Started a new job on Monday, so I was quite busy and only have three reviews for this week:

Fiction

Crimson Peak directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures)

October 2015; 119 minutes. Gorgeous movie. The details of the story itself were less important to me than the worldbuilding and the character development, both of which Crimson Peak does well. Allerdale, the house atop Crimson Peak, is the heart of the movie, its presence tethering Thomas and Lucille to a land that bleeds not only from the ore in the earth, but also from all the horrors contained within. The ghosts might be a little cheesy—they’re clearly rendered with CGI—but their animated quality helps to contrast them from their ornate backdrop. The moths clinging to the faded, peeling wallpaper, the bleeding walls and rickety elevator, the open roof that destroys all illusion of the house as a sanctuary by letting in never-ending snow; all the elements of Allerdale’s aesthetic serve to position the house as a tragic figure. Allerdale is not a home, but a trap.

As the movie unfolds, we see Thomas’s enigmatic heartthrob façade crumbling. He is a product of Lucille’s manipulation; he, like Edith, is unable to escape Allerdale. Although the movie frames Lucille and Thomas’s relationship as one of love, I saw it as abuse—Lucille was a wonderful villain, the perfect image of control taken to the extreme. Her calm and collected exterior also falls away to reveal a character who is scared to death of being alone and unloved, and who struggles to maintain her power over Thomas. I loved watching Thomas and Edith gain agency alongside each other; their transformations were the most satisfying and rewarding parts of Crimson Peak for me.

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar (Lightspeed Magazine)

June 2015; 5,900 words. Beautiful work. K. Tempest Bradford assigned “Madeleine” as class reading for The Brainery’s Short Fiction course on the week coinciding with the Beginnings and Endings chapter of Wonderbook, and I can definitely see the connection between the two. El-Mohtar’s pacing is perfect—from the very start, each sentence lures the reader in and gives a tantalizing morsel of information, just the right amount to keep us reading to figure out its significance. Madeleine’s relationships are the strength of the story—whether her antagonistic relationship with Clarice, her therapist, or her developing relationship with Zeinab, every interaction feels human and real. The emotions that flow through “Madeleine” give the story so much depth. I wanted to cry with Madeleine at the end, which El-Mohtar timed perfectly to provide a wonderful resolution to the emotional cadence throughout.

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch (Del Rey)

March 2011; 288 pages. Book 2 in the Rivers of London series recommended by KatMoon Over Soho felt a bit quieter than Midnight Riot and at times was much darker as well. Aaronovitch renders settings well; in this installment, Peter takes us through different physical and temporal locations, all with rich atmospheres that can range from upbeat to horrific. Initially, the Pale Lady plot line and the “jazz vampires” plot line felt totally unrelated, but Aaronovitch tied them together cleverly. I also liked that Aaronovitch subverted my suspicions about Simone. The ending was a fantastic cliffhanger that left me excited to read more and see how Leslie, who was mostly absent through Moon Over Soho, develops.