Pirates, Mermaids, Monsters, Oh My! || Monstress, Vol. 2 Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Can this get any more EPIC? The answer is YES. There are pirates and animalistic Arcanics (THERE’S A SHARK GIRL WHAT) and old gods that eerily remind me of Alucard’s crazy demon form in Hellsing. And lawd, when’s the next set coming out because MORE PLS.


MONSTRESS, VOL. 2: THE BLOOD

by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2017
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy, steampunk
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

The Eisner-nominated MONSTRESS is back! Maika, Kippa, and Ren journey to Thyria in search of answers to her past… and discover a new, terrible, threat. Collects MONSTRESS #7-12.

I don’t think I’ve fallen so hard and so fast over a comics series than I had with Monstress, and honestly, it’s largely to do with the two amazing women who’ve brought this story to life on the illustrated medium. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda are mistresses of their craft, and together they managed to convey a wonderful story of a powerful girl in a world still reeling from the previous war and yet gearing for a new one.

The story follows after Volume 1 (Issues 1-6) and picks up the pace, sending Maika, Kippa, and Ren south to Thyria, Maika’s hometown. There, Maika regroups and enlists the help of pirates to ferry her further south, to the Cape of Bones, a place where Moriko Halfwolf had once traveled. To gain more information of the monster inside her, Maika follows her mother’s footsteps–and obsession with the legendary Shaman Princess–south, encountering dangers along the way, as well as a deeper understanding of how to control the Monstrum within.

As can normally be found in most first volumes, the first six issues of Monstress dealt with throwing as much information our way as possible. While Liu and Takeda managed to convey the information in creative ways (including a little professor-student talking panel every issue for the heavier worldbuilding aspects), most of the first volume was truly introductory. Yes, the second volume also deals with the addition of new characters, but by this point, we are familiar with a bit of the world and there’s less explaining to do. So for the most part, we can sit back and enjoy the story.

Well, sort of.

Then Liu comes around and throws us for a loop and we start to devour the next bits of fantastical element thrown our way. In this case, the sea Arcanics.

Yes, we saw the awesomeness of the Fox Queen and the Monkey King and by that point we are unsurprised by the group of “nekomancers” littering the pages (I mean, Ren is one of them…). But a motherfrelling Arcanic shark? Mermaids and sirens and bone-chilling sea creatures of doom? Hell yes!

Not to mention dapper ex-pirate lions and tigers, who, by the way, are friggin’ AWESOME.

I don’t know how they’re not super-hot in those outfits, I would be if I was sporting that much fur in my body. That said, CAN I GET THEIR CLOTHES? I’d so wear the shmat out of them.

And, because we needed more badass females, throw in a female captain in the mix.

Of course, the issues don’t just deal with Maika’s story, though hers takes center stage for the most part. Characters introduced in the previous issues–such as the Cumaea and the Dawn and Dusk Courts–recur in the next several issues, and while Maika’s journey is largely one of self-discovery, we have several other characters mobilized to find her. Chief among them is the Sword of the East, who is revealed to be Maika’s sole living relative, an aunt who had been unaware of her presence. The Cumaea is still after Maika’s Monstrum, while others seek to destroy her.

It’s no wonder Maika broods all the time. Shes’ got a shitton of people coming after her, and to add cherry to her fantastic life, the ravenous monster inside her is getting stronger and stronger, almost to the brink of being out of control.

And yet, she still has that sass that made me love her in the beginning issues.

The second volume is chock-full of action, and more of the story is revealed to the reader, including a back story of the old gods that used to live in the known world. If you thought the first volume was epic, the second one blows it out of the water. Hem hem.

And honestly, those issue cover illustrations.

I cannot gush enough about this volume of Monstress. I highly recommend it, for story, for female badassery, for a world that’s a mix of everything I love about fantasy/scifi worldbuilding. Now I feel like the Monstrum, because this series is making me insatiable. I want more please!

5 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #11 of the Graphic Novels/Manga Reading Challenge and #4 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.


Have you read this series? What did you think?

Clockwork Carabao

At some point in February (or was it March?), before the craziness began and I was thrown into a den of psychotic little Voldemorts, I had a story in mind that I wanted to send out. It had gone through several revisions, at least three of which changed the entire story itself. I had gone from writing about a girl who’d watched a mechanical bird fall from the sky to a girl’s first time siphoning gases from a volcano. I admit, both are still viable ideas to work with, and more than likely I’d probably get back to them at some point.

But it turns out I was having a bit more fun with Hati and her rather engineer-y mind. And besides, who wouldn’t want to tinker around with a mechanical carabao?

