Justice League Season 2 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 26 (13 stories)
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Widescreen, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

The second season of the animated Justice League series is bigger and the stakes are higher. Again, most stories are two parts, except the Holiday episode, “Comfort and Joy” and the three-part season finale “Starcrossed”. The season opens with Orion attacking and defeating one of Darkseid’s attacks, but as Darkseid recovers, he’s attacked by Brainiac – Darkseid convinces the Justice League to help him. They work with Highfather to stop Brainiac’s attack, but it puts New Genesis in danger.

In “Only a Dream”, Doctor Destiny traps most of the Justice League in nightmares, but insomniac Batman is able to defeat Doctor Destiny.

In “Maid of Honor” Wonder Woman befriends the party girl princess of Kasnia. Despite at first complaining about the princess’s lack of responsibility, the two bond and have fun. The princess confesses she doesn’t even want to marry her fiancé but she must as part of her duty. When her father has a sudden “stroke” the marriage is moved up. Diana is shocked that the Kasnian princess’s new husband is Vandal Savage. The Justice League ends up interfering when Savage threatens the world with an orbiting rail gun satellite.

This season features an episode with the Justice Lords – an alternate Earth Justice League that became world dictators after the death of their Flash. The fight scenes in the second part are particularly good because our Justice League doesn’t face off against their own opposite numbers but fights other members. This allows them to succeed.

“The Terror Beyond” has Aquaman, Doctor Fate, and Solomon Grundy fighting off Cthulhu-like monsters. Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl and Superman stop Dr. Fate’s spell to close the gate that’s been opened to the horrific monsters. Eventually, Fate, Aquaman, and Grundy are able to convince Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, and Superman that they must stop the creatures. While Fate and his group try to close the gate again, Superman and company go through it to stop the invasion from the other side. This two-parter is visually stunning, and the “mad” monsters from the Cthulhu-like beings are drawn well.

“Secret Society” features another group of B-rate super-villains banding together to drive apart the Justice League. However, by spying on the league their plan almost works and the league splits and each go their own way. It takes Batman, who discovers the surveillance to get the League back together so they can defeat the”Secret Society of Evil”.

In “Hereafter” it appears Superman is killed in a battle with Toyman. While the world deals with its grief, and tries to process a world without a Superman – Superman is actually thrust forward into the far future. He meets Vandal Savage who has finally figured out that ruling an empty, destroyed planet is no fun at all. Superman and Savage finish a time machine Savage was working on and send Superman back to his own time.

In “Wild Cards” the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) and the Wild Card gang take over Las Vegas. The Joker airs the chaos on TV, like some type of reality show. Joker has also placed a large number of bombs, some real, some fake all over Vegas – the League has to find and dismantle the bombs.

Finally in “Starcrossed”, an alien spaceship attacks Washington DC, but the ship is destroyed by Thangarian ships. Thangar gets world leaders to accept their “protection”. However, they later impose martial law. Later it turns out the Thangarians aren’t building a shield for the Earth to protect it from a Gordanian invasion – rather they are building a hyperspace bypass engine so the Thangarians can invade to Gordanian homeworld. Unfortunately, activating the hyperspace bypass will destroy the Earth. It also turns out Hawkgirl was an advance scout and spy for the Thangarians. She is also promised or engaged to one of the other Thangarians – which surprises Green Lantern. The League is upset that Hawkgirl betrayed them. But when Hawkgirl finds out Thanagar intends to destroy the Earth she jumps sides, frees the League from their prison on one of the Thangarian ships, and helps the League defeat the Thanagarians and destroy the hyperspace bypass engine. The League decides to take a vote as to if Hawkgirl will still be accepted in the League, but Hawkgirl leaves first.

Justice League Season 2 is bigger than the first season, and the Justice League faces bigger threats. This is still top-notch animation. There are again several notable guest performances. I highly recommend this season.

Read my review of Justice League Season 1.

