Review: Kingshold by Dave Woolliscroft

Kingshold is a solid debut in the fantasy genre that is often flawed but sprinkled with the occasional gold dust.

This was a requested review from Mr. Woolliscroft.

For a debut entry into the fantasy genre Kingshold shows a lot of promise. The story follows the events within the city of Kingshold following the murder of the King and Queen, and the transition into a pseudo-democracy.

Kingshold itself is the centerpiece of the story and whilst the city itself is well built, and the transition into a democracy offers a unique plot which I personally have not seen attempted before, the isolation within the single city does create its own problems.

I often found that having all the viewpoints take place solely (for the most part) within Kingshold not only limited the story, but it made everything feel too clustered and unclear. The characters themselves were hit and miss, with there being more than a few stereotypes from the fantasy genre, in particular the inclusion of an ancient wizard. But with that being said, the characters who did hit, hit strong. The aforementioned wizard, Jyuth, was well developed and offered some strong comedic value to the story. Hoskin, the weary-eyed politician who just wants to retire is also another highly enjoyable character. But beyond that, I felt that the characters were solid at best, and in the case of some of the tertiary characters, forgettable.

One of Woolliscroft’s obvious strengths in his writing is his understanding of the world he has built. He has managed to craft a very detailed realm of fantasy, that offers a lot of intrigue and mystery. But there in lies the issue. Due to the narrow focus of this first novel in what I presume will be a series, Kingshold suffers from not exploring more of that world. I found that some of the best writing and most exciting aspects of the novel were the discussions of far off continents, warring kingdoms and entirely other realms of existence. Unfortunately all that is only touched on in brief, albeit with great effect when it is. Hopefully this means that any future novel has been set up brilliantly, as I would certainly purchase a sequel which had a broader focus, as I have no doubt that that is where the skills of the author would really shine.

As I have seen it mentioned in other reviews I would echo that this novel is certainly one that takes a while to get going. In fact the first half of the story is threadbare at times as the author takes the time to introduce us to characters and the world at large (Which later pays off in the second half and hopefully in sequels). That isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of fun to be had with Kingshold, because there is.  What little action there is in the novel is well written, the characters who you are drawn to will provide you with the motivation to keep turning the pages to see how their story plays out and the overall unfurling of the election to crown a new democratic executive is well drawn out.

The actual quality of the writing is very high. I only picked on one very minor mistake, so if there are more mistakes out there among the text then they weren’t significant enough to be distracting from what I was reading. What surprised me most about the novel was the amount of humour that was entwined into the writing. It wasn’t something I expected to find among a fantasy novel covering the transition from monarchy to democracy, but it never felt out of place and often really helped to establish and further develop some of the better characters.

Overall I would suggest that this is certainly one to read if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, however perhaps one to come back to later if you’re only just getting into that branch of writing. The promise of a strong sequel is there, and if you take this as the platform for a grander series to be built on then I would say that it does its job very effectively. If it turns out that this is the only entry into this world, for whatever reason that may be, then I may look back on it and bemoan the lost potential. For that is truly what this novel is, strong potential that perhaps isn’t executed perfectly at times.

Thank you for providing this novel for review Mr. Woolliscroft, I hope that it brings you success and motivation enough to put pen to paper on Book number 2.

Final Score: 7/10 Porgs
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Review: Westworld Season 2. Episode 1

After what feels like an eternity of waiting, Westworld has returned to our screens to bring violent ends to these violent delights.

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Westworld Season 1 ended with a multitude of questions that still needed answering. Whilst we do receive a small handful of answers to kick-start the new season, Episode 1 unfortunately leaves us with two new questions for every one we have answered. It’s in this vein that the episode finds its core thread, it’s a new beginning both for the TV show itself and the characters within.

It’s an episode that deals with self-discovery on quite a large scale. Whilst the story of Bernard took center-stage, the motif of self-awareness ran strong throughout every storyline and I find it highly doubtful that this theme will suddenly dissipate in the coming weeks.

The episode itself, whilst intriguing in the numerous plot points it established, was slow at times. Despite being an hour and a half long episode, it didn’t feel the need to rush events too far. Instead it took a slower approach to proceedings, giving characters plenty of time to re-establish themselves with the audience. What did disappoint however was that new characters were often given one line introductions and then left to sink or swim. Gustaf Skarsgård’s new character Karl Strand, Head of Operations for Delos, feels highly important to this seasons storyline, but received little in the way of introduction or fleshing out. This isn’t unheard of for Westworld though as season 1 was inherently a very slow show until the latter stages. I have enough faith in the character work shown by the show so far that all these characters will be given enough time to fully develop in future episodes.

So, unsurprisingly, it was characters of old who stole the show this week. As always the acting was fantastic across the board, but it was great to see Evan Rachel Wood depict a much darker version of Dolores Abernathy. If I was a betting man I would say that her relationship with James Marsden’s character, Teddy Flood, will be one of the better threads of the season. It’s also worth noting that The Man in Black once again had an episode stealing scene, this time with the younger version of Robert Ford.

