Posts Tagged Review

Puella Hagi Madoka Magica – Review

[Written by Witch Awareness Month contributor, Sharon Kae Reamer

madokamagica

Puella Hagi Madoka Magica

The Complete Series

Episodes 1-12

2012 Magica Quartet/Manga Ariplex, Madoka Partners MBS

Original Story: Magica Quartet

Director: Akiyuki Shinbo

Screenplay: Gen Urobuchi (Nitroplus)

Character Concepts: aokiume

Character Design: Takahiro Kishida

DVD Description: Madoka Kaname is an average 14-year-old girl who loves her family and friends. One fateful day, this all changes when she has a very magical encounter with a strange creature called a Kyubey. Kyubey have the power to grant one wish to chosen girls. However, in exchange, those chosen must become magical girls and use their powers to fight against witches, evil creatures born from darkness and catalysts of despair.

First off, despite the Japanese schoolgirl costumes, Puella Hagi Madoka Magica is Dark. The story centers around a group of five girls – one of whom is Madoka Kaname, some of whom are confronted with the choice of becoming magical girls, and some who are already are.

Sayaka, Homura, Madoka, Kyoko, Mami

Sayaka, Homura, Madoka, Kyoko, Mami

The anime itself is gorgeous, from the quality and sharpness of the animation to the rich colors and effective surrealism of some of the settings that fit well with the excellent soundtrack, music composed by Yuki Kajiura. That alone makes it a pleasure to watch. The DVD I own has the choice of English or Japanese with English subtitles. I think anime is only truly authentic viewed as the latter, at least for me. I did watch a couple of the episodes in English, and it just didn’t work for me. English is too tame a language for anime. There isn’t any graphic violence (rating of 15), but this may have been edited for North American sensibilities.

As implied by the description, magical girls are the good guys. Witches are the bad guys. They’re all female. In fact, the minimal male presence in the series is secondary except for possibly Kyubey, who looks like a white cat with gold-ringed pigtails coming out of his ears. There is a subliminal amount of girl love going on; it’s really not more than a hint and done very elegantly (it’s an implied rather than explicit form of yuri).

Kyubey

Kyubey

Before meeting Kyubey, Madoka and her friend Sayaka Miki encounter a new transfer student at their school, Homura Akemi. She’s beautiful and mysterious with a strong Japanese-Goth vibe about her. Shortly thereafter, Madoka and Sayaka encounter Kyubey and are drawn into a surreal alternate reality landscape – a witch’s labyrinth – where they are in mortal danger until rescued by magical girl Mami Tohoe, who dispatches the witch.

Over cake and coffee, Mami explains the basics of being a magical girl. Witches have to be destroyed. It’s a full-time occupation and doesn’t leave time for any kind of normal life including boyfriends or careers or even growing up. It’s a non-reversible contract made with Kyubey. The contract is sealed by Kyubey granting the girl any wish she chooses. The physical contract manifests as a soul gem which contains the magical girls’ power and their soul. Witches are born when their despair manifests as a grief seed. What Mami – and Kyubey – don’t tell Madoka or Sanaka at this point is what’s hidden in the fine print. All magical girls are destined to become witches when their good magical energy turns dark. The magical girl can evade this fate for a time as long as she collects enough grief seeds to cleanse her soul gem. And magical girls who are not strong enough can be killed by witches and their familiars as well. Homura pits herself against Mami (and Kyubey) in an effort to prevent Madoka from becoming a magical girl. There’s also fierce rivalries and territorialism among the magical girls due to the necessity of obtaining enough grief seeds to keep themselves from turning into witches.

Mami Tohoe battling a witch

Mami Tohoe battling a witch

As the story progresses, magical girls die during the course of battling witches. These battles take place in the witch labyrinths which are really creepy manifestations of the witches’ power and are cool enough on their own to make another viewing of the anime worthwhile. It is unclear at first whether Kyubey is a force for good or evil and Homura, even though a magical girl, comes across as not-so-clearly on the side of the forces for good. This conflict would be enough to carry the story forward, but things become inordinately more complicated as the series progresses. I can best describe it without too many spoilers as a cross between Groundhog Day meets Highlander (substituting short schoolgirl skirts for kilts). It is a science fiction-magic mix, but I don’t want to reveal too much about that. Suffice to say that the plot turns interesting and even darker around the eighth episode; up until the final episode, the darkness seems unrelenting – there doesn’t seem to be any redemption possible for the magical girls.

