrina.
You expect me to apologize for saving the city from drowning to death?
Oh yes, I did!
Everyone knows New Orleans had been on its economic ass for decades, barely able to pay the cops to keep the Swamp Alligators down in their lowlands swamps and out of the New Orleans Proper high grounds.

 

And the Hurricane Season wasn’t going away, now was it, and what the Dutch were demanding in order to save what was left of the Big Easy from finally going under would’ve been about the total budget of the city government for the next decade or two. No high-priced, high-tech Hans Brinker seawalls and solar windmill pumping stations back then, need I remind you?

 

I guess I do.

 

Amazing what short memories ingrates have.

 

New Orleans featured itself as the Big Easy since before Mickey Mouse was even a gleam in Uncle Walt’s evil eye, but just because the truth wouldn’t look so good in the tourist guides doesn’t mean we don’t all know that it’s always really been the Big Sleazy, now does it?

 

This city was making its living as a haven for pirates and slavers and the riverboat gamblers, saloon keepers and whorehouse impresarios like yours more or less truly, rollers high, low, and medium, who serviced their trade since before the Louisiana Purchase.
The Big Easy was born as the Big Sleazy. Easy?

 

Yeah, sure.

 

Born between a bend in the mighty and mighty ornery Mississip and a briny marsh presumed to call itself Lake Pontchartrain serving as an overflowing catch-basin for tidal surges when the major hurricanes hit and a giant mud puddle in-between.

 

Easy?

 

First built precariously on the natural levees of the Mississippi, expanding greedily and stupidly into the back swamps. Tossed around like a beachball between the French and the Spanish. Finally sold to the Americans by Napoleon on the cheap because he knows he’s gonna lose it to the British anyway if he doesn’t. Flooded every few decades even before Katrina, before there even was an annual Hurricane Season, squeezing what remained onto what high ground was left to it after the sea level rose. The population cut almost in half, forced to live off the tourist and entertainment trade alone when the Gulf oil dried up, just about surrounded by the Alligator Swamp and what crawled up out of it if its back was turned.

 

You call that Easy?

 

Those who adapt survive, like the Cajuns from icy Quebec said when they found themselves in the steamin’ bayous of the Delta, like the Alligator Swamp nutria hunters turning a plague into protein. Those who don’t ain’t been heard from lately. So making legal what the Big Easy always was to pull our terminal condition from the mud is not “selling out the soul of the city” or “whoring ourselves to the mavens of show business.”
Because the Big Easy has always been a whore, a charming, sleazy, free-wheeling, good-natured hooker with a heart of gold and an eye for the main chance, which is what makes her easy, and bein’ easy is the name of the game in this business, which has always been the main game in town. And let an old bordello impresario tell you, who would ever hire a hooker who wasn’t all of the above, and good-lookin’ too?

 

In case you’re forgetting, the Big Easy wasn’t exactly looking as appetizing as a platter of Oysters Bienville back in the day before Mama Legba and Her Supernatural Krewe. She’s all spiffed up and lit up and giving herself the star treatment now, to the point where ingrates and ignoramuses and Creole romantics looking back over their shoulders can afford to complain about how New Orleans is peddling her previously jazzy derrière to less than the genteel bohemian trade of their absinthe fantasies.

 

Whoever wrote that song about there being no business like show business sure got it wrong. As things stand now, there’s no business but show business and we all are in it. Not that we haven’t always been. The only difference now is that it’s making the good times roll again after all those years in the deep dark shit, and that’s good enough for me, and if it’s not good enough for you, this ain’t your town, you’d best leave and go somewhere more to your tight-assholed liking.

 

But y’all come back on vacation from the salt mines, y’hear! Whatever your pleasure, we got it, and if we don’t, don’t worry, no matter how pervo it may seem to your sweaty vestigial morality, we’ll get it for you. Here in the Eternal Mardi Gras of the Big Easy, we make no such judgments, we’re impossible to scandalize, de gustibus non est disputandum.
What pays here, stays here, and never fear, we do still want your money.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Norman Spinrad

Hey look! It’s that review I’ve been talking about for months. It’s here before Christmas even. For real though, sorry about falling off the world like that. Enjoy!

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I’m kind of skipping the blurb this time, since this is a collection of short stories.

