Weekend Talk Among Yourselves

Welcome to Weekend Talk Among Yourselves, where I talk about behind-the-scenes stuff and things that have nothing to do about Avalon or whatever I’m recapping, and you can comment with whatever you want.

Here’s what’s happening on my end:

* My apologies for not posting much of anything last week. I was sick. It’s hard to write recaps when you’re sneezing every 30 seconds.

* Oh hai, shameless plug!

* This came up in the comments this week: if Avalon: Web of Magic was an animated movie / series, who would be the characters’ voice actors? I’m horrible at making fantasy casting calls, so you can speculate all you want in the comments.

* I’m on the fence about this. I want Spirit Animals to be post-Avalon: Shadow Warrior / Fire and Thorns recap bait. I really do. It has stuff that appeals to Avalon fans:

  • Kids bonding with magical animals that give them special abilities!
  • Gargantuan talking godlike animals!
  • A quest for Magical Trinket McGuffins!

It has stuff that appeals to me:

  • The possibility of dark secrets held by the supposedly heroic organization the protagonists join!
  • Body horror!
  • Absurd bonded animals, like the BATTLE PANDA, the BATTLE BUFFALO, the BATTLE NOT!CALIFORNIA CONDOR, the BATTLE OTTER, the BATTLE EARTHWORM and — hopefully in future books — the BATTLE OCTOPUS!
  • One protagonist who’s smart enough to distrust the heroic organization that tries to recruit him!

And yet I had a lot of problems with the first book:

  • Somewhat flat characters!
  • Countries that are almost analogous to our world during the 1800s, to the point where I go, “Oh, they’re crossing the not!Mississippi River and traveling to the not!Rocky Mountains and meeting a tribe of natives who are totally not the Crow!”
  • An antagonist that has a legitimate grudge, but everyone considers to be evil anyway!
  • Everyone hates not!Australia!
  • Brandon Mull’s tendency to tell, not show!
  • Lots of character-building moments that are utterly skipped! Seriously, after the main characters and their bonded animals are introduced, the story jumps from one action scene to the next, with the occasional Trippy Dream Sequence to break it up. There’s so much potential for additional character development, but it’s all glossed over with “and then weeks passed, and then stuff happened.”

It’s obvious that I’m not the target audience for this — I want more nuanced storytelling, dammit! I want the characters I read about to interact and grow! I want characters with ambiguous motives! Spirit Animals is giving me none of that. All I can tell you about the main characters are their bonded animals, their main character trait, and where they came from. And after the first book, I don’t give a shit about them. So, I ask you … should I continue on with this series, or should I give up on it? I’m leaning towards the latter.

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50 comments

  1. Voice acting Challenge Excepted! But this may take some time. Lemme get back to this. I might do each character in a separate post since there are so many options! Tell me if that’s annoying, and I wont.

  2. I hope you feel better today.

    Since you bring up the fantasy casting, I will repost my suggestions (based mainly on the first six books because I’m more familiar with them).

    Emily: Tara Strong (Sari Sumdac in Transformers Animated, Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)
    Kara: Lauren Tom (Amy Wong in Futurama, Jinx in Teen Titans)
    Adriane: Karen Strassman (Suifeng in Bleach, Kallen Stadtfeld in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
    Ozzie: Tom Kenny (Starscream in Transformers Animated, Flambo in Adventure Time)
    Lyra: Hynden Walch (Starfire in Teen Titans, Princess Bubblegum in Adventure Time)
    Storm: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Pisha in Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines)
    Dark Sorceress: Laura Bailey (Lust in Fullmetal Alchemist, Tier Harribel in Bleach)

    I found this was much harder than I originally thought. I don’t feel satisfied with Tom as Kara because she might sound too soft, but another choice I considered, Grey DeLisle, might sound too hard for her. Strong I think could be just as good as Kara by making her tone more playful than the somewhat serious one I imagine for Emily. Lyra was the hardest for me because I imagined her speaking with the same voice as Storm: a deep, throaty, somewhat echoing female voice. So I started imagining different voices for Lyra and thought a more feminine one would make her distinct from Storm. Ozzie was the easiest for me to cast; I can really see Kenny doing a smart aleck, fast-taking voice for him.

    Everyone, feel free to offer other suggestions. I think you can do better than me.

    That does sound like a lot of negatives toward Spirit Animals, but a Battle Earthworm is a pretty big plus for me. If you don’t enjoy it at all though I think you should stop.