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Book Review – Teen Titans Raven

  • Title: Teen Titans Raven
  • Author: Kami Garcia
  • Artists: Gabriel Picolo (Artist), Jon Sommariva (Artist), Emma Kubert (Artist) David Calderon (Colorist), Tom Napolitano (Letterer)
  • Line: DC Ink
  • Characters: Rachel “Raven” Roth, Natalia Navarro, Max(ine) Navarro
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/26/2019

**Spoiler Alert** DC Comics Ink Series presents graphic novels that are meant for teen readers, especially young women. Teen Titans Raven is an origin story about Raven of the Teen Titans, but it takes entirely before she joins the Titans, or even before she is a superhero. The story opens with Raven and her foster mother having an intense discussion in a car, the foster mother is talking about finally signing the adoption papers – when they are in a car accident. Her mother is killed, and Raven physically recovers quickly but she has lost her memory. She has practical knowledge: how to do a math equation or to use an ATM, but she doesn’t know anything personal – her favorite song, her fashion preferences, what type of candy bar is her favorite. Raven is, in many ways, a blank slate.

She is sent by Social Services to New Orleans to her foster mother’s sister, Natalia, and becomes friends with Natalia’s daughter, Max.

Much of the book is about Raven’s experiences in high school with Max and her friends. Raven realizes she can hear other people’s thoughts, and she tells Max she is overwhelmed by the constant noise of the school. Max gives her noise-canceling headphones to help. Raven is haunted by an evil voice in her head. Sometimes when she thinks something bad about someone (such as hoping the school bully trips) it happens. Raven also keeps seeing a bird shadow in her dreams.

In order to help, Max also takes Raven to a local Tarot card reader and teaches her how to build a psychic shield to help protect herself and block out other people’s thoughts. The Tarot reader says Raven is an empath.

School continues – and everything comes to a head at the prom. Raven’s date is working for Slade Wilson, who wants to recruit Raven. Trigon the demon, who has haunted Raven throughout the story, attacks her. Natalie receives a warning from her dead sister and tries to protect Raven and fight off Trigon, including calling souls to form a binding circle around Trigon. Max is also Soulstorm who can speak to souls and harness their power. Max, Natalie, and the female souls of New Orleans help – but it’s Raven who rejects Trigon and traps him in her crystal necklace. The next morning, Raven gets a note from Slade. She decides to try to find him. Max offers to go with her, but Raven says she will do this on her own.

I enjoyed Teen Titans Raven the art is gorgeous and Raven is an engaging hero. I also liked Max, Natalie, and the friends Raven makes at Max’s school. The end of the graphic novel felt a bit incomplete. Slade Wilson usually isn’t a nice guy, so just what is he offering Raven? We never know. I’d like a sequel to this story. The book includes a preview chapter of Teen Titans Beast Boy which I am going to have to look for. I highly recommend Teen Titans Raven.

Book Review – Bombshells vol. 5: The Death of Illusion

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 5: The Death of Illusion
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Elsa Charrettier, Carmen Carnero, Richard Ortiz, Rachael Stott, Aneke, Wendy Broome (colors), J. Nanjan (colors), Sandra Molina (colors), Hi-Fi (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Miriam (Captain Marvel/Shazam), (Poison) Ivy, Harley Quinn, Supergirl, Power Girl, Raven, Zatanna, John Constantine, Lois Lane, Reaper (Andrea Gruenwald), Lt. Francine Charles, Batgirl (Vampire Barbara Gourdan), Enchantress, Ravager, Hugo Strange, Steve Trevor, Alexander Luthor
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/23/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Bombshells is DC Comics’ alternate history series set in World War II and starring a female superhero team. Volume 5 is much more coherent than the previous volume and starts with a song being sung by Captain Marvel, Miriam, aka Shazam. She catches the reader up on everything that has been happening with all the major players from the last volume and a few we haven’t seen for a while, and she does it in song – or at least rhyme. This review really helps orient the reader.

