RWBY (Seasons 1-5)

"RWBY" (Seasons 1-5) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Haruhichan.com

Color is associated with emotion.

Which is super appropriate for RWBY.

This is yet another web series that my brother raved about…and then also mourned when later seasons “went loopy.”

It’s an anime-inspired adventure of four girls training to become hero-protectors of their world, fighting the monstrous Grimm from without and human divisions from within. The title comes from the first names of the four leads, which match their associated colors (and I was so proud I figured that out on my own, without having to read the Wiki page).

TL;DR— If you like stories that make you feel, this is for you!

The Colorful Cast

Each member of Team RWBY has a dominate color that dictates their character design…and to a certain degree their personality.

Yang is bright, loud, gung-ho, and quick-tempered.

Weiss is up-tight, cold, yet rigidly determined and precise…and so earnest.

Blake is…well, worried about her inner demons.

And Ruby has a heart – as big as the moon, as warm as bathwater.

All the characters have a “gimmick.” Even if it’s not a huge deal, there’s something to make them stand out…to give us a “hook” to hold on to and remember them by.

"RWBY" (Seasons 1-5) — Kimia Wood

Image credit: Youtube

I hesitate to call them “larger than life”…but there’s definitely an emotional flair that makes these characters (all of them, even the side characters) latch onto you and not let go.

Combat…in Color

This individualism is carried over into the battles. Every single person has a personal weapon and fighting style…and a personal super-power called a “semblance” that usually informs their combat preferences.

Ruby has a scythe that’s bigger than she is, doubles as a sniper rifle, and folds up to the size of a notebook.

Weis’s style is all about precision and proper form…using her semblance of magic glyphs. Yang has wrist-mounted, punch-activated shotguns.

Everything is about jumping, flip-flopping, spinning, and using everything as a gun. It’s something you have to see for yourself.

The art style combines anime influences with a simplified feel, distinctive colors, and a feeling of momentum and energy that mixes with the magic system– you just have to see it for yourself!

The Grimm

Red-eyed creatures of darkness, the Grimm are spawned by negative emotions and attracted to panic, fear, and distrust.

They actually make sense of that old stand-by, the “don’t tell the populace what’s going on or they’ll panic” cliché. The cliché is still kinda tired, but at least there’s a viable reason for the policy when popular unease can literally attract sharp-toothed monsters to your door!

While we see bigger and scarier Grimm as the series progresses, it’s also very clear that their power comes from people…the bad guys who prefer widespread terror and bloodshed if it gives them power.

You can kill Grimm…but they just evaporate into smoke when they die. The deeper problem lies in the hearts of men.

Can a plucky little girl with a massive scythe do anything against that?

Soundtrack

RWBY features many official songs, both as episode intros and for the end-credits.

Why are they so…catchy?

The lyrics are fine…clever and effective, but the rhyme schemes can be sloppy at times. The tunes are pretty, but hard to sing until you listen to them a couple times. (And lean toward the one-note, syncopated style of modern praise music at times.)

The style is like cinematic orchestral smashed with rock with a smattering of ballad, which is apparently my groove. And the performers are first class.

Yet…what elevates these to “play constantly on repeat”-worthy is—

The emotion.

Red Like Roses

We get a hint of this, Ruby’s theme song, in the first teaser short. The full version is a back-and-forth between Ruby and her dead mother…and it’s HEART-RENDING.

I Burn

I think this is a credits song…I only found it through the soundtrack lists on Youtube.

It’s Miss Punchy Powerhouse on a power trip! The only downside is one of the verses has (ahem) words I can’t play in front of my parents…

When It Falls

This villain song has been in my head for a solid month.

Maybe it’s the innocents lying in pools of their own blood, or the “victory for hate incarnate.”

I have issues.

Professor Ozpin

This is my brother’s favorite character because he sips coffee while launching students off the cliff.

The first few volumes take place in the magic school, and suffer from some of those clichés of “the students have to fix everything.”

And yet…Professor Ozpin is always in the back-ground, watching with wise eyes. In my brother’s words, he’s the “grown-up among grown-ups,” who knows way more than he lets on…and is patient enough to let the students grow at the pace they need – to become the protectors the world needs.

Along with Ruby’s uncle and the other teachers, he maintains the feeling that, yes, the grown-ups actually do know what’s going on…and when bad things go down, they have their eye on the long game.

This is one of the things that breaks in Volume 6, apparently.

It’s all very well to have twelve-year-old superheroes…but when stuff gets real, they need to have older, experienced warriors at their back.

But I stopped watching at the Volume 5 climax…which is everything you could wish for, bringing all players (junior and senior) together on each side of the battlefield for an epic show-down.

(By the way, Blake’s parents are AWESOME.)

Themes

Family

Part of Yang’s personal quest is finding her mother, who abandoned the family when Yang was little.

