Lovecraft Country (Meet Me in Daegu) Episode 6 Spoiler-free Review

The Series is Bold Enough to Ask What Makes a Monster

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the sixth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

What is a monster? Can a monster have human emotions? Can a human who has done monstrous things still be a human? These are the questions that the sixth episode of Lovecraft Country wrestles with. Not enough horror poses this question and those that do typically just ask it on the surface. This episode was masterful at asking this question and forcing the audience to truly think about it.

The episode itself is basically a flashback episode that relates to the larger story. It’s the only episode so far that does not take place in America but that’s all that I am going to tell you because I really don’t want to give this one away.

I think if this show is going to win Emmys in the future, it should be this episode that is considered. The acting here is fascinating and the drama is real.

I have thought a lot about why this show is so good and I think it is this; the show can let you see something horrific, a terrible monster that is objectively scary, and then moments later the show will let you see something from reality that is even scarier. Any show that can place reality as the real horror has done its job well because while we might have nightmares about the big scary monster, there is no escaping reality.

I have no idea where the drama will take us next but I know I am ready for the ride.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Devil All the Time – #MovieReview

The Devil All The Time: Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin. Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to review the number one movie on Netflix right now. That’s right, I am here to give you my hot take on Devil All the Time.

The film stars Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson as a couple of southerners who end up at odds with each other. To be honest, that’s a really poor description of the film but those two are the most billable, bankable stars in the movie. I won’t give away any major spoilers here so feel free to read this review even before you watch the film.

The movie is really several story lines that intersect, kind of like Pulp Fiction did but it’s much less disjointed than that movie was. There is a lot of suspense and violence in the film. It’s not for the faint of heart but it’s by no means even close to the bloodiest thing you could watch on Netflix.

The pacing of the film is intentionally slow and deliberate but it is not harmed for that. The acting is stellar and there is a scene with Holland and Pattinson that takes place in a church that is downright electric. The whole movie is worth watching just for that one scene.

While it maybe could have used a few less characters overall, the story is rather interesting and all of the loose ends are tied in a bow, with one notable exception.

If you really like suspense or thriller films, especially the kind that have a slow build up to a majorly interconnected story, this movie is for you. Or if you just like a good drama and need a break from Marvel films but still want to watch Tom Holland, this is worth a watch.

Suspensefully yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Strange Case) Episode 5 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror and Family Drama is Back on Track

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the fifth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The previous episode was a throwback to Indiana Jones for some reason and it felt kind of out of place with the rest of the show. The most recent episode is much more on track. We are back to following the family drama and this episode has tons of interesting things to say on race and class. At the same time, it is full of body horror so if you are squeamish prepare to shut your eyes through a lot of the episode.

There are twists and turns that are surprising and unpredictable and as usual the very end will leave you just wanting to see the next episode as soon as possible. The show is able to be intellectual and visceral all at once which is an interesting mixture.

If you do watch this episode, I can promise that this is one of the episodes that will be in your mind months from now.

I feel like the show will need to have more episodes like this where the audience is both unable to turn away from the screen and wanting to turn away the whole time. There is still a deeper mystery going on here and I look forward to seeing how that plays out through the rest of the show.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

We Summon the Darkness – #MovieReview

What’s up everyone? Slick Dungeon here back to review the Netflix horror flick We Summon the Darkness. I promise not to give too much away but if you continue reading from here on out there could be mild spoilers. You have been warned.

If you were alive in the 1980’s and knew about the hair metal bands of the time, this movie will bring you right back to that period. The opening has all the iconic things from the 80’s you remember. Leather jackets, teased hair, the old Twinkie boxes and even Jolt cola. The movie follows three women who go to a heavy metal concert. While there they see signs that things are not exactly great in the area. Apparently there has been a slue of murders attributed to a satanic cult. When the women get to the concert they meet three men out for one last night of fun before they say goodbye to one of their group for good. The two groups start to hang out and the evening suddenly becomes very deadly.

This movie is described as horror and while there certainly are horror elements to it, I would classify this as more of a thriller than anything. The plot is very grounded in reality and although we have seen this sort of thing before this movie does have a fresh take on it.

The movie makes great use of limited locations and most of the night takes place in a single house. In some ways this reminded me of The Purge but I think the movie I would say this is closest to mirroring is the excellent Kevin Smith film Red State.

If you like the 80’s, if you are a fan of horror or thriller films, and if you enjoy seeing some of those conventions upended, this movie is for you.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Cursed: The Fey Queen (Episode 8) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the eighth episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

If you haven’t watched the first eight episodes of the series, watch out because there are mild spoilers below.

Although, on this one, I think the title of the episode is kind of a spoiler. Obviously, Nimue has taken on the mantle of the Fey Queen for this episode. This means that she has a lot of people depending on her and a lot more people who will think of her as an enemy.

This episode was action packed, had a couple of great sword fights and the plot moved along nicely. We got to see some characters reunite and lost a couple of others. The pace also picked up significantly and the stakes are getting higher here which is nice to see.

The consequences of what happens when someone holds the sword of power for too long becomes more apparent here too. The politics of the show are heating up here and the race for the throne is on, especially with the end result of what Nimue does in this episode.

So far this is a series I would recommend to any fantasy fan but with the next two episodes, we’ll see if this show can actually live up to its full potential.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Babysitter: Killer Queen – #MovieReview

Hey out there comedy horror fans, what’s going on? McG is back with another crazy horror comedy film on Netflix. Allow me, Slick Dungeon, to give you a little review of it. There will be some mild spoilers below so you have been warned.

The first film in the franchise (wait is 2 films a franchise?) followed Cole, a kid who was just a little too old to have a babysitter. Turns out his babysitter was part of a demon blood cult and they spent a night trying to kill him. It didn’t end well for them. If you want to know more about it, see my review of the first one here.

It’s two years later and while Cole is no longer under lethal threat, he is still the picked on kid at high school. But what about the girl he met from the first movie, doesn’t she like him? They kissed at the end of the last one, she must like him right? Well, she does seem to be the only one that does still think he is okay. She even invites him to go to a lake house for the weekend when….

HUGE SPOILER COMING

She tries to kill him because she is part of that same blood cult from the first movie.

The rest of the movie for the most part, plays out as you would expect. Old cast members return, new ones try to kill Cole, all of them die in gruesome and hilarious ways. There is another twist at the end that I won’t give away.

This movie is a little bigger than the first and there are a few more stunts but basically, if you watched and enjoyed the first one, this one is not a bad follow up. I definitely chuckled through most of it although some of the jokes felt less than fresh.

The only thing I never really bought was the beginning of the movie where they say that there was no evidence of anyone else being at Cole’s house the night of the first movie. I mean, what? There was like ten gallons of blood spilled and major damage to multiple parts of the neighborhood but whatever, I will let it go, this is not Hamlet.

I will say that I hope they leave it here because I think any movie after this one is going to lose the point. Does this movie have a point? Well, not really but it’s still fun, dumb, entertainment which is exactly what I look for in a horror comedy.

If you like comedy and have a strong stomach, this is totally worth ninety minutes of dumb fun.

Comedically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Cursed: Bring Us In Good Ale (Episode 7) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the seventh episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

If you haven’t watched the first six episodes of the series, watch out because there are spoilers below.

The previous episode was somewhat slow moving and mostly a flashback to establish character development. This episode jumps right back into the action with exciting fight scenes, unseen threats and the furthering development of character relationships.

From the start of the episode, Arthur is under threat from the Red Paladins while Nimue is still trying to recover from her interactions with Merlin. Meanwhile a rival to the throne is making moves that could place him as head of the kingdom.

I think that so far this episode was my favorite. It has all of the things you want to see in a fantasy story. There are interesting battles with surprising outcomes, cool special effects, mysterious magicians doing their things, and inspirational speeches to the masses.

I don’t want to give too much away here but at the end of the episode I had goosebumps from how cool the whole thing was. The acting continues to be outstanding here and I still really enjoy the performances of Nimue and Merlin especially.

Now that I only have three episodes left to watch, I imagine the action and drama will only be ramped up and more exciting. Here’s hoping that is true.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 13

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome, role playing a half-elf, role playing a half-orc and role playing a Tiefling. Today, we are going to talk about Class.

In Dungeons & Dragons, if character Race is who the characters are, then Class is best described as what a character can do. In other words, while most of the traits that the characters gained for being a dwarf, a halfling, etc. are immutable, the Class traits are ones that can be learned. If you want to be a wizard, you have to learn how to do it. If you strive to be the best fighter in the land, it is going to take some practice.

At the beginning of character creation, a player’s character is already better than the average person at whatever Class they choose. A fighter isn’t just some woman who can occasionally win in a bar fight (although they probably can), she is also someone who is better than the average fighter. That’s why when it comes to class, you get certain bonuses. Class can be one of the more confusing parts of character creation because there is some math involved. We’ll go through it as it comes in future posts, but in this one, we are just going to stick to defining what class is, how it is used, and my tips for using it with kids.

What is Class?

As stated above, Class is what a character can do. More specifically, I might add, it would be something they would likely be called on to do. In other words, it’s ingrained in who they are, even if they never actually take money for it. A wizard might be hired by a king to cast battle spells but even if he loses the battle, he is still a wizard. A fighter might very well be paid to be a soldier but even if they are defeated in combat, they are still a fighter. A paladin might be a knight but even if they fall from grace, they are still a paladin.

Does it Matter What Class My Character Is?

The short answer here is, yes. This matters greatly. If you really want to use magic, you are going to want to choose a magic user. Be a wizard, a sorcerer or a warlock. If you want to get in lots of combat, a fighter or a monk is the way to go. One note here, if your character uses magic even a little bit, you are going to have to learn some magic rules. These can get complicated but they are also a ton of fun. There is usually a bit more math involved in the game if you are a spellcaster so be forewarned there.

My advice to anyone who is trying to decide what Class to be, is to pick something that you think is interesting and go with that. Be sure to read through the basic rules and have an understanding of what that Class does. You don’t have to be an expert on the math part yet, just read the descriptions of what these people do and decide if that sounds interesting to you. Pick the one that is the best fit for how you imagine your character.

Some people will demand that a party be made up of a delicate mechanical balance where you have certain classes to do certain things. To some extent, this makes sense, but don’t overdo it here. If your kids all want to be wizards, let them be wizards. Maybe have one of them learn some magic for healing and one of them learn magic for fighting but don’t stress too much if your party is not perfectly balanced. If you are the Dungeon Master, you will need to make adjustments to the bad guys based on the party and what Classes they are.

What is Multi-Classing?

This is briefly mentioned in the chapter on Class in the basic rules. What that means is that someone choose a little bit of one class and a little bit of another class. If it is your first time running or playing Dungeons & Dragons I wouldn’t really recommend it just because your character won’t necessarily live up to their full potential unless you have a really good grasp of the mechanics of the game. That being said, if you love the idea of being a fighter who learns magic and then decides to become a wizard, multiclassing can be great. You do you. Just be forewarned that it gets a little tricky.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips for Class with Kids

When it comes to kids, choosing a Class can be daunting and exciting. It is as important, if not more important, than what Race your character is. I would make sure that your kids really understand what someone in a Class is likely to do. Alternatively, you can ask your kids what they want their character to be able to do and recommend a Class to them. If they start talking about magic spells, suggest a Wizard. If they are combat focused, suggest a Fighter. If they want to be entertainers and support their friends in battle, a Bard is the way to go. If they want to heal others, a Cleric might be a good way to go. Look through the Classes (There are 12 in the basic rules) and describe to your kids what that Class does. If it sound like something they want to do, let them do it. Even if they are not good at math but really want to cast magic spells, I would let them do that. It’s much more fun to do something you want to do than to have to pretend to like something you don’t really want to do.

