The good fight, peacefully…

Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

Flycatcher‘s story. Single-handedly invading the Homelands. Third time‘s a charm, after Bigby Wolf and Boy Blue…

Frau Totenkinder is smart, but very scary. There is some pretty gung-ho diplomacy. And Flycatcher cleans up nicely. I didn‘t expect the Arthurian Legend or Lancelot. Nice twist.

The Interlude: The Birthday Secret was cute. Very different artwork. It worked well. Finally the cubs find out something important on their fifth birthday.

Back to the Good Prince. Most of the crew in Fabletown watching Flycatcher through the magic mirror—that was a fun idea. 

I really liked what happened with the Magic Grove. Nice art & ending. The final full artwork pages were especially nice.

That was a proper fairytale!
4/5 🐸🤴🏻🧌⚔️ 

Collecting: Fables 60-69

Currently reading / weekend update

I did not read an awful lot in the last few days. The weather was nice, it‘s finally getting warmer and I was out with friends a few times in the evenings. On the plus side it‘s a national holiday here tomorrow (Pentecost), so more reading today and tomorrow! Here is what I am currently reaqding:

Bright Shards (The Vardeshi Saga, #2)
by Meg Pechenick

I might finish this today or tomorrow, I have 100 to 150 pages left. I skimmed a little through the middle, because I had lost interest. The third part is not bad though. Nice relaxing SF brain candy for reading on the balcony…

This is the sequel to Ascending (The Vardeshi Saga, #1) (my review). They really need to be read back to back, because the first book stops in the middle of the story and none of the plotlines are resolved. To be honest, I would not have spent any money on the sequel, both books are on Kindle Unlimited and I currently have a free subscription. This is very, very light on the SF part.

Linguist Avery Alcott has spent three months proving herself to her Vardeshi companions and earning their respect. She arrives at Arkhati, the space station halfway between Earth and Vardesh Prime, eager to continue her adventure. But the next stage of her mission brings its own challenges. In the months to come, new alliances and old friendships will be tested. Avery will question her purpose and her place among the Vardeshi, and she will discover that the most memorable journeys are the ones we can’t predict.

Lords of Uncreation (The Final Architecture, #3)
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

About 1 and a half hours left in the audiobook. Long! Some (too) long introspective sequences that I could have done without. Had to rewind a few times, because I spaced out. It is good though and much better than the second book of this trilogy. The first book will remain my favourite though.

… the third and final novel in an extraordinary space opera trilogy about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

The Final Architecture
Shards of Earth
Eyes of the Void
Lords of Uncreation 

Fables Vol. 10: The Good Prince (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

I am about halfway through this graphic novel. This volume mostly focusses on Flycatcher. Not bad so far.

With all-out war looming between the forces of the Adversary and the free Fables living in the mundane world, everything now depends on a humble janitor known as Flycatcher. Released from centuries of trauma-induced amnesia, Prince Ambrose (as he was known in happier times) faces a long and difficult road – one that will take him through the lands of the dead and into the heart of the enemy’s realm. Once there, this unassuming and unlikely hero will face his greatest and most arduous test – and the future of both Fabletown and the Homelands will turn on the outcome. 

And some impressions from my walk yesterday:

Bit of a slower Fables… it‘s probably me…

Fables Vol. 9: Sons of Empire
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Artist), Mike Allred (Illustrator), Joëlle Jones (Illustrator)

A very large number of artists contributed to this volume. It alternates between the main story and variously themed amusing short stories. The artwork in the short stories is hit and miss. 

Spoilers from here on… you should not proceed, if you are still reading or plan to read this series at some point.

Gepetto‘s hut and the holy grove have burned down. The emperor is angry. Where is Pinocchio in all this? Ensorceled! Forces gather in the Imperial City. The Snow Queen makes an announcement… Fabletown is in deep trouble. Permanent Winter is upon us! 

Aaaaaand…. We get a short story about Hair!? Ok, yes, the Rapunzel story was fun and kinda sad… 
Small recommendation for the author: get a beta-reader whose mother tongue is German. Just saying. It‘s weird, m‘kay?

The Four Plagues, um… “This is how the world ends.“ 😬
That is a grim plan of action! The Snow Queen is scary.

The next short story, Porky Pine Pie, has very pretty artwork. Watercolour style, my thing…

And then back to potential warfare and Burning Times and an interesting followup to the fairytale of Hänsel and Gretel. 🍭🍬🍭🍬 

And another short story, A Thorn in Their Side, about that Mundy reporter following the Fables in their tracks. Very short, pleasant artwork. I wonder if he will end up at the Farm one of these days?