So, Brandon Sanderson’s The Arcanum Unbounded is an interesting book both as it is written and for what it is. Unfortunately it also relies pretty heavily on the reader not only being a fan of Sanderson’s work but also having read all of his previous works. That more than kind of cools me on the book, though it is more or less exactly what’s on the label. This is going to be a bit of a weird one.

There are two big issues that I have with Arcanum Unbounded. The reliance on the reader having read everything in Sanderson’s Cosmere is the lesser of the two. The more major issue I have is his habit of including an afterword on the stories, on its own it wouldn’t be too bad but as part of this particular book it clashes terribly with the framing device introduced at the beginning and make the book very easy to put down. A pretty easy fix for this would have been removing either the framing device, which ties the book together as a concept, or the afterwords, which feel a little like reading the author’s blog rather than a book. I’m much more interested in the framing device, that someone has collected these story bits from all over the Cosmere, because it ties in. But I’m also a “death of the author” kind of reader and feel like if the author has to explain something outside of the story itself, then it isn’t written well enough. Obvious biases are, in fact, obvious.

The issue of it feeling like everything else prior to this is required reading bounces around a bit. The first story is by far my favorite and feels like a whole entity unto itself, I don’t feel lost for details and could enjoy myself freely. It’s immediately followed by a short story set towards the end of Elantris that, having not read that novel, I was completely lost on which made it feel super long and just draining to get through. It’s not bad in most of the stories but, combined with the afterwords, can feel tiresome.

That said, the stylistic choices made were interesting and in several stories it felt like the author was having fun with the writing. The novella about the Survivor was great once I got into it and it started feeling like its own thing instead of a spin on something else. So this is ultimately a pretty mixed bag for me. The writing is solid throughout, but then the plotting is overly referential. The stories that stand alone are a ton of fun, but then others feel like fragments of something bigger.

At the end of the day, I give Arcanum Unbounded a three out of five. If you’re a big fan of Sanderson’s you’ll probably enjoy it immensely. If not, maybe check it out from the library first or give one of his other books a shot.

Trapped in Wonderland

So this is late by a couple hours. Better than days or weeks, but still. I was sent a copy of Trapped in Wonderland by the author, Dani Hoots, for an honest review as part of a blog tour. She’s been great to work with and I hope you all enjoyed her guest post earlier today. Enjoy!

The first time Alice visited Wonderland she had been shoved in a locker. The second time she had to be rescued from the White Rabbit. Now she’s trapped in a world like a dream with four boys from her school who are, it turns out, characters from the story. But dreams are dying and it will be up to Alice to save both Wonderland and her own world from the Cirque de Reves and their mysterious leader.

Dani Hoots’ Trapped in Wonderland is something of a new spin on an old classic. The Alice here is not the original Alice who told her story to Lewis Carroll. Wonderland is different, being ruled by the Kingdom of Dreams and sectioned into Zones. Also the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Doormouse, and March Hare are all cute boys. It’s different from the original, but still feels very familiar on a lot of levels.

I admit, this book frustrates me and I think a lot of that comes down to it feeling very like young. It has a lot of new writer problems like stilted dialogue and a lot of unnecessary details that could have been removed to improve the pacing. Most of the little details, like what manga Alice was reading, could have gone while keeping bigger things, like her getting up early to fix her own lunch because she wants to have a bento box. The book sort of waffles between things that build Alice’s character and things that just fill space on the page. There’s also a lot of repetitiveness and contradiction when it comes to certain things. The reader keeps being reminded both that Alice does ballet but is still super clumsy, or that she’s pretty sure that Wonderland is just a dream. It leads to the book feeling like it was originally posted as each chapter was finished rather than as a whole.

There’s this weird sort of conflict of character with regard to Alice and her family as well. It’s sort of a tie in to the plot itself. Her older sisters are both smart and successful, one is a med student and the other is studying physics. Her parents are both CPAs. None of them care about Alice’s art or her dancing or her interests. These things are, according to Alice at least, treated as pointless hobbies or something to be taken away from her if her grades drop. They want her to give up her dreams and become like them, but then these same parents who don’t seem to care about any of her interests also seem to be paying for all those interests. She’s going to ballet classes, has adequate supplies for her art, and has the food around to make her bento boxes. It feels like something written by a fairly young writer venting about their own life. It could be a really good real world tie in to the main plot if more was done with it or if her family was written more sympathetically, but as is it doesn’t work.

