Harry Potter & the Cursed Child; The Play reviewed.

Harry Potter CC#14It’s Sunday the 14th August 2016, the date has been the biggest highlight of our year since the announcement of a new Harry Potter. Tickets so high in demand, on the day of release I joined the queue at 9646, despite sitting refreshing both my phone & Mac constantly 10 minutes before they were due to go on sale.

The Palace theatre is incredible, a fine example of architecture that just feels perfect for a grand performance of magical proportions. Me & my family seated a few rows from the front with an outstanding view. Whilst London outside is enjoying a chilled out Sunday, a break from it’s usual demanding hustle & bustle, the theatre is full of excited Potter fans of all generations. The curtain displaying a stylish ‘H’ already gives the impression that this is a more sophisticated style to the HP we are all familiar with. As the curtain raises, the excitement and tension is pushed to another level, with gasps from the other early arrivals, followed by more speedy whispering about favourite characters, wands, spells, books and films. People have travelled miles from all over the world to be part of this exclusive show.

But….WHY??

Since I was a young adult I have obsessed over the world created by J. K. Rowling. Obsessed with both the books and films. J. K. Rowling totally reigniting my love of reading. As a child I always had my head in a book. I loved going into spare oom to visit Narnia, fight Orcs on my way through Middle Earth and travel around with a man of many faces in a blue police box. However reading for my own enjoyment stopped whilst having to read for school coursework and the demands of becoming an adult.
But along came Harry Potter! and because of its huge success, reading became cool again. Books that all generations could enjoy reading to each other, a wonderful story that so cleverly and beautifully matured with its reader.

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I had spent a few years living in London, (where I can say I even once cooked for J. K. Rowling) which made my journey just a little more magical. With such an incredible cast of diverse characters everybody is able to relate to at least one or two of them. Myself a cross between Luna Lovegood & Tom Riddle. Barely a day goes by in our house without a reference to Harry Potter; whether its my children growing up reading the books, watching the films, listening to Audiobooks, playing games and building Lego. Furthermore Harry Potter has had such an influence on my love of reading fantasy and now studying for a degree in creative writing.

So the curtain is raised and in front of us are suitcases, a large clock and a floating hat, we are at Kings Cross 19 years later. Despite attending the midnight opening for the book, I decided not to read it, I wanted to be genuinely in the dark. I knew it was to pick up at the scene left in the book and film, that awful moment for me ’19 years later’, that awful moment that meant closure for Harry potter, whilst Danny Rad & Rupert Grint had not aged particularly well. So was this Rowling’s plan all along? did she have a back up in case she could just not stay away from Hogwarts, writing under a pseudonym? Harry Potter CC#3
The script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been met with an overwhelming response, the best sales in the first week since… The last Harry Potter book! However it seems many believed that the script would not be an actual script. So along with it’s success it has also been a target of much criticism, which is totally justified. But what is also justified is the choice Rowling has made. Harry Potter has sold millions of books. The films have been watched all over the world, and as a huge Harry potter fan there is nothing better than seeing the author put herself on the line and give fans something entirely different, something intimate and exclusive, a ‘slug club’ for the fans! I understand I am speaking from the perspective of somebody lucky enough to see the show, live close enough to it and be able to afford it (at the sacrifice of a holiday) But it at least presents an opportunity for ‘Sirius’ HP fans. So. Why release the script I hear you say? Because like it or loathe it, the demand was there, the best selling book in its first week for 10 years, says it all. I’m sure given the choice Rowling would have us all transported on the Hogwarts express to a theatre big enough for us all to see. I am sure this show will travel the world and I expect it will someday the play will be released in cinemas. If you plan to see it and have not read the script, Good! Do not! It will be worth the wait, I promise you.
Half-way through part 1 and I cannot believe how breathtaking the performance has been. I make my way out thinking its the end of part one. The effects are awesome, it is not just a play it is a magic show with incredible stage trickery. The changes of scene are so smooth and clean. The props and the make up are perfect, matching the style of the books artistry so much more than the films were able to, this is not a hollywood movie with lots of takes and green screens, this is live, honest, well rehearsed acting and all under the watchful eye of hundreds of HP fans with very high expectations. Very critical fans who will not be tricked with parts that do not fit!