Over There, Part 4 of Sons of Empire: This feels a bit like the first X-Men movie and Bigby Wolf reminds me more and more of Wolverine. The Adversary is planning an all-out war. We get some war games and adjustments to plans… well done. 🐺🐺🐺🐺🐺 

And another short story / interlude… The Road to Paradise. Three visually impaired mice… ok, that one was odd and a bit pointless… 🐁🐁🐁 
Followed by a strange Christmas triplet thing with Jack, Wolf Valley and then the farm. I like the developing friendship between Boy Blue and Rose Red. I assume this part came out around Christmas. Merry Christmas, Fables team! The Christmas story with the kids is cute, but I‘m a little disappointed how gender stereotypical they are portrayed. 🤶🎅🎄🎅🤶 

Father and Son: Aka Mr. North and Bigby Wolf. And family. The art was not my thing. 🐺🐺🐺 

Burning Questions: Snippets of 3 pages each or so, answering questions from fans. Ok… 🤷‍♀️ 🤷‍♂️ 

This volume was a mixed bag, the short stories disrupted the build-up of suspense of the main story.

Collecting: Fables 52-59

Mowgli channels his inner Tarzan to go and see about a Wolf…

Fables Vol. 8: Wolves (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Shawn McManus (Illustrator)

A bit on the spoilerish side… Wolves starts off with Mowgli, still tracking Bigby Wolf. This alternates with the kids at the farm, learnig to control their shapeshifting and flying.

And then, in part 2, Mowgli does his Tarzan thing and finally finds the big, bad wolf… 

Nice intro into Happily Ever After. Bigby is straight off into a mission, going up a beanstalk to meet a wizard in the cloud kingdom about something… and then he is off behind enemy lines. Fun sequence, Mission Impossible style! And he has an extraction bean with him, lol… That mission is very well told. 

And then there is the longed for reunion with Snow. Awww…. Happily ever after! 

Aaand we get another short story, Big and Small. Cinderella being Small and the guys at the top of the beanstalk being Big. Comic relief. The art is a simpler and flatter style, but I liked it. Everything in this caper takes three days… 😂 

Next is a Special Travel Supplement. Maps! Well, ok, two maps… one for Fabletown and one for the Farm. And then we get the complete script of Happily Ever After. Nope, I did not read the whole thing, but it was interesting to see what a comic script looks like. Skim-skimmity-skim.

Collecting: Fables 48-51

East and West clash and then Wood and Meat…

Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days)
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

The Adversary has started his campaign against the Arabian fables. Sindbad arrives in Fabletown. And Mowgli is tracking Bigby Wolf. Sinbad brings a Djinn, which means big trouble…

The tale of how the fables deal with the Djinn is entertaining and leads to a very gruesome ending for someone. Unexpected romance vibes at the end. The search for Bigby Wolf was in the sidelines and did not lead to much. Overall good. 🧞‍♀️🧞‍♂️🧞🧞‍♀️ 

And then we get The Ballad of Rodney and June, I assume as an additional short story and a glimpse at the Arabian campaign, seen from the POV of a wooden soldier of the Adversary‘s forces. Plus we get some forbidden love and another road trip through the Homelands. And a second life. Oh wow, this part was really, really good. Excellent story telling. This is where this volume really shines. 🪵🪵🪵🪵🪵 

Collecting: Fables 42-47

Some interludes and the real Adversary…

Fables Vol. 6: Homelands (Fables, #6)
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

We are following up with the fables that left Fabletown after the election of Prince Douchebag to major of Fabletown and Snow White being banished to the Farm. 

The first 50 pages are about Jack and with different artwork again. Although not as ugly as the artwork at the beginning of the last volume. The artwork is very is simple, with little detail, but ok. Strange earlobes? 

Jack hits Hollywood with one of his schemes. The casting couch thing is pretty off, even if this was written in 2006. But I guess it is part of his obnoxious persona. I get the point of the story, but did not like it particularly much. It‘s mostly about nasty people, treating other less powerful people badly. Not very attractive. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Once Jack‘s story is done, we move on to the old Homelands and meet a goblin and an orc (?), doing their duty and collecting taxes from human fables. They are pretty funny… until they meet Boy Blue.

One, two! One, two! And through and through 
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

Boy Blue give s a pretty good Robin Hood impression. The bit with Saint George‘s dragon is pretty funny. We get an interlude hopefully eventually leading back to the main story with Bigby Wolf, which is what I was waiting for since the ending of the previous volume. And finally the identity of the Adversary is revealed to us. Dang, I expected that. 👺 👺 👺 👺

Collecting: Fables 34-41

Reading inspired by this volume:
Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll — Ruslan and Ludmila by A.Pushkin — The Snow Queen: Illustrated by T. Pym

Birth, death and unrest in Fabletown…

Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator)

Well, the first part with Cinderella had pretty ugly artwork. I didn‘t like the spy story much either. Bigby does something pretty off at the end, that I didn‘t consider in character.