My feelings on this book ultimately wind up being fairly meta. The writing itself does feel very fan fic-ish or, again, like it was written by someone either very young or just not used to writing. There are a ton of references to pop culture, particularly anime and manga, that can get really distracting and make the book feel weirdly dated. There’s some issues with the editing that could have used a second going over. There’s a lot of potential here and, with Mrs. Hoots having written several other books, I’d definitely give one of her other books a go. Plus a couple of the characters were a lot of fun if a little stock and I completely love a couple of the concepts used.

So, where does that leave me? While I’ve had a lot of issues with the book it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d wasted the time reading it. It isn’t good, but it shows a lot of potential and leaves me hoping it’s an older project that’s just not getting its turn or a genre the author isn’t entirely comfortable with. That all taken into consideration, I’m giving Trapped in Wonderland a two out of five with the note that it could be a solid three with more editing and some cuts.

Not a ton to say here. Thanks to the nice folks at Crown Books, I’ve got a review of the final book in the Thrones and Bones trilogy for you. Enjoy!

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Thianna and Karn have lost the Horn of Osius, key to controlling the wyvern and all dragon kind. To keep its power from being misused they’ll have to journey to Thica, the country Thianna’s mother fled years ago, and face down an entire empire. They won’t be alone though. A battle is brewing that will determine the very fate of the empire and, possibly, our heroes as well.

Thrones and Bones: Skyborn by Lou Anders is definitely an interesting read, and a fun one as well. It builds on the previous books well. It has higher stakes, as benefits the last book in the series. It still keeps its balance between Thianna and Karn really well while expanding the cast as well.

So, with the first two books in the trilogy I had a lot of the problems I tend to with most kids or young readers’ books I review. The first one was very black and white in its morality, the heroes were good because they were the heroes and the villains were evil because they were the villains. The second book did better, but still projected its eleventh hour new hero pretty hard. That’s standard in kids’ fantasy, but it does get old, which is something this one does a fairly mixed job on. We have an empire that’s crushing other city-states and forcing them to do its bidding, that’s how it’s done and how it has been for as long as anyone can remember. We have the city-states not wanting to work together because of old grudges. Both are kind of a wash early because it is a ton of new stuff all at once, but then we get into it more and it works.

We also have some party friction from the last book that gets worked though, I really appreciate that bit. As well as I feel Karn and Thianna work as a team, seeing them having to work with new characters and deal with new situations is one of the strong points of the book. The expanded cast did take some getting used to, mostly just because it split the story more than the first books did, but that helps give the story a greater feeling of scope.

The added cast does have one big downside that I can think of. While it’s great for adding scope to the story, it also has the effect of leaving what should have been important character moments out for more minor characters. A little more focus on what was going on with the big villains would have been great. It also has the effect of introducing and then completely leaving out representative characters for the city-states that didn’t get involved in the plot. That feels like a missed opportunity more than anything.

So, where do I sit on Thrones and Bones: Skyborn? It solved a lot of the standard kids’ book problems the first two had, though it still has a few. Those are mostly pacing related, and nothing really big at that. I would have liked to have seen more build to the final confrontation; it was pretty standard for the series on that front. As evidenced by the rest of the review though, I enjoyed the read. This is one of the few series that I not only enjoyed myself, I’m also getting the first one for my younger cousin. So, again, where do I sit on this one? I think it earned a four out of five.

Guest Post Kathy Clark

So, I’ve got a guest post for you all. Kathy Clark is one half of Bob Kat, the writing team for Not My Life, and she’s got a bit about how they decided to do a time travel series.

NOT MY LIFE, the 5th book in the Time Shifters YA time travel/romance/mystery series will be released on October 18th.  Nothing is as it seems and everyone has a story that needs to be heard.  Our teens travel back to either vindicate or convict their old friend, Dan Denucci.  But the man with a medical degree, a beautiful wife, and a young son is very different from the sad, homeless guy who lives under the pier on Fort Myers Beach, FL.  Who is the real Dan and what did he do to lose everything?

 

Of all the concepts (or tropes), I think time travel would be the most amazing adventure.  You can have the trips to Mars or an excursion down to the Titanic.  Give me a trip to the late 1800s any day to see what the Old West was really like.  Or the early 1800s in Ireland before my family left to come to the U.S.  Or even back to the 1960s just because I love the Beatles.  The hardest part of the trip would be deciding where and when to go first.

