Book: Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang

"Si Janus SIlang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang"

Apat na buwan na si Janus sa mansiyon nina Manong Joey sa Angono, pero naroon pa rin ang sakit ng dilang-karayom ng manananggal sa puso niya dahil sa pagkawala ng mga mahal sa buhay at sapilitang paglayo kay Mica.

Sumula ng Christmas break nang mawasak ang proteksiyon ng mansiyon laban sa Tiyanak at sa mga kampon nito. Matinding barang ba ito? Nawawala rin si Mira, ang isa sa kambal na baganing kasing-edad ni Janus at inampon din nina Manong Joey. Ipinagtapat naman ni Renzo kay Janus ang matagal na palang sinusundan ni Manong Isyo: bumalik sa mapa ng utak ng dalawang manong ang brain imprint ng Papa ni Janus at maaaring buhay pa pala ito!

If you don’t understand the Tagalog synopsis, it goes like this: time has passed since the events of the first book. Janus has already spent four months in Manong Joey’s mansion in Angono, but he can still feel the needle-tongue of a manananggal that was left in his heart by the loss of his loved ones and by him abandoning Mica. During the Christmas break, the protection around the mansion has been breached–and no one can explain why. Mira, one-half of the twins who are waiting for their powers to develop, has disappeared. And Janus finds out from Renzo that their elders are investigating the possibility that Janus’s father is still alive.

And now, the verdict:

Book 2 of Janus Silang is still very bottom-heavy. It took me three days to get through the first half of the book, and less than an hour to finish the last third. But unlike the first book where the bottom-heaviness could be fixed by a rearrangement of events that doesn’t change the plot structure at all, I don’t really know how to improve the second book.

Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang has a very solid plot structure. It makes sense why certain things happen when they happen. And although I disagree with some of the actions made by the main character, I can’t fault the reasons behind why Janus does what he does. My problem with the book actually stems from the digressions.

Teacher Cris, of the Teacher’s Pet blog, commented on my post for the first book about how the attention to detail contributes to the twist in the plot. And I agree to a certain extent. But I don’t think the same can be said for the digressions in this book.

Yes, certain events need to be set up. Yes, we need to learn more about the histories and background of familiar creatures because they are being remade into something different from what they were. But the digressions feel disjointed for me. Mostly because we are presented with pressing dangers, our characters are rightly alarmed, and yet none of them are acting like there is an emergency. They’re all so relaxed. That is, until the last third of the book, when the action finally picks up–and the exposition no longer feels like digressions, and flow organically from what is happening in the present.

I’m on the fence about this book. Unlike the first book that’s teeming with potential, Book 2 feels like a retread on a formula that was already problematic the first time. Which is a shame. Because, more than a year later, the first Janus Silang book is still the best local young adult novel I’ve read. And I was really looking forward to this one being better than the first book because we need less set-up than before. And yet…

And yet I will still pick up the third book when it comes out. Because I have to admit that I have higher expectations for Janus Silang than I do for other local published works. Because there is potential here. Because, although I am not completely in love with the second book, I can still say with confidence that this is better and more original than a lot of imported young adult series that I’ve been reading. And because I look up to the author in real life, and I believe he can churn out something better than this.

So I continue to look forward to the next book. And I’m crossing my fingers that the next book will, indeed, be better than the first two books in the Janus Silang series.

Book: Mythspace

What if creatures from Philippine folklore — the tikbalangs, nuno, kapre — were inspired by actual alien races? That’s the question that fuels the Mythspace stories.

"Lift Off!"

Lift Off! wraps up its story with the third issue, ending with a promise of more adventures. But before we get to the end, let’s talk about the journey going there.

This is still not my favorite story off the Mythspace lot. But having read this final issue of Lift Off!, I can now say that I don’t hate it. In fact, I can even admit that it is a good story. If only it came out all at once.

Honestly: the story took way too long. Couple that with the fact that I found it hard to like the protagonist? The title really dragged for me.

But now that it’s over, I see the potential in the title. As a prequel to other stories, Lift Off! is great. Hopefully though, when it does get a follow-up, the pacing will be better.

"Uncommon Ground"

Uncommon Ground is a solid noir story. So solid that you can actually have it take place in a different milieu and the story would still stand.

Unfortunately, that’s also my main complaint about the story: the characters are interchangeable. This could happen anywhere, any time. The main selling point of Mythspace is not integral to the actual story.

But it is good. I just wish it were more.

And now, I’ve saved the best for last:

"Unfurling of Wings"

Unfurling of Wings is the story I’ve been looking forward to since first being exposed to Mythspace a couple of years before now. And it does not disappoint.

If you’re looking for something to introduce people to the world of Mythspace, you’d do no wrong by giving them this title. The characters are interesting, the milieu is important to the story, and although it feels like a prequel of bigger stories to come, it’s an origin story that can stand on its own.