The novel opens formally on Atlantis, with Ivy and Harley Quinn, and Raven, Zatanna, and Constantine. Ivy has been using her talents with plants to provide food for Miriam’s refugees. She sees a headline about starvation in Leningrad, Russia, due in part to the Nazi’s siege of the city and in part to the Russian Winter. Ivy decides she cannot let people starve when she can provide them food. She talks to Mera, explaining the seeds she leaves behind will provide food for the entire city of Atlantis. Ivy and Harley and a stowaway take Mera’s gift of a flying manta ray named Fawkes and head for Russia. Meanwhile, John Constantine and Zatanna are trying to help Raven learn to control and use her magic. Raven, though, keeps having nightmares. She decides she must find her father, Trigon the Demon, last seen in Russia. Raven doesn’t ask John or Zatanna for help or permission – she stows away on Fawkes. In Russia, Fawkes is attacked in the air, and Raven panics and cannot focus enough to use her magic. Ivy saves them from being destroyed. They meet a circus that is being attacked by magical forces and Nazis. Ivy, Harley, and Raven join with the now freed circus people and animals to save Leningrad.

Meanwhile, Kara (Supergirl) and Steve Trevor are on a train, traveling from Turkey to Russia. Kara is also hoping to find the little family she has left – her father, who, last she heard was in a Russian Gulag. On the train, they are attacked by Alexander Luthor, a Russian spy, and a German SS agent. But Supergirl somehow reverses time. Again, she is attacked but this time at least the train isn’t destroyed killing all aboard. Supergirl is taken to the secret genetics lab run near Leningrad by Hugo Strange.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane, Reaper (Andrea Gruenwald), and Killer Frost are heading to Russia by plane in hot pursuit of Hugo Strange. Killer Frost reveals she isn’t as tame as she let everyone think, she’s also considerably stronger than she let on, and she’s determined to find and kill Strange. Frost crashes the plane, escaping on an ice trail. But Lois and Andrea are rescued by Ivy, Harley, and their circus. All of them, plus Dr. October, whom Ivy has run into, go off to both help the starving people of Leningrad, and to find out about Hugo Strange’s new superweapon. Ivy is shocked by the conditions in Leningrad – she uses her affinity with plants to bring the people food. This costs her a lot of energy, but she will recover.

Supergirl wakes up in a cage, being held by Hugo Strange. She resists, and he introduces her to his superweapon – Power Girl, a clone of Supergirl. Initially, Power Girl is Strange’s stooge, a weapon more than a person. But Supergirl is able to win over her clone, and they both fight Strange after Power Girl rescues Steve Trevor. As they are about to just leave, Lois Lane arrives to rescue Kara. Kara, however, no longer needs rescuing. Lois mentions a third heat signature, and Power Girl leads them to Superman, another of Hugo Strange’s genetic clones. They are attacked by Strange’s genetic monsters but escape.

The last story is a bit separate. Amanda Waller recruits Lt. Francine Charles out of West Point and sends her to Louisana to find Barbara Gourdon. Barbara was born in France in 1896, she fought in World War I as a flying ace but fell in love with the Flying Fox. She disappeared after his “death”. Francine finds Killer Croc, Vampire Barbara, Enchantress, and Ravager. The other three women form a coven, but won’t leave their swamp due to a prophecy. Francine reveals that the Flying Fox is still alive and also they are missing the last two important lines of the prophecy. The four join her and she takes them to Amanda Waller, who introduces them to the other Bombshells as her new “Suicide Squad” unit.

I really enjoy Bombshells it’s a great take on alternate views of a large number of great female characters in the DC Universe. Some of these characters, like Zatanna, are very much the same as the characters we know and love – others like Barbara Gordan (Gourdan) are very different, and some, like Miriam (Shazam) are gender-flipped (though there was at one point a Mary Marvel in the Marvel family). Volume 5 was much more coherent than volume 4, and using rhyming songs to open and close the story added something unique. There are also some flashbacks in the story, such as filling in Lois’s background and the loss of her mother to Hugo Strange, but the flashbacks support the story and do not distract from it. This volume is highly recommended.