My main critique is that the middle four episodes are relatively action-poor compared to the first four and the last four with backstory as filler and too few witch battles. Some reviewers have called PHMM a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, but I found it more of a creative reconstruction, fully self-aware and with sly asides about anime and cosplay from the characters themselves. Taken as a whole, the series is completely satisfying. I viewed all twelve episodes in one go, jet-lagged and armed only with a few glasses of wine and tomato sandwiches, and was not bored in the least. What surprised me in a good way was the brief but interesting tie-in with global witch history. The final witch battle is even with an über witch with the name of Walpurgisnacht. Although I would have enjoyed a bit more background about this witch, it was a nice touch.

Highly recommended.

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The Crucible – Review

[Written by Witch Awareness Month team member, Carole Lanham]

The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone…

~Arthur Miller The Crucible

I have a real soft spot for this story, having played doomed old Rebecca Nurse in a stage performance a couple of years ago.  It’s an intense show when done live on stage. It adds a certain weight of responsibility to the telling when you realize that the people whose lives we glimpse in both the play and the film are not simply characters, but real souls who were forever marked by this nightmare. None of the names have been changed. The trial, the hangings, these are difficult to imagine when you live in a world where young girls get gobs of candy for dressing up as witches once a year, but The Crucible really happened.

JohnProctor

The real John Proctor

In my opinion, there is a certain extra bit of excitement that comes with any live production, but director Nicolas Hytner has taken a much-loved theatrical script and created a biting film that raises goose pimples and stirs up an added level of complexity. By giving life to scenes that happen off stage in the play, the film hits with a powerful punch.

The theatrical version begins after the girls have been discovered dancing at night, thus, an intriguing and critical piece of this grim puzzle is left to the imagination. It works in the play but Hytner begins his film by rubbing your face in a scene that is as shocking as it is illuminating.  The girls bear their breasts as they dance around a boiling pot and Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) drinks animal blood. Smeared lips and fevered words expose the depth of these girls’ desperation in this repressed society to conjure the forbidden.  When Abigail’s uncle, the Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison) spies them in the woods, it sets off an insidious chain reaction. Accusations fly and hysteria ensues.  Denial becomes ”proof” of guilt. A mad paranoia overtakes the village.

Paranoia

Abigail’s secret love affair with an older man, John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) is brought to light.  Proctor is a farmer whose household once employed Abigail as a servant. His prim wife, Elizabeth (Joan Allen), has never forgiven him for betraying her. Still smitten with John, Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft and, despite her lily-white reputation, the woman is taken away and locked up.

Day-Lewis

Allen plays Elizabeth pitch perfect.  Pious and just a shade sanctimonious, she is a cold fish in the face of Ryder’s mesmerizing schoolgirl tantrums and spellbound eye rolling.  Likewise, Day-Lewis is an actor who never disappoints and his layered performance of John Proctor is no exception. Between his fiery confrontations with Ryder and his frustrated, regretful, battle-wearied scenes with Allen, he makes for a sympathetic character, past mistakes not withstanding.

Ryder

As the movie progresses, there is a transfer of power from the town leaders to the hysterical young women who have the ability to point out witches. Those who will not confess are hanged.  The story ends in tragedy when John Proctor must choose between the truth and a lie that has the power to save his life.

Proctor

Playwright Arthur Miller used the witch trials as an allegory for McCarthyism.  In today’s society, one might look for similarities in the way the media inflames, corrupts, and all too often informs the way we think.  In this manner, the story of The Crucible is sadly timeless.

If you haven’t ever seen the film, don’t miss your chance. It’s a piece of thought-provoking work.

[Carole Lanham is the author of The Whisper Jar, The Reading Lessons, and Cleopatra’s Needle.  Please visit her at carolelanham.com
 and https://www.facebook.com/carole.lanham?ref=tn_tnmn]

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‘The Witch Family’ – Review

“BEEHOOVES YE TO BEEHAVE”

A review of The Witch Family by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone, written by Witch Awareness Month, contributor, Ruth Merriam

Sometimes, a childhood book is so precious to us that we can recall with joy the numbers of times we read it and pieces of it stick forever in our memories. Such was the case for me with The Witch Family, a book I first read some 45 years ago. Oh Malachi, bumblebee so magical that from that time foreward all bumblebees assumed that name, you are forever imprinted in my memories.