My next 12 posts in this series will be a deeper dive into each Class, starting with my favorite class to play, Barbarian.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Lovecraft Country (A History of Violence) Episode 4 Spoiler-free Review

A Somewhat Disappointing 4th Episode But there is Still Plenty to Love in the Series

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the fourth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The first three episodes struck an amazing balance between family drama, the accurate portrayal of horrific segregationist realities in America and impossible monsters, magic and dangers. The fourth episode gives us… mostly an Indiana Jones style adventure.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still horror here and there are definitely moments of history, family drama etc. But most of it really is like something you would see in Indiana Jones. I’m not going to give away any more than that except to say that the series still has amazing potential and I think it will recover from this episode but I expect that when fans talk about the series in the future, episode 4 will be the one they say they could mostly have done without. Of course, if you are a fan of the show, you’ll still want to watch this episode as there are things that relate to the overall story that certainly happen. I found one side story to be particularly interesting and I have no idea where it is actually going.

The main action leaves a lot to be desired but as always the actors portraying the action are the best part of the show. They have all been able to pull off what would seem to be absurd to most of us while still keeping the feeling of their emotions on screen as real as it gets.

I’m looking forward to the next episode very much but if the show does have a few episodes like this one, it won’t turn out to be quite the brilliant show I thought it was. Here’s hoping for a better one next week.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Cursed: Festa and Moreii (Episode 6) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the sixth episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

If you haven’t watched the first six episodes of the series, watch out because there are spoilers below.

This episode was largely a flashback episode. After the big reveal of the previous episode, this one was a bit slow paced but it definitely gave us some vital information about Merlin’s past. We also learn a few more things about the sword that everyone is trying to get their hands on.

Nimue is off meeting with Merlin but we do get to see a little bit of what Arthur is up to here. He and the Green Knight are getting to know each other and their relationship is strained at best. A new character hopes to learn from Arthur as a squire.

So far, I think this episode has dragged the most which is disappointing considering how good the last episode was. I know there was a lot of stuff they had to set up here to make future episodes pay off but I feel like this went a little too far in the character development area while ignoring the action. At least up until the end but I won’t give away here what happens.

There were a few more side moments involving Arthur’s sister and a couple of other characters but I think it’s still going to be some time before that pays off. While I am excited for the next episode, this one was definitely the slowest paced. I imagine that will change as we pass the halfway mark for the first season. Here’s hoping it gets a little more exciting.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

September 2020 TBR

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just wanted to share with you my September 2020 TBR list as it currently stands. Note that some of this could change as I do tend to be a slower reader and some books may get pushed back a little. There may also be books added if I see one that peaks my interest in ReedsyDiscovery. For personal reasons I am trying to keep this list a little short but I do end up picking up more books than I expect each month so more could be added. This month I will be continuing a couple of series I started earlier this year and catch up with what I missed last month. I will also be adding some new titles. If you have a TBR list, let me know what’s on it in the comments.

  1. Roa Seeks by Electra Nanou

This is a little bit like putting Write a To Do List on your To Do list. I read this book and posted my review yesterday but since that was the first day of September, it counts! This was a charming little fantasy book that I quite enjoyed. Read my review of it here.

2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

I had hoped to finish this book last month but let’s be honest, fantasy books are long. That’s one of the things I love about them but if you are not the fastest reader, it’s a struggle. If I don’t finish any other books this month, this will be the one I do finish. I have already read more than one hundred pages so far and let’s just say, this is so freaking good! I can’t wait to finish it and share my thoughts with all of you.

3. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

This is the second book in the Broken Earth trilogy. I know that this series has a lot of fans. I read the first book last month and I honestly struggled with it a bit but I was interested enough to want to know what happens next. I really did not enjoy the second person point of view in the first book but I don’t know if the second book is written in the same style. Even if it is, there could be something great in this series that just didn’t click with me so I am going to give it a fair shake (see what I did there? If you read the book you get it) and continue the series. This is on the condition that I can get a hold of a library copy so this could move to October. If you want to read my review of the first book in the series you can read it here.

4. When Colour Became Grey by A. C. Lorenzen

This is an Urban Fantasy book that I am looking forward to digging in. It’s about a woman who has an untimely death and is sentenced to hunt down demons over and over. I like the idea and am very interested to see where this will go.

5. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

If you have seen my raving reviews of the HBO show of the same name, you will know that I very much want to read Loveraft Country as soon as possible. This is another one where I am dependent on the library having an available copy, so we will see considering how popular this is at the moment. If you want to read my spoiler free review of the first episode of the show you can read that here.

6. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju

If any of these books on this list get pushed back, this will probably be the first one that gets pushed. I really do want to read this book and I am fascinated with the history of comic books but then again this is an older book and I haven’t gotten to it yet so one more month won’t hurt it. If I don’t get to this in September this will get moved higher on October’s list.

Let me know what you think of my list and if you have a TBR I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Bookishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Roa Seeks – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

The chronicles begin with a tale of exiles, disillusionment, and stubborn hope, reminiscent of Pratchett and Tolkien. Will a strange band of misfits be enough to protect a world from a monstrous threat?

Demons stir in Itania, and Meecha Roa, the black sheep of his family, travels from his home world to this legendary planet to investigate. But all he knows about Itania is what other secret agents of the angels have recounted. A place of magic, dragons, elves, humans, and simmering strife.

The mission seems simple enough: explore the activity of the demons and their servants. At the same time, track down and recruit a rogue elf demon-hunter called Azare. Except nothing is simple in Itania, especially with so much brewing in the shadows. Through hardship and precious friendships, his intricate discoveries will shake his heart and loyalty to the core as the demons turn out to be hunting for an infamous key to hell, secreted away by a master thief and lockbox-maker.

Meecha realises that what he seeks on his epic adventure are not answers and solutions just for the Aerieti, but also himself… The part he plays in this critical chess match between angels and demons.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Meecha Roa is a misfit to his family. He never quite fits in. What they don’t know is that Meecha is a hero. He travels through dimensions to other worlds where he takes on evils of all kinds. In his latest mission, he is tasked to understand the situation in a world called Itania. While there he will also need to find an elf demon hunter named Azare. The mission sounds simple enough but Meecha doesn’t know the depth of danger he has gotten into. He will need to make unlikely friends and allies to survive this mission.

Roa Seeks is full of adventure. There are creatures of all kinds on Itania and they keep the reader engaged. One of the best creatures introduced was a large cat and its cub, but will it befriend Meecha or eat him instead? And of course, there are demons that could pop up at any turn, making the danger more imminent.

The world-traveling is interesting and the way that Meecha is able to travel between those worlds was quite intriguing. At times it did feel as if some of the characters that Meecha interacted with could have had more of a back story to them but perhaps we will see that explored in future volumes.

There are also several great illustrations in the book. The cover art may give you an indication but the illustrations are quite accurate to the book descriptions and very well made.

Meecha is a particularly charming character and is extremely likable. He does his best even though the world around him is much larger than he is. That’s something a lot of us can relate to. The book has plenty of potential for a long-running, series and it will be interesting to see where Meecha goes from here.

If you love books full of magical worlds, strange and beautiful landscapes and creatures, and epic battles between good and evil, Roa Seeks is a great addition to have on your bookshelf.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lovecraft Country (Holy Ghost) Episode 3 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror, the History, and The Surprises are STill Non-STop After 3 Episodes

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the third episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

This episode finds our heroes back home in Chicago, but that does not mean that the horror has left them. This episode has some particularly grisly horror in it so strong stomachs are recommended prior to viewing.

The episode was very engaging when it came to the historical aspects and the particular blend of horror, politics and pop culture. The soundtrack is downright incredible and the acting continues to be superb.

My only criticism of the show for this episode is that some of the effects didn’t hold up as well as in the first two episodes, but I won’t go into detail about that because I don’t want to give anything away. I will also say that despite the production value of some of the effects, the story is still able to throw plenty of horror at the viewer. That should come as no surprise to anyone considering that this is a horror show. But the ability the show has to increase tension is incredible.

There are not a lot of horror shows or movies where I feel actual fear but this may be one of the exceptions. The fact that such awful racist history has always existed in this country and the fact that there are still people who espouse those beliefs is horrifying beyond measure. Therefore the fear this show is able to exude is so palpable one can reach out and touch it. The first two episodes proved that nearly anything goes in this show and the third episode is no exception to that rule.

It’s amazing to me how well this show fits in American history, cosmic horror, literature, and present day all at once. It’s shows like these that prove that deeper understanding of the truth can sometimes only be achieved through fiction.

This show would be nothing if we didn’t care about the character’s fates and the unraveling mystery. This episode was superb at making us care about people’s lives even as completely unbelievable things occur all around them. I know that there is not a better horror show on television right now but after three episodes I am starting to think that there is not a better show period on television at this time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter – #BookReview

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another book for you. This time I am reviewing Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne.

SYNOPSIS

In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Atriya is a Crusader. This means that he is part of an elite military force where only the best of the best are recruited. He constantly pushes himself to go beyond the limits of human endurance and is trying to reach the next level of performance and understanding.

Lately, Atriya is getting the feeling that something is wrong. Wrong with the Regime that controls Echo, wrong with the way his fellow Enforcers operate, and maybe, something wrong with him. He starts searching for answers from his mentor and starts to rethink everything he knows.

Echo is fast-paced and full of action. There are plenty of great scenes for those who love the mash-up of science fiction and the military. Atriya is an engaging character and the reader will easily root for him to stand out above the rest. The world that Wayne portrays is fully developed and highly interesting. It’s also clear that Wayne knows his military hardware so if you are a fan of that, there is plenty to love in this book.

Personally, I felt like there were a few too many info dumps about the military weaponry but I know some people really love that kind of thing. It would also have been nice if the book was a little longer, but even if you only purchase the first volume, you do get the next three chapters of the second volume so it’s well worth the price.

If you love futuristic military action, this is the book for you. And if you read the book and like it, you should follow the author at https://dirtyscifibuddha.com/

He has a ton of free stuff there and it’s a great blog that I follow myself.

Crusadingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Fifth Season – #BookReview

Hey all, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another book for you. This time I am reviwing The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.

SYNOPSIS

This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time.

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

This book is a little difficult to summarize but I will do my best. In this world, there are people who are capable of controlling and moving the very earth itself. These people are called Orogenes, or in a more negative conext, called Rogga. They are capable of preventing earthquakes but they are also capable of causing them. Therefore they have the potential for massive destruction. There are also people called Guardians who can negate this power that the Orogenes have. In addition there are giant obelisks that seems to have some sort of strange power that come out of the earth every once in a while. There are also stone eaters that, well, I guess, eat stone. Finally, there are the Stills. Stills are normal people without any of these powers. Every few hundred years or so, there is a calamity called a season that starts and people have to find ways to shelter themselves for centuries. The Fifth Season is destined to be the one that ends the world for good.

The book unfolds in three time periods. One period deals with Damaya, a young woman who, as an Orogene, is taken to a place called the Fulcrum where she is made to learn how to use her powers. The second is about a woman called Syenite who has left Fulcrum and is learning from a new master named Alabaster. The third period is about you. It’s told in the second person and you are left to wonder, exactly, who you are and what will happen.

While I found much of the story interesting, and I thought the system of powers in the book was fascinating, I honestly struggled with the second person point of view narrative. I am not a fan of that point of view unless I am reading a choose your own adventure book. By the end of the book I understood why the author chose it and I was a little more okay with it, but I really had difficulty finding my bearings in the story.

I don’t want to give too much away because I do think it is an interesting book but I feel like if that second person point of view was removed, it would not hurt the story at all. All three time periods do interrelate, I just would have preferred it not be told in second person at all.

I found the story of Damaya the most interesting and I think I would not have minded a whole book about her experience from start to end. The other two sections didn’t work quite as well for me, although, I can see why some people love this book. There are twists and turns the reader does not expect.

I plan to give the next volume a read, just because I want to know where the story goes from here but this was not my favorite fantasy book this year. It, however, is unlike most other fantasy books on the shelves, so it is nice to have a unique story. It just was not entirely for me.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Lovecraft Country (Whitey’s On The Moon) Episode 2 Spoiler-free Review

Delights, Surprises, and Horrors Continue in the Second Episode

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here back to give a spoiler free review of the second episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The first episode set the tone with an intriguing blend of science fiction, the horrible reality of segregationist America and extremely gory cosmic horror that does not let up. It can be easy for a show to come out of the gate with an excellent pilot episode and then quickly disappoint in subsequent episodes. Sometimes a great premise does not carry through the initial setup. I’m glade to say that Lovecraft Country comes nowhere near to falling into that territory.

