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Molly Templeton

Internal Circumstances Are the Only Thing You Can Control: Mourning The Magicians

There’s so much I want to talk about with this show—not just the ending, but so many moments along the way. I want to talk about all the episodes that made me cry; about the beauty of “A Life in the Day”; about Margo’s desert journey with lizard-king Eliot; about how much I want to believe in a swearing Santa Claus who gives exactly the things you don’t know you need. I want to talk about the cruel whimsy of gods and the incredible skill with which the show’s writers balanced people doing shitty, selfish things with deep understanding of exactly why they were doing them.

I want to talk about Alice, and how so much of her anger comes from how much she doesn’t change enough, how she’s brittle and wise and always scared of losing, and how that doesn’t protect her when the loss comes. I want to talk about destroying in order to create, and that smile on Margo’s face at the end. And I want to talk about how these characters aren’t heroes.

They aren’t anti-heroes, either. The Magicians isn’t a show about redefining what it means to be a hero, but it is, in part, about asking whether that’s even a useful way to measure anything. It’s what Quentin Coldwater has to get over: the dream of being a chosen one. It turns out that it’s a lot more effective to simply do what needs to be done, even when it’s the opposite of heroic—when it’s robbing a bank or tripping magic balls or literally bottling up your emotions or just accepting the good and bad of your internal circumstances.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

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New World, Same Alphaholes: Sarah J. Maas’ House of Earth and Blood

As half-Fae go, Bryce Quinlan seems fairly normal. She works as an assistant at a gallery, and if some of her errands are a little weird, well, so are most things in gritty Crescent City (also known as Lunathion), where otter messengers run side by side with werewolves, witches, angels (fallen and otherwise), vampires, and other supernatural beings.

Bryce works during the day and goes out with her friends at night—friends that include Danika, the leader of a werewolf pack; Fury, whose work is mysterious; and Juniper, a ballerina faun. She dates; she rebuffs the interest of one of Danika’s wolf-bros; she’s in her early twenties and she mostly does what she wants.

Until Danika and her entire pack are gruesomely murdered.

House of Earth and Blood is Sarah J. Maas’s first venture into fiction for grown adults, not young adults, but if you were expecting that to mean more sexytimes, you will be disappointed. Mostly it means that the heroine has a job and some responsibilities, that the violence is more detailed, and that everyone swears a lot more than in the Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

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The War Comes Home: Reading Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Wings and Ruin

Feyre Archeron has come into her own, mastering most of her powers and finding true love, but war still looms. Before she and her friends can face Hybern’s evil king for once and for all, they have information to gather—and Feyre herself is a spy in a house she once thought of as home. Everything depends on whether they can find the resources and the allies to make a final stand against the king, his armies, and his Cauldron.

In 2018, I read all of Throne of Glass in just a few weeks, and chronicled the whole thing here. This year, while we wait for the March release of Maas’s first adult novel, Crescent City, it’s time for A Court of Thorns and Roses!

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What Comes After: Reading Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury

Feyre Archeron made it out from Under the Mountain, but no one would say she came out unscathed. Haunted by what she went through—and what she did—Feyre isn’t the same person she once was, on so many levels. Struggling with the life she thought she wanted, Feyre finds herself rescued by the least likely person—one who shows her a different side of High Fae life.

But conflict among the Fae is far from over, as the king across the sea plots his next move and an ancient weapon comes into play. Stopping it might be up to Feyre… if she can just master the surprising powers she’s inherited.

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No Wine, No Bargains, and Don’t Trust Your Senses: Reading Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses

Stunning and mysterious Fae lords. A world under the thumb of a mysterious and dangerous woman. The complicated relationship between mortals and immortal creatures. A long-ago war that shaped the future of mortals and Fae alike. And one young woman with a huge role to play in all of it. Some of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first book in Sarah J. Maas’s series of the same name, reflects the story and themes of her Throne of Glass series. And some of it starts to go in a whole different direction.

In 2018, I read all of Throne of Glass in just a few weeks, and chronicled the whole thing here. This year, while we wait for the March release of Maas’s first adult novel, Crescent City, it’s time for A Court of Thorns and Roses!

As before, this is a first-read, so please: no spoilers for the series beyond the book currently under discussion.

That said, I’m going to talk Throne of Glass spoilers at least this once. But I’ll give fair warning.

Shall we go to Prythian?

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How We Live Now: The Expanse, “Saeculum” and “Cibola Burn”

You can enjoy The Expanse for a lot of reasons. Maybe it’s the characters, the scrappy found families, accidental do-gooders, swearing politicians, steely Belters and protomolecule plotters. Maybe it’s the sheer beauty the show is capable of: the alien vistas of Ilus, the ships in orbit, the vision of a half-drowned New York, those stunning titles. Maybe it’s the way the characters grow around each other, or the way the sets look lived-in and detailed, like places you’d want to wander through, figuring out what each item means to the person it belongs to.