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Both parts 1&2 shown in one day. 5 hours of Harry Potter! and there is not one disappointed face, there is a standing ovation for the cast as they bow to the audience and I am thinking I could sit there and watch it again and again. My heart raced through the show, the perfect combination of tragedy, comedy and nostalgia. And believe me when I say I do want to #keepthesecrets but the dementors were bloody incredible! I could genuinely feel my soul being sucked out by their kiss!
However, The major flaw in the script is very simple. The story is good and I love it. It is packed with great ideas and it works. As with HP 1-7 there is little that people can really criticise. Rowling’s memory and attention to the details and the back story are spot on. But the script is not the best bit by any stretch of the imagination!
The real stars of Harry Potter and the cursed child were Anthony Boyle and Sam Clemmett aka Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter. I guess the main focus would have been on Albus, who as the child of the famous Harry potter has an awful lot to live up to and when chosen by the sorting hat to be put in Slytherin it seems he is doomed. I felt his emotion throughout the whole play, his nervousness, his pain and depression feeling like the world is on his shoulders. Clemmett is incredibly talented, he shone and despite not being alone in scenes it was like watching a beautiful monologue about a young boy growing up wanting an identity of his own which nobody seems willing to let him have. In contrast to Albus there is Scorpius, played by Boyle who is rumoured to be son of the dark lord, but who is a total geek and loves school and is used to being shunned and a loner. But Boyle has accepted this, and uses his wit and heart to shrug off any haters. When Albus offers to be the friend of Scorpius on the Hogwarts Express (despite Granger trying to pull him away) Scorpius jumps at the chance offering Albus his sweets. He becomes so devoted to Albus, but of course a Malfoy and a Potter is a friendship frowned upon by both sides and eventually forbidden. These two young actors are without a doubt the stars of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and will go on to do many more great characters. The previous night I had watched the complete series of Stranger things and been blown away by the young actors and how confident they were. Anthony Boyle and Sam Clemmett were no exception and completely deserve every standing ovation they receive. In the words of Albus Dumbledore “It is, as they say, their party”

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If you love Harry Potter or even if you do not, you must see this show.. Simply Incredible!

This review was written by The Fantasy Book Collector @kvothe1984. As well as writing reviews I collect & deal in rare & signed Fantasy books. I will also be adding some collectible HP Lego to the store soon. http://thefantasybookcollector.com

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Achtung! Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War – John Houlihan

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Achtung! Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War
John Houlihan

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • 317 pages
  • Publisher: Modiphius (13 Dec. 2015)
  • ASIN: B019CCX8R8

 

It seems to be a standard trope that whenever a story involves the Third Reich and any form of technology, contact or lifeforms that are fantasy or horror-based, it is inevitable that the Nazi regime begins to Meddle With Things It Should Not Meddle With. (I’ve never seen a story that posits the Nazis digging up something forbidden/alien/fantastical and deciding that it’s probably better to leave it alone; although now that I think about it, I really want to read something like that.) To an extent this is understandable, as in reality the leadership of the Third Reich dabbled extensively in esoteric, arcane and generally dubious occult areas before and during the Second World War: the SS expedition to Tibet, the Thule Society, and Himmler’s interest in racial purity and related mysticism are all generally well-known and provide sufficiently fertile soil to generate a distinctive and popular sub-genre of stories.

