For me, stumbling upon a tattered copy of the first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist at the local library was akin to finding a gold mine between those c...moreFor me, stumbling upon a tattered copy of the first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist at the local library was akin to finding a gold mine between those creased cover pages. I devoured the manga in an hour, then passed it along to my picky sister Pinky, of guest reviewing fame, who proceeded to devour it in about ten minutes. (Pinky reads manga FAST!) We've since watched the anime series-- which is nearly as good, and would be as good but for the fact that it is television and we all know TV can never compete with the written (or illustrated) word. Though FMA is one of the most popular manga series in the US and Japan, if not the world, it's also one of those mangas which can be enjoyed by readers who don't usually like graphic novels, graphic novel fans who don't usually like manga, even people who normally don't like to read at all. It's that good, that addictive. FMA is the most suspenseful, perfectly-crafted manga I've ever read. Its material is often dark, yet our heroes Edward and Alphonse bring much-needed light humor and determined optimism into the mix, therefore rendering it pretty much perfect.
the Ouroboros.. a mysterious symbol The basic premise of Fullmetal Alchemist goes a little like this: Amestris is a country run by the military in a war-torn world which resembles a steampunkish England around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Alchemy, advanced and complex science which seems like magic to ordinary people, is wielded by the military to keep control and protect the borders. Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are only children when they first discover their innate talents for alchemy. After the sudden death of their mother, the boys use alchemy's most forbidden art in an attempt to resurrect her using alchemy. But the first law of alchemy is equivalent exchange: you must sacrifice to obtain. The brothers' alchemical ritual goes horribly awry.
Edward loses his arm in the process and is forced to sacrifice his leg in order to save Al from being lost altogether in the darkness beyond the mortal world. He binds Al's soul to the only available host-- a suit of metal armor-- and hires his childhood friend Winry, an automail engineer, to forge him a new, fully automated arm and leg made of steel. The brothers burn their small town home and set off for Central, capital city of Amestris. Ed is determined to become the youngest-ever State Alchemists in order to find out more about the Philosopher's Stone, a mythical substance believed to give the alchemist who wields it great power. The brothers are determined to restore their damaged and lost bodies to normal... but at what great cost?
The cast of characters in this series is beyond awesome. In particular, we have so many people who we have so much reason to hate or dislike yet somehow worm their ways into our hearts. We have State Alchemists who brutally murdered thousands in the name of the military; we have Scar, a refugee-turned-serial-killer who makes use of his own destructive brand of alchemy while trying to make sense of his muddled past. And then there are the homunculi-- mysterious human-like creatures created via alchemy, convincingly human but for their lack of a soul... and their bizarre physical abilities. The homunculi are so damn cool. Very occasionally in fiction a villain comes along who is totally despicable, yet somehow you want to see more and more of them. The manga-ka of FMA does an excellent job holding the identities and abilities of the homunculi over our heads, offering only occasional tantalizing glimpses of them. And if the villains are great, the heroes are even better.
Ed's the best. He's easily aggravated, especially when it comes to his small stature and refuses to consume milk in any form (lack of calcium is probably the reason for his vertically-challenged condition ;). He's stubborn, holds a grudge, and is a child prodigy convinced he can do absolutely anything. Yet he's also incredibly haunted by his past, hindered by his auto-mail limbs, and suffers a ton of guilt over what happened to Alphonse. Altogether, I pretty much love Ed to death. (So does Pinky, I feel compelled to add-- she wouldn't want anyone claiming to be a bigger Ed fan than her.) His brother Al is in some ways the perfect contrast: Ed's genius without the infamous Ed ego, I guess.
I can see this fangirl post has definitely ran a bit long, so I'll just hastily add that Winry Rockbell, Ed and Al's neighbor, Lt. Riza Hawkeye, and her dog Black Hayate are a few of my other favorites. If you're a fellow FMA fan, I'd love to hear from you, and I hope the rest of you will consider checking out the first volume in my favorite manga series of all time! (less)
So... I'm kind of a Dracula fanatic. As a kid who didn't typically like those "classic" books, Dracula was one I fell in love with at a young age. Bra...moreSo... I'm kind of a Dracula fanatic. As a kid who didn't typically like those "classic" books, Dracula was one I fell in love with at a young age. Bram Stoker's tale is spectacularly chilling, and there really is no book which can quite compare to it. Anno Dracula had been on my to-read list for years, but it was out of print until recently. I rejoice, as all fans of horror, steampunk, fantasy, and vampires should, that it is back and emblazoned with this sweet newsprint cover!
Until recently, I was positive that The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava was the last word in Dracula 'fanfiction' novels. This book rather blew The Historian out of the water, though, as far as the fun factor goes. This novel is a long one, but it is far from slow and literary. Anno Dracula is a caper of Jack the Ripper, set in an alternate past where Dracula escaped the stakes of Van Helsing and his associates to marry Queen Victoria and become prince and overlord of all England. He and his force of undead loyalists have transformed half of London into vampires, creating a diseased, mad bloodline of newborn vampires. Dracula himself does not make an appearance until the book's grand, long-awaited finale, but when he does... Wow, has Newman written a heck of a Dracula!
The story is fast-paced with short cliff-hangers of chapters, and this London is one where famous figures of history and literature run amok (and undead) over the pages. I particularly loved the Jekyll and Hyde references. Perhaps the best part is that, though our hero and heroine spend the book searching for the Ripper in between dodging malevolent vamps and unsavory fiances, we the readers know exactly who the Ripper is and we get an insider's perspective as to his righteous motives... and madness. Genevieve, an ancient, yet youthful-in-appearance vampire of a line older than even Dracula's, is a fantastic heroine-- definitely my favorite character.
There is a fair amount of gore in the book, I guess, but none of it is very bothersome unless you're just really not into that sort of thing. Overall, I thought Anno Dracula was a fantastic read: brilliant, hilarious, bloody, oddly historical, and utterly engaging. Just make sure you know the basic story of the original Dracula first. This is a book I most certainly will be rereading within a year, no matter how my tbr pile threatens to topple over. (less)
I'm giving away a copy of Sapphique and Incarceron on my blog-- the contest ends on the US release date, December 28th. If anyone wants to check it ou...moreI'm giving away a copy of Sapphique and Incarceron on my blog-- the contest ends on the US release date, December 28th. If anyone wants to check it out or enter: http://amyriadofbooks.blogspot.com/20...
I really cannot wait for this book-- it's one of my most highly- anticipated reads for 2010. Lucky people in the UK who've already read it! (less)