“The Unsuspecting Mage” is book one of the seven book series, The Morcyth Saga, by Brian S. Pratt. It tells the story of James, a high school student from our very own Earth who, when he answers an unusual ad in the paper, finds himself thrust into a strange and dangerous unknown world with little to help him except a short book on magic (which he quickly loses—of course).
The story is pretty straightforward. James needs to return home, but he has no idea how to get there. He’s given some clues on what he’s wanted for in this world by a strange little impish creature that keeps showing up to “help” him. Other than that, he’s on his own. Eventually, he finds himself on a quest for information regarding the good god Morcyth whose religion was wiped out several centuries ago. This leads him from city to city across the land with a young boy named Miko to accompany him. He makes a few enemies (and a few friends) along the way. The book reaches its climax in a besieged city called the City of the Light. I won’t spoil the ending.
Overall, I found this book to be … unexceptional. That is what describes it best. It wasn’t awful by any stretch of the imagination; I was able to read it without too much difficulty over the course of a week or so. However, the writing wasn’t good enough to persuade me to get the next book in the series.
Strengths: there are a couple: most notably the positive moral character of the main character James. He comes across as a decent enough guy who makes morally decent decisions. That can be a plus or a minus depending upon the reader. Sometimes, he seemed almost too much of a goodie-two-shoes (or is it goodie-too-shoes?), in an unrealistic way—he always had sage advice and a willingness to go out of his way to help people to whom he owed nothing.
Weaknesses: there were a few. Most notable, the work (at least the version I got) was riddled with typos. And some of them were quite serious—entire missing words and whatnot. It got kind of annoying after a while. Also, and this may even be more significant, there was very little tension. Most of the people he encounters in his travels are normal everyday-types who aren’t out to hurt anybody, or deceive anybody; there are one or two exceptions, but they are mostly on the periphery. It doesn’t make for an exciting story. There was a lot of useless dialogue consisting of “Hi. How are you?” “Oh, I’m fine. And you?” and similar type stuff.
On a side note, the book is written in present tense. That can work, sometimes, if it’s done correctly. In this case, I think it averages out to be a neutral, adding nothing special to the work, nor taking too much away.
Overall, I’ll give this work two and half, or maybe three stars, out of five, if I’m feeling generous.
This review was originally posted on Smashwords on 3/31/13.
Of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to come out in the past few years, this one, The Curse of the Black Pearl, is by far the best. The next two in the series are decent, but by the time movie four comes around, it’s beginning to lose its luster. Anyway, this one was a creative imagining of the adventures of the pirate ship The Black Pearl. It is based on a ride of the same name in a Disney theme park. And I have to say, considering such humble origins, it is a remarkable tale (then again, it’s got Disney behind it). It stars Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom as the blacksmith turned pirate, William Turner, and Kiera Knightley (I think that’s her name) as the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann.
It’s a tale of swashbuckling pirates, cursed treasure, and cursed men. William Turner and Elizabeth Swann provide the romantic element to the story. There’s a bit of a clever preamble introducing the main characters and some of the tensions before the real action begins. Then, the Black Pearl, captained by Captain Balboza, lays siege to Port Royale (I think) the town where Elizabeth and William live. In her attempt to negotiate a cease-fire with the pirates, Elizabeth is captured and taken away with the Pearl. Shortly thereafter, William Turner, dissatisfied with the rescue efforts of the military under the command of Captain Norrington (another significant character), throws his lot in with Captain Jack Sparrow and sets off to rescue Elizabeth on his own. The adventures that follow are the stuff of legend and love.
There’s a great deal of lighthearted fun and comedy in this movie. Captain Jack Sparrow in particular provides a great deal of humor. Overall, there’s very little to complain about. The pacing is perfect. The humor is clean. The action is exciting. And the special effects are well-done. I’ve seen the movie a dozen or so times (I own it now), and normally, after so many viewings of a movie, I can usually pick out one or two logical flaws in the flow of the story. Not this one (at least, not off the top of my head). Everything fits together and flows very well. No glaring contradictions, and no gaping holes in the story line.
Anyway, I’ll give “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” four and half out of five stars. It might even be worth five stars, but I’ve seen it so many times it no longer holds any surprises, so that might be what’s holding me back.
“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is a fantasy, adventure film set during the time of the height of the Persian Empire. It, like several other movies in recent years, is based on a computer game. Nevertheless, it delivers a solid film experience. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the hero, Dastan, Gemma Arterton plays the beautiful heroine, Tamina, and Ben Kingsley plays the villain, Nizam, brother and cupbearer of King Sharaman.
The movie begins in a sort of Aladdin-esque way, with the young Dastan living on the streets causing problems for the guards. But things change quickly, and because of an act of extreme courage, Dastan finds himself taken into the home of King Sharaman who adopts him as a son. Fast forward a decade or so. The heir to the throne, Prince Tus, is misled to attack a holy city and is successful due to the efforts of Prince Dastan. However, things are not what they seem, and soon, Prince Dastan finds himself on the run with the beautiful Princess Tamina, accused of murdering King Sharaman. At first, Dastan is prepared to go to any length to prove his innocence, but soon finds out that much more is on the line than a simple assassination would make it seem. Indeed, the fate of the whole world may be at stake.
Overall, this was an excellent movie… assuming you can accept the whole time-traveling bit. The special effects were superb. The acting was good. And the story was intriguing and easy to follow. All good things. It was made by Disney, so it is family-friendly.
It wasn’t a pinnacle of cinematic glory, but I can’t think of any major flaws in it. I liked it enough that I bought it and I throw it in the old DVD player periodically.
Anyway, I’ll give it a solid four and a half out of five stars.