The second episode sees our three heroes in a different setting than where they started the series with the odds somehow stacked even more against them. The acting in this series is top notch, to say the least, and in this episode we get Abbey Lee as Christina Braithwhite. She is no stranger to horror/science fiction films and she increases the mystery without ever becoming ridiculous.

In this second episode there are some spots that I thought needed some explanation but that may come later in the series. Overall, this show seems like the best horror show to appear in years and if the third episode can be as strong as the first two, this will become a major horror must see.

Predicting what will happen next as you watch the show is nearly impossible and that’s saying something for anyone who is familiar with cosmic horror. The show has a very unique blend, up to and including the soundtrack. While I don’t want to give anything away here, I will say, I was surprised by the wide range of emotions that I ended up feeling while watching the episode.

If you have not yet seen the first two episodes yet, you should do that as soon as possible. I have a feeling that the next episode is going to get even better.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

An Interview with Andrew C. Piazza Author of A Song For The Void

Hi everyone, Slick Dungeon here and guess who appeared out of the cosmos and in my dungeon! Andrew Piazza, the author of the spectacular book A Song For The Void about a cosmic horror on the high seas during the Opium Wars in 1853. You should all go out and read it, right after you finish reading this post. Andrew was nice enough to let me ask him a few questions about the book, about his speculative fiction and his writing process. Welcome to my dungeon, Andrew, and thank you for joining me! Without further ado let’s get into the interview. 

Slick: A Song For The Void is not just a cosmic horror novel but a historical cosmic horror novel. Why did you feel it was a story well suited to the time period of the Opium Wars? Had you ever considered other time periods to set it in?

Andrew: The story came about as a synthesis of two separate pieces; first, the 
creature known as the Darkstar.  I came up with the idea for this 
particular nastie a while back, but I wasn’t sure where to put it.   
Then, as I started going down a rabbit hole reading about the history 
of the Opium Wars (I have a tendency to find such rabbit holes) I 
realized I had exactly the right setting.  Using that setting and that 
monster allowed me to discuss some of the themes present in the novel; 
addiction, identity, existentialism.

Slick: How much research goes into being historically accurate in your fiction? 

Andrew: Quite a lot.  I usually have to throttle back a bit, because there is 
always a risk of going overboard and including TOO much of the 
history.  In doing so, an author can compromise the narrative flow.  I 
recently read a historical horror novel set in approximately the same 
time period that suffered this mistake.  The author had clearly done 
exhaustive research and was very keen to show it all off, but the plot 
began to drag as a consequence.  It’s best to learn as much as you 
can, and then “forget” it so to speak, and let the setting be just 
that… a background that is very believable so as to create an 
immersive experience for the reader… a more perfect illusion, if you 
like.


Slick: What is your writing process like? Do you dedicate time to it every day or do you wait for inspiration to hit?

Andrew: I don’t subscribe to the need to write a certain number of words per 
day.  I do work on my books every day, but that need not be composing 
of a rough draft… it could be research, outlining, editing, etc.


Slick: In the book, there is a menacing cosmic entity that threatens the people aboard the HMS Charger called the Darkstar. What gave you the idea for that entity and the horrors it introduces to the characters?

Andrew: (Mild spoilers) I liked the idea of a cosmic creature that could wipe 
out humanity except for the presence of the magnetosphere.  That is a 
peculiar quirk of our planet this is highly underrated.  It protects 
us from certain death in the form of cosmic radiation, and most of us 
have no idea.  It fits in very nicely with the general concepts of 
cosmic terror, which come from being a tiny creature in a vast and 
dangerous universe.


Slick: The main character, Doctor Pearce, struggles with addiction. Not just addiction to substances but addiction to the past and what he has lost. Do you think that this topic is one you will explore further in future works?

Andrew: Struggling with the momentum of one’s past is a common ailment, so I 
will undoubtedly have characters struggling with this in the future, 
but I don’t know if it, or addiction in general, will be as front and 
center of a theme as in this novel.


Slick: The story also gets quite philosophical at points. It poses the question of what we truly are. If someone has head trauma and their personality changes, are they still that same person? Is there anything behind the machinery of our bodies? This kind of question perfectly matches with the cosmic horrors that appear in the book. Why did you want to dive into these questions and do you think you arrived at answers for yourself?

Andrew: If you really want to freak yourself out, read up on what happens when 
portions of the brain are damaged by injury or disease.  Or studies on 
how flimsy our knowledge of consciousness really is.  At the time of 
the novel’s setting (mid 1800’s), science was rapidly displacing 
religion as an explanation for how things are.  A transcendent 
explanation… we are all special creatures with a near-magical, 
eternal “spirit” residing within, began to be replaced by a more nuts 
and bolts approach, leading to an existential hole that still exists 
today.  It is the great challenge of modern philosophy to provide the 
consolations of religion, but still within the framework of logic and 
science.

A few years ago, I was blind-sided with an unexpected medical 
diagnosis that required dangerous surgery.  For a short time, I 
thought I might not be around to wake up the next day.  It got me 
thinking quite a lot about these kinds of existential dilemmas.  Part 
of dealing with that was in re-prioritizing my writing, which I had 
let wane in the years before out of the standard distractions of career.

Slick: I am glad that everything worked out okay for you and glad you picked writing back up so we could have some great stories to read.


Slick: This book kept me up late at night, not just reading, but also because it is genuinely scary. With Lovecraftian style horror, it would be easy to go overboard and make the horrors seem almost silly. Yet you were able to deftly maneuver the reader so that it was horrific without being outlandish. Is that a difficult balance to accomplish?

Andrew: It’s a tightrope, to be sure.  Part of the key of writing effective 
horror is to establish a strong sense of normalcy and a belief in the 
world the author has created… now we’re circling around to your 
question on historical accuracy.  Writing a setting and characters 
that are believable and establishing them as such allow an author to 
then turn all that on its ear and present the impossible as not just 
possible, but likely.


Slick: With the book and series Lovecraft Country and the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu being quite popular right now, it seems that cosmic horror is having a bit of a resurgence in popularity. Why do you think that is and how do you think that might influence your future stories?

Andrew: My favorite kind of horror is cosmic horror.  I believe it is the 
horror that lies beneath all other, from which all other forms of 
horror flow.  Why do we fear death?  Because we fear oblivion.  We 
have this aching, dull, poorly defined fear inside all of us, that 
maybe we’re not the special snowflake and center of the universe that 
our ego convinces us we are.  To be completely out of control, 
helpless, a leaf blown by the wind, is terrifying, as is the unknown, 
as is the prospect of nihilism.

As far as how it will influence further stories, you can count on my 
writing more novels like this.  Cosmic horror holds the best capacity 
for exploring those themes that run deepest, much like good science 
fiction or fantasy.


Slick: Will there be more books involving these characters and, if so, what are the plans for the next book?  

Andrew: I doubt we’ll see more of the characters in this novel, although the 
Darkstar may indeed decide to return and visit humanity again one day.

Slick: The story is on one level very personal and shows how one character relates to the world in a very difficult time. On the other hand, some menaces threaten not just Doctor Pearce but perhaps all of humanity. Do you think that the personal story of the Doctor helps to reflect the struggles of mankind overall?

Andrew: If you’re going to tackle a “big” story epic in scope, it is important 
to have a “small” story of the individuals caught up in that epic 
scope, in order to make it accessible.  We can read dry statistics of 
millions dying and it is a distant unreality, but the story of a single 
person’s suffering can easily make us weep.


Slick: As I said above this story kept me up at night because it is quite frightening. What kinds of stories keep you up at night?

Andrew: Stories of people being cruel to each other to a level that is hard to 
believe.

Slick: Agreed. Those stories can be all to prevalent and very hard to take.


Slick: How can readers buy the book and how can they get in contact with you?

Andrew: The book is on Amazon, in print and ebook format.  The US link is 
https://www.amazon.com/Song-Void-Historical-Horror-Novel-ebook/dp/B08D59S9HR.   
Readers interested in a free sample of my work in order to see if I’m 
a good choice for them can go to my website, www.andrewpiazza.com
where I have a free starter library available.  I’m also on Facebook 
at https://www.facebook.com/andrewcpiazza/.

Slick: I have signed up myself for your free starter library and I have to say, it is an excellent value with great writing. You can consider me a fan. Thanks so much, Andrew, for taking the time out of your day to come and visit my dungeon.

If you are still reading this post, once you are done, go out and buy the book. If you love cosmic horror, you will not be disappointed.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

A Song for the Void – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

A Mind Imprisoned Is The Greatest Of Hells.

1853. South China Sea. While on patrol between the Opium Wars, the crew of the steam frigate HMS Charger pursues a fleet of pirates that have been terrorizing the waters surrounding Hong Kong.

But now the hunters have become the hunted. Something else has come to the South China Sea, something ancient and powerful and malevolent. Now, the crew of the Charger must face their worst nightmares in order to survive the terrible creature they come to know as the Darkstar.

A Song For The Void is a haunting, terrifying historical horror novel that will keep you turning the pages and jumping at the shadows.

Fans of HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, or other authors of surreal fantasy and horror will enjoy “A Song For The Void”.

REVIEW 5/5 STARS

In 1853 on the high seas, during the height of the Opium Wars, a strange comet, lacking a tail, is seen. The celestial body will have an incredible influence over the crew of the HMS Charger, a modern ship pursuing a group of pirates. A doctor with a tragic past, who is struggling with personal demons, will face horrors never before imagined and must use his own experience to pierce into the truth of the strange happenings that surround him.

A Song for the Void is cosmic horror at its finest. The narrative is pulse-pounding and the characters are well developed, three-dimensional people, that the reader cannot help but be interested in. Horrors abound and stakes are high and deadly. At the same time, the historical aspect of the novel is well played and the perfect setting for this type of tale. Horror on the high seas in the vein of the Cthulhu mythos works extremely well here due to the deft handling of the subject matter by author Andrew Piazza.

The pacing is brilliant as the tale starts with exciting chase and battle scenes and it ever increases, making the stakes higher and the outcome more dangerous for the heroes at every turn. The evil faced in the book is well crafted and ominous. There are scenes in the book that will give the reader nightmares. When it comes to horror a reviewer can give no higher compliment than that. This book will scare you. If you love horror, that, after all, is the point.

This is a masterful page-turner that delights and surprises as well as horrifies. It ends with a wholly satisfying conclusion that is pitch-perfect for the story.

If you are a lover of cosmic horror or strange tales by the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker, you won’t find a better book out there than A Song for the Void. It’s cinematic in scope and personal in the narrative. This is a must-read for any horror fan looking for a story that knows how to scare.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

First Blush – Dungeons & Dragons Duet Campaign Review

First Blush by Jonathan and Beth Ball Photo Credit: DM's Guild
First Blush by Jonathan and Beth Ball Photo Credit: DM’s Guild

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I haven’t posted about Dungeons & Dragons for a while and thought I would give you all a review of a neat product I found on the DM’s guild.

First Blush is a “duet” style campaign for one player and one Dungeon Master. The goal of the module is to not only be a fun and interesting adventure, but also to teach people how to play Dungeons & Dragons. It includes stat blocks for all of the NPCs in the adventure. There are also three maps that you can use at your table if you are using minifigures. There is some great artwork as far as the characters go as well.

The module itself lays out some scenarios that a beginning player should be able to easily manager and will make the mechanics of the game more clear as they go along. It can be placed into most Dungeons & Dragons settings so it is good for a first level adventure no matter where you prefer your campaigns to be set.

I would recommend that this be led by an experienced Dungeon Master, however, because there are terms and situations that the module seems to take for granted that the person running the module knows already. There is plenty of boxed text and lots of descriptions of NPCs making it easy to run. They do point out several times that you are not required to run these characters as written, so if you want to change something, it is perfectly fine to do so.