There were, once upon a time, two not-quite-six-years-old girls by the names of Amy and Clarissa. They lived next door to each other on Garden Lane in Washington, DC and they loved to draw pictures and tell stories.

Amy was particularly fond of stories about old grandmother Old Witch because Amy’s mother made up scary tales. So one day, while Amy and Clarissa were drawing, Amy decided that because Old Witch was so very, very wicked, she must be “banquished.”

“Go, go, go! To the glass hill go!”

witchfamily1And so it was that Old Witch, the wickedest great-great-great grandmother Witch and her cat, Old Tom, were sent to live on the great glass hill with only herbs to eat and the strictest of instructions to never cause any wickedness at all until Halloween (because you can’t have a proper Halloween without witches). To ensure that Old Witch behaved, Amy sent her emissary Malachi the bumblebee who, due to the powerful effects of a magical Rune, was able to spell . . . and to sting and sting and sting to get his point across.

Old Witch was most perturbed by this turn of events, and most resentful. How could she do without her hurly-burlies and backanallies? Besides, it was lonesome and bleak on the great glass hill.

 witchfamily2

But Amy was not a cruel girl, and she sends letters to Old Witch via a bright red cardinal bird. With a carefully composed abracadabra, Old Witch gets herself the beginning of a family when a little witch named Hannah and her black kitten, Little Tom, come swooping in to stay.

Hannah, being a proper little witch girl, must go to Witch School. After all, Amy and Clarissa must go to school so it’s only natural. It’s never easy being the new kid, though.

witchfamily3

With Malachi there to protect her, things get sorted out pretty quickly!

And so the story goes between the lives of Amy and Clarissa, and the lives of the Witch Family, where the imaginations of two little girls become reality and the two worlds intersect.

Hannah is lonely on the glass hill and sometimes frightened of Old Witch. One day, while Old Witch is off causing trouble despite dire warnings from Malachi, Hannah finds a way into the glass hill and makes friends with a young mermaid who lives in crystal pools of water. She has a Mer-cow and a baby mermaid sister. Hannah realizes how lonely she is and wishes for a baby sister of her own. Amy and Clarissa feel this is an appropriate thing to wish for . . . so an abracadra or two later, a Weenie Witchie strapped to a tiny broom along with a scrawny black kitten come sailing into the house on the glass hill.

witchfamily4

Now, you know that Old Witch just cannot help being wicked for that is her nature, and mischief ensues as the days go by. There are adventures – but not too awful because the banquisher (Amy) doesn’t really want to have a Halloween without witches sailing through the air! Oh, but there are visits back and forth between the worlds, and a few hurly-burlies, and a scare or two besides.

The story seamlessly blends the mundane world with the magical world and the ways of children with a cleverness of phrasing usually reserved for more mature readers. It’s a tale full of heart and mystery, nervous adventure and the comfort of one’s favorite swing, of being alive, and of learning to love. And, in the words of Malachi,

“WICKEDNESS BE AFOOT!”

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The Season of the Witch – Review

[written by Witch Awareness Month member, Mark S. Deniz]

[Beware of spoilers here]

Thank the lords for Ron Perlman.

I am probably going to say this a few times over the course of the review but those who know the man, and especially those who have seen the film will allow me that…

There is an argument that this film should not have been featured in the film list for Witch Awareness Month and I understand this. Hopefully you have taken note of the spoiler warning and are more than prepared for anything I may say from here on in.

The film begins in the dark times of the witch trials in Europe before moving on to the Crusades (yes, I wondered about that myself too), where we are introduced to our two ‘heroes’, Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman. Our protagonists are Crusaders with a sense of morals (I know, I know), cutting a swathe through the Middle East, before realising that women and children maybe don’t need to be sliced and diced for the glory of a benevolent god.

“Sorry, love, my spear seemed to be in your way”

Nicholas Cage as a crusader is a little hard to go for, the suspension of disbelief element is a big ask and I wonder who was responsible for casting this role. There is a sense of the all-American action hero here, which bodes ill for the film but is not too surprising in truth.

