Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Welcome to the Escape Velocity Collection!

We are an opinionated group of friends reviewing all sorts of fantasy and science fiction media. Don’t forget to get to know the curators and visit our curated Collection, where we discuss the stories that never cease to transport us to another world.

Will you escape with us?


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Alina Starkov is an orphan who has grown up in an orphanage alongside her best friend Mal. When they pass through the Fold – a barrier through the land that is cast in darkness and populated by monsters – Alina discovers that she has the power to create light, making her the only legendary sun-summoner: the one who can destroy the Fold. She becomes a symbol of hope, but also finds herself with a target on her back. Danger lurks all around her, but all Alina really cares about is finding her way back to Mal.

This review relates to season 1 and 2.

I very badly wanted to enjoy Shadow and Bone based on the enthusiasm I’d seen online, but the best I can say for the show is “meh”.

This show is… very “Young Adult”. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but Shadow and Bone seems to embody all of the bad things about YA and doesn’t do anything truly interesting with it.

One first thing to note: the first season of this show is very dark. Not like, in tone. Just in colour. I know this is kind of the theme of the show of light in the darkness, but please just let me see what’s happening on screen. I’ve been squinting for hours. I’m tired.

Let’s start with something positive: I really enjoy the costumes in this show. The Slavic inspiration and embroidered Kefta’s are stunning and it’s always nice to see fantasy with a different inspiration than medieval England.

Now for the… I wouldn’t say bad? Just mediocre.

One of my major qualms with this series is that none of the characters are very interesting to me. Alina doesn’t have much that drives her other than wanting to stay with her childhood buddy Mal. Mal is… a soldier? That’s it. To no one’s surprise, they’re secretly in love with each other. This would be a spoiler if it weren’t for the fact that it’s so painfully obvious that the only reason to miss it would be that you can’t see what’s happening on the screen because it’s SO DARK.

It’s not that I dislike the show, it’s just that it’s not DOING anything for me. The most excited I got was for Alina’s relationship with the Darkling. He got so close to being interesting but lacked depth. He’s pretty though.

Then there’s Brekker’s little gang of thieves. Their entire storyline felt very separate from the main plot. Like, it was connected? But at the same time, I felt like it was a whole different show. The same goes for the side plot of Nina and Matthias. They contribute nothing to the story, and their enemies-to-lovers narrative is a poorly executed cliché. They do become relevant to the main plot in the second season, but the whole first season it’s like they are from different books (spoiler: it’s because they are).

To end on a positive note: I really enjoyed some of the female side characters. Inej is interesting. I love a mean girl, so Zoya was right up my street. I would have liked to see a little more background on her, but I guess we had to spend that time on Alina? Sure. Genya was also a standout character for me, and she deserved much more screen time than she got. Fortunately, she became more important in season 2.

Shadow and Bone season one consists of 8 episodes. I feel like this was the root of most of my problems. With more time, they could have developed the relationship between Mal and Alina, and spent more time in each location, like the magic school that Alina obviously has to go to because magic schools are a YA staple. They might also have been able to better explore how the characters that existed mostly in side plots actually mattered for the main plotline.

I watched season two as well, but it was really hard to get through because it still just… wasn’t that interesting. I legitimately stopped watching at the start of the very last episode and didn’t continue because I just wasn’t interested in how it was going to end. I’m only watching it now in order to finish this review. It’s such a shame because the show really has potential, it just doesn’t get the time to develop it. I’ve heard people speculate this is because Netflix keeps cancelling shows after two seasons so they tried to get as much into the show as possible. It’s just sad.

On the plus side, the second season is much better-lit than the first. At least you can see what’s happening on screen!

Reviewed by:

Matilda is a clever girl born into a family that doesn’t  really appreciate it. More often than not, Matilda finds that she has to educate her parents, instead of the other way around.

Ready to learn, Matilda is very excited to go to school. However, it seems that her new headmistress is a true tyrant. To set things right, Matilda has to unearth some dark secrets as well as learn some very special skills.

I love the book, the old movie and the stage musical, and this version did not disappoint. They made a beautiful homage to both the movie from 1996 and the stage musical by Tim Minchin, yet it still felt fresh.

The casting was really good, Alishia Weir as Mathilda and all those schoolkids were a force to be reckoned with. Emma Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull had me tremble on the couch, while Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey portrayed that feeling of being ‘stuck in your story’ beautifully.