The flip side of the above coin is that the Nazi Meddling must be opposed by the Allies in some form; usually by a small group of agents from an official yet shady/mysterious agency within one of the Allied governments. This is fine, as it’s an integral part of the sub-genre, but my greatest issue with this is the fact that the Allies are usually portrayed as the good guys. I know that this follows the general historical narrative, and in a sub-genre rife with fantastical objects and Lovecraftian horrors it might seem ridiculous to use the phrase ‘realistic’; but to me it seems unrealistic in portraying the Allies as paragons of virtue, fighting the good fight against the Nazi menace with only a Thompson and a stubble-covered chin. Indiana Jones is an excellent example of this, and the only counter-point I can think of is Charles Stross’ brilliant The Laundry Files series, which hints that Her Majesty’s Government engaged in repeated attempts to harness Lovecraftian horrors to its own advantage.

I therefore had the above in mind when I picked up a copy of Achtung! Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War, an anthology edited by John Houlihan, author of The Trellborg Monstrosities, The Crystal Void and The Tomb of the Aeons. As with the previous titles I’ve reviewed, the anthology is based in the world of the Achtung Cthulhu! RPG, and the marketing blurb on the back cover initially seems to play into the standard trope, pitching the villainous Nazi Black Sun and their rival organisation Nachtwolfe against “…the heroic Allied forces of Section M and Majestic.” However, as you progress throughout the anthology, it quickly becomes apparent that the Allies (and particularly the British War Office) are no better than the Third Reich in terms of their attempts to use occult means to win the war.

Usually when I read an anthology, I find a handful of stories that stand out as excellent, with the rest ranging from decent to good. However, with Dark Tales, John Houlihan has excelled in curating a collection of stories that are of a unanimously high standard. It would take too long to review each story in detail, but there are a particular few tales within the anthology that I think need to be highlighted due to how well-written and enjoyable they were.

David J Rodger’s Shadow of the Black Sun is an excellent introduction to the anthology, taking a grunt-eye level of occult warfare through the eyes of a bored and fractious Wehrmacht squad guarding an isolated section of Norwegian coastline, who soon realise that the Black Sun is far more of a danger to them than the Allies could ever be. Shadows of the 603rdby Richard Dansky is based around the oft-neglected activities of battlefield deception, and sees a specialist group of American engineers, artists and designers challenged with constructing what initially appears to be a film set under battlefield conditions. They rapidly realise, however, that not all is as it seems, and that their eye for detail may actually be the only way to save the entire war effort. The King in Waiting by Dan Griliopoulos and Concerning Rudolf Hess, Mr Buckle and the Book by Paul Cunliffw are perhaps the best tales in the anthology, and both are focused on the lengths that elements of the British government will go to in order to win the war. In particular, Griliopoulos’ tale of Nazi and British agents fighting to control Sir Oswald Mosely depicts a British establishment that not only wants to use occult experiments to triumph in the war against the Third Reich, but will also go to extreme and disturbing lengths to preserve the British Empire as well. Finally, John Houlihan’s Servant of the Dark poses the intriguing question of which is worse: men who use evil actions to further a cause they believe in, or men who try and benefit from those evil actions without sharing that conviction.

In conclusion, this is an action-packed anthology full of well-written and –paced stories that deserves to be on the shelf of any horror or Lovecraft fan. I hope to see a sequel to it in the future, one which would hopefully focus more on the neglected Eastern and Pacific Fronts; despite the huge impact these fronts had on the Second World War, and the huge amounts of Russian and Japanese mythology available to tap into, these countries are very rarely featured in this sub-genre.
This review was written by Adam Selby-Martin ‘Fantasy Fan’ @Skinny878

Free sample of Achtung! Cthulhu: Dark Tales from the Secret War 

Blurb from the back;
Dark Tales is a collection of 13 stories set in Modiphius’ Achtung! Cthulhu universe, a world which mixes the terrors of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos with mankind’s darkest yet finest hour, the second world war.