Thank the lords for Ron Perlman.

Ron.

In truth, Ron is very similar to Cage in these early stages, as they joke who is getting the rounds in, based on how many infidels they slay in a battle (wait a minute, didn’t the muslims call the christians the infidels? Pay it no mind).

The action sequences are a little unnecessary and start a worry that is not abated for some time, especially knowing that the film is a mere 94 minutes long. The fight scenes are fun, plenty of jokes about killing muslims before Cage puts his spear through a defenceless woman and the brown stuff really hits the fan, he nearly taking the head off the leader of the armies, before Perlman drags him off to a life as a deserter.

It’s here that the film starts to move into its subject as Cage and Perlman are caught by soldiers in a European village and are pretty much forced to help transport a witch to a monastry, so that the monks can no doubt drown her to see if she’s innocent or not and burn her if she floats…

Arrgh, a witch!

Transporting a witch is pretty dangerous business you know: spells, suggestions, tricks of the light and wolves make for a treacherous journey for our two ex-crusaders and their merry little band of misfits and, complete with a shaky bridge scene (you haven’t seen one of those for a while, have you) there is much that befalls them.

As they reach the monastry, they are aware that something is afoot in the state of Denmark and that the witch is even more tricksy than they first thought.

If I go on, I pretty much destroy any reason you may have for watching the film and so I’ll change direction a little.

Thank the lords for Ron Perlman.

I mean he pretty much lights up any film, no matter the quality. There’s probably even a film he couldn’t save but I haven’t seen it yet and so I stick with my opinion. Even with the U.S. drawl, and the unnecessary quips, he holds a scene and has fantastic, expressive features.

Cage is way out of his comfort zone. An actor I loved in films, such as: Raising Arizona and Wild at Heart, is not at all at home as a thoughtful, honourable ex-crusader and it has an effect on the film itself, as the viewer constantly tries to marry the characters to the story.

It’s not the train wreck I expected it to be, however, and I was pleasantly surprised by certain things in it, especially as I didn’t know that a certain actor was featured.

Thank the lords for Ron Perlman.

The effects are OK, it’s an enjoyable romp and it features a witch…sort of. It plays out quite a bit better than I thought and considering I was not particularly positive about reviewing it before I watched it can be seen as a positive result.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so sure I would recommend it, as there are far better films, especially about witches, that you can watch but it’s definitely not one of the worse I’ve seen either.

“What do you mean, this isn’t Kansas?”

The choice is yours.

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Burn Witch Burn – Review

[written by Witch Awareness Month contributor, Ruth Merriam]

[Beware of spoilers here]

How is it that I’ve watched Burn, Witch, Burn  (ake Night of the Eagle – 1962) four times and never before bothered to read the book on which it was based? Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, is not only a masterpiece of supernatural writing, it’s written by one of the most influential authors of the last century. The story first appeared in the April 1943 volume of the magazine Unknown Worlds, was expanded and included in an anthology, then finally published as a stand-alone novel in 1953.

The book and film diverge somewhat from each other, as is often the case. The book takes place in southern New England in the States, while the film is set in the bucolic English countryside. The surnames of the main characters are different in the two mediums. No doubt for the sake of necessity, many other details were changed as well.

Watch the film. Read the book. Even doing so back-to-back will not lessen the impact of either. I couldn’t put the book down.

So what’s this all about, eh? I’ll focus on the film.

They couldn’t help it, I suppose. They just had to start the film off with about 2 minutes of schlocky black screen with a monologue.

“ . . . I am now about to dispel all evil spirits that may radiate from the screen during this performance . . .

And now with a free mind and a protected soul, we ask you to enjoy Burn, Witch, Burn.”

Thankfully, once the monologue is over there isn’t a wasted frame in the film. The acting and cinematography are first rate, the dialogue is crisp and believable, and the interactions of the characters is so well done that watching it borders on voyeurism.

We have Norman Taylor, professor of Sociology and critical thinking, who teaches at Hempnell Medical College – a bastion of learning (and spoiled rich kid students) and gothic architecture (the eagle factors in later, but that would be a spoiler)

Statue

Professor Taylor in his element:

Taylor

In his lecture, he emphasizes that, “I do not believe. I do not believe. So, to recap, four words necessary to destroy the forces of:

1) The Supernatural

2) Witchcraft

3) Superstition

4) Psychic etc. etc etc.”