Fast forward a couple months later and here I am, sitting and writing about the anthology my short story is going to be in!

Corie and Sean Weaver at Dreaming Robot Press have been superstars, and after three years of having published the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, they’re at it again! Next year, the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is set to be released, with my short story “Clockwork Carabao” as part of the fantastic list of children’s science fiction stories. It may not be my first time having been published by DRP, and certainly not my first time writing about my steampunk sandbox, but it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to see my work in print.

And I swear the covers keep getting better and better!

About the 2018 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide:

“When I was a child, the school library had a Girls’ Section, which included fairy tales, and a Boys’ Section, which included all the science fiction. Things have changed, of course, but not enough. There is a strong need for science fiction, as opposed to fantasy, aimed at girls, especially in the middle grades. This anthology is an important contribution to the effort to fill that need, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”~ Nancy Kress, winner of six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award

We’ve got another great collection of 24 stories from amazing authors, ranging from Nebula and Hugo winners to relative newcomers to the field. Our characters are white, black, asian, latino. Human and robot. Everyone belongs here.

Help us make the fourth collection of the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide a reality.

To participate in the Kickstarter, click hereAny donation helps. We are so close to our goal!

Party up in hurr.

On top of that, to help promote the Kickstarter, we’re having a YEAG author party! Feel free to hop onto the discussion on Facebook. I will definitely be there tonight, June 29 from 6-9 pm EST, posting a few things about life, the universe, and everything. (But really, I’ll probably be doing random posts about writing and steampunk and science fiction video games…)

Click the image to go to the author party page on Facebook!

Come find me on June 29 from 6 to 9 pm EST! I’ll try to be interesting. Key word “try.” (Or, you can just say hello by leaving a message on one of my posts and I’ll have all sorts of warm fuzzies for having your support :D).

Here’s a sneak peek to my short story, “Clockwork Carabao”!

The mechanical carabao was the strangest contraption Hati had ever seen.

By that point in time, she’d already seen much more than a normal young girl with regards to mechanical animals. She’d even made a few of them herself and had been proud of the prize she’d won at the Junior Mechanicking Competition back at floating Rizal. The prize invention, a mechanical kitten that was also used as a pill dispenser, which her father and mother found quite charming, sat at home—a strange, metallic centerpiece on their large dining table.

And yet this carabao was something new.

– “Clockwork Carabao” by Marilag Angway

I wonder what my engineering friends would think of a mechanical carabao…

Episode 4: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest with Marilag Angway and James DeBruicker

Another Reblog! Seriously, Meg @ La Foi Aveugle is amazing, and kudos to her for taking the time and getting this audio edited!

In this episode, we discuss Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, a steampunk zombie adventure (yes, you heard me) taking place in Seattle during the American Civil War (yes, you heard me again). Steampunk has always been near and dear to my heart, considering I write in this subgenre so much!

Source: Episode 4: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest with Marilag Angway and James DeBruicker

Review: The Velocipede Races

Initial Thoughts:

This was actually more entertaining than I thought, though admittedly the story dragged in parts. Still worth the read though! And I mean…why wouldn’t it be when it has a woman shattering glass ceilings?


THE VELOCIPEDE RACES

by Emily June Street
Elly Blue Publishing, April 2016
Science fiction, steampunk
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies

Emmeline Escot knows that she was born to ride in Seren’s cutthroat velocipede races. The only problem: She’s female in a world where women lead tightly laced lives. Emmeline watches her twin brother gain success as a professional racing jockey while her own life grows increasingly narrow. Ever more stifled by rules, corsets, and her upcoming marriage of convenience to a brusque stranger, Emmy rebels—with stunning consequences. Can her dream to race survive scandal, scrutiny, and heartbreak?

I totally picked this book up because I can never resist a good ole “girl dresses up as boy, girl shows the world she can play with other boys” trope. In The Velocipede Races, the trope is no different, and yes, in that sense, it is pretty damn predictable.

But, I mean, friggin’ velocipedes, man. VELOCIPEDES.

For those not familiar, velocipedes are contraptions best associated with Victorian era innovation. It’s essentially a bike, though I do believe the wheels are bigger at the front and smaller at the back, so there’s a bit more of a balancing skill that goes along with riding the velo as well. In any case, it’s a contraption that many Serenians in the book enjoy to ride and watch.

Well, many male Serenians anyway.

Heaven forbid if females were interested in racing velos or anything. That would be scandalous in Serenian society, especially when the particular female is riesen (noble). And, in Emmeline’s case, it’s exactly that, because she’s that athletic riesen woman who’d do anything to take to the wheel of a velo and race her heart out. Only, the only thing she’s expected to do is marry some rich man while her twin brother undergoes the proper training to become a velo racer.