I have played through this successfully as the Dungeon Master and my player and I had a great time doing it. Playing Dungeons & Dragons with just one other person is a different kind of experience and for those of us who have played with large groups for a long time, this style of play can be wildly refreshing. I highly recommend this module.

Check out their trailer below.

This is also just the first part of a trilogy. I will be reviewing all three of these modules eventually. You can buy each part separate or as a bundle to get all three. This is a pay what you want module so you can pay nothing, but for the value you get out of this module, I would say that the suggested price of $2.00 is well worth the hard work the creators put in here.

If you want to really help out this blog, get your copy of First Blush by clicking on the image or one of the links in this post. It won’t cost you anything extra and you’ll get a great module to play!

If you play this module, or have played it, let me know what you thought in the comments.

P.S. If you need some dice to play, you can also help out this blog by purchasing a set from Dice Envy by clicking the image below. Again there is no additional cost to you if you choose to purchase and you’ll get some great, high quality dice!

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Lovecraft Country (Sundown) Episode 1 Spoiler-free Review

Horror Fans Clear Your Sunday Night Because You Have Plans

Hey all, Slick Dungeon, here back with another review for you. I watched the first episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country. I want to give you my thoughts on it, but I will keep it free of spoilers, so if you have not seen the episode, read away.

Lovecraft Country is a horror series based on the book of the same name by author Matt Ruff. After watching the first episode of this series, that book is going directly on to my to be read list. The story is about a young black man who travels across the segregated 1950s United States in search of his missing father. I won’t give away any more plot details than that.

If you watch the show, from the opening scene, you will realize that we are dealing with a story that could go just about anywhere. The horror involved in the series is both cosmic and human in nature, and it’s not certain at all which type of terror is more frightening.

The series is executive produced by big names like J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele. If you have seen the horror hits, Get Out and Us, you will be able to feel Peele’s welcome influence all over this project. It is both grounded in the horrifying reality of Jim Crow laws and the awful people who supported them while still delivering unimaginable horror that cannot be explained by the rational mind.

The main character reflects some of this in his interests, and there are some intriguing conversations about literature at the time. The show is intelligent, and if you are well-read in science fiction and pulp stories of old, this only becomes more enjoyable.

So far, this show is a master class in setting a tone and ratcheting up horror in unexpected ways. The performances of all the main characters are outstanding. Still, in this episode, Jurnee Smollett as Letitia “Leti” Lewis, Jonathan Majors as Atticus Freeman, and Courtney B. Vance as George Freeman shine brightest. They are entirely believable, and as an audience, it’s easy to get wrapped up in their stories.

It is hard to say where the series will go from here, although violent, gory horror is absolutely on the table. The show will undoubtedly continue to explore the dark racist territory of America’s past and intertwine it with things that go bump in the night.

While this is set in the 1950s, the show, like much of the greatest science fiction and horror out there, can reflect and relate to our times in a way that nonfiction cannot. The episode is all the scarier because, in 2020, we know how these things can turn out. This feels like a story that is necessary to be told, and as a bonus, if you love horror, this will knock your socks off.

If you do not have this on your watch list already, add it asap. The next episode releases on Sunday, and I already know what I will be doing that night.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Cursed: The Joining (Episode 5) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the fifth episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

If you haven’t watched the first five episodes of the series, watch out because there are spoilers below.

While I have enjoyed the setup and visuals of previous episodes I think this one is my favorite so far. Nimue has found temporary safe harbor with the fey and with Arthur there, the inevitable love connection grows. A new threat is introduced as there is now another man claiming to be the Pendragon King and it is clear that he is absolutely ruthless and has an army to back it up.

Meanwhile, the Red Paladins are dealing with the loss of their abbey and still trying to regain control of the sword that is in Nimue’s possession. It turns out that there are people that even The Weeping Monk has no power over.

Nimue is trying to get word to Merlin that she has the sword. I don’t want to spoil how the meeting comes about or what happens in it but Merlin and Nimue definitely have an intertwined destiny here.

Merlin’s story in this episode is extremely memorable and I loved how Gustaf Skarsgard portrayed him here. He has quite a good range from humorous to menacing and can turn it on and off seemingly at will.

Also in this episode is the green knight and if you know the Arthurian legend as originally told, this is definitely a big deal. The character had been introduced in earlier episodes but it’s not until this one that we see him as the green knight.

The end of the episode drops a bombshell on us that I won’t spoil here but it has me quite excited to watch the next one.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Elizabeth Harvest – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here back with a movie review for you all. Elizabeth Harvest is a movie with a huge house, a small cast, and a lot of blood.

Fair warning that there will be spoilers below but I will keep them to a minimum.

Elizabeth is a new bride married to a brilliant scientist. He shows her around the house, introduces her to the staff, shows her how the biometric doors work and tells her that there is one room she is not allowed to go into. Yes, this is kind of a modern day Bluebeard story and when Henry calls Elizabeth “my pet”, tells her to “be a good girl” and feeds her with a spoon as if she is not a grown woman, it’s pretty safe to say, Henry is probably up to no good.

The movie does take on original twists, however, and becomes more intricate as the film progresses. It’s slow paced despite the large amount of violence in it. Parts of the film are disorienting and I do feel like some of the plot is dangling by the end but I don’t want to give that away in case anyone wants to watch this.

Abbey Lee who plays Elizabeth has an exceptionally difficult job here considering what the role calls for but she pulls it off perfectly. The concept of the film is not bad and the execution is decent overall, I just wish it didn’t remind so much of other movies where these kinds of events happen. The tone is ominous and threatening when it needs to be and I think the filmmakers made good use of the location they had.

Overall this is not a bad watch if you enjoy science fiction and horror but it’s also not so brilliant that it should be at the top of your watch list. If you’ve gone through all the other good stuff and need something to view this evening, it’s worth a view.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Misericorde – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

It’s the year 2446, and the first three Horsemen of Revelation’s Apocalypse have ridden.

Pestilence, War and Famine have changed the world into a dictatorship ruled with an iron fist. Commoners have few rights, and liberty is a distant memory.

Before the final Horseman is released, the Archangel of Mercy – Tzadkiel – makes a bold plea, asking for permission to find even one human who remembers the meaning

Taking human form and coming to Earth, he finds a place ruled by greed, hatred and fear. With time running out and Death growing impatient, can Tzadkiel find what he’s looking for… and how much will he need to sacrifice?

REVIEW 4/5 STARS

Tzadkiel the Archangel of Mercy has taken human form. The first three horsemen of the Apocalypse have already ridden across the earth. Only death remains. Tzadkiel has 100 years to find one person in all the world who still remembers the meaning of mercy. Lourdes is a scullery maid working under cruel masters. Nightly she hears screams coming from a tower outside her window. She cannot bear to hear someone suffer so and her destiny may just change the fate of the world.

A quick warning before reading the book. Misericorde does have scenes of vividly described torture so it may not be for the faint of heart or those with a weak stomach for such descriptions.

The world build by Cynthia A. Morgan is impressive. The idea of having the first three horsemen already released puts the stakes for the interaction between the characters incredibly high. Lourdes is an easily likable character and her plight was intriguing. Tzadkiel, despite being captured shows impressive strength through resisting the temptation to give in to pain although he is constantly tortured. There are also some flashbacks to a family in the past that met the first of the horsemen with kindness. It was interesting to see how these backstories related to the main story.

There was a bit more focus on the torture than some readers will be comfortable with and it would have been nice to get a little more character development in place of that. However, the amount of cruelty shown does make it seem that mercy may have truly faded from the earth.

The story concludes nicely while still setting up for the next book in the series. It will be interesting to see where Morgan takes it from here.

If you enjoy fast-paced dystopian novels that have a religious component to them, this book is highly recommended.

Mercifully yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Cursed: The Red Lake (Episode 4) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the fourth episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

If you haven’t watched the first four episodes of the series, watch out because there are spoilers below.

The fourth episode starts out with Nimue on the run, Arthur captured and headed toward the Abbey with the Red Paladins and Merlin off on a risky meet up. Arthur’s sister who we learned in the last episode is (spoiler) Morgana, has faked that she was attacked by Nimue and convinces the church that she is on their side. Morgana’s lover is not so convinced though.

This episode introduces several new characters to the series. Nimue meets an ally, Merlin talks to a quite memorable character, and a character from the first episode makes a reappearance. And for the first time The Grail is mentioned. This is important considering the legend of King Arthur.

At its heart this show is about the prejudices that humanity has toward the other. Fey creatures are slaughtered ruthlessly and punished by the church. This episode continues to explore that theme.

It’s clear that at some point our main characters will have to converge together once again. But for now they are scattered to the winds and pursuing their own agendas. I don’t want to get too much into what happens because I would rather not spoil the episode but the stakes increase here.

The beginning of the episode gets us right into the action but it does drag a bit in the middle. Stick with it though because the last third of the episode is really good and let’s just say that the episode title is quite appropriate.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Cursed: Alone (Episode 3) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the third episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

The first episode established the magical world we see and the second set the stakes higher. The third episode is called Alone but it could just as well have been called mistakes are made.

Heads up that there will be some spoilers in this review so feel free to watch the episode first if you don’t want that.

Nimue who was attacked in the last episode wakes up to find that she is in the Abbey which is full of the people who want to kill all of the Fey kind. Nimue, of course, is one of the Fey people and is in serious danger. To add to her troubles, Arthur has absconded with her sword. This sword is known as The Devil’s Tooth but we would know it as Excalibur.

Arthur does the thing he shouldn’t and tries to ask his uncle for his blessing to join a tournament. We get a little bit of the back story of Arthur here and find out that his father was honorable but died early and his uncle is a hard man. Arthur’s uncle does give permission for Arthur to fight but soon regrets it.

I don’t want to spoil what happens with Arthur too much but let’s just say he does not end up in a good position at the end of this episode.

Meanwhile, the Weeping Monk, knows that some Fey person is in the Abbey. Nimue ends up in the awkward position of having to save the life of the man who attacked her in the last episode. She uses Fey healing poultices which is quite dangerous considering where she is. We learn more about the Abbey and one of the sisters in it in particular. I don’t want to give away who she is but if you know the legend of King Arthur, it’s a pretty major name drop.

Meanwhile, Merlin still seems to be searching for the sword and in debt to whoever the Shadow Lords are. And the king, Uthor Pendragon is on the hunt for Merlin.

The whole episode ends on a bit of a cliff hanger.

I won’t say this is one of the best episodes so far but the events in it are important to the story and I am eager to see what happens next.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

August 2020 TBR

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I just wanted to share with you my August 2020 TBR list as it currently stands. Note that some of this could change as I do tend to be a slower reader and some books may get pushed back a little. There may also be books added if I see one that peaks my interest in ReedsyDiscovery. I do my best to get through, but there’s only so much time. This month I plan to continue some fantasy series, check out a non-fiction book that I have wanted to read for quite some time, and review a book from a blogger that I follow and have had on my back burner for far too long.

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

I predicted last month that I might not get through this one in July and I was right. I am intending to read this one this month but it is long and I need to get it from the library again so we’ll see if I have enough time for it. I have read a few chapters and am pretty into it so far.

This is the first in the Broken Earth series and won the Hugo award. It’s the story of how the world ends, for the final time. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this series but I haven’t ever had the chance to pick it up until now. I’m looking forward to it. The author says she likes to write about ordinary people in extraordinary situations and I really want to see how that is handled because that can either be done extremely well or extremely poorly in fiction. From all the accolades that the series has gotten, I am betting this is done extremely well.

2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

After my raving review of how good The Eye of the World is, how could I not put this on my list? It’s the sequel and I don’t know much about it other than the fact that I can’t wait to get back to the world that Jordan built. I’m curious to know if this series suffers from the sophomore slump or not but even if this one isn’t the greatest volume I will absolutely keep reading the series.

3. Misericorde by Cynthia A. Morgan

I am reviewing this one for Reedsy Discovery and the review will be out on 8/11/2020. What got me interested in reading it is the first line of the description, “It’s the year 2446, and the first three Horsemen of Revelation’s Apocalypse have ridden.”