I love it when the subtle fantasy elements in a story feel like they could happen in our real world. Even though it was quite dark, I really liked this adaptation.

When I found out that the stage musical would get adapted, I got quite excited. It’s like I instinctively knew this would be the medium that would make everything click for me. Of course I had read the book and seen the 1996 film, but even though I enjoyed them, they didn’t manage to win my heart. The stage musical, with songs by Tim Minchin, was more successful in this regard. It was raw, more leaning into the dark aspects of the story. The songs managed to capture some of the more complex emotions of the narrative (’Quiet’ on repeat was a crutch to me when I was suffering from a burn-out during my master’s degree). Still, the musical wasn’t yet polished enough for me. Matilda the Musical, however, takes the best of everything and presents Matilda’s story in a balanced way, with both the childlike wonder and the darker emotions intact.

More often than we like, parents, family members and/or guardians neglect the children in their care. Sometimes intentional, sometimes despite their best efforts. No matter the circumstances, such neglect can leave you with scars that will haunt you well into your adult life. When you’re younger, you tend to believe you’ll somehow automatically be strong/wise/powerful enough to deal with the heavier aspects of life when you’re grown up. However, this is unfortunately not the case. Healthy or hurt, you’ll still carry that inner child with you. Lashana Lynch’s portrayal of Miss Honey perfectly manages to catch the ways in which you may still be haunted by your child traumas. I was very impressed with how she captured both the fragility and the silent strength of this character.

Other kudo’s go to Alisha Weir, for convincingly depicting Matilda’s childlike determination to battle both injustice and the passive fatalism many adults are prone to. And of course Emma Thomson as Miss Trunchbull, balancing the humorous grotesqueness and terrifying madness of an antagonist that represents all the worst qualities of a rational and lawful adult.

My review until now only highlights a very specific aspect of Matilda the Musical. But even if you’re not as disillusioned with adulthood as I seem to be, I think this film has enough to offer to be enjoyable. Though the story has some very dark moments, the film makers were also not afraid to play around. Some of the songs are accompanied by choreography and staging that are very flamboyant and therefore fun to watch. Supported by an army of kids that can both sing and dance fantastically, Matilda the Musical is a very spectacular musical.

In a spaceship shaped like a hot dog, we find a motley crew of space travellers: Grouchy Captain Norman “Skip” Takamori, Navigator Riva, a somewhat naive alien enthusiastically endorsing a pyramid scheme, engineer Gunnie, who is deep in medical depth after a tragic space accident, business executive Margaret Encino, who is working from home out of the ship’s escape pod, All-purpose android Sundy Sidney and a clone with a vengeance called Barry Syx. As they travel the galaxy looking for work, they find themselves tangling with some of the biggest forces in the universe.

Having watched my fair share of Dimension 20 seasons, I’m not sure why I’m still surprised when they do something unexpected. I don’t think they’ve ever done a show that made me think “Oh yes, this is pretty much what I thought they’d do”. Still, A Starstruck Odyssey is different from most Dimension 20 seasons in a number of ways. For a start, It’s the first science-fiction series they’ve done. Until Starstruck, they’ve really only done fantasy campaigns. Because of this new type of setting, they also had to rethink the way they use minis for combat. Instead of their usual physical minis, they use Talespire, a digital 3D gaming tool with digital minis, which allows them to show space battles. Finally, while Brennan is usually the “normal” person trying to stop his players from throwing his game into the abyss of chaos, the roles are now reversed. This time, it’s Brennan who is out of control, and Ally Beardsley is the one with a crisp To-Do list.

The setting is particularly interesting because, for the first time, Brennan isn’t playing in his own world. It’s his mum’s, and boy do we get a glimpse into Where Brennan Gets It From. The world of Starstruck, a comic series by Elaine Lee and Michael Kaluta is as colourful as it is threatening, and lends itself perfectly to a tabletop campaign.

This season, the cast is absolutely on fire. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed so much at an Actual Play D&D show. Ally Beardsley, who usually puts a lot of themselves into their characters, plays a serious businesswoman so well that it almost made me wonder if I should stay in my corporate job. The rest of the cast is amazing as well. Lou and Murph are willing to sacrifice it all for the bit, Siobhan plays THE most gullible creature in the universe, and Zac once again proves that sometimes, comedy isn’t about doing a bunch of things: it’s about not doing a bunch of things.

