Arts and Culture Community

Fantasy isn’t just for geeks

Book Review: A Curse for True Love.

A Curse for True Love by Stephanie Garber is the last book of the trilogy, Once Upon a Broken Heart, rich in magic and fairytale elements that awakens your inner child. It is part of the many fantasy novels and series that have gained immense popularity recently. 

According to a recent study, 85.6 percent of participants who read gravitate toward fantasy or science fiction, which could explain why fantasy has been gaining massive popularity. Concordia master’s student Dimana Radoeva in the Individualized Program (INDI) and English professor Stephen Yeagen share their extensive fantasy knowledge and dive deep into its structure, role and impact. 

A Curse for True Love was published on Oct. 24, 2023, and concludes the trilogy. The story revolves around Evangeline Fox who is searching for her true love in the Magnificent North. She seems to have finally found it, yet she doesn’t remember much since she woke up in Prince Apollo’s arms, her supposed husband. Evangeline is trying to find out more about her missing memories but Apollo is adamant about keeping her in the dark and to ensure it stays that way, he must kill the series’ beloved character Jacks, the Prince of Hearts. 

The final book started quite slowly since Evangeline was lost trying to remember who she was and what her life had been like before. However, as she discovers the truth and recovers her memories little by little, the pace picks up. I was expecting more plot twists and more drama, and I also believe that the ending seemed too easy. However, it fits into the fairytale concept (spoiler alert!) because it all ends perfectly well; the villain gets his bad ending and the protagonist gets her happily ever after

According to Radoeva, “[fantasy] is inherently a medium that people believe is unrelatable but the core of that is untrue,” since it focuses on human experience and emotions as well as giving life to our biggest desire. Another misconception both pointed out is escapism through fantasy—the belief that reading fantasy is ignoring what is going on in the role is untrue. 

The reality, Radoeva said, is that fantasy “has helped to be more engaged in social and political,” since it draws inspiration from real social and political issues. A Curse for True Love makes you think how dangerous love can make someone and how far some will go to get what they want. Evangeline choices are taken away from her when Apollo erases her memories because he knows she is in love with Jacks. Apollo’s actions opens the door for further discuss on its ethicality which is what Yeagen believes to be fantasy’s strength; it has the effect of making people argue and discuss it time and again.

Yeagen explained that fantasy is a broad genre, so its structure and purpose are not one-size-fits-all and vary from one fantasy novel to the next. He also said that, “fantasy is the scientific technology that is being considered as history.” In other words, it is the historical version of science fiction, it bases itself on history rather than science. Most of the time, fantasy novels draw inspiration from the Middle Ages or other periods for things such as fashion, food, hairstyle and more. 

Additionally, Yeagen said the plot structure that is the most recognized and popular is the hero going on a quest with a goal in mind, such as retreating a magical object or even some sort of power which is the structure in A Curse for True Love. Though, Evangeline is searching not for any literal object but for her memories and her true love. However, Yeagan said fantasy is very a vast genre and this is only one of the many plot structures in fantasy. 

A Curse for True Love contains a common trope: the morally grey character. Yeagen said that, “Morally grey characters are good characterization,” adding that a well-written character is not black or white but is always grey somehow. In Jacks, (spoiler alert!) one of the love interest, is the perfect example of a morally grey character. His goals are to open the Valory and find his one true love and he seems to only care for what would benefit him. However, while he might seem to be cold and selfish, he does care just not in a traditional way. 

Garber kept the traditional aspect of a fairytale with a villain and a love interest, she doesn’t stick to the one-dimensional characters but instead layers them to add depth and complexity. She also confuses readers by hiding the villain in a charming suit and radiant smile.

What I found very interesting is this story’s fantasy elements, especially in world-building. The Magnificent North is a place filled with magical food, clothes, and objects, as well as curses, ballads that come true, enchantments, happily ever afters and a moral lesson. The whole place is perfectly perfect, like a Hallmark movie with snow that never melts and pastry that never perishes. 

Yeager said : “[world-building] should always further the story that you’re telling.”

Garber also wrote another series prior to Once Upon a Broken Heart called Caraval. It is set in the same world, but before the events of Once Upon a Broken Heart. In Caraval, the Prince of Hearts serves as an important side character and we get to discover more about his curse and story. 

Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

The simultaneous lands of dreams

“A Coin on a Tongue” is now on view at Espace Maurice.

“A Coin on A Tongue” is an exhibition curated by Marie-Ségolène C. Brault at her apartment-gallery, Espace Maurice, located on Ontario street in Montréal. The exhibition includes works by artists Adrienne Greenblatt, Dante Guthrie and Anjali Kasturi, that encapsulate their spiritual, fantastical and historical world-building visions through their unique visual languages and conceptual framing. Each piece depicts historical fractions or fantastical worlds that coexist with our universe. 

