Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category


World of Witches


– Shana Susan Ninan

Review of The Witches by Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake; Puffin Books 2013; pp 208

This fantastical tale of real witches is as much for children as it is for adults. So, how does one identify a real witch if she doesn’t ride around on broomsticks, nor wear black cloaks and hats, and disguise themselves as ordinary ladies? Well, the grandmother in the story tells her grandson, ‘boy’, that witches have claws instead of finger nails (so they wear gloves all the time), bald heads (which means they wear wigs), large nose holes, square feet (so they often take off their shoes to relax their toes), and blue spit. And not just that, real witches hate kids.

Most of the story revolves around the witches’ annual general meeting at a hotel in Bournemouth, Norway. The boy finds himself in a room with more than 200 witches! Their plan to turn kids into mice using the Delayed Action Mouse-Maker in chocolate bars in candy shops across England sends shivers down his spine. Poor Bruno is turned into a mouse. And the boy, too!

The twist with the boy being left as a mouse is quite catchy, as it ends with the promise of more adventure! The boy-mouse and his grandmother return with the thought to rid the world of witches.

A delightful read, I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading this out loud to my now four-year-old son, a few years later. And the illustrations are just perfect!


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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Adventure beyond the Mountains


Review of Tale of the Wulks; V.K. Green; Fremont Books 2013; pp 658

– Shana Susan Ninan

Wulks live in the mountains of California, away from the eyes of humans. Watching closely, they are the guardians of Mother Earth, fighting off people who are out to hurt her. Rilk, a young differently-abled boy, is the central character. His grandfather Manfield embarks on an adventurous journey with the Dragon Prince Englar. Long ago, the Wulks were thrown out of their ancestral lands along with the Native Americans. Instead of going onto reservations as the American Indians did, however, the Wulks concealed themselves at the base of Mission Peak in California, after which a Dragon appeared before them and helped them establish a country the human invaders could not destroy. It’s this ingenious intertwining of actual human history that makes Wulk Land more vivid. That said, a map to accompany the precise descriptions of Wulk geography would be welcome.

Talking about his writing process, the author V.K. Green says, “Unlike many writers who usually write whatever is on their mind and arrange the parts later, I brainstorm the entire story before beginning to write.” Indeed, that shows in the plot – it flows seamlessly, from one location to another, from one scene of action to the next.

Autism and adventure are two core themes that run through the story. Carefully crafted into the plot, Green, who himself is autistic, has played the cards well. The protagonist, Rilk is extremely intelligent in his own ways. But the way the world sees the autistic, or anyone differently-abled for that matter, is quite sidelining. The fact that Green has given prominence to Rilk and looked at his abilities than disabilities is a promising breath of air. People who care for or live with autistic persons will very well understand that.

The case of Chris is interesting. Myself a student of Kalaripayattu, an ancient martial arts form of South Asia, I was drawn to this extraordinary character. Chris is a prodigy, an intelligent mind with a sharp and fit body. The wise teenager, Chris helps the other boys in their search. And the author, too, confirms: “I consider the martial arts battles throughout my book to be dear to me.”

I did find some paragraphs needing the editor’s cuts. Some of the sequences are long-winded and, sometimes, leads us off the page. With a few nicks and polishes here and there, this is a brilliant work of fantasy fiction for young and the old.

V. K. Green is an autistic student who has performed at a high academic level with advanced diction, language, and social skills. Using fantasy-adventure, Green is determined to demonstrate to the world the truth behind autism, what it is, and how much autistic individuals add to the positive whole of society. Green currently lives in Fremont, California, with his family.

I love it that there are many beings in the story: humans, dwarves, elves, forest spirits, sages and dragons. And that the story ends peacefully.

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Rating: 8.3/10 (8 votes cast)

The Journey to Smaug

Review of The Hobbit; J.R.R. Tolkien; Harper Collins 2012; First published by George Allen and Unwin 1937; Rs 299; p 365

– Shana Susan Ninan

With fanciful illustrations and well thought out maps, and a superb adventure plot, Tolkien’s book doesn’t fail to please kids and adults alike. Whenever there’s news of a movie adaptation of a novel, I try to read the book before heading to the cinema. Here, too, I’m sure the book’d prove to be better.