By the time she finally meets her mother, though, she’s had time to develop her attitudes based on the unconditional support and encouragement she’s gotten from both her dad and uncle. (And her team.)

Weis comes from rich gentry…meaning her identity is wrapped up in her family name. Blake is a racial minority, and quarreled with her parents about how to respond to that.

And Ruby… Well, Ruby accepts everyone, whatever their race, appearance, or mechanical make-up.

And as the Volume 1 title song says, “Victory is in a simple soul.” It’s Ruby’s open-hearted optimism that has a chance to defeat this grim world (ha ha).

Racism

Two races exist in RWBY: Humans, and Faunus…basically humans with animal attachments (ears, tails, horns, etc.). While we get hints that the Faunus have been treated as second class citizens – excluded from restaurants and paid unfair wages – what we actually see is the activism group that’s started using terrorism to get their point across.

The show does a good job showing the problems that arise when activism becomes a goal in and of itself…when righteous indignation becomes hatred and selfishness.

Emotions again: even the characters on the “wrong” side have their motivations and feelings honestly explored. Their actions are unjustified, but we see how the feelings of oppression and revenge led them to this place.

What isn’t done so well is showing the original oppression that they’re reacting against. (Although a character short for Volume 5 does a pretty good job.)

Teamwork and Friendship

When the students arrive at “hero” school, they’re paired up and combined into teams in seemingly random fashion.

But the teachers apparently have a method to their madness. (See Ozpin above!)

Ruby and Weis, while initially polar opposites, are forced to work through their differences to become best friends.

Two other students – a try-hard who got in on forged transcripts, and a universally respected prodigy – are teamed as partners…and develop a beautiful relationship that spurs character development and EMOTION. They are still my most favorite couple although they are also the most TRAGIC one!

Heroes and Fairytales

Just as RWBY draws on classic fairytales for its art direction and character design, it also weaves into the themes and subtext questions like:

“Are fairytales just real stories we’ve forgotten?”

“Are heroes real?”

“The mighty warriors of the past all died…usually while fighting the darkness. Is it still worth doing what they did? Did they still accomplish something?”

People sometimes think of a “fairytale” as something full of improbable things with an unrealistically happy ending. But fairytales also have dark, scary, and depressing things in them.

This tense balance of tone also flows through RWBY.

They’re just little girls, learning how to be warriors. Their moves look really cool and colorful…until you see a glimpse of the real horrors out there.

The horrors that have killed real, grown-up warriors.

The series gets progressively darker, and we seem to ask the question:

“Can Ruby’s idealism really conquer Grimm?”

“Won’t her eagerness to befriend everyone bite her back one day?”

“Can this team of misfits really stick together and accomplish anything?”

“The villainess out there is so huge and horrible…so much worse than what these mere kids have faced so far. If the grown-ups couldn’t stop the darkness, how can we have a hope?”

As for the last question, the Volume 5 finale seems to say: “Together!”

The Never-ending Story?

My brother DNFed Volume 6, so I haven’t watched it (or the seventh volume currently streaming).

But the Volume 5 finale is a pretty perfect place to end things. Sure, there are lots of plot threads still in motion…but the character arcs have peaked, the teams have merged into cathartic awesomeness, epic battles have been pitched, and mini-bosses have soundly had their butts handed to them.

It is, in short, an ending of EMOTIONAL RESONANCE.

So…

If you want to giggle, laugh, say, “Oh, that’s so cool,” and (ahem) sob like a little baby (like when Ruby is chit-chatting and telling all the school news to her mother…’s grave?)…try RWBY.

You can even watch it with your parents and younger siblings, because – while there’s scary, creepy, suspenseful stuff – there’s nothing you have to cover their eyes for. (Or their ears, unlike RoosterTeeth’s other show…Also, careful searching for fan art online!)


While it’s not necessary to start with them, these four character shorts will introduce Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang (er…hopefully hers will go over your kid sister’s head)…and then you can watch the actual episodes for FREE on Youtube.

Or get them directly from the creators at RoosterTeeth!

“Ten Thousand Thorns” by Suzannah Rowntree

"Ten Thousand Thorns" by Suzannah Rowntree Some books just “sing”.

Others…don’t work for some people.

What if Sleeping Beauty was a martial artist?

For a hundred years, Princess Morning Light has meditated in a hidden temple surrounded by ten thousand thorns. Could her long-lost sword skill be the key to stopping the Vastly Martial Emperor?

Rebel leader Clouded Sky doesn’t believe in the old legends of Ten Thousand Thorns Temple. But as bounty hunters and imperial guards close in, the martial princess may be Clouded Sky’s last hope.

Who can he trust – and who is planning to betray him?

If you liked the martial arts and fierce female characters of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you’ll love this action-packed retelling of Sleeping Beauty!

