{Book Review} Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

“Sam was brushing her hair when the girl in the mirror put down the hairbrush, smiled, and said, “We don’t love you anymore.” So began the Twitter Audio project, with a dazzling first line penned by New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman. What followed was an epic tale of imaginary lands, magical objects, haunting melodies, plucky sidekicks, menacing villains, and much more. 

From mystical blue roses to enchanted mirrors to pesky puppets, this classic fable was born from the collective creativity of more than one hundred contributors via the social network Twitter.com in a groundbreaking literary experiment. Together, virtual strangers crafted a rollicking story of a young girl’s journey with love, forgiveness, and acceptance.”*

This is the first audio book I actually finished so this will always have a special place in my heart. Hearts, Keys, and Puppetry is a the result of a collaborative effort by Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse, wherein the famous author gets the ball rolling by tweeting the first sentence, and the rest of the world pitches in. The result was then turned by BBC into a script for an audiobook. 

I admit I was at first doubtful at the resulting quality of the story. Many a time have I tried playing that game where a person writes a sentence, and then another one continues it, and so on, and the resulting plot almost always turned out to be messy. Because of this, I steeled myself for what the outcome might be. After almost two hours, I resurfaced quite reluctantly into the normal world. Needless to say, I really loved it. Everyone who contributed managed to spin a beautiful tale of adventure and redemption, and I couldn’t help but root for Sam all throughout. I was very pleased at the resulting twists and revelations. Imagine all the contributors reading every tweet as they came and figuring out the best course of action to take for Sam and the other characters! It was brilliant, and I’m so happy for everyone who contributed to the story. I also commend Katherine Kellgren for her wonderful job on narrating. I was quite scared of listening to an audio book for fear that it would not be able to retain my attention, but her skill in adapting the best voice for each character and the emotions they felt were not lost to me. I really enjoyed the whole listening experience. 

This is indeed a very good starting audio book for those who want to try listening to them. You can download the audio books here. Enjoy!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5

Audiobook from Audible

Authors: Neil Gaiman and the Twitterverse

Original Language: English

Published: Feb. 8, 2010 by BBC Audiobooks America

{Book Review} Trese #4 – Last Seen After Midnight

Last Seen After Midnight (Trese, #4)“Foul play. Magic spells. Supernatural criminals. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese

This graphic novel contains the following cases: 

In a neglected area of Luneta Park, where the grass grows untended, a man is found strangled by vines; which have started to grow outwards, killing anyone that gets in its path. 

A manananggal has been found, tortured and murdered. The Manananggal Clan declares war on the Aswang Clan. Trese must find the real murderer before more blood is shed, before Manila gets in the crossfire of a supernatural gang war. 

A strange illness has affected the students living along Katipunan Avenue. The doctors are clueless on what’s driving these people mad with despair. Can Trese trace the source of this growing paranormal epidemic? 

Once a year, in General Santos City, the demons and creatures of the underworld converge to watch a most awaited event, where the country’s greatest boxer fights for his very soul.”*

Last Seen After Midnight is the fourth in the series of highly successful komiks by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo. I was very much excited to read this after the impact of the third Trese book, Mass Murders, because even though I said last time that it answers much of my questions, admittedly, I can never get enough Trese. Unlike its predecessor, Last Seen After Midnight has taken after the first two volumes, wherein the cases are stand-alone. There is no story arc that connect the four cases, but that’s fine by me since each case proved to be interesting in its own right.

I wasn’t too keen on the first case since I felt that it was over too soon, just when it was really starting to build up, but I loved how they used the popular OPM song “Ang Huling El Bimbo” by the Eraserheads as a peg for the relationship between Florabelle and her plants. At any rate, I couldn’t help imagining actual plants singing this song, and I give Cadena de Amor bonus points for making me think such ridiculous things.