    1. See, that’s the problem I have with Spirit Animals: there’s a lot of potential, especially with the absurd bonded animals. But the lack of character development pissed me off. Avalon managed a ton of character development in its first installment!

      The only thing Spirit Animals has going for it now is that different authors write each book. So I might stick with the series for now. Besides, I have a feeling that elementary school kids will love the books, and I have to have some knowledge of what the kids are into.

      1. Nothing like examining something poorly done to make what you like look much better by comparison. The different author each book scheme is admittedly interesting though. Any authors you recognize working on the series?

        1. The only other authors I recognize on this project are Maggie Stiefvater, Garth Nix, and Marie Lu. Out of those, I’ve only read the latter two. Since I really like Garth Nix (his Abhorsen trilogy is awesome), and what I read of Marie Lu (IE the first two chapters of Legend) was pretty good, I’m still holding out hope for the series.

          1. Ah. When I looked it up I could only find Brandon Mull and Maggie Stiefvater. OK then; it’s good that authors you like are attached to the series.

            I never did talk about life outside of Boston like I said I would. I’ll do it here. I stayed in Sharon in Norfolk County, a rural town with a pure white steeple and a big lake; I stayed in a rental home right outside the lake. It was very grassy and I worried about ticks, especially on the nature trail I took (on which I saw no animals whatsoever). I had to drive everywhere, which keeps surprising me since I’m used to places like Tokyo, London, and Paris where everything is close together so walking is easy. The only bookstore I knew of in Sharon was a used place, which was fun, but I had to go to a different town to see a Barnes & Noble, where I sometimes passed the time reading Doctor Who Magazine. I liked eating at Dunkin’ Donuts, and I once ate at Friendly’s, which was nice. I wish these places were back home. I visited old finishing villages which were kind of interesting in a Lovecraftian sort of way. Salem was great, full of red brick buildings, New Age witchcraft stores, and a huge comic book shop. I went to Boston a few times and saw some old graveyards and churches, but I didn’t feel as interested there (I should have gone to the aquarium or art museum instead; the tourist centers certainly reminded me about those places). I think it was a very pleasant trip overall, and it kept rather cool and rainy during that time.

          2. Glad to see you liked your adventure outside Boston. I’ve been meaning to make a trip to some towns to the south of Boston, but I’ve been postponing it for a while. I did go up north to Essex, Rockport, and Gloucester a couple of weeks ago and spent a day eating awesome food and antiquing.

      2. I was an elementary school student just last year, (I’m in middle school now) but I would’ve hated these books.

        I don’t really like Brandon Mull’s writing style, (I absolutely hate it) sometimes it’s so slow, but sometimes it’s just too fast. It was impossible reading Fableheaven when I was a fifth grader.

        How are these books so popular? They’re so boring!!

        1. I’m not the biggest fan of Brandon Mull, either. When I tried reading Fablehaven for recap bait a few months ago, I was put off by his blunt writing style. Spirit Animals suffers from going too fast and missing out on a lot of good character building moments. Luckily, he only wrote the first book in the series, so hopefully the future books won’t suffer from the same problem.

          I will admit that there was some character building, but it came too infrequently for my tastes.

          1. I kind of like the sample chapter for Wild Born, but the only book by Mull that I tried to read, Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, I gave up on rather early.

          2. The first four chapters (where the protagonists are introduced and gain their bonded animals) are pretty decent. And then it starts going way too fast! Three protagonists quickly meet in not!America and train, while the fourth hangs out with the not!Australians and discovers some horrific experiments in the not!Caribbean. And then things go even faster! There’s a long journey to the not!Rocky Mountains which takes weeks, and only three days worth of stuff is recounted.

            Honestly, I would’ve given up earlier, but I was hoping that the not!Australians would be presented as a viable alternative to the heroic organization that attempted to recruit three of the four protagonists. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.

          3. Good characters are what make a story great. Like, think about it how many crazy sounding really weird, stupid books have you come across in your days, probably about a million. But what makes them good are the characters. Avalon is one of those. Why would I, of all people, be obsessed with a book series about magic, friendship, hardly any romance story and no character deaths? Because of the great characters. If I hadn’t changed and grown with these crazy characters, I would be an Avalon hater too. Some authors just don’t how to create a realistic character.

