I received this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review - like you'dI received this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review - like you'd need to pay me to talk about Sanderson anyways, jeez.
I've been struggling with writing this review for well over a month now, and I think the main reason is... this is my favorite author's first graphic novel, and it took me a while to admit that I just... don't feel it's that good.
First off, the complaint I've seen from a lot of reviewers: the art is grainy and pixelated in the galley. This isn't just a quibble about it not looking nice; this makes it genuinely difficult to follow the action scenes and distinguish faces, especially among characters who are all dressed the same. I assume that the final copy will be much, much cleaner than this.
Now, the real meaty stuff - I reread this volume today and in doing so was struck by how many of the hallmarks of a Sanderson novel I could see here, just... not at their full potential. It must be very difficult to adapt such a worldbuilding-heavy writing style to a visual medium, and especially an episodic one, but with all due sympathy and respect for those who undertook this momentous task: I'm not sure it entirely paid off. The first chapter of the book is functionally a 'tutorial level' for the reader, familiarizing us with the magic system and the main character, and yet for all the important information that's delivered, it feels completely extraneous to the plot. The events of that first chapter (Kenton running the Mastrell's Path) have so far had no impact; there is perhaps one later event that might have been affected, and even there it could have turned out as it did regardless. Kenton's choices are relevant to establishing his character, but much of the chapter is taken up with worldbuilding and magic-system explaining. This isn't a surprise, coming from Sanderson; however, because this isn't a complete story, the reader finishes the volume without actually understanding things that are significantly plot-relevant.
Kenton himself is an interesting character. Mixed-race and multicultural, he's immediately shown to be too stubborn for his own good, someone who has turned to unorthodox methods to get ahead in a strictly orthodox subculture. Sanderson contrasts the sheer power of other Sand Masters with Kenton's refined skill - a sort of Ideal Gas Law sort of equation, where Kenton's technique and precision balance out his lack of raw ability. He winds up as both a scrappy underdog and a pig-headed jerk, which... makes him an interesting protagonist, I suppose. His tenacity is his most heroic trait at this point, even if it gets him into trouble more often than not.
However, the character I'm most excited about - to the surprise of virtually no one - is Khriss! So far we know very little about her, but what we do know is interesting. Honestly, Khriss in this volume is most intriguing in light of what Cosmere readers know her future to be: she will become the author of the Ars Arcanums found in other books. We're just not sure how yet For now, she and her entourage provide cultural contrast, political savvy, and a hint at future plot points to be developed later.
The one thing that I missed when it came to characters in this book was a good internal look at their perspectives. Sanderson excels at this in the multiple viewpoints of the Stormlight Archive, and it really brings the story to a new level. Here, I found myself really feeling the lack of that view; we don't really get to see how relationships develop or attitudes change. Kenton makes several rude/snarky comments towards Khriss for no apparent reason - attitudes that previously he'd only displayed towards his overbearing father. Why direct it at a woman he's barely met? We just don't know, and I struggled to remain patient with him after that. Perhaps sometime in the future we'll get prose novellas set on Taldain that will illuminate things a bit more.
I fully expect this book to be a hit among those who are already fans of the Cosmere. It does have all the traits we've come to expect from Sanderson's work (including some really neat flora/fauna worldbuilding). Personally, I'm intrigued and will keep up with it as Vol 2 and 3 are published, but I feel like it may end up being a better reading experience when all three volumes are out....more
Sword and sorcery is kind of... halfway in between being a guilty pleasure and being a comfort food, for me. I'm fully awareOoooh, this hits the spot.
Sword and sorcery is kind of... halfway in between being a guilty pleasure and being a comfort food, for me. I'm fully aware that it's the shallow end of the fantasy narrative pool, but at the end of the day I also just don't care all that much; it's fun, and I'm gonna stuff my freakin' face with it sometimes.
Also, hot girls and blood. And girls kissing. And girls kicking ass, taking names, saving lives, and being annoyed about all of it - just, everything this comic is, I'm enjoying the heck out of.
So far, Dee's my favorite, which should surprise no one given that she literally hid behind a book at a party and answered flirtations with "The book lets me engage it on my terms" until the flirter went away.