13 unhallowed stories await within it’s covers, which range from the wilds of the South Pacific, to the dark depths of the Black Forest, to the icy wastes of Norway, and they come from a stellar cast of writers including David J Rodger, Destiny The Taken King and Fable: The Journey writer Martin Korda, Splinter Cell’s Richard Dansky and the strange mind of horror master Patrick Garratt!

Inside you’ll find dark tales involving the nefarious Black Sun, Nachtwolfe and their Nazi masters, who are opposed by the heroic Allied forces of Section M and Majestic. Expanding and exploring the Achtung! Cthulhu universe in bold, new narrative-led ways, Dark Tales can be enjoyed purely on its own as a collection of thrilling stories, but it will also serve as an inspiration for many more adventures in the Achtung! Cthulhu universe.

Dark Tales From the Secret War

Shadow of the Black Sun – David J Rodger
Bloodborn in Sarandë – Patrick Garratt
Der Alptraum – JE Bryant
Terror of Tribeč – Martin Korda
Shadows of the 603rd – Richard Dansky
The King in Waiting – Dan Griliopoulos
Servant of the Dark – John Houlihan
The Heart of the Sea – Mick Gall
Danger Nazi UXO – Will Salmon
In the Flesh – Josh Vogt
Amid the Sands of Deepest Time – Jason Brick
Concerning Rudolf Hess, Mr Buckle and the Book- Paul Cunliffe
The Curse of Cthulhu – Jake Webb

About the Editor – John Houlihan has been a writer, journalist and broadcaster for over twenty five years, working in news, sport and especially videogames. He has been employed by The Times, Sunday Times and Cricinfo, was PC editor at GameSpot and is a former Editor-in-Chief of Computer and Video Games.com.

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V. E. Schwab interview at Waterstones Piccadilly

Last night I attended an evening with V. E. Schwab which was lots on fun. Victoria is clearly a very talented writer who chooses to write between the lines of good and evil rather than the usual format of having Heroes/Heroines and Villains/Villaines. Her writing is a reflection of the world around her through a fuzzy lens.

 

I filmed most of the session for those who could not attend, there are some really great writing tips as well as some great talk on her new novel ‘This Savage Song’ (which I am currently reading) and her previous works such as ‘Vicious’, ‘A Gathering of Shadows’ & my favourite book of 2015 by a female author ‘A Darker Shade of Magic.’ Enjoy.

Victoria was kind enough to sign books after the event. I picked up an copy of her new novel This Savage Song signed to give away, this is the UK first edition. To be in with a chance please comment below with the reason you would like a copy, genuine readers only please, no droids or cybermen.

The winner picked at random is E.Maree.
Congratulations!!

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child midnight opening Waterstones Piccadilly

As a family we absolutely love Harry Potter, although this may not be the release that everyone would hope for extending the storyline, being a script rather than a book. Personally I think it is amazing for fans to have an alternative to the books, audiobooks and films. The theatre production will be cast all over the world, we are going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed child in a couple of weeks, we are so excited. J.K Rowling deserves so much credit, with the height HP reached she did not need to write more, however if you read/watch the end of Deathly Hallows you have to wonder if Rowling always had this planned but needed to take a few steps back. I was a bit disappointed in the books she wrote under her pseudonym, I would have expected something more imaginative, there is little Rowling recognition, however to continue and have the passion to keep writing is just incredible. She is an inspiration to me, my partner and my children to pick up a book and read and be blown away by the amount of detail, emotion and magic packed inside or even pick up a pen and create something magical of your own.

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I attended the midnight opening for the release of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with my partner, 6 year old daughter and 9 year old son. he got so much attention in his Draco Malfoy outfit and wrote this review of the event. If you were there say hi!!

On Saturday 30th July me, my mum, dad and sister travelled to London for the release of Harry Potter and the cursed child. It was a late night for us as the party started at 10pm and the release at midnight. We had some drinks next to the theatre where it was the opening day for the play, but missed J.K. Rowling. We are going to see the play in a couple of weeks during the summer holiday.