  3. Okay. My four choices of Adriane were:
    Spoilers for Avatar: TLA, Young Justice and Avatar: LOK

    Cricket Leigh:

    Stephanie Lemelin:

    Olivia Olsen:

    Seychelle Gabriel:

    I had a really hard time finding clips of these people talking. Uhg. And I’m really annoyed that I could only find clips of these characters talking within the pretense of shipping.
    Anyway, I like the thought of Adriane having a very dry, raspy voice. It effortlessly gets across the point that she’s snarky and unimpressed. I don’t often read her voice this way when I’m actually reading it, but when I do, I like it. She’s annoyed and you know it. Olivia Olsen’s rendition of Marceline the Vampire Queen is somewhere in the middle, and I think it’s probably the most accurate to what I hear in my head when Adriane talks. I also imagine her voice to be deeper, and more grown up than the others. Womanly is the term I would use I guess. Which is why I said Seychelle, because she isn’t AN ADULT, but her voice is more mature.

    And yeah (:

  4. Glad to see you liked your adventure outside Boston. I’ve been meaning to make a trip to some towns to the south of Boston, but I’ve been postponing it for a while. I did go up north to Essex, Rockport, and Gloucester a couple of weeks ago and spent a day eating awesome food and antiquing.

    Thank you. I wish I could have seen the places you’ve been to.

    1. You would’ve liked Essex and Rockport. What I saw was quite rural. Rockport has shades of the Lovecraftian fishing town, but the waterfront is a little touristy. There’s some good hiking outside of Rockport as well. My boyfriend fell into a tide pool during a hike, which was kind of funny in hindsight.

        1. Autumn is always a good time to visit MA. It’s when all the leaves turn orange! Apparently that’s a big deal here because all the news reports do an “optimal leaf viewing” update every night ^_^

  5. Kara
    Of course, Spoilers!

    Lacey Chabert:

    (It does suck that most of her talking is spells, but she’s also Gretchen Wieners from Mean Girls!)
    Mae Witman:

    (Wonder Girl)
    Or Grey Delisle. Something similar to Azula, but not as mean or harsh sounding:

    Kara’s voice is typically girly and immature. She might even have the slightest valley girl accent. But I think there’s something else to her voice too, something powerful and dangerous. I think all of these voices have this aspect. And I also thought of Lauren Tom as Jinx!

    I just realized that I forgot to put singing voices, so I’ll add that in a separate post?
    (I’ve got a feeling that there’s going to be a lot of Young Justice going on haha)

    1. Back when I was younger, I usually pictured Kara with the valley girl type of voice. After living in New England for a few years, I’ve started imagining Kara with the sort of WASP-y old money rich privileged girl voice I hear a lot around my apartment building. Kind of like a younger Natasha Leggero, maybe.

      I need to listen to all these clips at some point….

      1. I really hate how people label Kara off as some kind of stuck up jerk. She’s not, she’s actually really great. Also, I always wondered how you pronounced Kara, because I have some friends who pronounce it like care-a, but I pronounce it like car-a.

        1. I pronounce it “Care-a”.
          I don’t think that Kara is a stuck up jerk, but at the same time, I do. You can’t always point out every good quality of a character and completely forget about the bad. Kara’s self centered. She isn’t thoughtful. She’s spoiled. She can be a jerk. She acts too quickly, and has no regard for the safety of others. But she’s also caring, and witty and authoritative. She’s a leader (well, I can make cases for all of the girls being leaders, but Kara is a diplomatic leader) she’s a people pleaser, she’s charming, and she’s innocent. I mean, this is all just my interpretation, but I think that she has a sweetness to her that really comes out around Emily and Adriane. (And this is how I write Kara).

          Perfect characters are not good characters, every character has their bad qualities (Adriane is constantly angry, and Emily is a little boring and I don’t think she’s very confident).

        2. Looking at the original editions I can see why people had that opinion of Kara, but in the new ones (which I started with) I found her as likable as the others.

          I always pronounced her name as kahr-ah.

          1. Yeah, I read the old ones (: She does change over the series, of course, character development. But I’m pretty sure I could find multiple scenes that back up every descriptor I used.

        3. I pronounce Kara’s name as care-ah. I’m weird in pronouncing her last name the British way (“Davis” as opposed to “Davies”). In my crazy head-canon, Kara’s father is Ray Davies, lead singer of British Invasion band the Kinks (which would be very anachronistic, but whatever). RR did officially say that Kara’s dad’s name is Ray, so my theory has some validation ^_^

          1. I used to have a friend who’s last name was Davies, so I kind of know how to pronounce it. (Dave-ees)

    2. Nice! I really need to look closer at the voices of Young Justice. Looks like I was wrong to disregard DeLisle as a Kara voice too.