Talk about setting the stakes high at the beginning! I’m interested to see where it goes and how this is all handled and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with all of you.

4. Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

This is a dystopian science fiction novel that I have been meaning to read and review forever. You can actually read a good chunk of this yourself if you check out Kent Wayne’s blog. I’m excited to read this and I know there are more volumes once I finish the first so it should be a fun ride. If you want to read some of this for yourself go here. And while you are there check out Wayne’s other books and his podcast. He has a bunch of great stuff on his blog and I think you will like it as much as I do.

5. A Song for the Void: A Historical Horror Novel by Andrew Piazza

I am a sucker for both horror and history so this is a great combination for me. It’s my horror book for the month and I will be reading it for Reedsy Discovery. The review for it will be out on 8/22/2020. Anything that promises surreal horror fantasy along with a dose of history is right up my alley so I can’t wait to dive into this one.

6. The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hadju

I actually don’t read a lot of non-fiction books. I usually prefer fiction because I tend to want to escape reality. This book is a bit old and has been sitting on my shelves for about eleven years. It’s surprising what you find in the middle of a pandemic. Anyway, I think that the history of comic books is seriously fascinating and I’m hoping this book will add to my knowledge on the subject. Since this is the last one on my list, it is possible it will get pushed until September but we’ll see.

Well, there you have it, that’s my list for the month. I will do my best to get through as much as I can. If the blog goes radio silent for a few days toward the end of August, it’s a signal that I am furiously reading as fast as I can trying to just get one last book in before the month changes.

Let me know what you think of my list and if you have a TBR I should check out, let me know in the comments!

Bookishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Lies, Inc. – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my July to be read list. I know it’s August but I was close. And boy have I got a weird one for you today.

SUMMARY

When catastrophic overpopulation threatens Earth, one company offers to teleport citizens to Whale’s Mouth, an allegedly pristine new home for happy and industrious émigrés. But there is one problem: the teleportation machine only works in one direction. When Rachmael ben Applebaum discovers that some of the footage of happy settlers may have been faked, he sets out on an eighteen-year journey to see if anyone wants to come back.

REVIEW

2/5 STARS

It is the far future and Earth has become overcrowded. To make matters worse, the planets in the solar system that might have been habitable could not for one reason or another be colonized. But one company has a solution. A satellite found a planet that did have a habitable environment. For years now, people have been stepping through a teleportation gate that will take them to this planet. It seems like a perfect solution and a perfect paradise with plenty of room. At least, that’s what the videos that come back seem to indicate. Not everyone in the world is convinced. One man, Rachmael ben Applebaum is convinced that the videos from this planet are fake. He happens to own a ship and wants to go to the planet and see if anyone there is dissatisfied and if possible bring them home. The problem? It’s an eighteen-year trip to get there.

While this sounds like a great setup and could have made for a classic Phillip K. Dick novel full of interesting ideas about the future and the meaning of life and governmental control. Instead, we got a novel full of bizarre images with a plot that just barely holds together and never quite works.

The opening lines are brilliant. “The Sub-Info computers owned by Lies, Incorporated had been caught in an unnatural act by a service mechanic. Sub-Info computer Five had transmitted information which was not a lie.”

This is the type of opening that makes the reader think we are in for an incredible ride. However, by the next page, our main character is hallucinating about rats because of this. It just gets stranger from there. There is a plot that can be followed relating to the planet and the companies that are competing for dominance on it but at least a good third of the book is a bizarre collection of hallucinations including a book that tells the present and the future and strange alien creatures that eat their own eye-stalks for food.

This was a missed opportunity for what could have been a brilliant deconstruction of government, authoritarianism, capitalism, and espionage. Those elements are there but they are not explored nearly as much as the odd hallucinatory monsters that our main character is infected with, creating a dizzying narrative that simply does not make enough sense.

If you like Phillip K. Dick’s books and want to read all of his work, of course, this should be on your reading list. But, if you are a casual science fiction fan and want an introduction to Dick’s incredible work, go with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Also known as Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) It’s a much more engaging read.

Hallucinatingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Journeys Through Faladon: The Titan Divide – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

“Elves, dwarves, humans… Jödmun; you mortal races are all the same, little more than ants crawling on a round table, oblivious to those sitting around it.”

It has been centuries since the Mountain Birth, a magical calamity that turned the Jödmun from men into… something else.

Part curse, part blessing, the Jödmun need neither food nor shelter, living as veritable stone men. One among them, Ürbon the Wanderer, will emerge from his people’s centuries-long isolation.

A chance encounter with an unusually violent elvish people leaves Ürbon without a ship, without his men, and without direction, changing the course of his life forever.

In a journey across the vast world of Faladon; from the sandy Savarrah desert to the lush Forgotten Isles, the Human Kingdom of Ravenburg to the bustling port-city of Venova, Ürbon will gather to him unlikely friends and dangerous enemies, each seeking a weakness in his stony flesh. This is his tale.

A new fantasy adventure unfolds with it’s first installment – Journeys Through Faladon: The Titan Divide. Faladon is the first Epic Fantasy Universe created by more than 40 co-authors – pushing the limits of collaborative writing and the fantasy genre.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Urbon is a stone giant who is on a quest to find his friends and an ancient artifact. As his ship is sailing, it is attacked by elves. This kicks off a series of events that finds him making new friends, exploring unknown places, and making vicious enemies.

Journeys Through Faladon: The Titan Divide is filled with a metric ton of action. It’s non-stop throughout the entire book. There are bloody battles, magical and insane gods who can cast magic spells and hordes of vampires that challenge Urbon and his little party. The battle scenes are fun and exciting and a great joy to read.

This book was created by more than forty co-authors. With that you would think that too many chefs are in the kitchen and sometimes the bouncing back and forth between characters is a little dizzying but overall it works. At times it would have been nice if the action slowed down a little bit so that we could get more character development. Urbon and his lizard man side kick are great fun to read about and it would have been nice to have a little bit more in there about them. The world seems full and lived in and there is some world building done but it would have been nice to have it a little more fleshed out so the reader knew about the world.

While the plot might not be the most complex plot and the characters are mostly engaged in battles the whole time, this is still a great read. This is like a summer blockbuster movie, you come for the action and it’s highly enjoyable, even if it’s not the most intricate movie you have seen.

With so many co-authors one would think it would be easy to lose the plot but the authors keep it together and move the story along at a breakneck pace and it comes to an overall satisfying conclusion which will make the reader look forward to the next volume.

If you are a fan of fantasy adventure full of action and humor, such as the Discworld series this book should be a welcome addition to your shelf.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I knocked out another book from my July TBR list and I want to give you my thoughts on it. Okay, actually it was from my June TBR and carried over because I am a slow reader but I finished it and I am now going to review it.

SUMMARY

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs―a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts― five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

REVIEW

5/5 STARS

The Eye of the World is the first in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It’s a fourteen volume sweeping fantasy epic that was decades in the making. It is also poised to become a huge, big budget production on Amazon Prime Video. After finally reading this first volume, I can see why.

If you know me in personal life, you know that I am a huge Tolkien fan. I love his stories and the massive world building he was capable of.

Like a warm and comforting bath, The Eye of the World starts out much the same that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings does. There is a small town, with regular, common folk, who just go about their lives and would be happy if the troubles of the outside world never came to them. Like in Tolkien’s story, trouble comes knocking. Trollocs (think sort of beast men although I had trouble not thinking of them as Trolls tbh) come to the small town of Two Rivers, right at the time of an annual festival.

These Trollocs attack Rand al’Thor, who goes by Rand and several of his friends get involved either by defending themselves or helping Rand in some way. It seems that there was more to this attack than any of them thought.

A small party of people band together, including Rand’s good friends Mat and Perrin and the girl he has always loved, Egwene. They are not entirely defenseless, as there is a Gleeman (think a bard), a warder (think a ranger from LOTR) and an Aes Sedai (think a female Gandalf) who help the people from Two Rivers along the way.

I don’t want to give too much more away because I don’t want to give spoilers but this is definitely a “hero’s journey” tale. That being said, there are still plenty of twists and turns that you will not see coming.

The world that Jordan builds is impressive. It’s enormous and full of memorable characters. I haven’t read more than the first volume but I get the impression that small details given in this book are going to matter greatly in the future tales.

Reading this book, I was fully engaged the whole time. I know that there were sections where the reader was given a little too much exposition in the form of an info dump but I didn’t care. I found the information involved so fascinating that I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. In some ways, I don’t want to see the show because I doubt anything put down in reality will quite match what I have in my imagination.

If you are a lover of fantasy, this book is for you. Especially if you love epic quests, valiant heroes and villains that are completely villainous. This book is by far the best fantasy book I have read this year and I have read a lot of great fantasy. I suspect this might be the best book I read all year, although I do plan to read the sequels so that remains to be determined.

For more years than I can remember, any time I would pick up a fantasy book, someone at the book store would ask me if I had read The Wheel of Time series. I was never sure if that was because there was just a rabid fan base for Jordan or if the story was really worthwhile. Well, let me tell you, I will always love Tolkien but I think Jordan may have a shot at being equal in my heart. I do not say that lightly at all. I’ve never read any other fantasy book and thought that it was as good as Lord of the Rings. Sure, many are similar but as good as? I’m not sure yet since I have not read all the volumes but if any series is ever going to be that good, it is hands down The Wheel of Time series. So, if you are like me and you have spent too many years not getting around to reading these books, stop what you are doing, get your hands on a copy and get reading. I promise you this is worth the time.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

P.S. Have you read The Eye of the World? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below, just don’t spoil anything in the next volumes. 🙂

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

The Invasion of Aeronbed – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

Eirwen and Fridis, the first of the seven-volume Ravenstones series, began the tale of an unlikely friendship between an unassuming polar bear and an intrepid eider duck. Their travels took the pair to Vigmar, a mountainous Empire at war with its neighbor, the Kingdom of Aeronbed. Fate has placed the inexperienced bear in command of Vigmar’s quarrelsome forces, and he is immediately beset by the demands of leadership. Fridis, meanwhile, overcoming misfortune, seeks to unravel the many mysteries of the Empire’s capital, Blakfel, and confront its scheming rulers.

Volume 2, The Invasion of Aeronbed, continues the story. Eirwen has decided that Vigmar must invade its neighbor to bring an end to the long-standing conflict. The decision on his own role in this invasion will lead to unintended consequences. Fridis, meanwhile, ill-equipped for such violent confrontations, must stay behind to fend for herself. Although she discovers a satisfying role in Blakfel, danger lurks for her in the capital’s byways and castle towers as much as on any battlefield.

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

The first of the Revenstones books had the reader meet Eirwen, a polar bear, and Fridis, an eider duck, who were destined to become good friends and intrepid adventurers. The second volume picks up where the first book left off, with Eirwen in charge of the forces of Vigmar, while Fridis is becoming ever more popular in the city of Blakfel. The pressures of war, the politics of a kingdom, and the danger lurking around every corner don’t let up in The Invasion of Aeronbed.

The book is a well thought out sequel that, if anything, improves upon the original. The stakes are higher, the danger more personal, and the reader is easily engrossed in the tale. While Eirwen is out dealing with the ramifications of war, Fridis is left alone to deal with the forces of palace intrigue that wish to do her harm. The mysteries go deeper, while the action intensifies. The likable polar bear and duck are separated but their stories remain intertwined and it was satisfying reading both accounts.

One thing that might improve the book a little is more back story on some of the characters we meet in Vigmar and what their purposes are. However, the cast is large enough that there might not be enough time to delve into that with too much depth.

The book manages to expand upon both the war that rages between Vigmar and Aeronbed while keeping perspective on the personal stakes for the characters we met in the first volume. It’s been an interesting ride so far and I am looking forward to seeing where the author will take us next. If the title of the next volume is any indication, it looks like we may get a fresh perspective which will be interesting to see.