Book Review – Bombshells vol. 4: Queens

  • Title: Bombshells vol. 4: Queens
  • Author: Marguerite Bennett
  • Artists: Mirka Andolfo, Laura Braga, Marguerite Sauvage (art & colors), Richard Ortiz, Sandy Jarrell, Pasqualle Qualano, Matías Jarrell,  J. Nanjan (colors), Wendy Broome (colors), Jerry Lawson (colors), Wes Abbott (letters)
  • Characters: Batgirls, Batwoman (Kate Kane), Renee Montoya (The Question), Hawkgirl, Catwoman, Vixen, Cheetah, Wonder Woman
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/12/2019

**Spoiler Alert** Bombshells is DC Comics’ alternative history World War II series starring an all-female superhero team. I love the concept and usually really enjoy the series, but I must admit that this volume was confusing and disjointed.

The first story is short and fairly straightforward. It features the Batgirls, the young girls and teenagers who were inspired by Kate Kane’s Batwoman to protect Gotham City, especially anyone who is dispossessed. They have taken in Harvey Dent, and the story opens with Dent and the Batgirls watching a baseball game. At the game, Dent is attacked by The Reaper. The Reaper makes it clear they want to kill Harvey, the Penguin, Killer Frost, and Dr. Hugo Strange. The Batgirls decide that as bad as those villains are they belong in jail and shouldn’t be killed so they go to warn them. They warn Penguin first, but Reaper follows the Batgirls (and Harvey Dent) and kidnaps Frost. The Batgirls are able to rescue Frost and to arrest Penguin who offers up info in exchange for Frost being rescued. But during a conflict with the Reaper they find out he is a she, and Harvey is attacked with an ice blast and his face is disfigured. But the Batgirls convince him it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Lois goes after the Reaper who escapes and is after Dr. Hugo Strange.

The second story is about Vixen, Zambesi, and Hawkgirl. I had to read it several times because it was very confusing and hard to follow. In addition, there were several flashbacks which filled in the backgrounds of the characters – except the placement of the flashbacks were weird – characters would be in the middle of a battle and suddenly they are thinking of their childhood as an orphan. It’s like, huh? For example, towards the end, Wonder Woman shows up in the middle of a big battle between the Bombshells, some Thangarian mechs, and Nazis – but instead of seeing her battle everyone, we get a flashback to Supergirl on Thermyscira mourning Stargirl and Diana and Steve Trevor trying to figure out how to comfort her. It’s interesting and follows up to Supergirl losing Stargirl in the last volume but it has nothing to do with the current story, it interrupted the battle, and it really didn’t make sense to be in the book where it was. And the majority of the flashbacks were like that – they were interesting, and by themselves, I liked the mini-stories, but they interrupted the flow of the novel making it even harder to figure out just what was going on.

Mari McCabe, Vixen, competes in the 1936 Olympics – beating the Nazis super soldier, despite said soldier trying to trip her during the race. That night, she and Hawkgirl break into Hitler’s office and are attacked by a mechanical hawk. Mari steals Hitler’s dog, Blondie, and some plans and heads back to Zambesi with Hawkgirl. Mari remarks they have about five years to figure out a plan. Later, at a dig in Zambesi, Kate Kane, Catwoman, Renee Montoya, Hawkgirl, and Mari (Vixen) are investigating another mech – this time a giant rhino. It seems inactive, but then Cheetah shows up and it goes on a rampage.

The Bombshells are set against Cheetah, the Baroness, the Snakegirl (Whisper A’Daire), the mechs – which turn out to be from Thanagar, and miscellaneous Nazi troops. The primary characters are Vixen, Kate Kane (Batwoman), Renee Montoya (the Question), Wonder Woman (at the very end), Hawkgirl, Blondie (the dog), and Catwoman. When Cheetah, the Baroness, Snakegirl and the rest show-up, Catwoman briefly appears to be still working for the Nazis – but it’s a ruse. We also briefly see Alexander Luthor, who gives Wonder Woman Kryptonite and seems to be controlling the strings, especially in the case of Catwoman.

The Bombshells defeat the Thanagarian mechanical beasts – and Wonder Woman offers the recipe for Greek Fire to truly destroy them rather than bury them again. The Nazis and their allies are driven out of Zambesi.