But yeah, if you want classic-feeling fantasy with more badass ladies swearing a blue streak through fights: this is for you.
Man, am I ever late to this game. But hey: better late than never, right?
Anyhow - one way or another, I've finally managed to get my hands on this legMan, am I ever late to this game. But hey: better late than never, right?
Anyhow - one way or another, I've finally managed to get my hands on this legendary comic, and it... almost instantaneously convinced me that it deserved the reputation it has. Gorgeous art? Yup. Expansive, creative worldbuilding? Yup. The beginnings of an intriguing plot*? Yup. Great dialogue and character interplay? Yesssss.
(*Okay, so the plot could have come straight from a Gaia RP; let's be real here. That doesn't mean it isn't done well, but this is basically the origin story of someone who's half angel, half demon.)
The one thing I was surprised by - though I guess I shouldn't have been - was the amount of sex/violence. It's all handled... 'tastefully' is a loaded word in this case, but it's handled in a way that's narratively satisfying, I think; nothing feels placed for shock value more than story. I was a bit startled, and personally (as a sex-repulsed asexual person) I would have liked not to have the visuals, but it kind of goes with the territory, obviously.
Anyhow - I'm definitely hooked into the story, and will be tracking down more....more
CONTENT WARNING: This book, and by necessity this review, contains discussions of rape.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest rCONTENT WARNING: This book, and by necessity this review, contains discussions of rape.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No outside considerations went into this review. All quotes are taken from a galley copy of the book, and may differ from the final printed version.
It's been over a month since I finished this book, and I've been putting off writing a review for it because I just... don't know what to say. Partly this is because The Devourers deals with heavy, uncomfortable subjects, many of which I'm unsure how to approach in a review; partly it's because this book is such an incredible experience that I don't want to give too much of the game away in talking about it.
This is fundamentally a book about what it means to be monstrous. Monster-as-allegory is an old concept in fiction, but... I feel that its most common use has been to designate that which is other, in behavior and appearance. In a way, such metaphors export the worst aspects of humanity to non-humans, allowing a writer and their audience to engage philosophically with ideas but never asking them to accept that such monstrosity could be found in someone they know.
We see this in politics, as well, every time people try to attribute gun violence to mental illness despite the fact that mentally ill individuals are far more likely to be victims of violent crime. Perhaps it's human nature to want that separation - I can certainly understand why, in the event of something horrific, people would want to distance themselves from the perpetrators. But in a lot of ways - especially in fiction which purports to explore the darker side of human nature - I find it dishonest.
This is a book about monstrosity, both of strangely eldritch werewolves and of humanity. It... there's no way around this: it's a book about rape.
I don't want to disclose too much of the plot, but I think that does need to be mentioned first. One of the key events of the story, which happens early on, is one of those eldritch werewolves raping a human woman. It's told first from his perspective, and he attempts to justify it extensively. I expect that for some readers this will be a deal-breaker, and that's understandable. It is every reader's prerogative to avoid works that may be traumatic.
Truth be told, I considered not finishing the book at that point, but in the end I'm glad I chose to continue. Part of what motivated me to go on was the fact that earlier, in a frame narrative told in the voice of a different character, Das had shown an awareness of consent. Part was a suspicion - confirmed later - that the story would later be told from the woman, Cyrah's, perspective. I don't wish to spoil her story, and obviously reader viewpoints will differ, but I can say that I felt like Das handled her reaction and subsequent action deftly and respectfully, and that the question of what she wants for her life dominates the latter half of the book.
The frame narrative, too, validates Cyrah. This is significant - the structure of this book is such that the frame narrative characters are interpreting and responding to the framed stories, and this allows Das to offer new perspectives on them. "Am I supposed to be sad for the narrator here?" one asks, angry at the treatment of women in these stories. There is a sharp awareness, a meta-commentary, to this frame narrative, and it's put to excellent use.
Back to the metaphor of monstrosity. One of the most powerful lines in the book is this:
"He raped me." "I know," he said. "Like I said. Human."
