Review Round-up: Maleficent and The Curse of Chalion

Maleficent

Borrowed from businessinsider.com

Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling

Synopsis: A retelling of Sleeping Beauty featuring Maleficent as the main anti-hero.

Verdict: The concept is way better than the execution.

The story itself had potential, and if it were told in the same short story format that fairy tales tend to be written in (ala Brothers Grimm), it could have been great. I did like the take on “true love”, the back story for Maleficent’s vendetta and the point made with the prince.

However, most of the story was a summary of a large period of time where nothing other than character development happens. That character development doesn’t have any events to drive it–it is the plot, all by itself.

That’s a pretty big danger zone, because generally, stuff needs to be happening. The characters need to be challenged by more than babysitting. This would have been fine as a couple of paragraphs of summary in a fairy tale, but it doesn’t come across so well in a movie, and it makes the character development feel less organic. Maybe they could have treated it as a short summary with voiceovers in the movie, but then most of the movie would be voiceovers explaining the story. There just isn’t enough plot driving the character development.

It also would have been nice if building up Maleficent didn’t depend on diminishing the three fairy godmothers who raise Aurora. And if Aurora had more of a personality, though I suppose her only real purpose was to motivate Maleficent. They could have gotten a lot more use out of Maleficent and Stefan’s long history, so that felt a bit wasted by the end. Diaval the bird is a fun character, though.

In short, this is an interesting story told in a boring way.

The Curse of Chalion

Borrowed from d.gr-assets.com

Genre: Political Fantasy

Synopsis: Cazaril makes his way to a household where he had served as a page, his life much changed, to beg a position from an old patron. He just wants a simple job that he can live on. He just wants to be forgotten in peace. However, he ends up in charge of the education of the young royina, just as she is about to head to the Roya’s court.

This puts him right in the middle of the politics of the country, standing between the royina and the corrupt forces trying to bend her to their will. To make matters worse, the entire royal line including the royina are under a curse, one that bends events towards bad outcomes for them. Cazaril must protect the royina, dodge is own old enemies, and lift the curse–feats that will require great sacrifice to achieve.

Series: Self-contained, has a sequel.

POV: Third person, single POV.

Romance: In the background, but it’s slight.

I’d recommend this book for people who like political drama, wise characters, and don’t require a lot of action.

Cazaril goes through some life-changing events just prior to the start of the story–that means that he isn’t the person he’s supposed to have been, given his station and prior life. The life he’s led in contrast to the life he should have had make him an unusual personality for his position. He acts older than his thirty-five years–I originally assumed he was much older than that. He’s self-effacing where he should be arrogant. He’s unassuming where he should be ambitious. He’s philosophical where he should be conventional.

It’s actually very fascinating, getting to see a type of personality that wouldn’t normally be in his position. And there’s something very respectable about the person he’s become.

Despite this, the book really does try to push Cazaril beyond his breaking point. Some of the imagery used to describe Cazaril’s condition was very uncomfortable, and it’s left ambiguous whether or not this psychologically disturbing possibility really happened.

Regardless, the gods use Cazaril as a kind of chosen, putting him on the path by which he might remove the curse. This is not a particularly comfortable position or a pleasant task. Cazaril wonders several times how much the gods know or care about how these tasks are accomplished.

This book focuses heavily on the politics and character drama. Very little action to be had. It’s Cazaril’s character that anchors the work. Everyone else flavors it, but Cazaril is the core of what makes the book so interesting.

There is a sequel that sounds promising, following a peripheral character from this book: Ista, who had failed spectacularly to lift the curse from her family once before, which makes for an interesting backstory for a hero–someone who had already failed.

I’m definitely happy with this book, and look forward to the next one.

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2 Responses to Review Round-up: Maleficent and The Curse of Chalion

  1. Maija Reads says:

    The Curse of Chalion sounds like I would like it! The character of Cazaril seems very interesting, especially that he is thrust into the middle of the royal court while he would just like to be left in peace. It’s great that it’s self-contained, too. I have never read any Lois McMaster Bujold before, I have to admit.

    I definitely agree with your review of Maleficent. The movie had this constant feeling that it could be great, but something was missing. Angelina Jolie rocked, though.

    • Marie Erving says:

      I’m getting surprised by a few self-contained fantasy works lately, when I expect them to very much be the first book in a series. It’s some coincidence that I’m reading them so close to each other. This was my first Lois McMaster Bujold, and I had no idea what to expect.

      Angelina Jolie is a great actress, I just wish she’d been given more to work with. She did great with what she had.

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