While summing up, he tells his students, “Aladdin rubbed a lamp, and a genie appeared. Today, we can push a button and the whole of mankind is obliterated.”

He’s a rational man, a thinking man, a man on the fast track to the position of head of his department. A handsome man (played by Peter Wyngarde) with a seemingly charmed life.

But oh . . . those academic jealousies! This is a tale of witchcraft as well as a scathing look at departmental politics.

Norman is married to Tansy (played by Janet Blair), a woman who splits her time between their house near the college and a seaside cottage. Interesting choice of names as the herb Tansy has historically magical properties (it was allegedly given to the Greek mortal-turned-demigod Ganymede to bestow immortality upon him) as well as medicinal properties.

Their home is filled with items that, to the trained eye, are significant for their magical and folkloric properties. There’s a bell hanging hidden at the front door to ward off evil.

Bell

There are statues and significant art ranging from African witchdoctor masks to a statue of Kwan Yin. There’s a broom hanging above an archway. Norman seems utterly oblivious to this. Repeated viewings of the film reveal totems, gris-gris, and charms absolutely everywhere!

Tansy longs to return to Jamaica, where they spent some time while Norman did research. Norman reminds her of the downside, like malaria, but she’s nostalgic. Norman gently scoffs at her fascination with a “warlock” named Carubius with whom she spent time while in Jamaica. Did I mention that she’s also beautiful?

Tansy

Tansy doesn’t care for the bickering and backbiting that goes along with being in academia, but keeps up with her duties as a professor’s wife by hosting a weekly bridge game for other members of the faculty.

Faculty

Snark? They’ve got it. Double entendres? In spades . . . so to speak.

After the bridge game is over, Tansy seems distressed and while Norman sits and reads, she goes through their living room obviously searching for something. She opens drawers, looks under tables, slides her hands along the underside of shelves, but when Norman questions what she’s doing she brushes it off with a weak explanation about a shopping list. Just before they retire for the night, Norman is looking for something in a dresser drawer and needs to remove a drawer that contains Tansy’s things. He finds this:

Spider

Tansy is nervous and upset when she sees that the drawer has been taken out. Norman asks her about the jar, which she asserts is simply a memento from their time in Jamaica and a gift from Carubius. Norman is dismissive of her attachment to it.

After they’ve gone to bed for the night, she gets up while Norman sleeps and returns to the living room to resume her search and finds what she’s been looking for:

Fetish

It’s a fetish that’s been knotted into a lampshade. Tansy takes it apart and burns it, but her sense of disquiet increases.

The next day, while Norman is getting out a jacket to give to a dry cleaner, he finds a sachet that’s been pinned to the underside of the lapel. This prompts him to go back to their bedroom where he rifles through Tansy’s dresser drawers. He finds more than he bargained for.

Potion

When Tansy returns from running errands, she notices that the bell is missing from over the front door. Upon entering the house, she finds a pile of her magical items on the living room table and an argument ensues. She knows that Norman’s success has been heavily influenced by her and that her protective magic has been keeping them both safe in a hostile environment. Norman all but accuses her of being insane. She insists that her magic has been responsible for his rapid career advancement and in keeping him from danger from jealous colleagues.

“What do you want to believe?
“I want some kind of an explanation!”

“Well, isn’t it obvious? I’m a witch.”

Tansy recounts an experience they had in Jamaica in which Carubius saved the life of a young girl by taking the offered life of her grandmother in the girl’s place. Norman had fallen ill, and Tansy, in desperation, thought of Carubius’s magic. Although she didn’t resort to Carubius’s help because Norman recovered on his own, that was the event that started her down the path of witchcraft.

Norman demands that she destroy all her charms and talismans and come to her senses. Tansy says, “I tell you, Norman, I will not be responsible for what happens to us if you make me give up my protections!” While he’s burning everything, he asks if there’s anything that she didn’t give to him. She pulls out a locket that she’s wearing and gives it to him. Behind his photo are some dried herbs and while he’s dumping them into the flames, his photo goes in as well. Tansy panics and begs him to retrieve the photo, but it’s too late.

And that is when the stuff hits the fan.