The next part is a WWII story with Bigby Wolf. And, bizarrely, a monster from a gothic horror novel… 

And maybe I need to change my mind about Bigby. Perhaps that earlier bit was entirely in character. Then again, as soon as I am ready to write him off, he does something decent.

Back to present day New York and a cruel, hot summer. Wait, why do I hear Bananarama in my head? Snow White is in labour and the voting for the new major of Fabletown is happening… 

The Long Hard Fall follows with some consequences. Snow has to move to the Farm with the babies, because they don‘t look human. Bigby disappears, Blue does a runner as well… It gets colder… and turns into a Dark Killing Winter. Prince Charming should not have made promises he can‘t keep, right? I kinda like that old witch. There is a murder and something is up with the babies! We get to meet their grandpa…

Until the Spring has bodies accumulating. Just for a change it was a no-brainer for me to figure out the culprit. Tragic. And now really looking forward to the next volume and hopefully more Bigby Wolf. 💨💨💨💨½

Collecting: Fables 22, 28-33

Not as wooden as it sounds.

Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables (Graphic Novels))
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Craig Hamilton (Illustrator), P. Craig Russell (Illustrator)

We are finally getting some backstory about The Adversary. We start off with The Castle and finally get to meet Red Riding Hood! She makes it into the castle before the final battle. Think Helm‘s Deep and the fighting Uruk-hai… Busy artwork, lots of detail, not bad. Looks like a different artist again.

So they have this last boat arriving with Bluebeard as its owner, to take the last refugees to safety. And it sits there over night, because the commander doesn‘t want to be disturbed until morning. And it sits there the whole day, while they fend off the first attack. And it sits there still in the evening, when they talk about next steps and possible conditions of surrender. And it sits there another night, as it can’t navigate the river in the dark. One full day wasted. How stupid is that? Still, I liked the story, I liked the artwork. There is a touch of the dreaded instalove, but well done. We get to meet a host of characters. Robin Hood and his merry men were easy, but I did need to look up Britomart and some others. Very educational, I say! 👺👺👺👺👺

The next part of this volume is March of the Wooden Soldiers. Some goblins show up in Canada — trouble brewing — and then we have Snow White and Bigby Wolf and their complicated, growing condition… And Prince Charming is stirring up trouble. Aaaand the second chapter is called Red, White and Blue. Guess who shows up?

Hugh, Drew and Lou show up and do pretty good impressions of the Men in Black. Or rather of Mr. Smith from the Matrix. When the wooden soldiers finally march into New York, there are some funny scenes.

The finale is The Battle of Fabletown! Some rather unusual street fighting. A nice reveal. I could have figured that one out, but I didn‘t. That last page was nicely done. And some good plot bunnies. 🧙‍♀️🧙🧙‍♀️🧙🧙‍♀️ 

Very good volume, I really liked it.

Reprinting issues 19-21 and 23-27 of creator and writer Bill Willingham’s acclaimed Vertigo series, FABLES: MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS also collects the Prestige format one-shot FABLES: THE LAST CASTLE

Content warning: nudity, mature content, war, blood, death. I could have done without the light racism, misogyny and casually mentioned rape.

Reading list inspired by this volume:
The Adventures of Robin HoodThe Fairy QueenFantastic FablesThe Twelve BrothersKing ThrushbeardHänsel und Gretel

April 2023 Wrap-up

My April 2023: (links lead to goodreads)

And Put Away Childish Things 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚🧚‍♀️☆ Netgalley, a wardrobe and an unhappy Underhill.
Antimatter Blues (Mickey7 #2) 🐛🐛🐛🐛🐛 ebook, popcorn fiction with creepy crawlies on a colony planet. Things go Boom!
Pretender (Foreigner #8) ★★★★☆ audio
– Pacific Storm 🌀🌀🌀🌀☆ overdue Netgalley, near-future SF cop thriller.
– Dogs of War 🐕🐕🐕🐕🐕 KU, Rex is a good dog. Loved it. Rex had such a great voice. 
– Swordheart 🦡🦡🦡🦡🦡 audible freebie with the subscription, entertaining sword and sorcery with a slightly clueless widow and an enchanted barbarian.
– Prophets of the Ghost Ants DNF at 48% 💣, very old Netgalley. Dystopia, insect-sized humans with an ant army, too much cruelty, racism, gratuitous violence, no meaningful development.
– Ocean Grave, KU, DNF after 140 pages 💣. Swim the other way, quickly! Seriously, this was bad. 
– Chicks Kick Butt, paper, from my TBR pile. DNF after 86 pages and 23% 💣. Anthology of stories that are part of longer series. Realized that I really do not enjoy most UF anymore. 