  6. Emily-
    Of course, Spoilers!

    Danica McKeller:


    Madeleine Martin (Fionna)

    And Jennie Kwan-Suki from Avatar:TLA. I couldn’t find a clip of her speaking.

    Emily is was the hardest to do, there really isn’t much to work with. All I know is that I imagine her voice plain, and common. It’s an every day voice that doesn’t really have anything special about it. I used two clips of Danica McKeller, because she’s my favourite.

    1. Wow, great choices for Emily! I can’t believe I didn’t consider Madeleine Martin. McKeller I think would make a somewhat more serious Emily, which would be great for dramatic scenes.

      1. Yeah, I tried to add another link to a less-serious sounding clip, but it didn’t work? That character is actually quite light hearted, and I love her ❤ M'gann

        1. The second Young Justice clip works, and I’m glad you added it. I forgot that M’gann had lighter scenes; I just remember the heavy ones.

  7. Lyra: Colleen Clinkenbeard

    Storm: Vanessa Marshall (not perfect :/ )

    Ozzie: Danny Smith (also the name of my first boyfriend)

    The boy’s are gunna be really difficult.

    1. Vanessa Marshall sounds pretty good as Storm. I think a deep, somewhat emotionless voice suits her. Colleen Clinkenbeard! I considered her for the Dark Sorceress. That Danny Smith sounds like he would make a rather unique Ozzie.

  8. The first four chapters (where the protagonists are introduced and gain their bonded animals) are pretty decent. And then it starts going way too fast! Three protagonists quickly meet in not!America and train, while the fourth hangs out with the not!Australians and discovers some horrific experiments in the not!Caribbean. And then things go even faster! There’s a long journey to the not!Rocky Mountains which takes weeks, and only three days worth of stuff is recounted.

    Honestly, I would’ve given up earlier, but I was hoping that the not!Australians would be presented as a viable alternative to the heroic organization that attempted to recruit three of the four protagonists. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.

    Sounds unpleasant. I don’t suppose they visit the Zhong/not!China mentioned in the first chapter?

    1. Chapter 3, which introduces the character that’s bonded to BATTLE PANDA, takes place entirely in not!China. In the middle of the character’s bonding ceremony, the country is invaded by not!Australia. You don’t know that it’s not not!Australia until the end of the book, though. Honestly, I was hoping it was a separate antagonistic group, and not the not!Australians.

      Also, BATTLE PANDA is actually kind of useful in battle, but in an unexpected way. How is a mostly sedentary animal useful in battle? One hint: mmmmmmmmmmmmmmagic!

      … I kinda want to recap this now just to complain about everything ^_^

      1. Ah, I see. Well, I’m used to recaps of books being there to complain about them (mostly Christian novels, which were my first encounter with this form of Internet book recapping). I can see the appeal in just tearing into Spirit Animals.

        1. Bad Christian books were my introduction to Internet recapping, too. I even ripped into Left Behind in high school and pretty much ruined an ex-boyfriend’s copies of the entire series. Somehow turning the series into an account of Harry Potter fans waiting for the second coming of the Boy Who Lived made a lot more sense than the actual story.

          My recaps aren’t as good as some of the best ones, though. I never analyze the actual writing enough. Fire and Thorns doesn’t give me the opportunity to do that enough, but it’s nice to recap something well written for a change.

          Now, if I had recapped Precious Blood instead … OMG all the snark and all of the trigger warnings. Seriously.

          1. You went through all of Left Behind? Wow, that is dedication.

            I like your recaps enough. I just have to be familiar with the book too, or reading along. That’s why I haven’t said much for Fire and Thorns recently; I need to read along with it. I might buy it later today (or sometime after rereading Trial by Fire.

          2. I didn’t actually read all of Left Behind — I couldn’t get through the last book. I think I read one page, then wrote “and then [character] realized that it really was a million degrees outside. And at that moment, everyone on Earth spontaneously combusted. The end.”

            And then three prequels and a final-final book were released, and I was all like, “Screw this.”

  9. I don’t want avalon to be turned into an animated tv series. I think that they would jack it up real bad. If you know me, you know I hate book to movie adaptions. 4 years of straight of casting, animating, directing, and stupid, I will die.

  10. I think it’s too bad that Spirit Animals seems to lack so much character development. D: It had so much potential (both as a video game AND a series!), but they didn’t make it all that great. The video game is fun, though. It’s just sort of limited.

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