I like the Bombshells series – it’s just fun to see so many female heroes working together. And I really like the friendships between the various characters. I did like the background stories in Volume 4 – Queens. And the modern-day story of extremely old alien tech being uncovered and causing trouble for everyone (the Nazis and their allies think they can control the Mechs – they are wrong) I also liked. But the presentation was extremely confusing. The time jumps were hard to follow, and as interesting as the background information was – it often seemed to interrupt the “present day” story rather than add to it. I still highly recommend the Bombshells series. This is an excellent series for teenaged women to read and to get introduced to comics too.

Justice League Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Justice League
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes:  26 (12 stories)
  • Discs:  3
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Phil LaMarr, Michael Rosenbaum, Maria Canals-Barrera (Credited as Maria Canals)
  • DVD: Standard, Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

Justice League was the first of the DCAU series that I ever saw and even nearly ten years later the series still stands up. The members of the Justice League are: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz), Flash, and Hawkgirl. The individual episodes of Justice League are 30 minutes (well, 22-25) but in this season every story consists of two or three parts. This means that it’s more like watching a series of short movies than a normal animated television series. The stories have plenty of time for characterization and in-depth storytelling. Justice League also doesn’t waste time on traditional “origin stories”. The first episode, “Origins” has Batman and Superman confronting an actual alien invasion, including a first shot of the tripod-like invading machine that’s reminiscent of George Pal’s War of the Worlds. Superman is telepathically attacked but finds Martian Manhunter being held in a military prison. He and Batman free Martian Manhunter and learn his name is J’onn J’onzz and that he’s the last survivor of Mars. J’onn tells him the beings that threaten the entire Earth had attacked Mars and destroyed their entire civilization. Other leaguers-to-be, including Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Flash, and Wonder Woman join the fight against the alien invaders, eventually defeating the alien menace. Batman proposes building a satellite Watchtower to warn of future invasions. Superman proposes a permanent league of superheroes. Flash asks, “What a type of superfriends?” to which Batman replies, “More like a Justice League”. This sets the stage for the series.

Green Lantern is given an in-depth story, “In Blackest Night” in which he is put on trial for destroying an entire inhabited alien planet while in pursuit of a space pirate. Once the league discovers what’s happened, they rush to his defense. Martian Manhunter and the others are able to prove the planet’s destruction was an illusion orchestrated by the Manhunters (different Manhunters than on Mars, these are androids from Oa the home of the Green Lantern Corps, and the Guardians first attempt at a benevolent galaxy-wide police force). The league frees Jon Stewart Green Lantern and the Flash, who acted as his advocate, clears John’s name, then defends Oa from the Manhunters with the aid of the Green Lantern Corps.

“The Enemy Below” is a modern Aquaman story, and although Aquaman doesn’t formally join the League, he is recognized as the King of under the seas.

“Injustice for All” has Lex Luthor bringing together a group of supervillains to fight the Justice League, especially Superman. It doesn’t go well for Lex.

“Paradise Lost” sees Felix Faust attack Thermyscira, turn all the Amazons to stone, and bribe Wonder Woman to find a McGuffin in three parts – the Key to the Underworld. Wonder Woman and the League find the key but are very worried about what Faust will do to it. Faust releases Hades, who then drains him of life (not the reward he was expecting). The Justice League is able to defeat Hades and return the Amazons to life. But Hippolyta decides to follow Amazon law to the letter and banishes her daughter for bringing men to the island.

“War World” is a slugfest with Superman forced to fight in the War World arena for Mondo.

“The Brave and the Bold” has Gorilla Grood taking over Central City after a scientist accidentally reveals the location of Gorilla City.

“Fury” has a refugee who was raised as an Amazon on Thermyscira reviving Luthor’s Injustice League and launching a biological attack on the world’s men. But Hippolyta reveals that Aresia was actually rescued by a man who got her to Thermyscira before dying.

“Legends” has the League transported to a parallel Earth where the heroes resemble Golden Age comics heroes and John Stewart (GL) recognizes the heroes as heroes from the comics he read as a kid. The “Justice Guild of America” is locked in battle with the “Injustice League” but something doesn’t seem right. J’onn J’onzz keeps having telepathic flashes of a disaster. One of the League members finds the graves of the entire JGA. Eventually, they discover the entire dimension was destroyed in a Nuclear War and a telepathic mutant had re-created the “perfect” world of years ago. The story works both as a story and as a comment on the good and the really bad aspects of older Golden Age comics. After the illusion is broken the League members are able to find a way back to their own Earth.

