Wednesday, January 29, 2014

If You Like This, Then Try...: A Dragon's Crown for Tiffany Aching

I’ve admitted it in the past and warn each of my students at the beginning of each new semester’s classes: I’m a nerd. As such, I tend to play some gooberish games--or at least some that aren’t in the limelight like Call of Duty or Halo or GTA. But they tend to be some of my favorites. One such game is Vanillaware’s Dragon’s Crown, released for both Playstation 3 and the PS Vita.

Basically, it’s an old-school hack ‘n’ slash like Golden Axe mixed with today’s RPGs customization, which allows you to level up, gain new abilities, and all that other nerdy goodness. The most striking feature about it, though, is the graphic style, as this company is known for hand painting every animation--from the backgrounds to the individual characters. It’s like playing a piece of artwork. Seriously, if you can get passed the ridiculous female character design, it’s one of the most gorgeous games you’ll ever see in action.

It’s your typical tale of epic treachery and wizards and witches and knights and kings and a deep-seeded evil that can destroy everything. You know, the same old, same old when it comes to fantasy. But if you’re looking to move beyond that typical story and delve a bit deeper into a wonderful world and one of the best freaking female protagonists ever, you need to check out Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series.

If any of you follow my Goodreads, you’ll be well aware of my love affair with Terry Pratchett and this series. As both are, indeed, among my favorites, so I can’t help but give them a further plug.

Starting with The Wee Free Men, we follow Tiffany through four books, as she grows from a girl just learning how to use her witchy-ways to a young woman that makes real decisions with no easy answers. Pratchett shies away from the major downfalls in the YA world’s female protagonists as Tiffany not only has a head on her shoulders, but she uses that head to solve problems, save lives, and keep the area she lives in, in balance. She doesn’t need a guy to make her happy or pull her from a tight spot. The most help she gets are from other empowered women that all preach the same message: Find your own way.

So, why am I discussing these two apparently disparate pieces of pop culture? Because they overlap in one key area: Both are chock full o’ humor and lean towards the lighter side of fantasy. Yes, there are witches and magic and such things in both, but both--especially the Tiffany Aching series--are accessible for anyone through their use of humor. Dragon’s Crown might not be laugh out loud funny like parts of Aching’s series are, but there is enough cheek and dry wit to keep you amused.

In the end, if you don’t mind a bit of fantasy, you can’t go wrong with either the game or the books. However, I will warn you that for every positive reinforcement that Pratchett creates for Tiffany and YA females in general, Dragon’s Crown upholds a very sexist presentation. I guess that’s what happens when the target audiences for both have extremely different demographics.

But, please, do yourself a favor and pick up the first book in Tiffany’s quadrilogy. You’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love.

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