One note if you start watching this: you gotta be paying attention. A LOT of stuff happens this season, so if you’re not paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot. Please do watch it though, it’s an absolute treat!

Solo tells the origin story of none other than Han Solo, the beloved rogue-turned-good-guy from the Original Star Wars Trilogy.

After his escape from the slums of his native Corellia, Han tries to join a rogue crew to seek a fortune – not for himself, but so he can return later and rescue someone he had to leave behind.

Unfortunately, not everything goes as Han had hoped it would…

I’ve been critical of the Disney-era Star Wars movies, but out of them all I liked Rogue One best – probably because it wasn’t loaded with all the baggage of the four decades of cinematic history like the ‘main’ trilogy was. Solo is slightly different in that, unlike Rogue One, it very actively ties into the Original Trilogy, though the moniker ‘A Star Wars Story’ means it doesn’t have to carry the full weight of the Star Wars-legacy.

So what did we get?

Solo is a relatively light-hearted heist movie, with lots of action that is interspersed with just about enough character moments to keep you invested in the story. As we have come to expect from a Star Wars-movie, it looks absolutely amazing and fits in great with the absolutely iconic Star Wars-style.

Alden Ehrenreich put in great performances as Han Solo, mimicking Harrison Ford in style and stance to convince me that he was really a younger version of the character. But Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra and Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian were the ones that kept me watching. If anything, Solo made me more curious about their origin stories than I ever was about Han Solo’s.

Solo is very obviously engaging with fans of the Original Trilogy (’Han shot first’; ‘the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs’, etc.). Surprisingly, this is actually not too ham-fisted and doesn’t interfere with the viewing experience of those not steeped in internet culture.

I think Solo’s two biggest misses were (i) the tone deaf portrayal of L3-37, a droid fighting for equal treatment of droids, and (ii) the fact that it thrusts a couple of completely unearned sequel hooks in the viewers’ face at the last moment, which are likely to confuse the casual viewer and do nothing for Solo itself.

In conclusion, Solo is an entertaining, if ultimately somewhat forgettable action movie that tastefully ties into the broader franchise. With that, it easily outperforms Disney’s instalments in the flagship trilogy.

Unfortunately, Solo didn’t do to well at the box office. Personally, I feel the failure of Solo probably had more to do with the poor reception of The Last Jedi and perhaps the fact that it was the fourth Star Wars-movie released in four years than anything about Solo itself.

Either way, a sequel to Solo or another Star Wars Story seems an unlikely prospect, as Disney now focusses on Disney+ and giving each fan-favourite Star Wars-character their own spin off television series (is Jar Jar Binks or R2D2 next?). Perhaps I’ll dig into those too, one day – though at this point I think it is unlikely I’ll ever catch up with all the Star Wars-content that is being churned out these days.

Reviewed by:

In the thriving city of Piltover, a research to combine magic with technology leads to unrest in the city’s politics. Meanwhile, the fragile peace in Piltover’s Undercity is once again disturbed by ambitions of rebellion, and two sisters are caught in between.

This review relates to season 1

I watched Arcane a year after its release, after most of the hype around it had died down. I didn’t really know what I had to expect. I only knew a lot of people liked it and that it was based on League of Legends, a game I only knew the basic game mechanics of. Luckily, from the first minutes on, I was enthralled. I binged the whole first season within one day. And it haunted me for months thereafter…

There’s a lot to say about the quality of this series. The animation, to start somewhere, is outstanding and incomparable with anything else I’ve ever seen. Every shot is amazing to look at. Frankly, words fail me in this regard. I feel that if I were a film maker or animator myself, I could more properly describe the many brilliant techniques that were used. I’m not, however, so instead I’ll move to something I have a better understanding of: the writing.

At its core, Arcane’s story revolves around both the utter salvation and ultimate downfall of every person alive ever: their relationships with loved ones. And it explores this theme without ever reverting to the easy storytelling pitfalls. As a result, we get an emotional narrative which never gets truly predictable.

It’s not often that a piece of media makes me care for every one of its characters. However, while watching Arcane, I found myself rooting for literally everyone. Vander, but eventually also Silco. Victor, Jayce and Heimerdinger. Cailtyn and Vi and Powder/Jinx. Honestly, it was somewhat jarring to watch a story in which you hope every character achieves what they want, but you simultaneously know that some of these goals cannot coexist. It’s an impressive feat of storytelling.