 

Where would you go if you could travel back in time?  Who would you want to meet?  What historical event would you like to witness?  What era’s pop culture, fashion and music would you like to experience?

 

That was the idea that sparked our Young Adult series TIME SHIFTERS.  How would it be for four teenagers to be able to go back and see how average people lived, and, along the way, experience the feelings and textures of different times and places?  What kind of challenge would it be for them to do without things they thought they couldn’t live without while having to deal with issues (such as no electricity, different currency, and child labor) that they’ve never thought about?

 

Bob and I have had over forty books published (as Kathy Clark and as Bob Kat), but most were written for adults…about adults.  Writing a YA presented new outlooks on everything from friendship to romance to problem solving.  Obviously, a sixteen-year-old is going to react differently to almost everything than an adult would.

 

And even though dragons and witches and vampires are very popular, we wanted our teens to be real.  No magic spells or mythical creatures save them.  Instead, they have to deal with their issues using only their own ingenuity, creativity, and the friendship they share.  Plus, we wanted our young readers to “accidentally” learn a little about history and what was normal back then as compared to now.

 

My favorite books when I was growing up were Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew mysteries, as well as Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart.  We wanted our teenagers to be 21st Century versions of the very interesting and intelligent characters from those famous novels.

 

Having never written a book with lead characters under the age of twenty-one, we were a little nervous about capturing the innocence, insecurities, and youthful logic of teenagers.  But the four characters we created became so real to us that we easily slipped into their heads and their hearts.  Their vulnerabilities and dreams are so pure and yet heart-breaking as they discover the cruelties of the real world.

 

Basically, this series allows Bob and me to do a little time travelling, too, as we go back to the memories of our own teenage years and hang out with our four new friends, Kelly, Austin, Scott, and Zoey as they learn how to love and live and survive in a world that’s not always kind.

 

Come along.  Whether you’re twelve or ninety-two, you’ll enjoy the trip.

 

Visit us at our website www.LoveRealityRomance.com or write us at Kathy@Nightwriter93.com.  We would love to hear where and when you think our teenagers should travel to in the next book.  Reviews are always appreciated.

 

 

Bob Kat loves to hear from their fans.  Write us at TheThrillOfSuspense@gmail.com and tell us where you’d like to have Kelly, Scott, Austin and Zoey travel to next.

Alright everybody, I’ve got  another giveaway for you courtesy of authors Bob Kat! It’s for the fifth book in their Time Shifters series, Not My Life.

In Not My Life our time traveling heroes will have to find what happened to their friend Dan Denucci to take him from a man with a medical degree, beautiful wife, and a son to the sad homeless man living under the pier.

So, your question to enter, if you could travel back in time what would you do with that power? A follow up question if you feel like getting into it, would you assume a stable time line or a changeable one?

Standard rules apply here. You’ll need to follow the blog and the comment on this post answering the entry question. The contest runs from the time of posting until next Friday the 28th and the winner will be selected using random.com.

Separate from that, the authors also have a giveaway of their own going on to celebrate the book’s release, I’ll use their words to tell you all about it.

To celebrate the launch of NOT MY LIFE, we’re giving away a very special heart-shaped mother-of-pearl shell necklace.  (The photo doesn’t do it justice.)  It is 18” long.  All you have to do is send us an email at Kathy@nightwriter93.com with your name, email address, and the words SHELL NECKLACE.  You will be entered into the drawing that will be held on December 1, 2016.  The winner will be notified by email.

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Song of the Deep

The review I mentioned in that last post, this is it. I had a lot of fun writing this one just because of how positive it was. That was really nice, it’s been pretty stressful over in my corner of the world, so saying something positive was exactly what I needed.

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Merryn and her father live in a cabin by the sea. Each day he braves the ocean to bring home fish to support them. Fish, and bits and pieces from the deep that he swears are treasures. But when a massive storm strikes and her father doesn’t come home, Merryn has a vision of his boat being dragged beneath the waves by a sea monster.  Determined to save her father Merryn builds a submarine out of the treasures and sets out using his stories to guide her.