Fight of the Year obviously parodies world-class boxer Manny Pacquiao. I thoroughly enjoyed how the plot explained why Manuel, the boxer, trains so hard for his fights despite him not needing any more monetary prizes offered by each fight. It’s more than just the honor, but what that “more” is, you’ll just have to read and see. I laughed out loud at the explanation for why the crime rate is zilch whenever Manuel has a fight, but based on the context of the story it is entirely plausible. What that explanation is, you have to read to find out as well. Another thing that I’ve noticed most of the reviews never fail to mention – it is in this case where you get to see Trese in a dress. Yup. That’s right. Better savor that page because I don’t think we’ll see her in a dress anytime soon again. She really looked stunning!

The second case, A Private Collection, is where things got really tricky – and sticky – for Trese. There is only one other time where I was not entirely sure what would happen in the story, and that was in Mass Murders. Because of this, I loved the plot. The antagonist in the story is such a creeper, eurgh.

Last but not the least is my favorite, Wanted: Bedspacer. Usually I automatically get interested in a case if it’s set in a place where I frequent, and this is no exception. Since my school is along Katipunan, I felt a sort of connection to the setting. This time, though, my love for the plot exceeded my affinity for the location. This case includes the infamous bangungot, but this time, Budjette Tan used a different angle and a new perception that explains this phenomenon in a way that I thought was creative and original, if not heartwrenchingly beautiful. 

In this volume, I could not help but notice how different Alexandra Trese looks compared to the three previous books. KaJo Baldisimo has created an edgier, sharper version of Trese in this book, resulting in cleaner drawings compared to the sketch-like quality of Murder on Balete Drive and the others. I think what really marks the difference are Trese’s eyes. They seem more open now, anyway.

I will never stop loving Trese. I know, I’m such a fangirl, but still. I cannot express enough how I impatient I am for the next installment!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: October 2009
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime
Related Posts:

{Review} Batman: Prey

The front cover of Batman: Year One. I love how creepy and awesome it looks!

“Set in the Year One time frame, Batman must confront the sinister Dr Hugo Strange, a man with a deadly secret, out to stop and, if necessary, kill the Dark Knight. Who is the bloodthirsty Night Scourge, how does he link in with the police department, and where exactly does the mysterious Catwoman fit into all this?” *

I have been meaning to follow the Batman chronology for a while now, but I’ve only really come round to doing it fairly recently (this year, in fact). I love how, with every Batman story I read, I learn something new about him! Reading chronologically really helps, but I’ve been using this as my guide. As far as I know, there are no official DC listings for a Batman chronology, despite the wealth of comics about the Dark Knight that have been around for more than seventy years (Batman was first introducted in 1939). It suggested that after Batman: Year One (review here), I read Batman: Prey, so I dutifully obeyed.

Prey is estimated to occur shortly after Year One, so it is no surprise that we still see Batman as the dark, brooding hero coming to terms with his new mission as protector of Gotham City. Despite his best efforts to prove that he is actually one of the good guys, he is still a highly targeted vigilante for many of its citizens, particularly the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD). At the moment, his only friends (and the only ones who know his real identity as Bruce Wayne) are the ever-loyal butler,  Alfred, and the detective-turned-captain James Gordon.

Prey begins with a police sting operation designed to catch a drug dealer who could reveal the syndicate behind it all. Before the GCPD could close in on the guy, though, Batman has shaken the guy and disrupted the whole operation. One of the officers, Max Cort, gets thoroughly infuriated by this and reports to an indifferent Gordon, who defends Batman by insisting that he is actually good for morale. In the next scene, Gordon is shown at a television show, being interviewed along with Gotham City Mayor Kauss and Dr. Hugo Strange, a well-known psychiatrist. Dr. Strange offers some insight against Batman, analyzing why he wears a costume, etc. The Mayor is very much impressed with him that he hires the man for his services in a newly-enforced “Task Force Vigilante” against Batman, unbeknownst to anyone in GCPD prior to Kauss’s announcement on-air. Against Gordon’s wishes, the Mayor assigns him as the head of said task force. As the story unravels, we get to see different sides of this Hugo Strange, as well as Max Cort, and even glimpses of Catwoman in between.