The story builds from here with everything from a female student accusing Norman of seducing her to a student with failing grades trying to kill him to Norman nearly being run down by a delivery truck. The faculty politics becomes a nest of vipers. Something tries to break into Norman and Tansy’s home, triggered by sounds coming over the phone. Terrible things escalate rapidly and Tansy becomes desperate to save the man whom she adores.

But . . . Tansy is not the only witch in this tale.

As the tension in the film increases, Norman tries to track down Tansy who has left him a message telling him that she’s going to die in his place. He finds that she’s been at their seaside cottage and discovers stacks of books on witchcraft and black magic. Fighting against reason, but desperate to save her, Norman goes so far as to attempt a spell he finds in one of her books.

Spell

He’s too late, though, and the Tansy who comes back to him isn’t quite the Tansy he knows. The film shifts focus from narrative to her POV and back again at this point, creating a sense of disorientation that’s very effective. Shortly after she comes back to him, they return to their home and things get even worse.

Indeed, Tansy is not the only witch in town.

Witch

I think this is a good place to stop before I give it all away.

Burn, Witch, Burn is currently available on streaming Netflix for those who have access. It’s available on DVD and can be purchased. I cannot recommend this film, and its source book, highly enough. As I wrote earlier, I’ve watched the film four times. I’m certain that I’ll watch it many, many more times and will likely start writing down a list of all the witchcraft-related objects scattered around their house.

Are you wondering why I’m so interested in all those items? It’s simple. Tansy and Norman’s house reminds me a great deal of my own, and of the homes of many of my friends.

Cross

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‘The Forever Girl’ – Book Review

[Written by Witch Awareness Month, team member, Carole Lanham]

Sophia’s family has skeletons, but they aren’t in their graves…

At twenty-two, practicing Wiccan Sophia Parsons is scratching out a living waiting tables in her Rocky Mountain hometown, a pariah after a string of unsolved murders with only one thing in common: her.

Sophia can imagine lots of ways to improve her life, but she’d settle for just getting rid of the buzzing noise in her head. When the spell she casts goes wrong, the static turns into voices. Her personal demons get company, and the newcomers are dangerous.

One of them is a man named Charles, who Sophia falls for despite her better judgment. He has connections that might help her unveil the mystery surrounding her ancestor’s hanging, but she gets more than she bargains for when she finally decides to trust him.

Survival in his world, she learns, means not asking questions and staying out of the immortal council’s way. It’s a line she crossed long ago. If Sophia wants to survive the council and save the people she loves, she must accept who she is, perform dark magic, and fight to the death for her freedom.

 Forever Girl

The Forever Girl is not your mother’s witch story. Steeped in a lore that is colorful and complex as a cup of wild flower tea, Rebecca Hamilton delivers an utterly unique take on the Wiccan life that will leave you thirsting for more. If you like your fiction coated with a nice thick layer of dusty, gothic goodness (and who doesn’t?!), fear not, you’ll find plenty of that between these pages. But Sophia is tender and fair and full of heart. She is a forever girl, and that is an altogether different thing.

Like a breath of fresh air in a spidery attic, The Forever Girl mixes up a heady brew of blood-suckers, shape-shifters, and all manner of vile beasties that are both comfortingly familiar and surprisingly strange. Always, there is a sense of purity blossoming amid the forces of darkness, giving this story a magic that’s all its own. When Sophia steps beyond the veil, a mysterious new world is revealed where all the rules are changed — A lick of blood heals bones and makes the air smell like watermelon candy. A moat of daffodils repels unwanted guests. A green-eyed squirrel carries the ability to read auras. It’s this unique blend of beauty and grim complexity that’s made the book such a hit with readers.

The Forever Girl is not about black and white witchcraft. Rather, it’s about the wide range of color that falls between evil and grace. Packed with elements of paranormal fantasy, horror, and romance, this story is the first in an exciting new series and one that no true lover of witch tales will want to miss.