And the art? I normally don’t talk about the art as that would only draw attention to the fact that I know nothing about it, but I want to commend the artist here. It’s clean, easy to follow, and you can distinguish the characters even when they’re surrounded by creatures that look like them.

Unfurling of Wings is awesome.

Book: Skyworld, Volume Two

"Skyworld, Volume Two"

The Queen of the Asuang and her legion have taken over the country.

Alexandra Trese leads the resistance along-side Makabo, a Tikbalang warrior, and Kaio, a Duwende trickster.

Trapped in their epic battle is Andoy, a teenage boy tasked with uniting an army of Tikbalang, Enkanto, Kapre and Duwende against the Asuang.

But before he can lead them, he must first recover a mystical sword that was once part of the fabled Yamashita Treasure.

And so ends Skyworld.

Ultimately, I’m not a fan. The story is sound, the structure is good–but the overall product is not something I’d gush about. I’m not saying it’s not good. It is. But the story doesn’t deliver on the promise of the premise. As I feared.

My main problem with the story is its length. Because the whole thing is so short, we never really connect with any of the characters we’re supposed to care about. Maybe Alexandra, but that’s because we know her from another series. A better series. The others?

I’ve already finished the book and I still know nothing about main character Andoy–save for the fact that he’s the chosen one. Makabo and Kaio are supporting characters in the most basic sense. They support Andoy, and that’s pretty much it. There’s a hint of something more for Makabo, but that’s nipped in the bud even before it completely takes off.

And I’m not a fan of the ten-year time jump in between the two volumes. Number one, because it feels like a cop out–not knowing how to deal with a giant sea dragon rampaging across Metro Manila. Number two, because of Alexandra. Don’t tell me she never aged in the ten years between volumes.

To end, there are better re-imaginings and re-tellings of Filipino folklore availalbe out there. There’s the Trese series, there’s Naermyth, or maybe you know of another novel/comic series that I don’t.

But, to be fair, here are links to what other people have written about the series:
The Birth of Damnation
The Comics Cube

Book: Skyworld, Volume One

"Skyworld, Volume One"

Every legend hides a lie.

A murdered Skygod re-emerges in modern-day Manila. A Tikbalang prince plots vengeance for the death of his father. And the Queen of the Asuang unleashes the mythical Bakunawa upon the streets of the city.

Caught in their age-old struggle is Andoy, a crippled orphan that discovers he is the fulfillment of a prophecy dating back to Lapu-Lapu himself.

I liked it–and I don’t really know why.

I mean, it has the elements that I’m looking for in a fun story. There’s Filipino mythology, there’s action, and there’s a story-arc that runs deeper than it looks.

But even though I did say that I liked it, there’s still something missing. For a “volume one” it barely scratches the surface of a bigger story. And considering the fact that there are only two volumes, I am afraid for what the second volume contains. I’m hoping it’s not a cop out. I’m hoping there’s a better story. I’m hoping that it accomplishes the promise of the first volume.

Would I recommend it though? Get back to me when I read and write about the second volume.

Book: Mythspace Lift Off

"Myth Space Lift Off"

Kapre. Nuno. Manananggal. They are monsters of the past, remnants of primitive fantasies. UFOs. Aliens. Extraterrestrials. They are hallucinations, creations of modern science fiction. Or are they?

Evidence unearthed is debunked… or disappears. Witnesses who speak are ridiculed… or silenced. We are alone, say our leaders.

There are no Manananggal that consume our children. There are no Kapres who watch in the night. There are no aliens that abduct our neighbors. There are no UFOs with dazzling lights.

We were never alone.

These are not your Lola’s monsters. There are not your children’s aliens.

They are one and the same.

They are here.

Interesting premise: Filipino mythology as aliens instead of supernatural beings. It’s a novel idea. But the stories so far don’t give us a lot to go on.

In the maiden issue of the series, we get two stories and a whole bunch of extras.

I’m not going to talk about the extras yet as I don’t really know what they’re for. I’m not invested on the series yet for me to care about them. The stories though… The stories are a different matter.

In the first story we get, it’s the first time we learn that in this world the supernatural exists. Except they’re not supernatural–they’re extraterrestrial. And that’s a cool concept. It is. Unfortunately, it’s just a concept.

We get a main character with a lot of angst. And I believe that he can be a great hook for this particular story thread in Mythspace. Except, while we do understand where he’s coming from and his angst, his goal isn’t as clear.

There’s a desire to prove to naysayers that his family was right in believing in Kapres and the likes. But by episode’s end, he is already plucked his normal life that you don’t really know where he’s going next.

Honestly thought, what I really can’t latch on to here is the art. It’s not a fault of the storyteller or the artist, I’m just not a fan of this kind of art. I prefer the clean lines of the other story thread–with the manananggals.