If you love fantasy books full of huge battles, nefarious political maneuvering, and long-lasting friendship, you are going to love this volume. This is only the second in a seven-volume set, so there is plenty of story to come and I look forward to reading more.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Eirwen and Fridis – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

On an isolated ice floe, a young polar bear wakes up from a long sleep, only to discover he is utterly alone. Seemingly overnight, all his friends have vanished. What to do? Thus begins the bear’s self-examination and life-altering quest. His ensuing search will take him to a strange and unpredictable world, where he must confront danger and embrace adventure at every turn.

The first volume of the seven-part Ravenstones series introduces the reader to Eirwen, a lonely polar bear, and Fridis, a spirited duck, as they face mystery and intrigue, testing their mettle and ambition. The Ravenstones deals with good and evil, friendship and loyalty, overcoming doubt and obstacles, reinventing oneself – and in so doing discovering one’s true life purpose. Here the well-meaning and the wicked play out their roles in the midst of prophecy and wizardry, politics and spectacle, peace and war, and betrayal and sacrifice.

REVIEW

4/5 Stars

Like the polar bear that this story is about, it starts a little slow and hesitant. Eirwen has awoken to find that his friends are missing. He is a bear who is a little slow to take action and takes some time thinking through things before making a decision. Once he has decided to take action, he is determined to see it through to the conclusion. Eirwen decides to go look for his friends. Along the way, he meets a raven and a duck. The trio team up together to find the bear’s friends. It’s not long after that when Eirwen, the polar bear, and Fridis, the duck, find themselves in a kingdom at war.

The two friends must make their way in this new world while never forgetting the original goal of Eirwen’s quest. That’s no easy feat as there are animals everywhere with their own agendas, positions of power, and determinations to gain power.

The book really gets going once Eirwen and Fridis make it into the land of Vigmar and soon find themselves involved in the complicated politics of a land at war. Fridis is energetic and feisty while Eirwen finds himself becoming more confident and decisive as time goes on.

The adventure is quite enjoyable and the reader is pulled along in the fantasy. There is a bit of head-hopping where we go from one character’s point of view to another abruptly but otherwise, it’s an intriguing read.

This book is about talking animals so it’s easy to think of it as having comparisons to Watership Down or The Wind in the Willows. While those comparisons make sense, the political intrigue and epic battles are better compared to the likes of Lord of the Rings or similar epic fantasy books. If you love fantasy books with magical happenings, political maneuvering, and high stakes, you are going to love Eirwen and Fridis.

Tomorrow I will be back with the review of the second volume in the series so be sure to check back for that.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Cursed: Cursed (Episode 2) – #TVReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and I am back to review the second episode of the Netflix hit Cursed.

While most of us are waiting for The Umbrella Academy season 2, Netflix has been kind enough to drop a few excellent shows while we wait. In my opinion Cursed is one of the better ones. There won’t be many spoilers for episode 2 in this review, but I might reference things from episode 1 so if you haven’t, feel free to go watch that before you read this.

While the first episode did an adequate job of introducing characters and the idea that we are seeing the story of the Lady of the Lake, the second episode takes it up a notch and starts getting into the story.

Through a series of flashbacks we get to know the back story of Nimue and how and why she might be the one who is cursed. We also see Merlin’s continuing struggles to please his king. Additionally, the villain of the series is becoming more ruthless and dangerous toward Nimue and people like her.

A lot of the episode shows Nimue’s interactions with the sword she acquired in the first episode, as well as her developing relationship with Arthur. It’s still not clear to me by this second episode that the Arthur hanging out with Nimue is the Arthur, but he certainly could be.

The visuals continue to be stunning and the actors are all doing a fantastic job so far. They are able to walk the balance between being in a magical world but giving it enough realism that it doesn’t get ridiculous.

I think the main question being asked in this episode is who or what exactly is cursed. I’m not going to give you my opinion on that since I don’t want to give spoilers but let’s just say it’s a multiple choice answer.

I feel like this episode really got the story going and I’m looking forward to the next one. There are some mysterious characters we might get to know more about and there’s certainly going to be no lack of fantasy elements.

Have you watched Cursed yet? What do you think of it so far if you have? Let me know in the comments below.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 12

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome, role playing a half-elf and role playing a half-orc. Today we are going to talk about role playing a Tiefling.

Tieflings are one of the most interesting playable races in the game. For those who don’t know, it’s pronounced like tea-fling. They are also increasingly popular to play because they come with backgrounds that just beg for role playing opportunities. Unlike a half-orc or half-elf, it’s virtually impossible for them to hide their appearance. And a tiefling has in their bloodline somewhere, an ancestor who committed a great sin and aligned themselves with evil. For that reason, it might be assumed that tieflings are by default evil. What makes them interesting is that they do not have to be evil. Being evil is as much a choice for a tiefling as for any other creature in the game.

Tieflings essentially look like demons or devils walking around in human form. In fact, that’s just what they look like, and their personalities can vary across the entire spectrum of personalities. Their eyes are solid color, with no pupils, they have horns on their heads, and they all have tails. The differences in these physical aspects can be whatever you want them to be, so for example, the tail can be four to five feet in length, the horns can be curved or straight and the eyes can be black, red, white, silver or gold.

All the possibilities there make for one of the most interesting looking creatures in the game. That also means that these creatures live in a world that is automatically suspicious of them. Everywhere they go, it’s hard for tieflings to make friends. But when they do make a friend, and that friend earns their trust, the tiefling is loyal for good. This can make a great entry for kids who want to play tieflings.

A lot of kids can relate to someone assuming they are up to no good. For the vast number of times they have been yelled at for trying to take a cookie from the cookie jar, there has been at least one time when they were innocent of trying to commit that crime. A kid can relate to an adult just thinking by a look on their face, that they have done something wrong. While it’s probably the case that most of the time the kid has done something wrong, there are probably instances where adults jumped to conclusions. That’s what people do when they meet tieflings, they jump to conclusions. This creature looks evil, therefore it is evil. While a spider might look scary to some people, it serves the vital function of population control of insects. The spider itself is not necessarily bad and neither is the tiefling.

Knowing that everyone is going to assume the worst of you, makes it hard to trust anyone else. If a tiefling who is just trying to fit in happens upon a group of adventurers who don’t assume the worst, take the tiefling into their good graces, and ally with that tiefling, that adventuring party has gained a powerful and loyal ally.

While you could certainly play a tiefling as evil, I don’t recommend that for kids. But there is a difference between playing someone who is evil and someone who looks evil. I see no problem with a kid playing a tiefling if they want to. And if you as a Dungeon Master are uncomfortable with the whole fiendish heritage involved in tieflings, you can take that out if it won’t work for your kid. If you do leave it in, I would say the tiefling should be misunderstood by society rather than actually evil in society, but of course, that is just my advice. You can play this game any way you want to and it’s not wrong.

One of my favorite things with tieflings actually has to do with their names. Tieflings can have three types of names. 1. If they happen to grow up in human, elf, dwarf, or whatever other culture, they could reasonably be expected to have a name from that culture. 2. They can have a name that reflects their infernal heritage, where their name is a word in the infernal language. 3. They can have what is called a “virtue” name. This is a name that signifies a virtue or other concept and the tiefling attempts to embody that concept.

To me, that third choice is simply amazing. A tiefling tending towards good might choose something like Hope, Perseverance or Glory. I love the idea of picking your name and then trying to be the living representation of that name. I feel like with kids this could go a million ways. I can see a kid choosing a name like Rich or Money. I could also see kids picking things like Beauty or Magician. The name alone might give you as the Dungeon Master a direction for the campaign. And believe me, any hints like that are hugely helpful to running a campaign.

I’ll give you a few more thoughts I have about kids and tieflings below but first let’s get into the tiefling traits.

Tiefling Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a Tiefling.

Ability Score Increase

Tieflings are smart creatures who like to learn about the world. For that reason your Intelligence score increases by 1. Tieflings are absolutely memorable to anyone that meets one. For that reason your Charisma score is increased by 2.

Age

Tieflings mature at the same rate humans do but live a little longer. “A little longer” is not defined in the rules so how much longer is sort of up to you.

Alignment

A lot of tieflings do end up as evil, but that does not mean your kid has to align that way with her character. You can absolutely have a lawful good tiefling character if you want to. The rules do say that they tend more towards chaotic and that makes sense to me because a tiefling is probably going to know that just because there is a law, does not mean that it is a just law. My advice here is to still trend toward the good side of alignment with your kids though, even though their character has a fiendish look.

Size

Tieflings are pretty much the same size as humans. For the game rule purposes you are considered medium.

Speed

Your speed in the game is 30 feet.

Darkvision

I’ve been over darkvision a few times since almost every playable race other than humans has it, but in case you need it, I am just going to put here exactly what the basic rules say. “Thanks to your infernal heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.”

Hellish Resistance

As an adult I think this description is awesome. But, you may not want your kids running around talking about their “Hellish Resistance” to their friends, teachers and neighbors. If that’s the case, just call this what it is, Fire Resistance. It just means that it’s really hard to burn a tiefling. You’d be surprised by how many monsters can burn characters so this is actually a pretty awesome trait to have.

Infernal Legacy

This trait has to do with some innate spells that tieflings can cast because of their ancestry. It’s okay if at this point you don’t know what these things mean but I will still lay them out here.

Right from the beginning you can cast the cantrip Thaumaturgy. I won’t go over this spell here because in future posts we’ll go through all the magic but at essence this spell lets you speak loudly, make the earth shake a little, make lights brighten or dim and a few other things that are pretty much harmless magic tricks. If you have watched The Fellowship of The Ring and remember the moment where Gandalf is talking with Bilbo about the ring and he makes himself look big, his voice boom, his staff light up, that is pretty much thaumaturgy right there.

When you get to third level you are able to cast Hellish Rebuke. If you don’t want your kids running around saying that they Hellishly rebuke you, just call the spell Rebuke. This spell essentially does fire damage to your enemies.

Finally, when you get to fifth level, you get the spell Darkness. This probably seems obvious, but it basically means you get to make things dark when you want to. There are definitely limits to this so go by the spell but that’s what it boils down to.

Thaumaturgy is one the character can cast whenever they want but Rebuke and Darkness are basically once a day spells. They are all really handy to have and a great little spell list, even if you don’t want to be a class that has spellcasting abilities.

Languages

You are fluent in Common and Infernal. Infernal is a language that may or may not come up, depending on what you as the Dungeon Master put in your campaign. It’s always nice for a kid to have something their character can do in an unexpected moment though, so if you have a tiefling player, consider putting at least one treasure chest that has something written in infernal on it that only that player can read.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Tieflings

Playing a tiefling can be a ton of fun. Kids can relate to this playable race if they have ever had the situation where it was assumed they were up to no good. Kids are all about fairness so playing a tiefling can actually come naturally to them. Tieflings have a good idea of not only what is fair but also if they are being treated fairly. The one thing that can be a little bit of a trip up, depending on your household, is that the bloodline of tieflings is essentially from demons. For some families that is going to be a non-starter and in that case, just don’t let there be tieflings in your campaigns. If that is not an issue and your kids can wrap their heads around it, tieflings are a lot of fun to play. They get magical abilities that most other playable races don’t. They can walk through fire with barely an injury. And they can be loyal to a fault.

A great way to introduce a tiefling character to a party is to have that tiefling be in trouble through no fault of their own. A group of citizens might be surrounding them and calling them names when the party arrives to swoop in and defend the innocent. Of course, that is just one suggestion and there are any number of ways to play this game so do what works for you and your family.

I hope you got something out of this post and have some ideas for your table if your kid wants to play a tiefling.

My next Kids Kill Monsters post is going to be about classes. We’re going to go through each one in the basic rules, one at a time. This is usually the spot where some math gets involved and things can get tricky but I’ll do my best to walk you through it.

