Book Reviews Pop Culture

Victoria Aveyard’s Realm Breaker begins a new high fantasy for the ages

High fantasy is fascinating because of its vastness. An entire world is created, one that may be similar to our own, but with many differences. It’s a mirror to another world, one that’s filled with magic, monsters, and adventure. Think Tolkien, G.R.R. Martin, or even Philip Pullman’s world of daemons and witches. Victoria Aveyard’s newest book, Realm Breaker, is the newest addition to this incredible genre. 

Aveyard is well-known for her #1 New York Times bestselling series Red QueenThe four books Red Queen, Glass Sword, King’s Cage, and War Storm stole the hearts of millions, establishing Aveyard as a fantasy queen. Her new book (the first of a trilogy) is also a YA fantasy, set in a mythical universe that’s about to crumble thanks to Taristan, a man who’s looking to bring, well, something, back from another universe. He sets about doing this by ripping open Spindles, or portals, to other realms – each rip causes a flood of monsters and undead soldiers to flood the realm, resulting in chaos and war on multiple fronts. The only way to close the Spindle is by using the same method to open it – someone of Corblood, holding a Spindleblade.

Who is the only one who can – our hero? A 17-year old girl named Corayne, one of the last living descendants of Old Cor, and her father’s sword. Oh, and the man that she’s fighting is her uncle – her father’s twin brother, left behind at birth and hungry for power that he never had, the power that his brother grew up with. Both boys had different weaknesses, points of pride, and trauma to deal with, and it’s fascinating to see how each one lived with the hand they were dealt. The twins were orphaned at a very young age, and Cortael is taken in by a group of immortals and raised to be a hero. Taristan is left behind, and years of abandonment and trauma have shaped him to become ruthless and subservient to a much darker evil that’s only hinted at in the novel. 

The first book sets the scene – we see Taristan tearing open the first Spindle, and we see how Corayne finds out about her history, and the role she has to play in saving all the realms. The first book builds the Companionship (a lovely nod to Tolkien’s work), and takes them through a series of major ordeals, ending on an intense cliffhanger – on a world on the edge of destruction, but with a slight glimpse, just the tiniest peek, of hope. 

Unlike her earlier books, Realm Breaker is high fantasy – set in a world completely unlike our own, akin to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or Martin’s Westeros. The world she builds is expansive – it spans continents and seas, and she’s developed unique cities and cultures for each space, building traditions, and rituals based on geography. She builds on systems that we know – of characters like assassins, mages, and immortals, but puts them in new situations, with new perspectives. It’s a unique twist on an established trope, and it’s a fascinating world to enter, as she’s made the entry seamless, thanks to her descriptive writing. 

Realm Breaker is told from five different points of view – from Corayne (the hero), Andry (the noble squire), Domacridhan (the immortal), Sorasa (the assassin), and Erida (the queen). The multiple perspectives means that the viewer has a much wider understanding of the story – each scene is understood from every character’s perspective. What I found fascinating was that even though Victoria Aveyard shows us the entire world, there’s one character that’s left in the dark – Taristan. 

We don’t really see his point of view because his ambition is clear. His only goal is to serve What Waits, and nothing more. In fact, what’s mysterious isn’t Taristan himself, but his companion – a wizard always clothed in red, named Ronin. He carries an aura of power that’s intimidating, yet always remains to the side. Who is he? It’s clear that he doesn’t serve Taristan, so who does he serve? 

Like Ronin and Taristan, Corayne’s team, too, has a mysterious witch, except this one isn’t intimidating, but mostly harmless. She guides the group as best she can – in verse. Valtik is the mysterious older presence, the all-knowing presence (or at least seems like it), and can only converse in riddles to provide clues. 

One thing I loved about this book is the companionship itself. Half the crew is young, too green and fresh-faced to be saving the world. This is Corayne’s first expedition to the outside world, and even Domacridhan – an immortal being who’s at least a few centuries old – is, well, young and immature. He is yet to grasp the nuances of the situations he ends up in, and he’s more of a powerful battering ram than a subtle knife. That’s where Sorasa comes in, and her reason for saving the realm is selfish but true – she wants to save it because there isn’t really a choice in the matter. 

YA fantasy is a broad genre, one that grows constantly. Victoria Aveyard’s newest series is another addition, one that I found to be engaging and fascinating.

The only downside so far? Waiting another year for the next installment to come out. Rest assured, I’ll be biting my nails with anticipation till then.

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Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.

Movies Pop Culture

20 things you’ll totally get if you’re a real Bollywood lover

Since I was a toddler, I have had a deep love for Bollywood movies and songs. I believe that I would be a drastically different person if I had not been surrounded by Bollywood.  If you’re in the same boat, here’re a few things I know you can relate to:

1. You find yourself randomly quoting lines


Sometimes to the annoyance of people who have no idea what you’re referencing.

2. You catch yourself daydreaming while listening to Bollywood songs


Don’t pretend like this hasn’t happened to you.

3. Having way too much empathy for the actors


Their tears are your tears!

4. Getting super inspired by certain movies

Many Bollywood movies actually have some pretty deep life lessons. My favorites include Kapoor and Sons, Dangal, and Kal Ho Na Ho.

5. You spend way too much time trying to perfect the choreography of songs


They make it look so effortless.

6. Sometimes people in your social circle may be embarrassed by your FOB-iness


But like the honey badger, you don’t give a shit.

7. You need to get to the theaters early so you can watch upcoming trailers on the big screen


It may be the only time you don’t use desi standard time.

8. You have unrealistic expectations for life


Not to be a pessimist, but I doubt we’ll ever be able to dance to Chaiyya Chaiyya on top of a moving train.

9. You get super flattered when someone says you look like a certain Bollywood actress


It’s one of the highest compliments you can get.

10.  You play your favorite song on repeat…without headphones

Even if everyone around you goes nuts, each time you listen to the song you appreciate it more and more.

11. You have a love-hate relationship with “item” songs


They’re so catchy and yet the lyrics can be pretty objectifying towards women. It’s twisted.

12. You have at least one character who’s a role model to you

Who doesn’t want to be more fun-loving and authentic as Geet from Jab We Met?

13. You’re more excited about dancing than the actual wedding ceremony


Let’s be honest.

14. You have an opinion on everything Bollywood-related


Even as you’re reading this article, you’re probably analyzing whether you agree with it or not.

15. You feel the need to defend your favorite stars


How dare someone say Shah Rukh Khan’s too old?!

16. You have that go-to song to feel really empowered

Who doesn’t feel better after listening to Break Up song?

17. You also have that go-to song when you’re feeling really sad


These songs are so powerful, connecting us with each other through our sorrows.

18. You secretly hope that you find love like Rahul & Anjali’s


Even though Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had a pretty messed up storyline, I don’t think anyone would disagree that “pyaar dosti hai” (love equals friendship)?

19. Sometimes you forget that Bollywood actors are just as human as you are


Since we rarely see what goes on behind the scenes of the filmmaking process, it’s easy to forget all the effort that goes into it.

20. You don’t care what anyone else thinks of your love for Bollywood


Haters gonna hate. Always.