Adrienne Greenblatt, Sheol i & ii, 2023, Borosilicate Glass. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

Adrienne Greenblatt’s glasswork installations occupy several corners of the gallery. The pieces offer multisensorial references to the human body, alchemy, medieval weaponry and esotericism through the use of hair, metal gates and glass. Each glossy surface draws attention to how sunlight reflects and refracts around the exhibition space. The ghostly materiality of each one urges the viewers to embrace their spiritual and historical vivacity. They welcome the presence of artifacts with historical characteristics and essence in the modern space of the gallery. 

Dante Guthrie, Bergmeister, bismuth. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

Dante Guthrie’s metal works are infused with the illusion of gothic architecture and storytelling through his combination of traditional atelier process and modern technologies. His metallic and abstracted architectural façades and frames are copiously detailed but open to interpretation in terms of conceptual vision—the frames can be interpreted as a depiction of a fantastical world, a futuristic prophecy, a medieval illusion, a talisman or a symbolic illustration of a spiritual practice.

View of the gallery, Espace Maurice, paintings by Anjali Kasturi. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

As for Anjali Kasturi’s paintings, their use of desaturated and washed-like colors, foggy depiction of space and mysterious representation of objects and landscapes convey a sense of fantasticality and fear of the unknown. The pieces invite us into the happenings and to explore the sensational atmosphere—to smell and feel the fog or the breeze. They allow the viewer to perceive the works in relation to their personal experience and capacity, focusing on the individual connection and interpretation of the space of the works. Each painting portrays an imaginary universe, a symbolic representation of an event or a dream traced back to an individual experience.

Anjali Kasturi, Gate 7, 2023, oil on canvas, 20”x24”. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

Throughout the exhibition, the various materials used in the works resemble distinct feelings and conversations that emphasize the relationship between the artists, their materials and their spiritual practices.

View of the Gallery, Espace Maurice. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

Looking at the venue of the exhibition itself, a studio apartment, offers visitors a sense of community and movement. The continuity of the exhibition into the living space connects the works in the gallery and personal belongings. We do not necessarily know where the exhibition starts and where it ends, challenging the definition of a public space and public display. “A Coin on a Tongue” will be on view until Oct. 28.


Meet Kristian North: the former garage punk frontman sharing his new sophisti-pop music

Kristian North wasn’t originally set on making a career out of music, but now he’s coming into his own.

Being the son of two Broadway veterans, Montreal-based Kristian North’s love for music was almost written in the stars. North began his musical journey more than 20 years ago, playing music at an early age, but his passion truly came to fruition when he started playing in bands during his teenage years. Since then, pursuing a career in music has never been out of his radar.

Before becoming a solo artist, North was the frontman of the punk garage band Babysitter, where he performed all over Canada and the United States with his bandmates. After releasing their last project in 2015, the group disbanded. This was an opportunity for North to explore different music genres and to completely redefine his sound.

In the past three years, North’s musical journey has been quite a hectic ride. In 2018, he released his debut album, The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Record, which he qualified as a “lyrical ode to the so-called death of rock ‘n roll.” This ‘80s rock-inspired record was quickly contrasted by the two alt-country/rock songs he released last summer, “So Called John” and “Circle of Life.” Now, here we are, with his forthcoming sophomore LP, Passion Play, a disco and new wave record, to be released on April 30 via his label Mothland.

When comparing Passion Play to his first album, North associates one to a compilation of short stories and the other to a long novel. When reminiscing about writing The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Record, Kristian admits the album took a very long time to finish because he dove way too deep into the concept. For Passion Play, he wanted the eight songs of the album to have their own story plot while remaining sonically cohesive.

The album’s first single, “Fantasy,” released last February, perfectly sets the tone for what the record is going to sound like. When listening to the song, the funky guitar grooves of Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel” or of Prince’s “THE GOLD STANDARD instantly come to mind.

Though North is very proud of the entirety of his project, he has some favourites; one he is particularly proud of lyrically would be “Halfway To Heaven.” This song’s writing process took over six months to complete and is, according to him, one of the more crafted and significant songs on the record. He is also particularly proud of his second single “Genius Of Song,” for both its lyrical and sonic quality.

While North has had the chance to perform online live sessions like Le Phoque OFF festival and The New Colossus Festival, he is looking forward to performing the songs of his album with a physical audience as it is one of the elements of music he truly cherishes.

The Concordian spoke with Kristian North to talk about his musical evolution and to know more about his forthcoming sophomore album Passion Play. 

TC: Has music always been in your peripheral as a career?

KN: I mean, I never thought too much about the future or anything like that. But I don’t ever recall having any moment in my life where I thought I’d ever go study for a particular career. And while I wouldn’t go as far as saying I have a music “career,” I do think music has always been one of my main focuses in life.

TC: You first were in the garage punk band Babysitter. Since then, you’ve made a stark shift in the kind of music you make. What led you to this reinvention of your craft?