But before that, I have an announcement. I have written Slick Dungeon’s 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids. It’s a free PDF with some of my best advice on playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids and I want you to have it. All you will have to do to get a copy is to sign up for my mailing list newsletter. If you sign up for the newsletter you will get the free PDF and I will send tips to your email about Role Playing Games every other Friday. Watch for your chance to sign up in my next post, set to go live on 7/21/2020. I hope you’ll consider signing up for it and please feel free to share it with anyone that you think might enjoy some gaming tips from your old pal, Slick.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Cursed: Nimue (Episode 1) – #TVReview

What’s going on out there internet people? It’s Slick Dungeon, back with a review for you all. I don’t usually do television series reviews, mainly because if I did, I would spend all my time doing that, and I can’t always commit to watching ten or more hours of content, then writing about it. But I am making an exception for Cursed on Netflix. I’ll review each episode, one at a time in the coming days and weeks.

I will be giving some mild spoilers for each episode but I will try to keep them light enough that they won’t get in your way of enjoying the episodes.

Cursed is a series that explores the Arthurian legend from a new perspective, that of the Lady of the Lake. The legend of King Arthur is one that has stood the test of time as it gets told over and over again, reshaped and reformed, always ending as a story that at its heart is about the hope of a good person to lead the world through hope. One of the pieces of that story is that there is a Lady of the Lake who gives, King Arthur, Excalibur, the sword that will help to shape his destiny. I’ve always wondered about the background of the Lady of the Lake, how she got there and why. This series is basically telling that story.

Some critics have compared the series to Game of Thrones or The Witcher. While I understand why they make this comparison, I don’t think it’s fair to this series to judge it by those. It seems that any time a critic watches a fantasy series, they are from now on, going to assume that the series is just trying to repeat the success of Game of Thrones. Certainly, I imagine, there will be plenty of palace intrigue, unlikely heroes, magic, and war in Cursed.

However, this is a different story. It’s clear from the start that unlike Westeros, this land is full of magic. The story will mostly center on one or two characters, rather than a huge ensemble, although there are certainly plenty of supporting characters. And while I think it’s possible this may have more similarities to The Witcher, this show is not that either. The legend of King Arthur is one of the earliest fantasy stories involving knights and kingdoms, queens, and lovers, and if anything, Game of Thrones would not have existed without that story preceding it. The Witcher is about a person who doesn’t quite belong in society but is still needed because of the actions he can perform. Cursed, at its core, is about an object. A sword that has as important of a destiny as all of the rest of the characters. What we get to see in the show is how the people around it are affected.

In the first episode, we meet Nimue. She is a young woman with magical abilities. It’s clear from the beginning that Nimue could easily lose control of these abilities and do real harm to people with them. This is in a backdrop where Red Paladins are hunting down and killing those with magical abilities. They are cruel and ruthless and seemingly unstoppable.

Nimue is expertly performed by Katherine Langford who is captivating from the first moment she is onscreen. Also appearing in this first episode is Gustaf Skarsrgard who plays the most famous magician of all time, Merlin. The two clearly have an intertwined destiny but I am sure that will play out more in future episodes.

In this first episode, we see the setup for the series overall and while I don’t want to spoil the episode, it’s easy to see how this will play out as a series. In this episode, it’s more about getting to know the characters and getting them into place so the story can start. Some good signs I see here are that the title character of the episode is highly engaging, the villains seem to be absolutely brutal and challenging, and Merlin remains, mostly, a mystery. When you are setting up the Arthurian legend, those things are vital.

The visuals of the series are gorgeous and there are moments where we are reminded of the source material, which is Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler’s book of the same name.

If the first episode is any indication, this will be an excellent series that should be judged on its own merits. not those of fantasy shows that have come before. At the very least, this is something any fantasy fan should watch, at least until the one I am most excited for hits, The Wheel of Time series.

Have you checked out Cursed yet? If so what did you think? Keep it spoiler-free but let me know in the comments!

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Old Guard – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here with a spoiler free review of the number one film on Netflix as of today 7/16. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it because I am not giving anything away but I’ll let you know if this movie is worth your time.

The movie stars Charlize Theron as the leader of a small band of mercenaries who are extremely proficient killers and intelligent warriors.

It’s best if you go into the film not knowing much more than that. For that reason I am going to only tell you a few things about why you should watch this. There is good reason for this movie to be trending number one right now. It’s an intelligent film, the action makes sense in every battle scene and the actors all put in top notch performances.

While there are certainly elements that might be considered silly by some, if you can get past basically one thing, this is an incredible ride. There will undoubtedly be sequels to this and I am all in for them. The fight sequences are near perfect. Unlike a lot of action films, I never once found myself wondering why a team would go in that way or why they would make the choices they do. Theron, as always, puts in an outstanding turn as the lead character. But to me the actor to watch in this is Kiki Lane who plays a character named Nile. She proves as soon as she is on screen that she belongs with the more well known performers.

There’s no way this will get any Oscar nods because at essence it’s a genre film, but it should.

I don’t usually say this, but I don’t even recommend you read the Netflix description of the film. Just click watch. As long as you can handle some bloody action scenes, this movie is absolutely worth your time. If you don’t know much going in, the whole movie will surprise you. If you do read the description, I think it still will.

The only weak part I see in the film is toward the latter half and it more has to do with what the antagonist is doing, which in my opinion is something we’ve seen too often. But even with that, the film plays out to a satisfying conclusion and it absolutely left me wanting more.

Luckily for me there is a graphic novel that is the source material so I intend to seek that out to get more. It’s by comics legend Greg Rucka and the fact that the source and the screenplay are both written by him I am sure is why this film is so intelligent.

So what are you doing still reading this? Go watch the movie! Let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 11

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with you, walked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarf, role playing an elf, role playing a halfling, role playing a human, role playing a dragon born, role playing a gnome and role playing a half-elf. Today we are going to talk about role playing a Half-Orc.

One thing to know before I get too far into this is that there is a bit of a debate raging among the role play community over whether or not Half-Orcs and Orcs should be in the game in the way they are written. There is an argument to be made that these particular playable races, among others, can be read as racist stereotypes. I happen to think that there is an argument to be made there but that what is needed is some adjustment to the wording and nuance of the creatures in the game. Wizards of the Coast, the manufacturers of Dungeons & Dragons, say they are working to correct these problematic stereotypes. I think this is a step in the right direction but we’ll have to wait to see what the real result is. I believe that the more people that feel welcome playing this game the better, which is why I write these posts about how to play this game with kids. All that being said, take my suggestions and information below with a grain of salt for two reasons. 1. I will be using the descriptions and mechanics as currently written in the basic rules. 2. It’s very likely that with the corrections WoTC are making, some of this below is subject to change. Once there is an updated version, I will likely do another post to update my recommendations.

I will say that as an adult, I have found playing a Half-Orc to be extremely enjoyable and I usually go with that or a halfling when I play with adults. I do tend to play a little against type though, and usually my character is more misunderstood than aggressive. I’ll get more into this later, but that’s also my general recommendation for how a kid can play a Half-Orc.

Since its early beginnings, orcs have been one of the more villainous creatures in the game, often used as a horde of creatures opposing the forces of good. But sometimes, in the midst of all the fighting, there is a pause or a truce. There is opportunity for humans and orcs to cooperate. This gives rise to half-orcs where a creature has both human and orc blood running through their veins. These creatures usually look more orc than human but are equally of both playable races. Half-orcs can live either with orc tribes or in human cities. They are potentially the most common of the uncommon races (with half-elves possibly edging them out depending on the campaign setting). They’re pretty hefty and weigh between 180 and 250 pounds and can be anywhere from 5 to 7 feet tall.

In the basic rules they state that half-orcs tend to have scars. I feel like this is totally optional depending on how you want to play the character. They also mention that these scars can come from them being “a former slave or a disgraced exile”. Out of those two, if you are playing with kids, I absolutely recommend going with disgraced exile. As adults we can be a lot more nuanced in our definition of being a former slave but for kids, just omit that, it’s way too difficult to wrap everyone’s head around. I think a kid can easily understand being someone who made a mistake or didn’t get along with others and was told to leave. But lets not go around having our kids thinking of themselves as slaves, even in fantasy role play. I can’t imagine that is great for child development. It’s descriptions like that, which cause this whole playable race to be problematic in the first place so I am hesitant to recommend the whole slave background to anyone. That, of course, is just my opinion but there you have it.

Orcs are aggressive, warlike creatures who worship the disgraced one-eyed god Gruumsh. Gruumsh is angry and full of rage. This god is powerful enough that the orcs and even some half-orcs feel his calling to war. In essence, this makes half-orcs feel things more strongly than other playable races. They certainly feel rage, especially when fighting, but they also feel sadness quite deeply and likewise can soar to heights on the more positive emotions of joy and laughter. A half-orc truly can feel life to its fullest. This can make it difficult for some half-orcs to control their emotions in public. As a kid, this is quite relatable. Kids feel emotions incredibly deeply. And while a tantrum might come and go in an instant for a very young kid, the emotion is utterly overwhelming. Even for a ten year old kid, when they feel an emotion, it is felt deeply and strongly. Almost any kid can relate to feeling like they could lose control, or feel something that feels bigger than they are. Kids don’t get to control the world around them because adults make the rules. Half-orcs similarly did not create the rules of society or the prejudices in it, but they must react to it. This can lead to a loss of control. The awesome part of playing a half-orc is that when they do feel that emotion, they can channel it into something useful like battle prowess and resilience.

If you are trying to explain a half-orc to a kid, a great example is The Incredible Hulk. There is a guy who doesn’t quite belong anywhere, who feels major emotions and tries to control it but even when he does lose control, he doesn’t hurt the innocent. He cares about people and usually risks his neck to save people. And he also happens to be majorly strong. He’s not the only example of a good half-orc but I think he’s the one I most model my characters after. If you read the comics, it happens over and over that the Hulk is actually trying to help someone but when people who don’t like the Hulk, or are prejudiced against him, encounter him his actions are quickly misinterpreted and then Hulk has no choice but to defend himself and his friends. This act of defense is then taken as aggression towards those already prejudiced against the Hulk. The cycle never really ends. I think it can be pretty interesting for kids to play half-orcs who are really, truly very good at heart but who are assumed by others to be up to no good. The one thing I would say to make an exception to that is with the other party members. They should all know that the half-orc who may look big, strong and intimidating, is really kind, caring and loyal to her friends.

If you do go with the whole, “disgraced exile” backstory for a half-orc character, a weirdly appropriate model is Jar-jar Binks from Star Wars. Jar-jar was just kind of clumsy and not trying to hurt anyone but it was enough to get him banished. I think this works great for kids, no matter what you think of the character of Jar-jar. A half-orc could easily end up in a situation where she is misunderstood and due to her larger and more powerful frame ends up breaking something, on accident, that was precious to the community. Now she has a reason to go on an adventure. She needs to prove she is worthy of her own community. How does one do that? By becoming a heroic adventurer who, through the power of friendship, is able to save the world. That’s exactly what happened to Jar-jar. Well, before he went and messed everything up in Episode II and III but we’ll forget that for the moment.

There are a variety of half-orc names offered in the basic rules and I think those tend to be pretty fitting so I’m not really going to go into any extra recommendations of names for this particular playable race.

Let’s take a look at what the half-orc traits are as currently written

Half-Orc Traits

There are a few things you get for playing a Half-Orc.

Ability Score Increase

Half-orcs are very strong and they also have a strong stomach. For this reason they get to add 2 to their strength score and 1 to their constitution.

Age

Half-orcs mature by age 14 and live to be around 75 but usually not more than that.

Alignment

Here’s another spot where the half-orc description needs some improvement. It says, “Half-orcs inherit a tendency toward chaos from their orc parents and are not strongly inclined toward good. Half-orcs raised among orcs and willing to live out their lives among them are usually evil.” Why though? Why do orcs or half-orcs have to trend toward evil? Half-orcs are as individual as anyone else so there can still be plenty of good half-orcs, or even orcs. I understand that their god is out of favor and is full of rage, but for that reason, I actually think it’s more interesting if they buck the system and trend toward good. Humans are not inherently evil because they are humans but they have definitely waged as much war as orcs ever have, so I really don’t like this description. But, if you want to use your alignment that way, feel free. I still do not recommend having a kid play an evil character though. If nothing else, it is guaranteed that this will cause problems at the table because at some point, the kid who is playing the evil character is going to want to do something bad to someone in their own party. This just causes a mess. Kids can have a much harder time not taking in game actions personally. If Johnny is robbed by Jenny’s evil character, Johnny is going to think that Jenny in real life doesn’t like him. And then it will be up to you as Dungeon Master to sort the whole thing out. Just avoid the headache and make sure the half-orc in the party is good. Again this is just my opinion though.