We all dressed up for the release, I was Draco Malfoy who is my favourite character because he is cool, and smart and he has very blonde hair like me. We also have similar personalities, my parents know all about this. For my outfit I wore a Slytherin cloak, waistcoat, and shirt green tie and had his wand. My sister dressed as Hermoine Granger, mummy went as Luna Lovegood and daddy went as Sirius Black, although his wig was not very serious.

We arrived in good time for the queue we were about 20 back from the front, in the queue I was being interviewed and had lots of pictures taken it was also great being amongst so many other Potter fans.

When the doors finally opened at 10:05pm my dad disarmed the cameraman with Expelliarmus and we were off. When we first got Waterstones was amazing, decorated with loads of Harry Potter things. The first thing that caught my eye was Hagrids motorbike and all the merchandise. We visited Honeydukes and got lots of sweets including some soapy bons-bons which were not so nice. We visited the three broomsticks and got some butterbeer with no alcohol, my mum and dad were not so impressed with theirs, rum & cream soda not a good combo, it should have been butterscotch flavoured beer.

We entered the tombola; daddy won a deathly hallows journal, which he is already writing, reviews in. We wrote on the ‘what does harry potter mean to you board’ I wrote ‘Everything’ We couldn’t find the dressing up competition and therefore was also late to the quiz which we were all really gutted about. So we went and looked around at the movie props that were incredible including the sword of Gryffindor, marauders map, gringotts coins, lots of the outfits including Hagrid and qudditch robes.

My sister and me played quidditch that was lots of fun and worked really well as a sport, I scored 10 points with the quaffle, I could find a golden snitch though. Before queuing up for the book we visited the cupboard under the stairs and then queued, we watched the amazing violinists playing Harry Potter music. When midnight came we all counted down and sung Happy Birthday. We were amongst the first hundred people to get the book. Daddy read some to us in the car, which was awesome, but we are not going to read it until after the play so we don’t spoil it but cannot wait.

Written by Joshua Reynolds (Age 9) with help of daddy.

 

 

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Thank you Waterstones for an awesome time.
Click here to order

CpBGrz9XYAEiiH1If you have not visited Pottermore yet, I highly recommend it, we also featured in an article.

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Alex Verus #1-7 by Benedict Jacka

 

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Alex Verus by Benedict Jacka
#1 Fated
#2 Cursed
#3 Taken
#4 Chosen
#5 Hidden
#6 Veiled
#7 Burned 

UK imprint – Orbit
Pages – 416
Date released – 1st March 2012 – 7th April 2016
Audible 

 

If you have never been acquainted with Jacka’s protagonist Alex Verus you are certainly missing a hidden gem amongst the shelves in the fantasy isle. It maybe on it’s 7th book, but they are a great in between book like Discworld or Peter Grant. I highly recommend the audiobooks which me and partner listened too, great narrator – unsure why he says plarstic rather than plastic.

“I don’t sell spells, and I don’t sell tricks. I don’t carry illusions or marked cards or weighted coins. I cannot sell you an endless purse or help you win the lottery. I can’t make that girl you’ve got your eye on fall in love with you, and I wouldn’t do it even if I could. I don’t have a psychic hotline to your dead relatives, I don’t know if you’re going to be successful in your career, and I don’t know when you’re going to get married. I can’t get you into Hogwarts or any other kind of magic school, and if you even mention those stupid sparkly vampires I will do something unpleasant to you.”
— Benedict Jacka (Cursed (Alex Verus, #2))

Alex Verus is a mage who runs a shop in London selling non-magical ‘magical’ items to the general public and real magical items to witches and wizards, however these are hidden out of sight. Mages have different abilities falling into three families;

Elemental – Earth, Air, Fire, Water (sounds the like the theme tune to Captain Planet) Ice etc, the most common type of magic.

Living – Affecting others thoughts, emotions and the ability to shape shift.

Universal – The rarest and coolest, Divination, Chance, Time and Space.