Song of the Deep by Brian Hastings is the book of the game for the Metroidvania game of the same title; it’s also the author’s first book. I would not have realized that this was a first book if it hadn’t been talked about in the intro. The writing is tight. The characterization is consistent and on point. Also, my biggest thing, it’s a kids’ book that doesn’t talk down to its readers.

The protagonist and narrator, Merryn, is a legitimately charming character. She’s smart and brave and kind and this is all stuff the reader sees rather than being told. Never mind that she built a submarine and went to the bottom of the ocean all on her own, she pauses her quest multiple times to help beings in trouble.  It just makes me really happy, kind of like seeing the kind of protagonist I wanted as a kid finally showing up.

As to the not writing down to the readers, that’s a problem I’ve noticed in a lot of kids’ books. Either the language is over simplified, which makes it stilted, or it feels like the author doesn’t know when kids learn to read and skews way down. Song of the Deep doesn’t do that. While the language is pretty simple, it feels like the author trusts his readers to be able to follow along. I really appreciate that, not just because it made it more fun for me to read, but also because I feel like when media knows kids can keep up and understand things it provides for better entertainment.

I don’t actually have problems with the book. There are a couple of things I wish had gotten more details, but it really wouldn’t have fit to just suddenly insert exposition. There was a section near the end that didn’t feel as dangerous as it was presented as but, again, that would have slowed down the story and it wouldn’t have felt right.

It’s probably pretty obvious by now, but the book earns its five stars. I not only enjoyed this book but really want to see what Brian Hastings will do if he writes another book, whether a sequel to this or something different. More than that, I want to see more books like this full stop.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany is a sequel of sorts to Rowling’s tremendously famous Harry Potter novels. This is probably one of the only things people who’ve read it so far will agree on. Now, the book was released because the play is only being shown in England and fans elsewhere would have thrown a fit if they weren’t able to experience it in some way. It’s important to remember going in that this is a play script rather than a novel. That actually affects a lot in this review as well as my general feelings towards the book.

The story follows Albus Severus, his friend Scorpius, and Harry Potter the father who could do better as Albus and Scorpius attempt to set right what once went wrong. Albus and Harry have nothing in common, something that we are led to think gets thrown in Albus’ face quite a bit at school. He can’t measure up to his famous dad and Harry doesn’t have the time to spend with him for them to work through that. So he grows bitter over the first few years he’s at Hogwarts, until an overheard conversation leads him to stealing a time-turner to go save Cedric Diggory. This is all fine, I’m good with this plot line.  What I feel like the script needed was a little more attention to each different version of the timeline, consequences essentially. I would have also liked to have seen more of the villain prior to the very end.

All that said, is it a good Harry Potter novel? Well, no, if you walk into reading this expecting a Harry Potter novel you will be very disappointed. The language used for a novel and a script are very different, with plays being as visual as they are the book lacks a lot of the description that a novel would have and you don’t get much about how characters feel beyond the occasional note for clarification. The story also feels disjointed in places because of scene shifts and not being able to see the actors’ reactions directly. That said, it’s a script, so I can’t really hold it to novel standards. As far as scripts go, I could have gone with more stage direction in the book itself to help follow what was going on, but it wasn’t bad.  My big problem with Cursed Child is that it lacks the scope the series proper felt like it had, the weight of consequence when characters made choices. Partly because of how directly involved they were in things compared to how successful they were, the villain also felt very small, again, I’d have liked to see more build up there.

As to the good parts, I really liked Scorpius and the way that wanting to take care of him humanized Malfoy. The friendship between Scorpius and Albus was also pretty fun, I would have actually like to have seen that used to give us more insight into some of the other young characters. I appreciate that the golden trio mess up massively, even as adults, especially things like Harry not keeping up with his paperwork. More effort needed to have been given to showing that Harry is under a tremendous amount of stress though, there is a scene that feels very out of character because of this lack.

So, what’s the long and short of this? How does Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rank? For me, it gets a solid three out of five. There was a lot wrong that could have and should have been worked out better, especially given that plays tend to go through multiple runs. The language was off, again that difference between novels and scripts, and didn’t feel like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The characters could have all been more developed. But, the story is pretty good if a little too much like early aughts fan fiction, and it makes me want to see the show. That I think is the big thing here, there isn’t a sequel to worry over, but reading the script does make me want to see the play. I think that’s a pretty fair measure of it doing its job.