It would have been so easy for Das to write as if rape were an act of inhuman monsters. Instead, one of those very same monsters attributes it to humanity. Das's werewolves are terrifying, bloodthirsty, vicious predators of our species - but they are predators, their actions animalistic, their rituals marked in blood and urine, and all of their violence is animal. Human violence is treated as something wholly different from what they do. It makes the story more uncomfortable, allowing for no pretense on the reader's part that such actions are separate from our own societies and history.
At the same time, though, this is a story about recovery and moving forward, and it's not wholly pessimistic towards humanity. I would love to be able to quote some of Cyrah's dialogue later in the book, but as I mentioned - I don't want to give anything away.
There are other elements that are significant in this. Race is one - the book takes place in India, past and present, and the majority of its characters are not white. The werewolf who rapes Cyrah is one notable exception, and the fact that he is a white European man attacking a brown Muslim woman is not ignored. Gender and sexuality also come into play, particularly at the end of the book. Appropriately for shapeshifters, nothing about the werewolves is set in stone beyond their personal choices - but they're not the only characters fluid of identity or presentation.
I think I struggled to write this review for so long, not just for the reasons I mentioned before, but also because it's fundamentally a book that asks for introspection from its readers. What does it mean to be the people we are? What, or who, made us that way? What values do we hold, and what choices have we made that may contradict those? It... left me pondering, with a deep sense of weightiness, and that's a hard thing to convey in a review. I'm still not sure I've done it justice. I hope I've encouraged someone to read this book, at least.
One last thing - Indra Das ends this book with a lovely Acknowledgements section, which I read through because... that's just how I roll. The last line of these acknowledgements had what I find to be one of the hallmarks of a thoughtful content creator: "I'm willing to listen and learn so I can do better next time."
Between that attitude and the incredible quality of this debut novel, Indra Das is definitely an author to watch....more
Zipplebacks still don't breathe fire, and I remain disappointed that the comic writers miss opportunity after opportunity to explore Berk and its assoZipplebacks still don't breathe fire, and I remain disappointed that the comic writers miss opportunity after opportunity to explore Berk and its associated worldbuilding more. We see other Viking teens, but that's it - no names or personalities are given. Dragons and dragon conflicts fairly simple, and even the one new species that shows up doesn't really get any development or exploration.
Franchise loyalty will keep me picking these up, but they're weaker than the early TV show seasons....more
Man, the only thing keeping me from devouring this comic like a bag of popcorn is the fact that I get them as library ebook checkouts, and if I spentMan, the only thing keeping me from devouring this comic like a bag of popcorn is the fact that I get them as library ebook checkouts, and if I spent my allowable quota on Lumberjanes I'd be ebook-broke in a day or two every month. Not that it isn't tempting, though. The alternative is waiting until their ebook service gets V3.
Anyhow: as with many comic series, this is the point in the story where episodic escapades become tied to an actual arc plot! I'm here for it. The plot was, appropriately, both cool and zany, and the resolution was exactly what I was hoping would happen. In a way, the comic is its own form of competence porn - the girls may be silly, but they're also very good at what they do and at staying several steps ahead of things around them.
As a woman who read a lot of comic strip anthologies as a kid, I would have adored something like this in my preteen to teen years. (It certainly would have been a good alternative to Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness, though that was a very... educational... experience.) I'm glad it exists for girls growing up today....more
As a diehard fan of How To Train Your Dragon, of course I had to pick this up once I realized it was in my library's digital collection. I'll read theAs a diehard fan of How To Train Your Dragon, of course I had to pick this up once I realized it was in my library's digital collection. I'll read the others, too - but let's be honest here: the storytelling quality is on par with Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk, not the core canon movies. This volume is a pretty straightforward RoB episode plot, with no twists and turns, and so it never really ascends above average. (And yeah, yeah, I'm not the target audience, I know.)
The art is cute, though, and does a decent job of rendering the animation designs in 2D. Honestly, the book's biggest flaw was forgetting its own canon: how do Hideous Zipplebacks work again?
"One head breathes gas, and the other head lights it!"
And neither head actually breathes fire, despite several illustrations in this comic made under that impression.