KN: I guess there’s a strong aesthetic difference in my music before and after Babysitter, but I’d say that the songwriting aspect has kind of always headed toward the same direction. I even think that what Babysitter was doing musically towards the end, leading to this, makes some sort of “twisted” sense.

TC: Do you feel more creatively free as a solo artist?

KN: Yes and no. I mean, Babysitter was a pretty “free” band. But now, the compositional method is kind of different; the songs are a bit more thought-out now. Babysitter was mostly about improvisation when crafting the songs, and the structures were never quite as solidified as there are for me now.

 TC: On your Bandcamp, you’ve referred to the music of Elvis Costello, Roxy Music and Warren Zevon as the foundation of your music. Have these artists had a particular impact on your musical self-discovery?

KN: Those artists are mostly musicians who people have compared me to, but I do really like these artists. A few artists who’ve greatly influenced my music, especially for this new album, would be Marvin Gaye and Zapp.

TC: Knowing you were in the process of making Passion Play when the pandemic hit, how did it change your creative flow?

KN: I mean the pandemic is crazy (laughs), but for me, it’s been generally a positive experience. I have a studio I’m working in every day, I’m writing, I’m recording… I miss the live aspect of music, for sure, but I know it will come back one day. So far it’s been a really good opportunity to get some work done. I’d even go as far as saying it accelerated the process of Passion Play.

What’s next for you?

KN: I don’t know to be honest, we’re kind of just waiting right now to see how this album will be received. Hopefully, we get this thing [COVID-19] under control and get some shows. And if not, we’ll just start working on the next one!

To support Kristian:




Feature photo by Georgia Graham


Note to Shelf: An Ode to Fantasy

I live in my own world. I genuinely believe in magic, and if you ask me, God and the Universe are one and the same. My most trusted confidante is the Grim Reaper, and my happy place is that little hour in the morning where you can still see the stars, but the sun’s starting to rise—that space of time where polar opposites merge and create a little thing called magic hour.

Confusing? Maybe. But considering fantasy novels have shaped my belief system and helped me cope with fears within me that I have yet to fully understand, it makes sense that my head works a little…. oddly.

Out of the endless pit of fantastical creatures such as vampires, werewolves and witches, my fantasy home is the faerie world. Three years ago I picked up a random book at Indigo, by an author called Sarah J. Maas. It was Throne of Glass, a novel about an assassin that was enslaved and later taken to compete against other assassins at the castle. I will not spoil, but A LOT HAPPENS.

The series was made up of 10 books in total, and every single one is worth it.

Throne of Glass then introduced me to A Court of Thorns and Roses by the same author––a series consisting of three giant books, and a smaller tale of “the time after.” I read this series three times in two years, in two different languages. I will be reading it again in Spanish this summer. I cannot get enough.

Here’s the thing about fantasy novels—they’re a perfect balance between a reflection of egregious real-life politics, the inevitable evil that haunts us in our world, and escapism. 

Fantasy is a genre that not only feeds your imagination and trains you to see things in ways that are otherworldly, but it also allows you to draw parallels with real life and understand things from a different perspective.

Game of Thrones sets a rather clear theme: the use politics for personal gain—at one point I was sure that Cersei was the fantasy version of Trump. Daenerys represented the left, and Jon Snow… well I’m still not sure what exactly he represented, but something to do with being in a perpetual state of conflict between doing the right thing and not wanting to get involved seems about right!

In books, you’re allowed a peek into a character’s mind—everything is humanized, even if the characters aren’t human. Emotional struggles, political situations, plans, secrets, all are things you as a reader are exposed to, and made to relate to.

Being able to deconstruct a situation in a fantasy novel and pinpoint similarities within your own life is a skill that breeds a better understanding of human relations. When a character is described, their thoughts and emotions are there. There is reasoning behind every decision, even the ones that are wrong. What that showed me was that everything people do is a reflection of who they are, what they’re going through. In other words, it simply taught me to not take things personally. Or at least to always try not to!

Reading about dark and creepy creatures haunting my favourite characters and the way they deal with them helped me deal with my own—I have a severe fear of inherent evil, I refuse to believe that anything is just evil, even magical creatures. What I loved the most about Maas’ books is that true to real life, there isn’t a clear line between good and bad—bad characters do good things, and good characters do bad things.

Simply put, fantasy novels show you a world that is so fundamentally different than yours, but creates links and bonds that shatter whatever preconceived ideas you had, and forces you to see things in a different light. Grim Reaper? Not always evil. Suriel, the monster from A Court of Thorns and Roses? Okay, kinda evil, but also restores balance.

Teaching you to break down preconceived notions and forcing you to understand a different kind of creature, even building fundamental similarities—fantasy novels, in so many ways, teach you to be accepting, non-judgemental and to appreciate even the things you hate or fear.

Well, how did I come to have the Grim Reaper as my closest confidante? That, little faeries, is a tale for another time. 


Graphic by

Exit mobile version