“A Knight with Shadows,” tells the story of Jason Blood, Etrigan the Demon, Morgaine, Merlin, and Modred. It’s as close to a traditional origin story as season 1 of Justice League gets. But it’s also a great story full of Arthurian lore, magic, demons, etc. For the most part, only Batman is in this story, though the rest of the League lend a hand at the end. I enjoyed the story very much.

“Metamorphosis,” tells the story of Rex Mason who is turned into the Element Man – rather than an archeologist, he works for Stagg Industries and is rich and accomplished, but when he and Sapphire Stagg decide to marry, her overprotective and cruel father decides to use Mason as an unwilling human subject in his plan to create artificial workers who can withstand any environment. Mason and John Stewart are also old friends, having both been in military service together. Although Mason’s origin is substantially different, it’s a great story, and very enjoyable.

The final story in season one is the three-part “The Savage Time”. All of the Justice League but Batman are returning from a mission in space when there’s a flash on Earth below them and the Watchtower disappears. Green Lantern lands the Javelin spacecraft (which was apparently out of power because he’s towing it with his Ring). The Justice League discovers the US is now a dictatorship under the power of a mysterious Leader. They walk into a resistance attack on the military police of the leader and run into a different version of Batman who is the leader of the Resistance. Working with Batman, they discover a time tunnel anomaly. The League, minus Batman, enters the anomaly and finds themselves in World War II. There they join the allies, the Blackhawks, Easy Company, Steve Trevor and other forces to help the allies and defeat Savage before he can become a world dictator. “The Savage Time” is a brilliant story, and also a lot of fun to watch. (Savage in the future sent a laptop and plans for weapons and communications equipment to Savage in the past.) This is a much more menacing Vandal Savage than the one in Season 1 of Legends of Tomorrow.

Overall, I really enjoyed Justice League (the animated series). The regular and guest casts are wonderful, and the series features many well-known and excellent guest actors. The animation is hand-drawn and beautiful and has that traditional DCAU square-jawed look. I highly recommend this series. Even if animation usually isn’t your thing, or you’ve tried the live action DC film Universe and been unimpressed, this series overcomes many of the faults of other versions of DC Comics in both older animation and in live action.

Note: For some reason, the Blu-Ray discs auto-play the first episode whenever a disc is put in the player. You can get a list of episodes by pressing the “Top Menu” button and then choosing the episode you want to watch, but it’s still annoying and results in a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on the disc.

Book Review – Star Flight

  • Title: Star Flight
  • Author: Phyllis A. Whitney
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 07/08/2019

In junior high I discovered Phyllis A. Whitney’s romantic suspense novels in a library somewhere – it may have even been a school library, and I became a devoted fan, scouring used book stores for her novels. But my tastes changed and I stopped reading them. Star Flight is a novel that sat on the shelf for years and I finally took it down and read it. And actually, it’s pretty good.

Lauren Castle is the granddaughter of Victoria Frazer and Roger Brandt two movie stars who had a hot and steamy film set romance that resulted in the birth of Lauren’s mother. But it also resulted in Victoria Frazer’s mysterious death (or disappearance). The death was considered suicide but the body was never found. Lauren’s estranged husband, Jim Castle, was a documentary filmmaker who decided to make a film about Victoria, Roger, and Roger’s wife, Camilla. He died and never finished the film. When Lauren receives a note suggesting her husband and her grandmother were both murdered, she travels to North Carolina, the site of all the happenings, to find out the truth.

Lake Lure in North Carolina was home to many movie stars and films in the 1920s and 1930s, and more recently with films like Dirty Dancing and The Last of the Mohicans, well, recent at the time of the novel, anyway. Victoria and Roger had filmed Blue Ridge Cowboy there but an on-set romance developed. Things did not end well.