I’m certainly intrigued to see where the story takes us across the course of Season 2. The time-jumping is also something that makes it openly different to Season 1, as rather than secretly installing different timelines, the show is instead using them as a device for confusion and to engage attention.

Roll on Episode 2 and let’s just hope that now we’re fully integrated back into the world, things can pick up slightly quicker than they did in Season 1.

Final Score: 8/10 Porgs

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Review: A Quiet Place

Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski
Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe

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A Quiet Place is an Oscar-worthy film.

John Krasinski has hit a masterstroke with his feature film directorial debut. Starring, writing and directing a film which he considered something of a personal passion will have helped this film no-end, and having his real life wife Emily Blunt along for the ride to add experience and chemistry only helped to raise this film up from good to great.

Featuring a small cast of 4 people (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe playing the children of the aforementioned Blunt and Krasinski), set on a farm in the rural landscape of Duchess County, I doubt anyone involved with the production of the film would realise what a hit they had on their hands.

Debuting at the box-office with numbers similar to that of Ready Player One, a film which cost roughly $150m more to make, the debut film for Krasinski has already more than tripled its meager budget of $17m.

It’s hard to decide where to start with the positives of this film. Every member of the cast do an outstanding job and it’s hard to tell you exactly who the lead of the film is because all 4 characters are central to the story and family connection that the film is built around. Many people are quick to criticise child actors, but Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are absolute stars here. Selling their fear to absolute perfection, they at no point feel out of place or outshone. Krasinski does a wonderful job in the caretaker role, playing the protective and loving father to perfection. But it’s Emily Blunt who steals the show with her performance, including one scene in particular that should call for her to be nominated in the Best Actress category come 2019.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the use of sound throughout the film, the entire premise of what this cinema experience is built on. The film makes quick work of establishing the rules of the world within which it is set; what constitutes too much noise, what noises can be heard by what camera shots, and by extension what can be heard by the lurking monsters. Hopefully you get lucky and see this film with either an empty audience or a well behaved one. Having someone talking during this movie is likely to ruin the experience, which is entirely built around there being no sound in the movie and thus in the audience either, otherwise you run the risk of detracting from the tension and story that is being told on screen.

There is very little dialogue in this movie, nearly all communication is done through sign language and facial expressions, which only serves to heighten the performance of the actors involved. But what sound is used, is done so masterfully. I imagine that this film is a sound team’s wet dream, as they were able to focus on the minutia of what the audience should be hearing, and when the time came for loud noises and action, they were able to pull it off without losing any of the tension felt during quiet moments. Again, I would be incredibly surprised not to see this film get the nod for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing throughout the next award season.

All in all a near perfect movie, the action pieces were well directed, the pacing went at a frenetic pace but didn’t sacrifice character development to achieve it and the cinematography was really good, although I would have liked more landscape shots of the farmland, just to add a little further context to their surroundings outside the farm itself.

I tip my hat to John Krasinksi and everyone else involved in the creation of this film, because it’s not only the best horror film to come out in years, but it’s generally just one of the best films period over the past handful of years. Here’s hoping that this wasn’t just beginner’s luck for Krasinki and that he can go on to be one of the next great directors.

Final Score: 9/10 Porgs

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Review: Game Night

Director: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writers: Mark Perez
Starring: Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman

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Well it was certainly funnier than Father Figures

Credit where credit’s due Game Night tried to go for something a little different. It succeeded in making you question what was and wasn’t real throughout the entire film, and as someone who prides myself on being able to figure out a lot of plots before they unfold, was something I really enjoyed (I nailed down some of this plot but not all of it).

With that being said, the film does nothing exceedingly well. Whilst most of the characters are funny enough,  you will never feel overly attached to any of them and I’m pretty impressed that a mere 12 hours after seeing the film the only character names I can remember off hand are those of Gary (Played by Jesse Plemons) and Brooks (Played by Kyle Chandler). Neither of whom have massive roles in the film and are certainly not to be considered the main characters.

The acting is fine all around, nothing particularly outstanding, but let’s face it this film wasn’t made with Oscar contention in mind. Jason Bateman (Max) puts in the most Bateman-y performance you could conceive, and it’s pretty obvious now that he’s gone way past the point of being type-cast. The standouts from the group of friends however were Billy Magnussen (Ryan), Rachel McAdams (Annie) and the aforementioned Jesse Plemons. All of whom came across very well on screen, with Magnussen and Plemons delivering some of the better comedic work in the film.

The plot does descend into outlandish action/adventure towards the end which didn’t fit the tone of the film at all, and in a way severely distracted from what appeared to be a brilliant final sequence that revealed all to the audience. If the film had stuck to its guns and erased the ending action with a villain who appears in literally the penultimate scene of the movie, then it would have likely scored higher with me.

Not every joke is going to land, and that was certainly the case in my screening, but there are some nuggets in there. For the first time in years I actually went into this film without having seen a single trailer and without knowing the general plot. So I’m not sure how many of the film’s better jokes were given away in promotional material, but it’s probably best to avoid such material if you can.

Overall the movie is worth seeing, if only for the fact that it beats out Father Figures and is worth your money if only to pass away the time before the big summer blockbusters hit our cinema screens.

Final Score: 6/10 Porgs

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