Even though I did not finish Prey in a day as planned, it stuck with me long enough for me to really get a kick out of it. I especially liked the latter parts, where the climax of the story is. The characters seemed very real, and were very convincing in their roles. Dr. Strange was, well, really strange, but more than that, he was downright creepy with his obsession and, to say the least, he was insane in the worst sense of the word. Max Cort proved to be as idiotic as Gordon thought he would be, all brawn with little brain, believing he could actually beat Batman! Tsk. As if. A thing that I would have liked to see more of was Catherine, the Mayor’s daughter. She was established at the beginning to be a very opinionated woman, but later on she just served as a pawn in the power play between Dr. Strange and Batman. Her faith in the Dark Knight was pleasantly unexpected, which naturally made me want to see more of her in a setting that gave her freedom to do whatever she liked. 

On the other hand, the art was, for me, exquisite. The illustrations by Paul Gulacy and Terry Austin and the coloring by Steve Oliff were brilliantly done, and the fact that it was made in the 90’s made it even more impressive. I was rereading some parts of Prey for this review earlier and I thought, ‘This is what comics should look like’. Probably part of what made me gush about the art was how I really love vintage style comics, especially from genuinely vintage comics. They just look so fine! Anyway, I really loved Prey. I was already dead set on loving Batman anyway, but reading stories like this made me remember why I love him so much. Really. 

In a nutshell…
Rating: 4/5
Writer: Doug Moench
Artist: Paul Gulacy, Terry Austin
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: John Costanza
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: 1990, New York 
Genre: Superhero, Crime

{Book Review} Trese #2: Unreported Murders

Unreported Murders (Trese, #2)


“When dusk arrives in the city of Manila, that’s when you become the most likely prey of the criminal underworld. 

Kidnappers and thieves will be the least of your worries. 

Beware the criminals that can’t be bound with handcuffs nor harmed with bullets. 

Beware the ones that crave for your blood, those who hold your heart ransom, and the ones that come to steal your soul. 

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.”*

The second volume in the Trese series, Unreported Murders delves deeper into the world of the paranormal, much to my delight and horror. I have revived my old high school habit of reading during the thin sliver of time between studying and sleeping, and reading about monsters that could probably be a-creepin’ around my room at the moment doesn’t really help in the sleeping part. Nevertheless, I was able to revel more in the interesting aspect of this volume rather than the scare factor, which leads me to mention my thoughts after finishing the last case.

There are four cases featured in Unreported Murders. I was very much amused to find so many references to things that exist in our collective consciousness, parodies of well-known people and places, and urban legends that get passed on from generation to generation. Exhibit A: In A Little Known Murder in Studio 4, ABC-ZNN sounds very much like ABS-CBN, a real-life Philippine TV network that is presently located along Mother Ignacia Street, and Heather Evangelista, the victim, clearly references Heart Evangelista. Exhibit B:  Embrace of the Unwanted. This case clearly plays on the infamous Robinsons malls urban legend about a snake that kidnaps and eats women in dressing rooms. There are much more, and finding these Easter eggs definitely adds to the fun of reading this volume, and every volume in the Trese series.

So far, this is the more graphic of the first two Trese books. Because one of the cases involves zombies, and another involves a horde of the creatures, there are naturally more fight scenes between the monsters and Alexandra with her kambal. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you will definitely enjoy this volume.

I still like the first book more, but this volume doesn’t trail too far behind. I liked Unreported Murders, and it’s doing a really good job of keeping the next books hyped up and keeping my interest. There are still things about Alexandra Trese and the other characters that I wished to be explored ever since the first book, but since this is part of a series, I am not without hope that the next book will explain the mystery of their identities.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
140 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: July 2008
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime

Related Posts:

Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Trese #3: Mass Murders

Trese #4: Last Seen After Midnight

{Book Review} Trese #1: Murder on Balete Drive

Murder On Balete Drive (Trese, #1)

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. 

When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.”*

I first heard of Trese sometime around December of last year, but as I was busy with college-related stuff, I didn’t think much of it and eventually forgot about it… until my parents gave me gift certificates to National Bookstore for Christmas and I was free to FINALLY buy books! I spent the last of them on this whole series, a decision which, so far, I DO NOT REGRET.

