Trailer Tuesday

There are very few things I geek out over more than Shakespeare, so imagine my barely containable glee when I saw this trailer for the first time this week:

I am rabidly chomping at my metaphorical bit to see this movie. Historical intrigue! Political bribery! And thousands of moments that are just begging for a good “You can’t handle the truth!” to be blurted out. As if Elizabethan England and a plot revolving around Shakespeare weren’t enough, I love that they’re playing the plagiarism/ghost writer angle.

Did Shakespeare actually write his entire canon? I’m certain that a Hollywood production will not provide definitive answers, but it looks to be darn good entertainment at the very least.

Had you seen this trailer yet? What are your thoughts on the movie?

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Book: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: February 1, 2010
Source: Ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: The Iron Fey #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth – that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

First impressions: Meghan is a sweet girl, although somewhat invisible to the people around her. She’s ignored or taunted at school, she lives on a hog farm thanks to her new stepdad, and she has a quirky male best friend who never lets her see where he lives. With her 16th birthday coming up, her life felt vaguely reminiscent of a Molly Ringwald movie (or, say, all of them).

Lasting impressions: Though the book felt like a mishmash of beloved ideas from lots of other sources, the ending was compelling enough to make me want to read on in the series.

Conflicting impressions: The plot lacked any kind of urgency for me. Meghan meanders her way through fairy land, and though time doesn’t really exist there, I kept wishing for there to be a deadline of sorts for her to be up against so the story kept moving forward. Instead, it felt like it dragged at parts because she didn’t know what she was doing, where she was going, or when she would eventually get there.

Overall impressions: If you like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Wicked Lovely, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then you’ll like this book. If you took these books/play/movie and tossed them in a blender, out would pop The Iron King. That isn’t to say there weren’t cool ideas here, it’s just that certain scenes seemed to remind me of other material, which was both comforting and disconcerting.

Meghan Chase is having a rough go at teenagerdom, and her life is quickly thrown into new territory when she comes home on her 16th birthday to find her brother replaced with a vicious changeling. Her best friend Robbie Goodfell, that merry prankster, uses this opportunity to reveal his true self, which of course is Puck. He introduces her to the hidden fairy world where he exists because he lives on in the hearts, minds, and legends of the human world.

From here, we learn of Meghan’s own ties to the fey, and she sets out to find her brother with the help of an often disappearing Puck, and a cat sidhe named Grimalkin. She encounters King Oberon and Queen Titania’s Seelie/Summer Court, and also is introduced to Queen Mab and Prince Ash of the Unseelie/Winter Court. As she continues to fumble her way around the land of the fey, she makes a lot of mistakes and deals and as a result, starts to figure out how things work down here. She’s resourceful, but too trusting and loyal – a fault Prince Ash warns her will be her downfall.

Ash is a bit of an enigma. I didn’t feel I got to know him very well in this book. In fact, most of the characters seemed to be held at a bit of a distance, so I didn’t truly connect with any of them. I liked Puck more because he’s, well, Puck. I’ve studied Puck and Claudius more than any other Shakespearean characters, and he’s very true to form here. I just wish he wasn’t a gawky redhead so I could find him as attractive as the dark and dreamy Ash. So for this book, at least, I’m calling Team Puck.

Meghan wanders in and out of dangerous situations, back and forth between the fey world and the mortal world, and there is no sense of how much time she has to rescue her brother, Ethan. If there had been a timeframe in which she had to find him, I think it would have pushed the urgency and created real consequences for Meghan’s failures. Instead, she got wrapped up in different battles and guessed her way toward finding him. She doesn’t find out who has him, or why, until the last few chapters of the book. This was very off putting for the middle section when I wanted someone to have some information that would drive the story.

I did appreciate the world created here, especially the conflict between the courts and the introduction of the titular Iron King. I’m very curious how this war will play out and what role Meghan will fill in its battles, especially given the binding agreements she had to make with some of the fey while trying to rescue Ethan. I found the book enjoyable in the end, and the overall reading experience was above average, so I give it four stars, though I hope the next books live up to the hype of being better than this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Steampunk and Shakespeare

I admit that until recently, if you had asked me what “steampunk” was I probably couldn’t have answered you.  After a teeny bit of online exposure and research…well, I’m still not entirely certain.  I know that it usually takes place in Victorian London and involves futuristic technology and gadgetry.  That’s where my knowledge pool runs dry.

According to Wikipedia, steampunk is “a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely usedâ??usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britainâ??that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.”

It’s a fascinating genre that seems to be (dare I say it?) gathering steam. My curiosity reached a tipping point when I saw a trending topic on Twitter for #steampunkshakespeare.  Quoi? I thought to myself.  I clicked this link and discovered that some steampunk writers are putting together a little submission request/contest for Shakespearean plays or sonnets that have been reworked as steampunk tales.

The idea is to create thoughtful new interpretations of Shakespeare’s universal stories through the steampunk genre.  It is not intended to be a mash-up or just Shakespeare with some airships thrown in.  The rules are basically:

1) Write 10,000 words or less on a scene, act, aspect of the story, or sonnet that turns Shakespeare into steampunk;
2) Make it recognizable and true to the original source material;
3) Use Shakespearean language if possible;
4) Keep violence and sexual situations within Shakespearean limits; and
5) Make the steampunk more than just “window dressing.”

The deadlines for submissions is May 30th.  Considering my deep love for Shakespeare, I’m thinking about taking a stab at this project, even if it doesn’t end in a submission.  It could be a fun exercise.

The glorious thing about Shakespeare is that his plays are so universal.  They can be transported in time or place and still tell a story that touches the heart.  His words still resonate with us today, and I’m always humbled by that fact.  In college, I was blessed to play a number of Shakespearean roles.  Some of the productions were more traditional, but some were experimental, like the gender-reversed Hamlet or the 1920s set A Comedy of Errors. You can play around with Shakespeare so much and yet still tell a powerful story, which is why this project is so great.

To rectify my steampunk knowledge deficiency, I’m declaring entry in another reading challenge.  Bookish Ardour is hosting a “Get Steampunked!” challenge, and to start I’m going to declare my participation at Geared/Level 1 and read 5 steampunk books next year.  That number may increase.  I already have a list of books I’d like to read, which I’ll include below.  Click the button to get more info on the challenge, and a number of others that BA is hosting.

Get Steampunked!

My reading list (so far):

1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
2. Soulless by Gail Carriger
3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

What do you think of steampunk novels?  Any other suggestions for books I should be reading in addition to or instead of those on my list?