When Lauren arrives she lets people she meets know her as “Jim Castle’s wife” rather than as Victoria’s granddaughter. She also runs into an old flame, the type of “what might have been” relationship, Gordon. In the end, she choose Jim, what she and her mother deemed a “practical choice” instead of Gordon – a more romantic free spirit. Lauren’s marriage to Jim was on the rocks before his mysterious death, thus the two-year gap before she decides to find out once and for all what happened.

Lauren meets various people, all of whom have an opinion on Victoria, Roger, the affair, and even the local movie business. There’s Natalie, a woman who paints dramatic paintings (including the painting, “Star Flight”, which gives the book its title), and who sent Lauren the note bringing her to Lake Lure, but who seems not particularly helpful once Lauren arrives. There’s Gretchen, Victoria’s sister who runs the local gift store and seems obsessed with finding good uses for the weed, Kudzu. There’s Betsey, Victoria’s dresser, now ancient, but still sharp, devoted to Victoria, and in possession of an awful lot of information. There’s Roger, himself, who seems content to not stir up the past. He’s angered when Victoria finally tells him who she is. There’s Camilla, Roger’s beautiful Spanish wife who stood beside him even through his various affairs, including the one with Victoria. There’s Ty, Victoria and Gretchen’s brother, who’s made a name for himself as the local “mountain man”. And there’s Gordon, Lauren’s old beau whom she thinks she can’t have a new happy relationship with. There’s even an older, retired actor who was in Blue Ridge Cowboy with Victoria and Roger. And there’s an author who wrote a book called, The Firefly about Victoria.

Victoria basically interviews everyone she meets, at times pretending she’s continuing her husband’s project (the film about Victoria, Roger, and Camilla) and at times admitting who she really is and telling whoever she’s talking to that she wants to learn about her grandmother. She slowly finds out more information, but she’s no closer in finding out what happened.

Finally, there’s a masquerade ball – and Lauren goes dressed as Victoria, wearing the costume she wore in the film, a white ball gown with a white turban. Her date is Gordon, dressed as Roger’s cowboy character. At the ball, it’s clear from Roger and Camilla’s reaction that neither had anything to do with Victoria’s death. But Lauren is also affected by the heat, noise, and the confrontation. Gordon goes to get her a drink – at exactly the wrong time. Lauren is tempted outside and kidnapped. She’s taken to her grandmother’s tomb by the murderer and their accomplice. However, the accomplice gets cold feet at being involved directly in a murder – he runs off. Lauren is rescued. It seems she and Gordon will restart their relationship, possibly settling in North Carolina. No, I’m not going to spoil who the murderer is.

This book starts slow, but the final two or three chapters are really good. The attack on Lauren outside the crowded ballroom, and everything involved with the murderer and their accomplice are really well-written. There’s also some beautiful imagery in those pages, especially Victoria’s final resting place. But for romantic suspense, there’s less romance between Lauren and Gordon than there should be. Lauren keeps thinking to herself that it’s too late for them – yet she’s a widow and Gordon either never married or is long divorced, so there’s no reason they can’t get together again. Besides, I have a soft spot for “second chance” romances between older couples. Another issue with this book is it is written in the first person, which I found to be distancing from the story, rather than the intended drawing you in. Also, all the stuff about using kudzu in salads, to make tea, and medicinally smacked of an author shoe-horning in too much research. It did nothing to add to the story. The book ended a bit quickly – I definitely could have seen at least a chapter or coda showing Lauren and Gordon’s happy relationship. Still, the book is better than the last few books I’ve read by Whitney, and those last few chapters were very good. I can actually recommend this book.

Downton Abbey Season 6 Review

  • Series Title: Downton Abbey
  • Season: 6
  • Episodes:  9
  • Discs:  3 (and sampler disc from PBS)
  • Network:  ITV
  • Cast:  Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Joanne Froggatt, Brendan Coyle, Sophie Mcshera, Lesley Nicol, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Samantha Bond, Raquel Cassidy
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

The final season of Downton Abbey is about facing change and growing up. It’s 1925 and the world is changing, bringing changes for the people of Downton, both above and below stairs. For Mary and Edith, it’s a time of suitors and making decisions about their future. For those below stairs, it’s a time of changing jobs and preparing for a life outside service.