Before I even started reading the graphic novels, I was already very excited. I love stories that have mythological aspects in a modern setting, and Trese promises to deliver just that. Filipino readers will be delighted to find the legendary aswang, kapre, engkantos, and several other creatures from native folklore jump straight from the page with the sharp angles of the black-and-white illustrations and dialogue that reveal their true selves as well as the side that allows them to mingle among us, unnoticed.

Trese: Murder on Balete Drive is the first book in the Trese series written by Budjette Tan and illustrated by KaJo Baldisimo. It has four cases that the protagonist, a bold young woman named Alexandra Trese, tackles with her trusty kambal bodyguards. The settings are eerily familiar, based on real roads and places within the Philippines. Case 2, Rules of the Race, stands out clearly in my mind, because the main storyline takes place in C-5, a road I pass every day to and from school. That, and the familiarity of the folklore and horror stories I grew up with as a child made reading this more interesting.

I normally don’t read supernatural stuff, and I was initially trepidated at the prospect of reading about the things that lurked around my childhood nightmares living among us now. I thought that if I read about the aswang actually surviving in the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, the forever young side of my brain will freak out and think I am no longer safe. That was not the case with this book, and with that I am glad. It’s not because the material wasn’t convincing; I was just really interested. And because of that, I am now all the more excited to read the coming books.

I really suggest everyone to take up this series and read it, but I’m afraid those unfamiliar with Philippine mythology could feel a bit lost. That said, if you read Trese, you would be able to get some information about the creatures from the stories, but if there are a lot of sources in the Internet that cover them. I was Googling “Philippine monsters” and I saw this. I am Filipino and I haven’t even heard of some of the monsters, there are so many of them. Now that I’ve read the first volume, I really must start reading the next ones!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
104 pages
Writer: Budjette Tan
Illustrator: Kajo Baldisimo
Publisher: Visual Print Enterprises
Published: March 2008
Genre: Paranormal, Horror, Crime
Related Posts:

{Book Review} Practice Makes Perfect

When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules–and the battle between the sexes is about to make two lawyers hot under the collar. Original.

Lately I’ve been really in the mood to read a lot of chick lit. Even though I’m still in the middle of 1984 by George Orwell and Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, I wanted to read something light and funny like I’ve Got Your Number. Plus, this book came to my possession after a friend gave me an ebook collection as a gift. All I had to do was transfer a copy to my phone and voila! I could go anywhere and have a book in my pocket. I have been looking for recommendations from Goodreads as well, and most of my friends have been marking Practice Makes Perfect as a to-read book. I have heard of Julie James, but I never got around to reading her books, and I suppose now is a good time to start as any. Anyhoo. On with the review.

Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson have hated each other almost a decade. Payton, a die-hard feminist, believes that J.D. is a spoiled rich kid who succeeds in his field because of old money and most particularly, his gender. J.D., on the other hand, believes that Payton gets ahead because she is a woman and several men-dominated industries are trying to add diversity by hiring more women. Always competing against each other, Payton and J.D.’s eight-year-long conflict escalates to war after their law firm announced that only one of them could be a partner. Suddenly, it is only one or the other. Who would it be?

This story is narrated in a he said, she said fashion, which is really appropriate since the readers can see from the man’s point of view as well, unlike the usual heroine perspective. From this viewpoint, we can see how wrong they could be in their assumptions as well as sense something more than hate brewing under the surface.

J.D. and Payton’s is a classic love-hate relationship, which is refreshing for me since I haven’t read really intense love-hate stories in a while. Both of them are sure they couldn’t hate the other any more than they already do, and as it turns out, they  really couldn’t… in a good way. You could really see their expertise in being lawyers. There were a lot of technical terms in their conversations that made me revel in how good Julie James was in researching what they did.. but then I found out she actually took up law! There goes why her other books involve justice and the law, which I find really cool. Just the Sexiest Man Alive, Something Like You, A Lot Like Love, and About That Night definitely go to my to-read list now. Besides, they all have such nice reader ratings in Goodreads.

I really liked how, as the book progresses, J.D. and Payton realize that all of their hating to a passion for the past eight years was actually because of another kind of passion. You know. And I absolutely love how they realize it, and how, despite hating each other’s guts, they begrudgingly admit the other’s best qualities with a reluctant sort of respect.  As the decision of who makes partner edges nearer, our hero and heroine, and the reader in turn, realizes that they are both well-matched and very much crazy about the other, which makes the ending very sweet indeed. (I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying that. You know it does end happily, right?)

