Recent Book Notes!

 Here’s some recent reading I’ve done! I don’t have pictures of the covers, unfortunately. (Several of them I forgot to snapshot before I whisked them back to the library.)

::  Maybe you didn’t know that you needed a graphic novel about the Bronte sisters, their brother, and the imaginative life they lived in their youth, but you do need that graphic novel, and thankfully for you, it exists! It’s called Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontes, by Isabel Greenberg. Apparently in their younger years, the Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) and their brother Branwell passed the time by creating a fantasy world called Glass Town, which they populated with all manner of interesting characters (no doubt providing the girls with valuable experience in character creation that would serve them well when they turned to their own literary works years later). As the siblings fight over the nature of their world, two break off and make their own world, and in Greenberg’s graphic novel–based on extensive research into the materials left behind by the Brontes themselves about this period of their lives–Charlotte Bronte becomes the focus. She seems to have the strongest relationship with the people of Glass Town, to the point where she actually speaks to them and finds herself drawn into their struggles.

Greenberg’s art is unusual; I’m not sure how to describe it. It took me some work to get used to, and even until the end I didn’t always find it easy to tell which character was which. But the narrative as a whole has some interesting things to say about stories, how we relate to them, and the difference between how adults relate to stories and how kids do. If you’ve never seen a couple of kids get in a fight over a fictional character or world, well…that can be some serious stuff. Good book.

:: I’ve read of the graphic novel series Monstress over the years, so I decided to give the book a try. It’s a highly regarded fantasy set in a steampunk Asia kind of world…and honestly, even though I read the whole first volume (collecting issues 1-6), it was long enough ago that I honestly remember very little of the story at all. I do remember the series’s incredible art–the book is worth looking at on that basis alone–but I also remember finding it very hard to care about the characters, and disliking the story’s tone. This is along the lines of SAGA and A Song of Ice and Fire: tons of violence and rape and murder and cruelty. Monstress isn’t remotely my cup of tea, but if you like your fantasy full of horrible people being awful, there it is.

::  More my speed was Elizabeth May’s The Falconer, the first book in a trilogy set in Edinburgh about a willful young lass named Aileana who has to contend with societal expectations, her father’s desire to see her wed, and the fact that she can see the magical beings who are obsessed with killing humans, so she has made it her mission to kill them first. Yup!

May (who I’ve been following for years on Twitter, she’s awesome) writes a really fun book here, with enough humor and “comedy of errors” kind of stuff, along with crackling dialogue, to offset the story’s occasionally grim tone. There are steampunk elements and cool magical doings, fairy beings whose loyalties aren’t entirely clear, and on our side of the magic-realism divide, people who want what’s best for Aileana and people who think what they want is best for Aileana and people who just want her married off so they don’t have to think about her anymore.

Aileana’s efforts to balance her “Magic hero” thing with her societal obligations put me in mind of the best Spider-Man stories, when Peter Parker was always this close to getting his high school or work or romance shit together, only to have to run off to fight Green Goblin when he was just on the cusp of getting a job or a date with Mary Jane or some such thing. May keeps that whole pot boiling nicely. I liked this book immensely and I look forward to the other two books in the trilogy. (They’re all out already; this series has been out for a few years.)

All for now! Keep reading, folks!

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