I can't help feeling - though again, I know I'm not the target audience - like the writers here did miss an opportunity for a less episodic, more complex plotline. Perhaps something along those lines develops in the later volumes, but I'm not gonna bet on it....more
Lumberjanes is pretty much exactly the comic I expected to read from Noelle Stevenson. It's cute, funny, a bit bizarre (sometimes a lot bizarre), lighLumberjanes is pretty much exactly the comic I expected to read from Noelle Stevenson. It's cute, funny, a bit bizarre (sometimes a lot bizarre), light,and enjoyable. I'm not sure how much there is to be said here - it's a fast read, and a great break in the middle of a work day. Quirky girls having quirky adventures at a quirky camp! What more could you ask for?
Just give it a shot. It'll bring a smile to your face, and sometimes that's a story's most important job....more
The first collection of The Midas Flesh was a good introduction, but honestly it's the climax and resolution of the story, in this volume, that reallyThe first collection of The Midas Flesh was a good introduction, but honestly it's the climax and resolution of the story, in this volume, that really make it worth reading. Joey, Fatima, and Cooper have retrieved a piece of King Midas and are prepared to use it against the tyrannical Federation... until they realize that their first strike must be against a medical ship with innocents aboard. Everything snowballs from there.
Thematically, the parallels between Midas and the crew of the Prospect are striking. Both, by providence, find themselves with an uncommon opportunity to advance their personal goals; both reach for power without really thinking through the consequences. The difference lies primarily in the time they have to react. Midas got none, suffocated by gold particles before he could truly realize what had happened. Joey and her crew get the chance to try to fix their mistakes, and at every turn must choose between the goals they set out with and the greater good.
The ending is... well, it's a deus ex machina, obviously, but honestly it's the most appropriate one I can remember reading, and not just because the premise of the story is set in ancient Greece. It's not quite without foreshadowing, and it offers a bittersweet sort of resolution, with a beautiful circular reference to the beginning of the story. Fun, funny, compelling, thought-provoking: everything I wanted out of a quick morning's read....more
I feel like I have to preface this review with a disclaimer: I'd have issues with some aspects of The Midas Flesh if I didn't know its origin story, oI feel like I have to preface this review with a disclaimer: I'd have issues with some aspects of The Midas Flesh if I didn't know its origin story, or if it were a novel. Knowing that this originated from a Dinosaur Comics strip, and having a passing familiarity with North's style of humor prior to reading it, I went into this book with... not lowered expectations, but different parameters for success. Dinosaur Comics are by nature kind of absurdist, but they can tackle interesting and complicated issues/questions, so that's pretty much what I expected here - and it's pretty much what I got.
Plot-wise, the story started out fairly straightforward. I'm not gonna summarize the premise, because you all can read the description of the comic for yourselves; what I will say, though, is that events snowball rapidly in directions the protagonists didn't expect at all, and that's when things get interesting. The crew of the Prospect want to see themselves as revolutionaries and champions of justice, but it becomes clearly early on that they haven't really thought through the cost associated with overturning a tyrannical dictatorship... or even realized that it will require them to take lives. The choices they make when faced with these hard truths are what makes the story interesting, in this and in the next volume.
The worldbuilding, in any other context, I would take issue with. Those of you who've been following my reviews for a while may know that I hate parallel evolution in science fiction settings, and since the premise of this book is that Earth has been destroyed long before reaching space, the human characters (and recognizably Terran dinosaur species) should have bugged me, but... this is a comic from a guy whose comics are just the same handful of frames of dinosaurs talking over and over. The character designs are packaging for the real content.
I've seen some other reviews complaining about the dialogue, but I think this is a YMMV aspect; personally, I enjoyed it. As a whole this was a fast, fun read, with enough questions left open that I almost immediately downloaded the second volume (which was, as it turned out, even better)....more
The fact of the matter is that I'm just not the intended audience for this book. I realized this on the first page - I have a deep-seated dislike of pThe fact of the matter is that I'm just not the intended audience for this book. I realized this on the first page - I have a deep-seated dislike of plague plots, and plague-related body horror gets into my head and gives me nightmares more than any other kind of horror (and I'm not a horror fan, anyway). But the good reviews convinced me to give it a chance, and I have to admit that for all of that, it wasn't... without merit. The thing is, it just wasn't gonna be a book I could enjoy.