Mary sees more of Mr. Henry Talbot, whose hobby is racing cars. He invites the entire family to a race at Brooksides. Unfortunately, his friend Charlie is killed in a car crash. Mary has an almost PTSD reaction and she drops Talbot flat. It’s Anna who gets a crying Mary to admit that she’s afraid of being a “crash widow” again. Tom tries talking to Mary but she tells him she can’t tell Henry to give up something he loves just to marry her. Tom and Lady Rosamund play cupid and arrange dinners and other meetings between Henry and Mary. Finally, Mary realizes she and Henry are evenly matched, not in terms of rank (Henry has no title), but in terms of personality. The two marry.

Edith spends her time at her magazine and raising her daughter. She even talks of moving permanently to her flat in London and sending her daughter, Marigold to a London school. But she met a land agent, Bertie Pelham, and the two fall for each other. When it turns out Pelham will be a Marquess, it throws a wrench into the works, as does Mary revealing Edith has a daughter before Edith gets a chance to tell Bertie. Despite the ups and downs of their relationship, Edith marries Bertie at New Year and she becomes a Marquess – a higher title than her father, the Earl of Grantham.

Daisy passes her exams. A new footman seems interested in her, but she ignores him. Finally, Mrs. Patmore points out Daisy’s problem is she’s never interested in a young man until he’s no longer interested in her. Sure enough, when Andy starts to ignore her, she gets interested and even cuts her hair. The season ends with an implication the two will get together and Andy will move to Mr. Mason’s farm to be a farmer (he’s already helping out).

Anna finally gets pregnant and has her baby on New Year’s Eve during Edith’s wedding. But Mary, Mrs. Hughes, and Dr. Clarkson handle everything without interrupting the wedding. John and Anna have also finally put their legal issues behind them.

Mrs. Elsie Hughes and Mr. Charlie Carson settle into married life, and Mrs. Hughes uses her old title at Downton to make everything easier for everyone. Mrs. Patmore has a bit of an issue at her bed and breakfast, but Lord Grantham settles it. Lady Grantham gets involved in her work with the hospital board and does well.

Tom does return about halfway through the season. He and Mary form a strong friendship and he’s influential in getting her to realize that marrying who she loves is more important than making a successful match for money and position. Tom and Henry start a car sale business in Downton in the last episode of the series. Mrs. Crawley finally marries Lord Merton – despite opposition from his son, Larry Grey and his new wife (who is a real piece of work).

Mr. Molesley passes a general knowledge exam set to him by the headmaster of Downton school. He is invited to teach part-time. Although his first class is a bit of a disaster, he gradually improves and takes to teaching like a duck to water. He’s invited to teach more classes and live in a cottage near the school. Mr. Molesley accepts the position, resolving to leave service. He and Baxter are also clearly good friends.

Thomas Barrow tries to be a bit nicer and also looks for a new butler job because he fears for his job at Downton. He’s constantly rejected which leads to some unpleasantness. However, he ends up accepting a job he’d rejected, which isn’t exactly what he envisioned. However, when Mr. Carson is forced to retire due to shaking in his hands. Barrow is invited back to the position of butler. Carson will only help by organizing major events.

Rose and Atticus return for Edith’s wedding from their year in New York. However, since their nanny kept their daughter in New York they will go back.

Overall, everyone ends up happy and with exactly what they want. Both Mary and Edith are married and happy. By New Year’s, Mary is expecting her second child. Both George and Marigold have their futures assured. Tom and Henry are starting a new business. Daisy will work at Downton as long as she’s wanted then go to her father-in-law’s farm, no doubt married to Andy. And Baxter and Mr. Moslesey will probably settle down together. John and Anna Bates have a child, a son. Even Thomas is happy for once.

I had to wonder what would happen to Edith’s magazine business. Surely as a Marchioness, working in London wouldn’t be allowed, even in 1926. And no one knows another war is coming in twelve years.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 1.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 2.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 3.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 4.

Read my Review of Downton Abbey Season 5.

If you are interested in learning more about the lives of servants in Victorian, Edwardian and early modern England, you may want to read Below Stairs, the memoir that Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs is loosely based on.