I found this a really entertaining book, and I still couldn’t believe I managed to finish this in six hours (from an hour before midnight till the wee hours of the morning, plus an hour during normal waking hours). It’s that addicting. So sue me for loving this book (pun intended). I recommend it for anyone who reads chick lit and contemporary romance, really. You can never go wrong with good ol’ love-hate chick lit.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Author: Julie James
Original Language: English
Published: 3 March 2009 by Berkley Sensation
Genre: Chick Lit, Romance

{Book Review} The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millenium #1)

The sexy UK edition cover

“Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there’s no turning back. This debut thriller–the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson–is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch–and there’s always a catch–is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.” 
–Dave Callanan*

It’s really hard trying to type something that makes sense when you’ve been reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for majority of the night. I didn’t have the wisdom to take notes, which I really should have, but now just means I have to write this review before my brain leaks out of my ears. Below are some random thoughts I had that I wrote at different times of the day, trying to piece together remnants of a review.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a long time now. I’ve seen it being recommended in various book clubs, and now there’s a Hollywood remake. I really hate watching movies before I read the book, and the premise seemed interesting, so I decided to borrow it from the library for the Christmas break and finish it before it shows in the local cinema. I opened the book with high expectations, which was fueled by the puzzling prologue. However, as the first hundred pages passed, I still couldn’t see what was so good about the novel. The next hundred pages passed, and no, not it either. And then I hit the next hundred pages.

The story is not that complicated to begin with. Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist, sees his career go down the drain into the sewers after he was convicted for libel. Against all odds, corporate magnate by the name of Henrik Vanger offers him a job: solve the mystery of the unsolved disappearance of his niece, Harriet Vanger, which occurred thirty-seven years ago. The offer is preposterous: who in his right mind would offer millions for a case that even Sweden’s best detectives could not crack? But he took it. Along the way, he meets Lisbeth Salander, a young woman who is as dangerous as she is thin. Together they comb through the vast Vanger family clan and everything else that happened the fateful day of Harriet’s disappearance.

The summary I just gave barely made a dent into the intricate plot and colorful cast of characters that followed. Stieg Larsson had woven a tale that takes some concentration if you want to figure out what was going on. There are so many character names and places that were hard to pronounce in my inner ear, which impeded my reading slightly. I just invented an easier pronunciation, though I did have some fun trying to say the Swedish names out loud.

I also have this thing with Mikael Blomkvist. I praise him for his morals and whatever Henrik Vanger praised him for at the end of the book (which I leave for you to read), but really, do all the women have to jump on him? He did a good job (on the investigations – I think I have to be specific on that part) throughout the book though, so I don’t really mind. His nobility is admirable enough for me to ignore his man-whore ways when it was apparent that he’s not going to change. To be fair, he’s really morally upright journalism-wise. The person who really had me sold was Lisbeth Salander. I think she is such an interesting character. Socially awkward but brilliant. We all know the stereotype. But somehow, she brings some fire into the book. She also has problems of her own, like having a new guardian who proved to be a masochistic rapist. How she gets her revenge on him just got me in full admiration of her. She does revenge right. Her character proved to be interesting until the end of the book, and it was mostly because of her that I kept on reading. Despite society’s usual take on tattooed punks on the brink of being institutionalized, you can’t help but root for whatever her complicated thoughts push her to do.

One thing that really irked me about the whole thing was how excruciatingly slow the beginning was. It was all financial journalism talk, something I know nothing of and didn’t interest me in the least. And then there were the really long backstories on the characters that could have been shorter. In fact, the whole book could have been shorter. I can’t blame Stieg Larsson, though; he died shortly after submitting the unpublished manuscripts for the trilogy. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I was well halfway into the book before things finally started picking up. It took me more than a week to finish the book, with the remaining half read and finished just last night. The beginning with all the financial jargon and details about Blomkvist’s life annoyed me for its length, but I accept that it is crucial for the explanation of why Blomkvist did what he did, agreeing to a case by an old man who was probably already a wacko.