In terms of writing quality, too, there are some significant weaknesses. The plot of this book at first seems very shallow, consisting mostly of romantic drama between high school students. By the time it's revealed to be something more, the book is nearly over, and the full complexity is delivered in an infodump followed by a deus ex machina.
The romance is... meh. There's not a lot of complexity to it, and it falls along what seems like a pretty binary line of morality until the very end. Jenny's complicated relationship with touch was interesting, but other than that I really wasn't feeling it.
Ashleigh is... a character I'm very dubious about. (view spoiler)[First let's get this out of the way: she's a rapist, and that is very graphically shown. (hide spoiler)] In general, her relationship with Seth seems to be very much an abusive, controlling one, and so in that regard she's a hateable villain, but she's also... really cardboard. The things that she does aren't forgivable, and I wouldn't want to see her given redeeming qualities given that, but those acts in the first place make her seem like a shallow, flat character. The conflict between her, Seth, and Jenny just isn't as interesting as it would have been had she been a more morally subtle character.
The ending of this book was... hard to read. Without getting into spoiler territory, there's a lot of gore, and it was deeply unpleasant. Leaving on that note - plus the aforementioned deus ex machina - ensures that I'm not gonna continue this series. I gave it a fair shot, and at the end of the day it just was very much not for me.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"The Guardians mean well, but they have shunted the whole human race onto a branch line of history, and we keep trundling round in circles. It's time
"The Guardians mean well, but they have shunted the whole human race onto a branch line of history, and we keep trundling round in circles. It's time someone changed that."
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No external considerations went into this review.
I've been meaning to read Philip Reeve for years, but the library gods have always conspired against me - the first Hungry Cities book is never in the same branch that I am, ever, and since Fever Crumb is set in the same universe, I don't want to just start there... but after this book, I'm going to need to make more of an effort, because Reeve's writing is fabulous.
Sci fi and fantasy are my 'home' genres, my literary comfort zone, but the more I read the more a sense I have that not all of them are really... written in a way that reflects the modern world of their authors and audiences. There's such a wealth of history to both genres, ideas that have been proposed and explored and re-examined, tropes that have become iconic or hated - and of course, the people who tend to grow up to write speculative fiction are also those who grew up reading it, so they're saturated in decades-old conventions, and in a lot of ways even the most diligent author ends up echoing those conventions.
What was immediately refreshing to me about this book was how much it felt like a projection of the future really grown out of our current world. The technology feels like a natural derivation of current innovations (drones, and a vast interstellar internet known as the Datasea), the worldbuilding pushes biotech and 3-D printing into the limelight, and the culture is big and messy and... I don't know how to say this other than it has a Millennial feel to it that I loved. It's also a setting in which the vast majority of people aren't white, to the point that seeing someone who is is extremely weird. Add to that a few little nods to science fiction's history, like the fact that the energy of the train gates is 'Kwisatz Haderech' energy, named for "one of the languages of Old Earth", or the mention of Klingon as one of those languages, and it's just... simultaneously so much more concrete and so much more creative than a lot of the science fiction settings I've encountered.
I'd like to talk about the plot of this book, but honestly I'm not sure I can discuss the most interesting aspects. Of course, it's not just a heist story; when is anything just a heist story? Politics, morality, radicalism, survival, prejudice - all of these factors come into play to varying degrees. Perhaps most fundamentally, it's a story about Zen Starling becoming more than he was and more than he imagined he could be. And, like many science fiction stories, it's about what humanity means, both in terms of the definition of personhood and a sense of what we, as a species, are meant to be. As Robert Browning said, "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Science fiction is one of the ways we reach, and Railhead does a lovely job of portraying that, especially in its resolution.