Continue reading

“The Reluctant Godfather” by Allison Tebo

 Cinderella doesn’t have a fairy godmother – but a fairy godfather. And he’s not old, frumpy, and cheerful…he’s young, grumpy, and prone to losing his temper.

For this fairy godfather, who only has two wards – the prince and a girl named Ella – it seems the perfect solution for them to fall in love and make each other happy, thus freeing him to devote himself to cake-baking for the rest of his life. But can he pull it off in just one ball?

This story caught my eye during one of the Indie Christian Author sales, and when I got the chance to pick up a review copy as part of the re-launch blog tour, I jumped on it.

TL;DR— I recommend this cute little story for anyone into romance, and anyone who’s been wishing someone would turn this classic fairy tale on its head. Continue reading

Interview with Allison Tebo

I’d like to welcome Allison Tebo to the blog with an interview. Her book The Reluctant Godfather caught my eye during one of the indie Christian author sales, so when I saw the chance to read a review copy and participate in a blog tour to celebrate its relaunch, I said, “Why not?”

Enjoy getting to know her and hearing some advice to developing marketers/authors 🙂


Interview with Allison Tebo — Kimia WoodTalk about your family and upbringing. My family is a huge influence in my own writing journey; has yours been supportive of you? Have any siblings to base your annoying characters on? ; )

I have two wonderful parents, a fantastic older brother, a lovely older sister, and a precious twin sister!  I was homeschooled and brought up in a rich environment of exploration and creativity that put God first with parenting that directed me on how to see everything through the eyes of faith.

Yes, my family is a HUGE influence on my writing journey and are incredibly supportive!  My siblings and I have a writers club and for the last ten years we have met nearly every Sunday to help each other brainstorm, to reach selections of our work, and to help each other along in the writing process.  My mom has faithfully provided one of the dearest thing an author could ask for—objective critiquing.  My dad is also in sales, and eagerly promotes my books and is always hunting for opportunities for me in my writing.  I am very, very blessed to have a family that is not only so supportive, but have always guided me with unbiased criticism to guide me towards striving for the best.

Same for me!

You say you’re a sales representative. How has this helped you as you build your author brand? From your sales experience, do you have any advice for developing authors?

Yes, I am!  And it most definitely has helped me in my writing journey.  One advantage I feel that I might have is that I’m not so self-conscious about marketing myself.  I see so many indie authors who seem almost apologetic about selling their books.  This can be a rather damaging approach—unprofessional as well as lacking confidence. By necessity, I have to be pretty fearless in selling myself or whatever I’m selling—people expect it, so it’s not something to apologize for.

Being a sales person has also given me a daily dose of rejection.  Writers talk a great deal about rejection, but it’s something I deal with all the time – I can be turned down as many as fifty times in one afternoon, sometimes rather nastily.  Being in sales has helped me to begin to learn not to take rejection personally and to persevere.

Good advice. It’s hard to develop that thick skin.

I’ve seen a lot of fairytale retellings in indie author circles lately. What attracted you to this genre, and what about it particularly interests or inspires you?

I feel that most fairy tale retellings often focus solely on romance – romance that can get downright steamy at points.  At other times, I’ve found many retellings can get disturbing and excessively dark.

What attracts me to fairy tales is a desire to put into book form what Walt Disney did with old fairy tales – extracting the good, adding a unique spin and creating a clean and fun retelling that engages the whole family.  The other thing that attracts me about fairy tales are the strong messages woven through them. It seems that many people can be distracted by the glitter of fairy tales, and miss the morals.  There are incredible themes of truth tucked into fairy tales.

What is your favorite author (and book) ever and WHY?

Oh my goodness me. Such an impossible question!  I really have to cheat here and list my top three authors, as well as my favorite books from each other.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Dark House On the Moss, Reb and the Redcoats, and Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery and The Lantern Bearers andThe Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff.  As to why I love them—each of these books contain all the necessities to entrance me.  Stupendously crafted plots, exquisitely drawn characters, lovable characters that take immense bites out of my heart—and a shiningly, glorious hopefulness.  Sometimes painful, sometimes happy—always beautiful in its constancy and radiating truth.

C.S. Lewis I’m familiar with. My current favorite book of all time is That Hideous Strength. I might have to check out those others!

Where do you see yourself in five years? Still writing books? Do you have any other accomplishments you’d like to achieve?

Lord willing, I’ll be writing till the day I die!  I’m not sure one lifetime is enough to unleash all the stories in my mind, clamoring to be let out.  My main ambition in life is to become a successful author.  Aside from that, my only goal is to follow God’s leading in my life, and be quick to follow any path He charts out for me.