But while I do like the art, I’m a bit worried about where the story is going. From the glimpse given us by the Lift Off issue, this other story is giving me a Cat’s Trail vibe–and not much else. I find myself not really caring about the characters–just the really pretty drawings.

So what am I saying?

I’m saying the Lift Off issue of Mythspace shows great promise–but it’s gonna take a couple more issues to see if it’s a title I want to stick with.

Other people have other views though, so let’s check out what they have to say:
One More Page
Jumper Cable
Crime-Fighting Call Center Agents

book: naermyth

"naermyth" by karen franciscoi found NAERMYTH while i was searching for the filipino horror books that had been recommended a month ago. i don’t actually remember how exactly i came upon it, but i remember being really intrigued with the book’s premise:

what if the mythical creatures we thought weren’t true, were actually true? and what if in the near future, they would’ve taken back the world from us?

this is the world of NAERMYTH; the story is set in an undisclosed time in the near future, where every human is equal–poverty is a thing of the past. or, to be more exact, is a thing of five years ago, before hell came out from down below.

we follow the character of athena, also known as aegis, a soldier tasked with defending and saving refugees and victims of the war between humans and naermyths. a shepherd. during one of her missions, she discovers dorian, a mysterious man who seems to have no recollection of the past five years–whose last memory is of the world before the naermyths revealed themselves to be true.

but what athena doesn’t know is that dorian just maybe the most dangerous creature in the land–but at the same time, he could be their only hope in the losing war they’re fighting against the naermyths.

one of the reasons i was intrigued with the book was its dystopian feel: set in the future, world has gone to hell, and a band of unlikely people leading a pack of survivors to victory or salvation. there are many dystopian novels out there; but this one was set in the philippines–and written by a filipino. so obviously, i was intrigued.

the other reason is because it dealt with the aswang–and not just the usual kind. i’m happy to say that the batibat, the pasatsat, even the bakunawa, among others, were represented here. and, except for the case of the bakunawa, i liked how the author tweaked the creature’s traits to fit the new world she created.

the story itself is solid enough. it has the elements of action, adventure and romance all set in a future world where one of these things is a rarity. it’s also a well-plotted book, as things that were mentioned in passing at the first part of the book, plays a more important role as the book nears it closing chapters.

my only bone of contention with the book was that you can see the twists happening before it actually happens. and the thing with twists is that they’re supposed to catch you by surprise. then again, i am happy that these so-called “twists” have actual basis, and none of them come out of the blue. so this is a tricky thing.

i guess the important thing in the end is that i liked the book enough, and don’t regret purchasing it and reading it.

and also, it’s a good thing i didn’t see the book trailer before i purchased and read the book. otherwise, the only thing running in my head while holding the book is: since when did we have cubones in philippine folklore? also, the book trailer contains a pretty big spoiler.

check out the book’s own website.

and tina of One More Page posted a review of the book at her site.

book: spooky mo

"spooky mo" by marivi soliven blancoi have an announcement to make: i’m cutting the filipino horror giveaway competition short. i’m only reading one more book, and then i’m going to announce the winners. that way, i can send out the prizes before this week ends. i’ve already extended the competition far longer than expected.

and now, on to SPOOKY MO.

honestly, i had no idea what to expect with a book entitled SPOOKY MO; except that it’s a collection of horrifying tales, all written by marivi soliven blanco.

marivi soliven who? she was the one who wrote MANANAGGRRRL! from the TALES OF ENCHANTMENT AND FANTASY collection i read a couple of weeks back. and will you look at that? that story’s part of this collection too.

i didn’t much like the story of MANANANGGRRRL! to be quite honest. but i am happy to say that most of the stories in SPOOKY MO are better. or maybe it’s just because i didn’t have any expectations.

none of the stories in this book was particularly scary, but there were a couple that were horrifying. yes, horrifying. and what i’ve noticed is, none of the stories (save for MANANANGGRRRL!) focused on the supernatural. all the stories were character studies of women: women who were pushed too far, women that are looking for solace, women reaching their limits. and by not focusing on the horror as the main selling point, marivi soliven blanco managed to write a few truly horrifying pieces.

my main criteria for horror is that it should disturb me. but with all the horror films, the slasher flicks, and the likes that are prevalent in our culture now, it’s not easy to disturb anyone. still, there are still works that can make you think, make you feel a little bit of fear, and make you squeamish.

SPOOKY MO manages to do the last part: make you feel squeamish, without resorting to gore. though, sure there is gore involved in at least two stories. and i’m using “at least” because i don’t know how most people would see something nasty and consider it gory. for example, a snake devouring a human being is gory–but if the actual devouring doesn’t get described in minute detail, i don’t consider it as gore. it’s just nasty.

so, of all the recommendations given for my filipino horror book pile, i think SPOOKY MO is the first to hit the mark in the right spots. though, the second volume of TRESE and CRAVING are good contenders too.