I’m going to admit the book gave me chills. I mean, I’m a woman, and reading about heinous and disgustingly grotesque crimes against my gender was unsettling. In fact, the original title – which was in Swedish – was Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, which literally meant “Men Who Hated Women”. In my opinion, it fit the story infinitely better than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though I can’t deny that a title like that was sexier, more subtle, and more mysterious, not to mention left more room for variation for the sequel titles.

I wouldn’t call the book overrated since I understood what people meant when they said it gets better, but I suggest you don’t expect it to be exciting from the start. The second half of the book is good, and finishing it felt like taking a gulp of fresh air, I was buried so deep within the story. That’s a mark of a good thriller, I think, so I recommend you read it. Refrain from doing so if you don’t like violence and sex and other gruesome bits, this book has lots of it (I doubt you would – this is a mystery/thriller after all). I like this book well enough that I want to read its sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and that in itself is good enough for me. Larsson skillfully incorporated his views on crimes on women and antisemitism, and I expect the next two books to still bear traces of his opinions, though not necessarily about the two previously mentioned. 

There’s this quote that I’ve been scrabbling to find at the dusty corners of my mind before I realized that it actually came from the ending parts of the book. It was a review on something Mikael Blomkvist published, but it mirrors what I think of Stieg Larsson and his explosive debut novel:

“It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor – there had been no time for any fine polishing – but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice.”

Now I suggest you pick it up and see for yourself if it’s right.

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Author: Stieg Larsson
Original Title: Män Som Hatar Kvinnor 
Original Language: Swedish
Translator: Reg Keeland (actually the pseudonym of Steven T. Murray)
Published: 2005
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
P.S. There are currently two film adaptations made on this book: Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (2009), and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011). I haven’t watched either mainly because I read the book before I watch the movie, on principle, but if I do get to watch them I’ll most probably write a review. No promises, though!

{Book Review} The Tempest: How I Stopped Worrying and Loved the Play

“In The Tempest, long considered one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, Prospero – a magician on an enchanted island – punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power. The Tempest embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World. Its complexity of thought, its range of characters – from the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban to the beautiful Miranda and her prince Ferdinand -its poetic beauty, and its exploration of difficult questions that still haunt us today make this play wonderfully compelling. 

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place, using illusion and skilful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s low nature, the redemption of Alonso, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.”*

I love reading classics, but that doesn’t mean I always read them. I have never been fond in particular of Shakespeare’s plays. Sure, reading them made you sound smart and sophisticated, but I always had a hard time understanding Shakespearean language in the past. More often than not, when I read Shakespeare (I actually just read Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth for school, and Romeo and Juliet, but I already knew the story – everyone did – so it was easier to understand), I usually consulted the modern version. This confession on my part might make scholars cringe, but I won’t deny it – reading the modern version made my life easier.

This time, however, I decided to take the plunge and read The Tempest in the original text. During the first few pages, I stumbled along with No Fear Shakespeare open in my browser, which annoyed me because I already planned out my schedule for today. If I wanted to finish in my allotted time frame (3 1/2 hours, or until dinner) I should quit constantly stopping to reread everything in modern-day format and just force my brain to understand everything.