It’s all of those things for me. But it’s also the question the show asks over and over again: Is this how we want to live?

Spoilers for season four.

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A Little More Time: The Expanse, “A Shot in the Dark” and “The One-Eyed Man”

One of the things that keeps me so invested in The Expanse—the show and the books—is that this story is interested in what comes after. It’s one of the things it has in common with Battlestar Galactica; it’s not (just) about how we get to a tipping point, but how we deal with it, what we learn, how we keep going. A lot of SFF focuses on the big moment of change, but I always want to know what’s next. How do we handle that kind of hard part? How does humanity rebuild after The Matrix Revolutions? How does the New Republic come into being after Return of the Jedi? (Yeah, I know, some of it’s in the books! I read them!)

I love “The Scouring of the Shire.” I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tehanu. And I love The Expanse, which shows again and again how big moments of change aren’t stopping points. There’s so much more to do after you survive.

[Spoilers for episodes 7 and 8, “A Shot in the Dark” and “The One-Eyed Man.”]

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There Will Be a Next Thing: The Expanse, “Oppressor” and “Displacement”

Halfway through last season was the point when the story shifted from the war between Earth and Mars to the matter of the ring, so maybe it’s not a huge surprise that the midpoint of season four brings a whole new threat! A big one! One that totally freaks me out! Let’s get right to it!

[Spoilers for episodes 4 and 5, “Oppressor” and “Displacement.”]

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First Things Last: The Expanse: “Subduction” & “Retrograde”

First, a confession: I’ve been so engrossed in this season that it took me a long minute to realize that the Ilus scenes are widescreen. It makes so much sense; it’s the first time The Expanse has taken place in wide open spaces. Everyone else is constrained in some way: by the ships of the Belt; by the habitable places on Mars; by the limits of office, in Avasarala’s case. (Not to mention the population density of Earth.) Emphasizing the scope of Ilus, the smallness of this little gaggle of humans contrasted against a planet that appears to them to be “empty,” is a gorgeous choice.

[Spoilers for episodes 3 and 4, “Subduction” and “Retrograde.”]

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“What in the hell did you do?” The Expanse: “New Terra” and “Jetsam”

FINALLY. It’s been a long wait for season four of The Expanse, and it’s finally here and ready for bingeing. (No one made any weekend plans, right?) After some generally spoiler-free first impressions of the season (tl;dr version: The show remains great!), it’s time to dig in.

(Spoilers for episodes 1 and 2, “New Terra” and “Jetsam.”)

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Storm’s Coming. Initial Impressions of The Expanse Season 4

At the end of season three of The Expanse, more than a thousand doors opened. Space: it’s an even bigger place than we thought! But humanity hasn’t always been great with places it thinks are empty and ripe for the taking. History is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as The Expanse moves into its fourth season. What does a mad rush to colonize new planets look like when people are short on opportunities? What is opportunity, and who gets more of it? What if these planets have already seen interstellar conflict and destruction? What if no one fully understands the situation?

The first episode of season four screened at NYCC, and so as not to retread that territory I’ll skip the summary—besides, season four isn’t the place to pick up this complex and engrossing series, friends! Start at the beginning! But for those of you who are caught up: if you don’t want to know a single thing about season four, you’re free to stop reading now with the assurance that, based on the first six episodes, it’s the same show, smart and immersive as ever. But if you want a little more, let’s talk a little about where the story’s going, and what it all means.

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Hugo Spotlight: Embracing Character Flaws in Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road

In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

We know the language for the novels that shape us when we’re young: formative, inspirational, the books that made us who we are—the ones that show us who we can grow into, and ways of becoming those people. But it’s less common to talk about the books that serve this same purpose once we’re grown-ups—even though we keep becoming who we are. It’s not a finite process!

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Assassins, Pirates, or Dragons: Where to Start With the Work of Robin Hobb

Choosing a Robin Hobb book to start with isn’t just choosing a series—it’s choosing a doorway into a huge, interconnected world. All but one of Hobb’s trilogies make up a giant tale told in many pieces (the oddball is the Soldier Son series). They span continents and decades, damaging leadership and ecological damage, traumatic childhood and challenging coming-of-age.

And you can start in several places. If you’re a completist, you’ll probably start at the beginning, but if you’re not, you can choose based on character, or location, or focus. Would you like a young man with royal blood, or a headstrong young woman fighting to lead the family business? Prefer your dragon-centric tales set in a strange, deadly landscape? Would you like to explore a bustling port town in a series where family drama involves magical ships? Or do you like your fantasy set in castles and keeps, fully engaged with the foibles and flaws of royalty?

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