You can find The Forever Girl at the following locations:

Buy this book:

http://www.amazon.com/FOREVER-Fantasy-Paranormal-Romance-ebook/dp/B00729GQ0A#_

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-forever-girl-rebecca-hamilton/1111399832?ean=2940014060196&isbn=2940014060196

http://www.immortalinkpublishing.com/books.php?id=3

Rebecca Hamilton

Rebecca Hamilton

For more about Rebecca Hamilton, please visit http://www.beccahamiltonbooks.com/

Carole Lanham is the author of The Whisper Jar and The Reading Lessons.  Connect with her at carolelanham.com & horrorhomemaker.com

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Witches in Computer Games

[Written by Witch Awareness Month, contributor Andy Yates]

I feel that witches have a bad rep in video games. Well, OK, not just video games, but too many times they so often appear to be the bad guys or “in” with the bad guys. Evil Lyn from He-man, the White Witch from Narnia and the evil sorceress Ultimecia from Final Fantasy 8.

Ultimecia – obviously an evil witch..

So for Witch Awareness Month it made sense to bring awareness to some of the witches in games that are not necessarily evil (and maybe one that is) but who, more importantly, have remained memorable for me.

Starting with the Voodoo lady from Monkey Island adventures. Telltale games have brought out some of my favourite game series in recent years, and this continuation of the famous Monkey Island games was just excellent. These are interactive adventure games where you direct the gallant hero, Guybrush Threepwood, around each area picking up useful items and then completely misusing them elsewhere to progress through the story.

The Voodoo Lady in action.

The Voodoo lady sits comfortably in her lair practicing her powerful magic, performing tarot card readings and carefully manipulating the cast around her. While a rather over the top character I kind of liked that Telltale had no problem in portraying her as a plus sized Jamaican woman. Kind of brave from within an industry that is famous for its head-sized boobs and arm sized waists. The only other game I’ve known this happen in is Saints Row 3 but that’s a whole other story.

While the Voodoo lady hardly has a starring role in the game she does come up a lot and you’re never quite sure if she’s on Guybrush’s side despite her clues and help throughout the series.

Let’s move onto a completely different kind of game and a completely different kind of Witch. Dragon Age: Origins was the acclaimed new game and IP from Bioware back in 2009 and sported quite traditional western RPG mechanics and Tolkien-ish settings featuring huge castles, elves living in forests, powerful magic and epic battles against undead enemies (in this case called the Blight).

Your chosen character was part of a company which included the lovely Morrigan. And what a character she was; tough, intelligent, sharp tongued but also somehow very human and just evil enough so that you thought you could change her if you were nice enough! Although her dress sense was a little … unconventional, again this was most likely designed to appeal to the male dominated audience of the time (have things really changed that much though?)

Morrigan really provided an opposing balance to the team of otherwise mostly good characters and also had some of the best dialogue in the game. This was helped by having the best voice actor in the game, too.

Morrigan

Now we move from the slightly borderline evil to the most definitely evil Witch from Valve Software’s multiplayer action game series; Left4Dead and Left4Dead2.

This game pits you and three friends (or computer controlled players) against a zombie horde where your objective is to reach several safe zones and then be rescued in dramatic last-minute style! As well as the usual, generic standard (but quick) zombie there are also some special zombie types which includes the “Witch” special character. Ironically, where most games call their Witches “Mages” due to their special powers, the Witch in L4D has no special powers as such. She’s just very, very fast and very, very tough!

By default she’ll be sitting on the ground somewhere sobbing away, or slowly shambling in a random direction, also sobbing (aww). However get too close or foolishly take a pot shot at her and you’ll turn that sadness into a rage that has no end! To my mind the Witch is the most interest zombie you come across. This is because with most of the zombies you’ll do your best to take them head on and take them out, but the Witch is definitely best avoided. And because avoidance is the recommended strategy the “director” (the AI that controls the zombies) is very good at placing Witches in just the wrong (or by its judgement right) place so they’re bang smack in your way. Avoidance is not always possible and there’s just no way around them so you have to take them on. Usually this means one poor team-mate (sacrifice?) angering the Witch and taking the brunt of her attack while the others do their best to take her out!

So there we have it, three witches (well, OK, a mage, a voodoo lady and a zombie) that make up my fantasy football-coven of computer game characters. It’s a shame really that very few games use the term witch at all. Perhaps “The Witcher” which isn’t really a game about witches ironically enough. Or perhaps the Facebook game “Bubble-Witch Saga”, which I couldn’t bring myself to mention in full.

In fact I think I’ve yet to see a mainstream game that has a witch as a main character, but who knows in future! Maybe when the point-and-click adventure game conversion of Hedge Witch comes out we’ll finally have that experience.

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