Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Throne of the Crescent Moonby Saladin Ahmed

Book review by Dan Tres OMi

This is yet another book I stumbled upon. The cover was immediately appealing. After reading the first two pages, I fell in love with the story. Saladin Ahmed introduces us to the ancient city of Dhamsawaat. A city ruled by a corrupt Khalif and besieged by The Falcon Prince, the precursor to Robin Hood, who is loved by the poor but hated by the rich and royalty. It is in this atmosphere we meet Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, the last of the real ghul hunters, and his young assistant the Dervish Raseed bas Raseed. Makhslood spends his time fighting off ghuls and defending people who have no other place to go. Raseed is a Dervish who has committed himself to fighting The Traitorous Angel (Shataan) with his very life.

I think the best part about this story are the two main characters. On one hand we have Makhslood who is an elder gentleman who has fought ghuls most of his life. He is looking to get out of the ghul hunting business since he is getting old and tired. He would rather spend his days reading books and sipping tea. Makhslood is a practicing Muslim but is very lax in his rituals. He openly flirts with women, enjoys fighting, and is known to celebrate just a little too much. He is like that loving uncle we all have and love to be around despite the fact that our parents would rather he not show up most of the time. Raseed on the other hand is extremely pious, young, and naive. His worldview is in complete conflict with his mentor. Their interaction is wonderful to watch. When it comes to fighting ghuls, their partnership is as one.

Ahmed throws many elements and characters into the story that forces Makhslood and Raseed to question their arrangement. In the end, they stay true to one another and win the day. Ahmed does a great job providing a full tapestry of the religion of Islam. You have your everyday practitioners, your mystics, and fundamentalists all wrapped up in a story of adventure. One need not know the history of Islam to appreciate this. One can't help but to fall in love with the characters as well as the city of Dhamsawaat. I look forward to hearing more tales about Makhslood and Raseed and the fate of the city of Dhamsawaat. Ahmed has introduced the reader to a great and wonderful world from our distant past.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Legend of Korra

It's easy to see that being a sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fan, it's a love and hate relationship especially when you are raising children. You want to see characters that look like you. You want to see heroines who are independent and fierce. And yes in the 21st century, there are still stereotypes galore. So it's difficult to navigate in those genres.

I really enjoyed Avatar: the Last Airbender. Most of all our children really enjoyed it. It was something we shared together and we felt like we watched Aang and his crew grow. I was really hurt by the movie adaptation. I mean when Hollywood does it bad, which is quite often, they pull out all the stops. So we had our fingers crossed when the news came out that they were continuing the Avatar series on Nickelodeon. It was frustrating to hear the news about the dates being pushed back and there were very few teasers. When it finally arrived, it was well worth the wait.

The Legend of Korra begins 50 years after the events from the original series. Aang is dead and Korra, from the Southern Water Tribe, is the new avatar. While she has mastered the fire, water, and earth elements, she is having trouble mastering air bending. Initially, she is slated to train with Tenzin, Aang's son and council person for Republic City. However, when Tenzin arrives and explains that he will not be able to train Korra, she decides to take matters into her own hands. That is when the adventure begins.

It seems that most of the action will take place in Republic City. It reminds me of Shanghai in the movie "Legend of the Fist: Return of Chen Zen." Now just add air ships, metal bending police, and triads, and you have the Legend of Korra. I loved "Legend of the Fist" and love Legend of Korra even more. Chief of Police Lin Beifong, is actually Toph's daughter, and has no love for the Avatar and would prefer to see Korra leave Republic City. This adds so much tension to the story.

Unlike the original series, Korra is not on the run from the Fire Nation. She even does press conferences which I think are hilarious. However, there is currently an anti-bender movement headed by the mysterious Amon. Korra doesn't help matters since she ends up destroying so much property when fighting. This brings more sentiment against her mission.

Through her antics and fierce independence, Korra sneaks out again and discovers the bending tournaments where fire, water, and earth benders battle it out for the everyone's entertainment. She actually joins a team and this eventually helps her with her air bending. Korra meets Mako and Bolin. Bolin is the comedian of the team. Mako is the serious one and of course, Korra's love interest. I like the idea that bending in the modern area has a commercial slant to it. This idea makes perfect sense. Tenzin, who is a monk, is dead set against Korra's entry into the tournaments but he eventually sees its worth.

Overall, this looks like it's a great series that will surpass the original in so many ways. I can't wait to learn about what happened to the other members of Aang's circle. It is great to see his children and grandchildren at play and they will be important to the story. You don't have to go back and watch the original series to understand what is going on. I think this is the best part of this series. It's a new Avatar, so there will be new stories and new adventures for everyone to pick up on.