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Series Review: A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches is essentially a forbidden romance between a vampire and a witch, based on All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. My first reaction: groan, cliché. I am not one for cliché and tropes. I gave A Discovery of Witches a shot though, because our protagonist witch Diana Bishop is a brilliant history professor. Well, that’s an uncliché heroine profession, and she does all these cool things like rowing, yoga, running…

I like heroines that exercise.

Okay, fine. I like heroines that exercise. I’m a deep believer of exercise. Turns out the further I watch and get into the story, the more I like it.

The Story Gets Better and Better

And the main reason is that it gets less and less cliché . I am not sure how the author did this because all the plot devices used are all “old” – in season two the vampire Matthew and the witch Diana travels back in time to Elizabethan England. I mean, isn’t time travel annoying by now? Apparently not in this series.

The time travelling in Season Two is used to build and strengthen some very important relationships, and I think that’s why it works. There was also a beautiful part in which some characters from the past sent messages to characters in the future and WOW. I’m speechless.

Despite the premise of witches and vampires, I find Diana and Matthew (the protagonist blood sucker)’s romantic relationship to be very realistic, and actually rather an ideal relationship to strive for. They’re not toxic like Edward and Bella in Twilight (I think that’s where my ban of the species started). Matthew’s got some trippy things going on due to his genetics, but everyday he tries to handle and manage it. Diana is right there next to him and she never leaves him. Bad days, good days, she’s there. They can count on each other.

I also love how Diana is such a powerful character – she never lets Matthew be too overbearing or overprotective, she reminds him of his place – and of hers.

Strong Side Characters

Aside from Diana and Matthew, this series has a whole lot of very interesting side characters and strong female characters. Other witches and vampires, the demon species (demon congresswoman Agatha Wilson is a rock star!), and some of the humans (Phoebe, damn girl) were kick-ass and really pulled me in.

All in all, I am very glad I gave this series a shot. By the way, if you’re looking for another show with kick-ass heroines, do check on the hit series Shadow and Bone.

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Series Review: His Dark Materials (Season 2)

Season 2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials just finished on the 21st of December, with a 7th episode that will not disappoint fans. After a slow build up throughout this season, the last two episodes have been fast paced as everyone intersects in a world inhibited by soul sucking creatures known as specters (think JK Rowling’s dementors).

In this world, a weapon called The Subtle Knife was made which can slice through anything: even the veils between universes. Here Will Parry, destined Bearer of the Knife meets our heroine Lyra Silvertongue. Here also their budding relationship starts, triggering events which will lead to The Fall of Eve. The witches know that Lyra is Eve, so they rally to protect her.

How Does the Show Compare to the Book?

HBO largely preserves author Phillip Pullman’s masterful storytelling, with the exception of how one of the character’s die. HBO also took more liberty to dig deeper into Mrs. Coulter’s psychology, but who wouldn’t with such a bravura performance by Ruth Wilson?

Would I Recommend to Friends?

Not if you are a religious conservative. Unlike The Golden Compass (2007 film with Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter), HBO stays true to Pullman’s main views about freedom of will, the importance of celebrating physical and natural senses, and the unjust tyranny of, well, God himself. If you’re more open to such view, then this is an epic series absolutely worth your time.

What Did I Like Most?

Amir Wilson as Will Parry! He carries the brooding outcast-warrior character well.

What Did I Like Least?

What in the multiple worlds happened to our heroine? Lyra was clever, confident, and relentless throughout Season 1. Here she gets more and more subdued towards the end of Season 2. She questions herself, the aletheometer, makes too big a deal of her mistakes, and lets her fears dictate her decisions. Is it really necessary to put her into such a corner? Perhaps, or perhaps not.

Do you follow this series? What did you think?

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Series Review: The Queen’s Gambit

Easily one of the best Netflix series in 2020 is the fictional story of Beth Harmon, child chess prodigy. Told in 6 episodes, The Queen’s Gambit had me completely hooked since the first move to the last checkmate. I am a chess lover and amateur chess player, so I could really appreciate the interplay between the game and her life.

“It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it; I can dominate it. And it’s predictable, so if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

Beth Harmon, The queen’s Gambit

In chess every player begins with the same pieces. The area is defined, the rules are clear. Everyone is equal in the game. How different it is in the real world, especially in a society that downplays women! There are so many factors which daily put women at a disadvantage, making it seem like a woman is fighting not just one, but several different armies at once. As a chess master, Beth actually does this a couple times throughout the series. This display shows off not only her chess skills but all of the challenges she has to overcome in order to be the world champion.

Beth enters into a special mental state in order to visualize the chess board on the ceiling. It is a state of deep concentration. Relaxed yet focused, calm yet ready. Many athletes, performing artists, and writers will be familiar with this state of mind. It can be practiced daily with meditation techniques. Beth thought (wrongly) that she could only get to that special mind place with substances. She became addicted, and her addiction could have destroyed her life if not for unexpected friends who stepped in just in time. What a lesson about friendship. It reminded me of how a couple of friends helped me survive and move past my own eating disorder, which lasted a whole decade.

All in all, I loved the Queen’s Gambit, and would recommend it to anyone, even those who don’t like chess.

I didn’t read the book though, so if anyone has read the book, please let me know in the comments what you thought of the novel?