Size

I’ve stated the height and weight average above but for game purposes you are considered medium size if you play a half-orc.

Speed

Half-orcs move at a speed of 30 feet.

Darkvision

The description in the rules sums this up nicely. “Thanks to your orc blood, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.”

Menacing

Even if your kid is playing a nice half-orc, they can still, when they want to, look frightening. For this reason, you gain proficiency in the intimidation skill. Even if this doesn’t make a ton of sense now, just know that half-orcs can intimidate people easier than some of the other playable races. You’d be surprised how often kids make use of this skill and it certainly can be handy for getting information or trying to get into someplace the characters are not allowed to be otherwise.

Relentless Endurance

This is my favorite feature of half-orcs. When you are reduced to 0 hit points, meaning you would normally be dead at that point, you can drop to 1 hit point instead. Just so you know, a player character can still do everything they normally would with full health, if they have even a single hit point left. That basically means that when half-orcs are potentially killed, they are able to get up and give it one more try before it’s all over for them. They do have to take a long rest to use this again though, so you can basically think of this as a once a day feature.

Savage Attacks

This one takes a little bit of explaining so hang in there with me for a minute. Here’s how this feature is described in the basic rules, “When you score a critical hit with 
a melee weapon attack, you can roll one of the weapon’s damage dice one additional time and add it to the extra damage of the critical hit.”

To score a critical hit means that when you make an attack roll, you rolled a 20. (There are some limited exceptions where rolling between 18-20 counts as a critical hit) Once you roll that 20, you then get to roll your damage dice. This is not a D20 but will depend on what class you play and what weapon you are using. For rolling that 20 you get to roll your damage dice twice. So if your damage dice is a D12, you get to roll it twice and add that up to your critical hit damage. But with this feature you actually get to roll that damage dice three times. An example would be a half-orc barbarian scores a critical hit by rolling a 20. Then they get to roll a D12 for their regular damage. Then they get to roll it again for their critical hit damage. Then they get to roll it a third time for the savage attack feature. You add those three numbers together, then add any modifiers that add to the damage and you end up with a major amount of damage.

If that’s still unclear, don’t worry. Just know that half-orcs get to do more damage when they roll a 20 in combat than other playable races get to.

Languages

As a half-orc you get to speak Common and Orc. Orc uses dwarvish characters but doesn’t really sound at all like any of the other languages in the game. It’s a pretty harsh and gruff language with a lot of hard consonants.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Half-Orcs

As I said above, I like the half-orc characters to be misunderstood rather than actually aggressive. Of course, there are tons of ways to play these characters and it’s absolutely up to you how you and your kids should play this. But I think that trending toward evil alignment is going to make it more difficult to manage the table. And that’s true no matter the playable race that is evil. In my mind a good connection point for kids with half-orcs is that strong emotion they feel. It can be really good for a kid to role play getting emotions under control in a positive way. And, that does not always have to mean just in combat. A half-orc might feel frustration at the fact that a wall is difficult to climb. That frustration turns to anger, but the half-orc focuses his anger on the task at hand. Before you know it, he is able to pound footholds into the wall with his axe and he and his friends can climb up. He felt the frustration, he channeled it and he solved the problem. This helps to show kids that their emotions are not invalid but that they should be used in a constructive manner when possible.

The background of half-orcs as written can be a little troubling and tricky, so before letting your kid play one, make sure you have thoroughly read the description and have talked to them about how they want to play the character. I have not read the book yet, but supposedly The Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has more nuanced descriptions of orcs and other less common playable races. That may be worth a look if you want your kid to play a more nuanced character that is less of a stereotype, but again I have not read it so I can’t say for sure.

Half-orcs can really be a ton of fun to play because they are big, strong and if you play them right, perfectly suited to go adventuring. A lot of kids can relate to imagining themselves big and strong. They’re told that’s how they are supposed to grow up all the time. It’s the whole reason they are forced to eat vegetables, so they might as well get used to being big and strong now. Even if that’s just in their own imagination.

I think that an excellent example here really is The Incredible Hulk. And if your kid wants to be more professor Hulk than rage Hulk, there’s no problem there either. I think a highly intelligent half-orc who wants to learn to solve problems in ways that don’t involve weapons at all, is totally appropriate for kids. It’s whatever you want to make out of it, so tweak it with your kid as needed and have at it.

Next time I will get into the last of the uncommon races in the basic rules, the Tiefling.

After that, before I get into classes, I am going to have something a little special for everyone who reads this blog and likes these posts, so be on the look out for a bit of an announcement.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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Sucker Punch – #MovieReview

Hello out there all you internet people. Slick Dungeon here, back with a movie review for ya. This time I am reviewing the Zack Snyder directed glossy action photo come to life known as Sucker Punch.

Heads up that there will be spoilers in this review so if you want to watch it before reading the review, you have been forewarned.

The movie stars Emily Browning as Babydoll, a young woman who is locked up in a mental institution and copes by envisioning it as a brothel. It’s actually both more complicated and more simple than that. There are basically three layers to the film and I will talk a little bit about all of them.

One of the things you can say without question is that the film looks great. It’s highly stylized and there are tons of interesting shots and camera movements happening, along with some pretty impressive CGI.

But that’s about all there is. It’s full of amazing style and pretty close to zero substance.

At the beginning of the movie, we are treated to a wordless opening where through action and lots of slow motion shots, we find out that Babydoll has an abusive stepfather. We also see an incident in which the stepfather tries to abuse Babydoll’s sister, and through Babydoll’s actions, her sister accidentally ends up dead. The stepfather is apparently able to frame it that Babydoll is insane and should be locked up in a mental institution and be lobotomized. Blue, one of the orderlies in the institution, played by Oscar Isaac, knows that Babydoll is not at fault but accepts payment from the stepfather to allow the lobotomy to happen. The day finally comes where the procedure is going to happen and right before we see the spike go into Babydoll’s eye, the movie shifts focus into a sort of dream realm where Babydoll is in a brothel. And then within this dream realm, when Babydoll dances, she enters a third realm in which she is a skilled warrior with a ragtag team of women with her. These women are in the brothel and exist in the mental institution as well. For the purposes of this review I am going to call these realms, the warrior realm, the brothel realm, and reality.

In reality, Babydoll has spotted a few things that might help her to escape the mental institution. When she goes into the brothel realm, these items exist as well. In the warrior realm, Babydoll is told what she needs to get in order to be free. She has to get a map, fire, a key, a knife and solve a mystery. In the warrior realm, she learns to be a fighter and how to get these items. Then she shifts back into the brothel realm and one of the women on her team has gotten the item. I don’t want to give everything away so I won’t go too much into how that’s all accomplished.

Most of the movie plays out in what you might call a, “collect the coupons” style. They have to get a thing, they get a thing, then that leads to another thing. Only after they have all the things, can the story continue. In this case, obviously, the point is for Babydoll to get all the stuff and escape the mental institution in real life. It seems like she’s able to accomplish it all in the brothel realm, with some sacrifice occurring, but it’s less clear whether or not she can do this in reality.

I’m not going to let you know if she escapes or what happens in the end, you’ll have to watch for yourself to find out. But I did have a few questions and comments about the movie.

  1. I’m really tired of the trope of evil mental institutions. So many movies and television shows do this. If a mental institution of the type depicted in these movies existed in reality, they would be shut down in a heartbeat. I’m not saying abuses don’t occur in existing institutions, that obviously happens, but the vast majority of people who work in this field, are legitimately trying to help people overcome their illness. Now, I know this is a really stylized movie and you can say that this is just fictional and makes for a good story. I understand that argument but I find it hard to believe that any current institution would do a lobotomy. It’s not a procedure, if you can even call it that, that makes any sense. And the institution looks grimy and run down and it’s just obvious there are abuses everywhere. This type of institution occurred in the early days of mental health but we are long past all that. This is just a pet peeve of mine but why do so many filmmakers take the lazy way out and use a mental institution to portray menace? It’s old, it’s boring, and it’s inaccurate if you put it in the modern era.
  2. Leaving all that aside, the things that Babydoll has to get in order to escape the institution make no sense from a logical point of view. She has to get a map. The map is a blueprint of the institution that Blue keeps in his office. Why in the world, would that map be framed in his office? If it’s a plan in case of fire escape, that would be posted everywhere for anyone in the institution to see. If it’s a blueprint of the actual building, there is no logic to keeping that in your office. It would be an obvious way for someone to figure out an escape.
  3. The key doesn’t make any sense either. Blue wears a master key to all doors around his neck. While this might make sense in the Brothel realm, it makes no sense in the institution. Weirdly, the key is not on Blue in the Brothel realm, but is on his neck in reality. If you work in a mental institution, especially one that might have residents who could reasonably attack you, jewelry would not be allowed for the staff for obvious reasons. So why in the hell would you wear a freaking master key around your neck where anyone could grab it? That makes no sense.
  4. The fire also makes no sense. In reality an orderly has a Zippo lighter that he fiddles with. Babydoll wants it to start a fire with so that the doors would be unlocked. No way this item is allowed in a mental institution, again for extremely obvious reasons. If a staff member is a smoker, it would be expected that they go outside to do that and have their lighters, cigars, cigarettes or whatever out there. Now you might think that the orderly could still have sneaked it in, and you would have a point. But then it makes no sense that he is playing with it. Why would you allow a lighter in this place?
  5. The one item that does make sense is the knife. They get that from the kitchen staff and clearly you need knives to cook. What doesn’t make sense is that the chef wears a knife belt around himself. It’s not like having the knife holstered at your back is logical for a chef. Why didn’t the chef us a knife block or something similar?
  6. Despite all that, if you can get past these things, and enjoy the movie, it’s not a bad time. I’ve certainly seen worse movies but I do wish Zack Snyder had done like, twenty minutes of googling on mental institutions and thought about the logic of some of these things.
  7. When Babydoll starts dancing in the Brothel realm, all the men seem to get hypnotized, and can’t look away from here. What kind of incredible dance moves does she have? No idea because they always cut away to the Warrior realm when she starts dancing. From what I can tell, her dance mostly involves her slowly moving her shoulders and walking slightly forward. Couldn’t they have shown the dance once? I mean come on.
  8. I think the most enjoyable part of this was the whole Warrior realm where there is lots of action and cool effects. Babydoll and her team seem to exist in a kind of steampunk world where there are zombie soldiers, giant robots, orcs, dragons, bombs, and samurai. I want to see that movie. Could we just have that movie start to end? We could forget all the other stuff and maybe get some actual character development and then this wouldn’t just look good but might also be good. Can we get that please?
  9. Like a lot of other movies that choose style over substance, (I am thinking of Suicide Squad in particular) the soundtrack is phenomenal. There is really good music here and it pairs well with the visuals. It makes me feel frustrated that it wasn’t a better movie because of that.
  10. I understand a lot of what the movie was trying to convey. The men in the movie were all horrible people, with one single exception. The women are abused in reality and in the Brothel realm but get to be amazing fighters in the warrior realm. I respect the intent, but it comes off as pretty much cartoonish. Look, there is a man, he is evil with a capital E. There is nothing more there. The women are good with a capital G. I’m not saying this type of characterization never works, but this film didn’t spend enough time building it up so it doesn’t work. Snyder should have spent his time thinking less about how things look and more about what the characters are about for this movie to make sense.

Now, it might sound like I just utterly hated this movie. I didn’t. I really think the visuals are interesting. None of the actors put in poor performances. The soundtrack is amazing. But, it never comes together. There’s just not enough story here. All style, no substance. If you are looking for a movie that you don’t need to think too much about, that has plenty of interesting action, and is for the most part predictable, it’s a decent time.

Stylishly yours,

Slick Dungeon

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