It's the Toph-centric storyline we've been waiting for! It's interesting to see the continuing development of Aang's unity, watching the four nations...moreIt's the Toph-centric storyline we've been waiting for! It's interesting to see the continuing development of Aang's unity, watching the four nations move toward living in harmony once again. But, seriously, Toph Toph Toph.(less)
With The Shambling Guide to New York City, Mur Lafferty introduced a genius premise—a travel guidebook for monsters—and a compelling, endearing heroi...moreWith The Shambling Guide to New York City, Mur Lafferty introduced a genius premise—a travel guidebook for monsters—and a compelling, endearing heroine, a normal woman trying to navigate an increasingly abnormal world. Things get even weirder for Zoe Hunter when she takes the titular ghost train to New Orleans, a form of transportation even more bizarre than the Hogwarts Express.
Unfortunately, it's nigh impossible to review this book properly without a couple spoilers for the previous book, but since the blurb itself puts them out there, here we go: as it turns out, Zoe's not so normal after all, as she's discovered she's a citytalker with, well, the ability to talk to cities. It's the perfect ability to give her for this series, if she were to have one, even though part of me wishes she didn't have to be "special" in this way to be the protagonist of an urban fantasy series. This book delves deeply into what that means for Zoe, opening up the history and mythology of this world—and Zoe's life—that paves the way for future stories.
The climactic events of the previous book are mentioned several times, but only one of the consequences is essential to the plot of this one: Zoe's boyfriend, Arthur, is trying to stave off zombification with special herbs...that he hopes to find in New Orleans. So he accompanies her on her assignment. But he's basically an irritating dick to her the entire time for reasons Zoe and/or the reader can barely comprehend, as if impending undeath gives you the right to treat people like shit. Even though he was an enjoyable character in the first book, he's so unpleasant here I was glad any time we weren't dealing with him.
Apart from Arthur's being an ass, however, this book is absolutely delightful. I love the matter-of-fact, dry humor Lafferty uses as she builds the world (there's a beautiful Sandman reference in one of the guidebook entries). It keeps the tone of the book light and fun, even when dire things are happening. Hell, it took me over half the book to realize I didn't know what the overall plot of the book was supposed to be; unlike the first book, everything doesn't clearly tie into a main story. Like the first book, however, it has two major focuses: Zoe's job and a supernatural plot. Whereas the first book focused on her introduction to the job, this book shows us Zoe truly acclimating to her new position and proving herself to be a leader and editor deserving of respect, even if she is human.
Having just visited New Orleans recently, I love how Lafferty portrays the city. It's a very different city from NYC, and I see a lot of potential for the way that different cities can inform the mood and atmosphere of the book, not to mention how useful this series could be as an actual guidebook.
This series is something special. It's an urban fantasy series about urban environments, that posits that cities themselves have an essence. The protagonist is a nerdy woman whose strength is not physical—she's not much of a badass fighter, to her detriment—but spiritual (not in a religious sense, but the girl's got spirit, yes she does). The books are light without being insubstantial, fun with the slightest hint of a darker side. Bring on the Zoe Hunter World Tour.(less)
Two characters fight mind control, Tony Stark fights the government, the government fights the Red Skull, everything is terrible now that Captain Amer...moreTwo characters fight mind control, Tony Stark fights the government, the government fights the Red Skull, everything is terrible now that Captain America is dead. And it's great! The Red Skull launches the next phase in his dastardly plan: having destroyed the Captain, it's time to destroy America. But it's not long before a new patriot takes up the stars and shield, and he's not your mama's Captain America. Brubaker and Epting have really hit their stride at this point, and the storytelling is crackling.(less)
Nikola Tesla and the Centurions of Science, which include such luminaries as George Westinghouse, Harry Houdini, Charles Fort, and Annie Oakley, take...moreNikola Tesla and the Centurions of Science, which include such luminaries as George Westinghouse, Harry Houdini, Charles Fort, and Annie Oakley, take on the Triumvirate, three billionaires inspired by dime-store-novel characters and intent on overthrowing the government. The plot is fairly simple, but the story is simply delightful. It's inherently fun to see these historical figures team up and use science to save America, and I appreciated that Brian Clevinger included information on their real-life counterparts.(less)
While the Winter Soldier arc gets most of the acclaim and attention, it's very much an introduction. With Red Menace, the story begins to really take...moreWhile the Winter Soldier arc gets most of the acclaim and attention, it's very much an introduction. With Red Menace, the story begins to really take off with Crossbones and Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, going on a rampage and Cap and Agent 13 going on a Winter Soldier hunt. Although it's not as heavily character-focused as the previous arc, the emotional component of Cap's search is strong, and, as expected, I dig the Winter Soldier's story. It's entirely possible that I enjoyed this collection a lot more because I read it in only a few sittings, which always makes for a more engaging story experience, but it's also more focused plot-wise: after a sprawling epic full of flashbacks, it's nice to have an action-packed story contained to a few locations.(less)