The magic system is very simple and does not have any negative impact on Jacka’s writing which is flowing, laid back and generally lots of fun with moments of intensity and madness.

Alex Verus has the power of divination, the way Jacka combines the divination alongside the narrative is very clever, in a very short space of time Verus often needs to use his mage sight to check out all the alternatives for his next action to find the result that will end up with him ultimately not being killed. Ideally Alex just wants to have a relaxed life in his shop but the reality is so many people want him dead both dark mages (the baddies) and the light mages (the supposed goodies, think our government) So why is Verus such a target?

To become a mage Alex had to be trained by a master, in his case a dark mage (Richard Drakh the Voldemort of  dark mages.) which involved Alex’s mage sight being used in exchange for his own life as part of some very unpleasant jobs against other mages. Alex eventually escaped the bonds of his master and made every effort to turn good and be recognised this way by the light council, however there is a snobbery amongst the light mages which there seems to be no return from being tainted by the dark leading to Alex being stitched up, framed or assassinated, furthermore without the protection of his dark master he is an open target for all the dark mages he p*ssed off whilst in service to Richard Drakh.

“As I walked, I started making a list of everyone in the mage world whom I’d opposed, fought with, or otherwise irritated. After I ran out of fingers to count on I 9780356504407decided to limit the number to people I’d pissed off relatively recently.”
— Benedict Jacka (Cursed (Alex Verus, #2))

Verus is an outcast, with his best form of defence is to rebel and outwit the hierarchy, which he does brilliantly, even if occasionally with the attitude of a 16 year old teenager. However when he becomes a master himself and has his own apprentice, he is determined to erase all memories of his own training by supporting her the best way he can, this leads to him making some good friends but at a cost making the target on his back a whole lot bigger and himself a lot more vulnerable.

I have made sure I have not added spoilers but I must say the end of Burned will leave you screaming out for book number 8, excellent series.

 

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About the author: Benedict Jacka became a writer almost by accident, when at nineteen he sat in his school library and started a story in the back of an exercise book. Since then he’s studied philosophy at Cambridge, lived in China, and worked as everything from civil servant to bouncer to teacher before returning to London to take up law.

 

 

 

The Fireman – Joe Hill

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The Fireman – Joe Hill
UK Publisher – Gollancz
Pages – 768
Date Released – June 7th 2016
Lowest Price – Amazon £13.60
Signed – Anderida Books £25
Format – Hardcover
ISBN – 9780575130715
Reviewed by The Fantasy Book Collector @kvothe1984

2/5

My least favourite Joe Hill book. I am a huge fan but The Fireman lacks the intensity and insanity of previous works. Maybe this is Joe Hills ‘Black album’ to hit a wider mainstream audience, which I can understand. In fact it almost feels like it has been written for a netflix series, apocalypses are like the in thing at the moment, whilst the mention of a fireman makes most women blush. However I really struggled to feel for any of the characters, the main character Harper (not the fireman) is too easily pushed around and bullied for someone who managed to escape her evil husband. She is heavily pregnant, she should be using crazy hormonal driven methods to protect her child and having cravings for flesh or something would have been more comparable to previous JH. The fireman, her saviour, with super fire powers is barely in the picture until the end, being allowed to live isolated on an island whilst Camp Wyndham is being run by a psycho control freak. Furthermore it was not until the fireman got to spray his hose after pages and pages of flirting with Harper to finally get involved.

Great start.
Middle too long.
Good finale.
I love Joe Hill.
I hate camping.
This one was not for me, however I expect many will enjoy.

About the Author (Wikipedia) Joseph Hillstrom King (born June 4, 1972), better known by the pen name Joe Hill, is an American author and comic book writer. He has published four novels—Heart-Shaped BoxHornsNOS4A2 and The Fireman—and a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts. He is also the author of the comic book series Locke & Key. He is the son of authors Stephen and Tabitha King.