Surprisingly, it worked. Granted, I still didn’t have a full grasp of everything that was said, but I understood the gist of each statement. I have always wondered how other people managed to read – and finish reading  – Shakespeare like it was a normal book, but that is just it. That’s the trick. Concentrate on the material, make sure you following what is being said before moving on to avoid rereading and wasting time, ponder a bit if you feel like it,  then move on. Don’t look back, and don’t stop. And I guess, most of all, don’t be afraid. It worked for me! Ever since I was young and decided to tinker with my dad’s Julius Caesar book, I got scared of the unfamiliar words that I resolved not to give myself a hard time on doing something I’m supposed to enjoy. I was propelled to read this because I was pressed for time but in the end, I found myself having fun. To think that this was a school requirement!
The Tempest begins with, strangely enough, a tempest. The raging storm drive Alonso, the king of Naples, his son Ferdinand, Alonso’s brother Sebastian, the lord Gonzalo, Antonio, Tinculo, the boatswain, the ship captain, and several other crew members to pray for their lives, thoroughly convinced the ship will sink. These events are witnessed with dismay by Miranda, who rushes to her father Prospero. The two have lived on an island far off sea for twelve years, and apparently, this was caused by the betrayal of Prospero’s brother Antonio (the same one in the ship). Prospero used to be the duke of Milan, and Antonio plotted with Sebastian and Alonso to send him and his daughter out to sea, to die. Unbeknownst to them, Gonzalo helps the fallen duke and his daughter by sending them supplies. Despite this treacher, Prospero saves the ship and all its inhabitants through the help of a spirit named Ariel (who is NOT a mermaid and is most definitely male – something I had to remind myself of several times). He orders Ariel to be invisible to everyone but him. Another character is introduced in the form of Caliban, the son of the late Sycorax (a witch), and is presently Prospero’s slave. It is obvious from his language and manners towards his master that he despises him, and this was explained due to the fact that Caliban believes the island was rightfully his, and Prospero just stole it from it.
The passengers of the ship slowly regain consciousness, but Ariel has scattered them all over the island. Alonso awakens to find Gonzalo, Sebastian, Antonio, and some others, but fails to find his son, which disheartens him greatly. Ariel makes everyone in the group except for Sebastian and Antonio sleep, and the two utilize the situation to plot the assassinations of Alonso and Gonzalo. As these bastards draw their swords, Ariel awakens Gonzalo, who in turn awakens Alonso and the rest, so Sebastian and Antonio make up some story about hearing some beasts or something and get away with it. Meanwhile, in some other part of the island, Trinculo, the jester, and the drunkard butler Stephano get reunited, the latter still managing to save some wine somewhere and cheerfully swigging a bottle. Caliban chances upon the two and was instantly fascinated by the intoxicating drink, jumping ship (haha) from Prospero to Stephano as his new master. As these three roll merrily along, Ferdinand stumbles upon Miranda and falls in love with her, and she him. Prospero watches all this, hidden. Despite his obvious delight, he makes things hard for Ferdinand by making him pile logs, just so the prince wouldn’t think Miranda as an easy chick.
Doesn't look so easy now, does it?
Just as I was starting to like Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban, they all decide to kill Prospero and turn Miranda into Stephano’s queen (he imagined himself king of the island because of Caliban’s praises; I don’t know what got into Trinculo to humor them). On the other side of the island, Alonso and company walk until they see illusions of a banquet taking place. As they near the food, it all disappears as  Ariel reveals himself as a Harpy and singles out Alonso, Antonio, and Sebastian of usurping Prospero of his dukedom and causing him much grief. Ariel then disappears to celebrate with Prospero the marriage of Ferdinand and Miranda. The spirit and his master then leave quickly to thwart Trinculo, Stephano, and Caliban’s evil plan. In the end, all the characters reunite, Prospero forgives them all (despite Antonio’s not asking for forgiveness, the traitor), and they’re all happy.
Random thoughts: Imagine staging the tempest during Shakespeare’s time – not much props, barely a proper background, almost everything left to the actors’ skill and the audience’s imagination! They must all be good. And to think that the actors were usually given their lines as the play progressed!
I found a lot of parts funny, which was strange because I seldom had cause to laugh at in classics, much more Shakespeare ones, but yes, the Bard himself can be funny. The play reminded me a lot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (something I forgot to mention I read) because of the magical elements. In essence, this is mainly Prospero’s story. The play revolved around him getting back the justice he deserves from the betrayal of his brother and members of the royal family, but ironically it was okay for him to enslave Ariel and Caliban to achieve his ends. In the end, you can’t help but sympathize with him. He’s such a nice dad after all, and he forgave those who wished him ill (too easily, in my opinion). Conclusion: The Tempest is a great read, and I suggest you read it, even if it’s not a school requirement!

In a nutshell…

Rating: 4/5
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Published: 1623
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance
For much deeper insights and more information, try SparkNotes. I checked my facts there, too.
PS There’s actually a movie version! I haven’t watched it yet. Is it any good?