I’ve yet to succesfully convince the other curators to give Arcane a try, but I’d certainly say it’s worth the watch!

Struggling with his role as the newly proclaimed Dragon Reborn, Rand sets out alone to test the truth of the proclamation by attempting to fulfil the prophesies, with Perrin and Moiraine following in his wake. Meanwhile, the female protagonists return to Tar Valon to heal Mat, only to receive a new mission of their own. As they all converge on one place in space and time, the stakes rise. Will Rand live up to the prophesies – or will the Dark One triumph?

(Who am I kidding we all know what is going to happen)

What a great classic cover! It would be a shame if it... were to... spoil anything?

Listened to the audiobook with Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – no problem with the narrators.

If you’ve read my reviews of the first two instalments of The Wheel of Time, you will know by now that I am not massively impressed by Jordan’s epic. I was clinging to a sliver of hope that The Dragon Reborn would tie all loose ends together and wrap the trilogy up so satisfactorily that it would make the whole slog worth it.

I’m afraid it didn’t. Instead, when I finished The Dragon Reborn, I mostly felt relief: no more Wheel of Time for me in the foreseeable future. So why won’t I be reading on?

In an unfortunate continuation of a pattern started in The Great Hunt, the main characters split in four different groups right from the beginning of the book, meaning the story jumps back and forth between points of view. This, again, leaves too little time to properly develop any of them.

The peculiar choice to include almost no chapters from the titular character Rand’s point of view does exactly the opposite of what the story needed (that is, a deep dive into Rand’s motivations). Instead, the reader is left wondering why on earth Rand would slink off in the dead of night filled with senseless doubt that is never explored.

The end of the audiobook has a short interview with Robert Jordan, in which he indicates that he wanted to write a story in which the Chosen One does not simply accept his fate. I understand that that is an interesting twist. Jordan absolutely butchered his premise, however, by failing to include a reason why Rand does not want to be the Chosen One. In the previous instalments, he is afraid to go mad and hurt people; but this is a hesitation linked to the ‘side effects’ of his being the Chosen One and not to his being the Chosen One itself. The Dragon Reborn does exactly nothing to solve this. Instead, Rand just isn’t sure whether he is the Chosen One, picks a random line of prophesy, and sets out to fulfil it just to see whether he truly is. That isn’t at all the same as struggling to accept your fate (for a masterclass on how to write that, I recommend Dune).

I’m getting bogged down in details (like the inexplicable reason why the female protagonists, who were well on their way to saving themselves again, had to be rescued by a male character in the end again), but I think that shows that these irritations were what stuck with me most after reading the first trilogy in The Wheel of Time-series.

The Wheel of Time isn’t trash, it’s just functional and uninspired, outdated and uninteresting. Perhaps some people want deeply comfortable fantasy that fits the worldview of 20th century. I feel that even those people can probably find better candidates (the first thing that comes to mind is Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, but it’s been a while since I read those).

Either way, I think that, in a day and age in which the genre has so much to offer, the opportunity cost of reading The Wheel of Time over one of the great alternatives that are out there is just way too high. Sorry folks. 

Review: Shadow and Bone – Netflix

Alina Starkov is an orphan who has grown up in an orphanage alongside her best friend Mal. When they pass through the Fold – a barrier through the land that is cast in darkness and populated by monsters – Alina discovers that she has the power to create light, making her the only legendary sun-summoner: the one who can destroy the Fold.

Read More »

Matilda the Musical – Matthew Warchus

Review of the Matilda the Musical movie. Matilda is a clever girl born into a family that doesn’t  really appreciate it. More often than not, Matilda finds that she has to educate her parents, instead of the other way around.

Ready to learn, Matilda is very excited to go to school. However, it seems that her new headmistress is a true tyrant. To set things right, Matilda has to unearth some dark secrets as well as learn some very special skills.

Read More »

Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story – Ron Howard

Prequel to the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Solo tells the origin story of Han Solo, the beloved rogue-turned-good-guy from the Original Trilogy. After his escape from the slums of his native Corellia, Han tries to join a rogue crew to seek a fortune and rescue someone he had to leave behind.

Read More »

Review: Arcane – Netflix

Review of Netflix’s Arcane. In the thriving city of Piltover, a research to combine magic with technology leads to unrest in the city’s politics. Meanwhile, Piltover’s Undercity is once again disturbed by ambitions of rebellion.

Read More »