Bilbo Baggins the hobbit is woken up to a rather hilarious morning after a visit by Gandalf, announcing that the hobbit is to ‘assist’ certain ‘somebodys’ in tracking a certain treasure. Little does he realise what he’s in for as the dwarves start trickling into his neat home. All this thoughts of a quiet bread and bacon breakfast is ruined as he finds more than a dozen dwarves swarming into the hobbit-hole, and super-hungry ones at that.

Talk about food, as you read along, you get this nagging feeling that this plot was once upon a bedtime story the author probably told his kids. Where else would hobbits have bacon for breakfast? And other processed foods. But the story is an absolutely engaging one, taking us through a journey across forests, mountains and rivers.

The hobbit isn’t one for adventure, he’d rather prefer his comfy bed and warm hut to facing the dangers in the wild. At first, even the dwarves don’t take him too seriously. However, as they travel together, confront dangers as a pack, and finally when the hobbit’s instincts are honed in the jungle, and he saves the dwarves many a times, they’re convinced of his innate powers.

The finding of the ring by Bilbo turns events on the head – armed with the power to be invisible, he takes things a step further by venturing to lead the group. And rightly so. The various escapades and active narration keep us glued to the pages.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (6 votes cast)

Of Fairies, Forests And Fate

Review of The Lost Pearl of Paradise – In Search of a Fairy; Abiral; Frog Books 2012; Rs 195; pp 271

– Shana Susan Ninan

That The Lost Pearl of Paradise was written by Abiral when he was 15 years old and aspires to write a hundred more novels, was what struck me at first look itself! In his book, the Brahmaputra Basin is the cradle of civilisation – one that predates even the Indus Valley and the Nile civilisations. When a whole tribe of people is erased from the face of the Earth, little did the villains think that a young girl – or rather a fairy – would be the one to lead the others in their race, spread all over the world, to light and to resurrect their goddess.

Abiel, as his mother named him, begins the story as a flashback and we’re transported to a different time and land – of fairies, forests and fate. The fairy, Pari is the chosen one. And she has to find the red pearl of paradise to save the people of her tribe. But the villains on the way just make her attempts harder, and success difficult to achieve.

I found the story a little disjointed at parts – nothing a little careful observation and editing can’t improve. The several, back and forth tiffs and make-ups between Abiel and the fairy, too, are disturbing. This doesn’t give a smooth flow to the plot.

What does stand out is the fantastical thinking and processing that has gone into the book. Author Abiral has done a good job of it.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (6 votes cast)

Chasing The ‘Eye’

Review of  Terror on the Titanic – A Morningstar Agency Adventure; Samit Basu; Scholastic June 2010; pp 195; Rs 150

– Shana Susan Ninan

Before I dug into the famous GameWorld trilogy by Samit Basu, I wanted to read one of his previous works. Terror on the Titanic – A Morningstar Agency Adventure is peppered with awesome adventure, fantasy and chases.

This young adult fiction novel has Nathaniel Brown, an Anglo-Indian reporter handling – or rather trying to – his first case alone. It’s 1912, and most of the action happens onboard the Titanic, yep, Titanic. And Nathaniel’s job is to make sure that the Eye of the Empire – a large ruby – does not reach America. His colleague and love interest, Genevieve comes to his aid in chasing the Eye that’s sought after by many, out of whom not all are human.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (19 votes cast)

Tolkien’s Epic Fantasy Turns ‘Best Film of The Decade’

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s work of epic fantasy, was adapted into a radio series broadcast as early as 1955, by BBC. It was made into an animated film in 1978, by Ralph Bakshi.

But the book received much acclaim after the film Trilogy came out in 2001, 2002 and 2003. It has been adapted into many video games, too. Not to mention its predecessors – card games and board games.

Entertainment Weekly has named The Lord of the Rings trilogy as the ‘Best Film of the Decade’ in their magazine poll of the 100 best books, characters, films, series, etc.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)