Characters I can discuss, if perhaps not as many or in as much depth as I want to. Essentially, it boils down to two:
Zen Starling struck me as... someone soft-hearted, despite his criminal livelihood, who simply wanted stability and security and the chance to experience the beauty of the universe. It made him sympathetic, as he was sucked into centuries-old schemes, because his desires were so simple. He's not caught up in the drama so much as dragged helplessly into it, wanting nothing more than to do what is asked of him so he can get out.
Nova was one of those characters who fundamentally gets at the question of what it means to be human. (Interestingly, the book mentions that androids like her have been reclassified as 'human' to allow them to serve as cheap labor despite quotas designed to keep robotic workers out- another layer to the conversation.) She suffers a little bit from being the only female character really present for most of the book, and functioning largely as support for Zen to boot, but she's still interesting to read about, and the interplay between her personality and Zen's preconceptions about Motoriks makes for an interesting development as they begin to get to know each other.
Other characters' participation and development is too spoilery to be mentioned here. However, about all of them I can say this: when I finished, I was left with the strong sense that this book needs a sequel. It absolutely can stand alone, but there are so many drastic changes in the resolution, so many characters embarking on new paths, that there are clearly more stories to be told in this universe. I hope Reeve chooses to do so, because I'd love to read them.
P.S. Other cultural thing I loved, but couldn't work in earlier: marriages, both dynastic and romantic, between queer couples. Also, there was a genderfluid character, which is always exciting! (view spoiler)[I wish they hadn't been both a) a robot and b) killed off at the end, because both of those fit into really awful patterns regarding non-gender-conforming characters, but I enjoyed Flex while they were alive, especially because their art - a trait so often thought of as purely human - was held up as exemplary enough to sway a loco's decisions. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So at long last my library's copy of The Raven King, on which I have held the first hold since like February, has come in. It is sitting on the holdshSo at long last my library's copy of The Raven King, on which I have held the first hold since like February, has come in. It is sitting on the holdshelf waiting for me at that moment, and that means they're allowed* to have BLLB back, so it's time for me to review this thing.
(*not that I was actually going to withhold a library book, c'mon; but I sure didn't have any motivation to drop it off before an absolute due date until they gave me another reason to go in.)
The problem is, though, the same things that plagued me when I was trying to review Dream Thieves - I read them back to back, and almost a month ago. I pretty much can't distinguish what happened in each book and what I liked or disliked; at this point, I'm kind of looking at the middle of the series as a single unit leading up to TRK.
In that regard, it's... good. Middle segments are the hardest part of a story to keep interesting; I'm not the first person to say it, and I'm not gonna go on and on about it. I do think that the dreamlike nature of this story made the middle more.... fluid, I suppose, than a lot of installments at this stage of a narrative? The entire Raven Cycle has this slow, organic feeling to it, which I know doesn't work for everyone but for me just feels like Stiefvater achieving true mastery of the things she's always excelled at. I don't mind that it meanders, because it meanders in a folkloric, mythic sort of way - there's no good way of putting it into words; it just feels right for the story, I guess.
Also, I continue to be impressed by the development of relationships among the characters. I honestly didn't think, reading The Raven Boys, that I would ever care about Blue and Gansey as a couple, but they snuck up on me and here I am. And I love the way that friendship among the boys is so... casual and natural; you can feel the weight of their bond without ever being told, and that's how it should be, both with friendships and with writing.
Here's the upshot: this review sucks, but I'm getting my hands on TRK tomorrow, and I promise a better review - of the whole series - once I'm done with that. Bear with me until then....more
There are debut novels that need a final polish, and then there are books that flop at the 'finding the story' phase, and sadly this is one of theMeh.
There are debut novels that need a final polish, and then there are books that flop at the 'finding the story' phase, and sadly this is one of the second kind. There are concepts here that might be interesting, but the plot is muddled and lacks innovation. This is far from the first "girl secretly has Super Special Magic Powers" story out there, and while I think Jensen may have been reaching for interesting issues regarding imperialism, slavery, and psychology, she never quite hit the mark. The major plot events were obvious: betrayal, romance, reveal; nothing that was actually a surprise. The ending tries to hint at deeper, more complicated machinations behind the scenes, but it's too little and too late.
The Goose Girl does a very similar plot much better, with more polish, a better romance, and actual friendships between peers....more