Thank you for answering my questions, Allison! Wish you all the best with your writing and beyond!Interview with Allison Tebo — Kimia Wood

Allison Tebo is relaunching her book The Reluctant Godfather (Amazon link; author’s site store):

A humorous and magical re-telling of Cinderella from a unique perspective.

Burndee is a young and cantankerous fairy godfather who would rather bake cakes than help humans. A disgrace to the fairy order, Burndee has only two wards entrusted to his care…a cinder girl and a charming prince.

A royal ball presents Burndee with the brilliant solution of how to make his wards happy with the least amount of effort. He’ll arrange a meeting and hope the two fall in love.

The debut novella from Allison Tebo, ‘The Reluctant Godfather’ is a new addition to the charming fairy tale tradition of Cameron Dokey and K.M. Shea.

Come back on Sunday to see my review of the story. If you’ve been hoping for a Cinderella story with a fresh ending, this might be what you’re looking for!

There’s also a GIVEAWAY:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can connect with the author on any of these sites:

Website: http://allisonteboauthor.com/
Blog: http://allisonswell.website/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16192992.Allison_Tebo
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allisonteboauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AllisonTebo

“Twisted Dreams” by Morgan Elizabeth Huneke

"Twisted Dreams" by Morgan Elizabeth Huneke — Kimia Wood This short story opens with about as classic a “Sleeping Beauty: Chapter 1” as you could wish, with the interesting trait of being written from the viewpoint of the infant princess being christened (Liesel).

Chapter 2 rips us from the fairy-tale world “played straight” and shoves us into a sci-fi world, in the head of an imprisoned girl who shares the name but none of the memories (apparently) of the Sleeping Beauty princess. Very disorienting, and a little irritating.

While heavy on the romance, this story blends fairy tale, amnesia, high-tech, aliens with super-powers, and faith into an interesting little tale that pulled me in. Continue reading

“Bells of Paradise” by Suzannah Rowntree

"Bells of Paradise" by Suzannah Rowntree — Kimia Wood — fairytales The fairytales of modern times tend to be, well, modern. They are full of princesses in fluffy tulle dresses, and fairies with wimpy wings that wouldn’t lift a butterfly — and fairies that grant wishes to all and sundry without making any demands.

You would have to go to Andrew Lang or the Grimm brothers for the strange fairytale punishments of being rolled in a barrel of nails until dead – or to meet fay-people (cp. to “in a fay mood”) as grotesque and magical as a gothic cathedral – or to see the fairy food that can only be eaten at the forfeit of your soul.

And where could you find a hero as noble as he is faithful, who is drawn into the quest through no fault of his own – a romantic hero with a remarkably steady head on his shoulders – who ends the tale triumphant, unsullied, and glorified? No fairytale of modern craft would portray that, surely…heroes must be “flawed” to be “realistic”.

Ms. Rowntree has changed that. Continue reading

Get More Than You Pay For With Free Books

Get More Than You Pay For With Free Books

Over the past year or so, I’ve been downloading and reading free ebooks from a number of sources – partly because I have a weakness for free, partly because I want to find greats reads for you that you don’t have to shell out a penny for!

But sometimes “you get what you pay for”. Sometimes a book is free because we wouldn’t slog through it for any other reason.

Is that the rule? Are the reading-gems the exception? I’ve dug back through my review archives to figure out which books are worth reading (and worth paying for, even if I didn’t have to).

Note: All deals are listed as of this writing. Authors naturally have the prerogative to change how they charge for their works. By that same token, some books that I loved but couldn’t list because they didn’t qualify might become free again later 😉! Continue reading

“Poison Kiss” by Kendra E. Ardnek

Poison Kiss by Kendra Ardnek — Kimia Wood — fairytale You must pick up a fairytale with open eyes. The well-worn road to fairyland is practically paved with princesses, curses, and talking cats. Yet for those not too “grown-up” to venture into the land of fairies, ogres, and millers’ sons, Poison Kiss offers a quick, entertaining read that delivers exactly to genre.

Everyone’s heard of the “Sleeping Beauty” story, so when the king hears that his daughter is to fill the role in the next cycle of the tale, he deliberately snubs the evil fairy and prepares to ban all spinning wheels.

When the fairy responsible for the curse brings originality to the course of events and switches the cure for the curse, the horrified kingdom is left to fear “love’s first kiss” – and wonder how a spinning wheel will help reverse the whole thing. Continue reading

“She But Sleepeth” by Rachel Heffington

Peles Castle, Romania — courtesy of Gabi Jguma/Wikipedia

Sleeping Beauty is a set designer working for Hollywood. A Romanian gypsy casts spells of time-travel and death. An estranged royal couple mourn the loss of their only child. And the hunky love interest exhibits self-sacrificial love.

Yet, for whatever confluence of cosmic misdemeanors, all the raging richness of this story potential totally fizzled when it hit the dour surface of my consciousness. Continue reading