Graphic novels/comics
– Southbound! (Les Beaux Étés #1) by Zidrou ☀️☀️☀️☀️☆ eComic, family story, pretty artwork.
– Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚½☆, fairyland characters in exile in New York and a murder case.
– Fables Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Fables 🧚‍♂️🧚🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️🧚 I had fun and liked the story, although the artwork was not a highlight.
– Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love 🧚🧚‍♀️🧚‍♂️☆☆ collection of romance-themed stories, mature content. It was ok. 
– Fables Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables 🧙‍♀️🧙🧙‍♀️🧙‍♀️🧙, backstory and a battle.
– Fables Vol. 5: The Mean Seasons (Fables 💨💨💨💨½, a look back at Bigby. Flying babies and murder.

Shorts stories
– THREE CUPS OF GRIEF, BY STARLIGHT by Aliette de Bodard | Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 100, January 2015 ★★¾☆☆
– Salt Water by Eugenia Triantafyllou | | 🐙🐙🐙🐙☆ |…

– Strange Animals 🦒🦓🦔🐸🦅 Netgalley, coffee table book with photos of quirky animals.
– Food: A Cultural Culinary History, audio, The Great Courses, non-fiction, DNF after 10 hours, at 55%. 💣 

currently reading…
– Call of the Reed Warbler, audio, non-fiction, regenerative agriculture in Australia, ongoing, but struggling…
– The Last Astronaut, ebook, TBR pile
– Fables Vol. 6: Homelands, eComic, KU

Specfic on the small screen:
– Picard S3, done, thank goodness. It wasn‘t bad, but… 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️🤷 
– Carnival Row S2, abandoned in the penultimate episode. The last part didn‘t do anything for me.
– Mandalorian S3, done. That was fun! ★★★★★ (No Grogu emoji, sadly…)

It‘s a shocking amount of DNFs. Not my usual style. But I am finally working on my backlog—old Netgalleys, my TBR pile, KUs that I have been meaning to read for ages… Time passes, tastes change… in the process I did kick some books off my shelves right away, without even trying to read them. Let‘s see how long the cleaning mania lasts.

Despite the many DNFs I also had a nice amount of 5-stars and finally started Fables. Good month!

Oh, and I took part in Dewey’s April readathon this weekend. Well, kinda, I was out and about for part of it. Still, I managed:
326 pages of eye reading
8 h 44 minutes of audio.

Total pages and minutes in April 2023:

I hope I can keep it up in May… First I need to finish The Last Astronaut, then I will tackle my buddy reads, Lords of UncreationThe Unsettling Stars and Planet of the Apes. And then my backlog…

Capers, romance, the woods, a werewolf…

Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love
by Bill Willingham (Author), Mark Buckingham (Illustrator), Lan Medina (Illustrator), Bryan Talbot (Illustrator), Linda Medley (Illustrator)

This volume is a collection of romance-themed stories. Shorter stories with changing artwork and artists. 

Starting with Jack from the Mountain during the American Civil War. Never heard of the guy. Anyway, he cheats the devil… Content warning/rating: graphic sex, for mature readers. And lots of blood and mutilated, walking corpses. We have left fairyland. Forgettable. 

Next is a two-part caper with several of the main characters of the previous volumes. Prince Charming is still a douchebag. The caper is entertaining, the solution to Sleeping Beauty‘s wake-up kiss is amusing.

PS: why do we keep meeting the Big Bad Wolf, but not Red Riding Hood? And why is she called „Riding“? There is no riding in that fairytale. Anyway…. Anne Rice is mentioned! I liked this little story arc.

The next part featured the Mouse Police. Followed by a bunch of other chapter headings—it was somewhat confusing, I eventually lost the plot. Anyway, one was called Into the Woods and Chris Pine started singing in my head… followed by The Wolf‘s Tale… Finally we got to see Bigby Wolf as a wolf! About time, a well drawn wolf and much prettier than the human version. Who strangely enough in some scenes didn’t seem to have a mouth. Very odd. Plus this mouthless version was definitely the ugliest rendering of Bigby Wolf, which made the romance a little challenging. More graphic violence, lots of blood and murder along the way.

Generally better artwork than Vol. 2. I liked the page layouts in the middle. I‘m not a fan of artists changing throughout a collected volume, it makes the whole experience so uneven. 

The stories were ok, I did like the caper story and the part with Snow White and Bigby Wolf in the woods. But all things considered, this was just ok. 🧚‍♀️ 🧚‍♂️ 🧚

Collecting: Fables 11-18