We know where things can go from there. Oh, yes, she’s got a twin brother who looks enough like her. Oh, yes, Emmeline is going to take advantage of that, and no matter how many times Gabriel has dissuaded her from trying to sneak out and practice alongside him, she does it anyway. Even after she is thrown into a reluctant marriage, Emmeline still finds a way.

And then things slowly go downhill from there.

In all honesty, much of this story has been told before, over and over again. And yet, I still find it charming to read, because how can I not love a woman who has a passion that goes beyond societal expectations? (As someone whose field of study is still largely male-dominated, I can totally relate). How can I not love a woman who knows exactly what she wants from life and husband be damned if he tried to stop her.

So yeah, I liked Emmeline. Very much. Even in her single-minded zeal towards velo racing and her almost ignoring anything else in society. I say almost because by the end, she does find another love, one she finds highly unexpected.

That said, I thought the story was paced too slow at times, and too fast at others. The velocipede races themselves were meticulously described, and yet, there were “blink and you miss it” moments that forced me to stop halfway into the description of a race to only go back and repeat the segment again. I suppose it’s styled like an actual race, which is kind of cool in that way, but read weirdly for me.

I also didn’t really feel like any of the other characters stood out. Gabriel was a close second in terms of most development, personality-wise, but there wasn’t really much time to develop him, considering he often disappeared to do his own thing while Emmeline was left to her own devices. Even the other secondary characters show up in a scene and then disappear so quickly that I couldn’t really form an opinion about them. (Except Eddings. Eddings was just a cocky little chauvinistic shite.)

I was a little disappointed that Everett was often written out of the picture half the time, with Emmeline stating that he’s “busy with work.” I mean, honestly, he was an intriguing character, a strange, self-made man in a society he barely acknowledges as his own. From the beginning, he’s seen as a mysterious personality, and his thoughts about Emmy are often hidden under inscrutable stares and coarse, blunt language. It made for an awkward romance at times, and I really did want more out of that relationship.

All that said, I found the book charming. Serenian society and its surrounding world is fashioned after Victorian England, and I’m sure if Victorian England had developed through the ages fast enough, it would have velocipede races, too. I’m sure the suffragettes would have tried their best to applaud anyone who has shattered the glass ceiling, which Emmeline was bound to do with her velocipede passion. And that’s really where the book shined the most, within the description of Emmeline’s love for velo races.

3 out of 5 cookies!

This counts as #2 of the Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Steampunk Madness and Matriarchs || Monstress, Vol. 1 Review

monstress-review

Initial Thoughts: 

A speculative Asia during the 1900s with a largely matriarchal society on BOTH sides of a brutal human-beast war? New. Favorite. Series. EVER.

MONSTRESS, VOL. 1

by Marjorie M. Liu (author), Sana Takeda (illustrator)
Image Comics, July 2016
Graphic novel, science fiction, fantasy
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

monstressSet in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Image Comics Strikes Again

This time in an Asian steampunk world. And it looks effing fabulous. When I got an email about this series being opened up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. It’s been on my TBR since I was alerted to it by The Book Smugglers, and I do not regret it one bit.

First of all, Takeda’s artwork is gorgeous. It’s half manga, half Westernized comics, a perfect combination of both, and so detailed I almost wanted to screenshot every darn page. There were several times where a page was just filled with wordless panels, and my gosh, the illustrated depiction of what’s happening on that page…it certainly brings proof to the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage.

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The main character is a feisty, stubborn, kick-ass one-armed Asian woman. She’s survived a violent war. She’s survived a traumatic enslavement experience. She’s survived the loss of a limb and the aftermath of conflict between two powerful factions. She’s seen shit. And she’s angry. On top of that, she wants to know what’s happening–and what’s happened–to her. And she’ll break down doors if she has to. I love her to bits.

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She also has a lovely way with words, that Maiko.

The matriarchal powers that be. The series is rife with fem-power on both sides. In fact, some of the highest positions are held by women. One of the first immortal ancients we see is a Wolf Queen. The first half-breed is a powerful woman, someone who apparently shook the world. The Cumaea is an order of witch-nuns who’ve taken the highest form of power in the human government. Heck, Lady Sophia is displayed quite remarkably as a woman who buys Arcanic slaves. She’s in charge, she’s despicable, and she gives zero fucks because she has shit to do and Arcanics to experiment on. Not to mention the fact that there’s a little romance (LGBT from what I saw!) but so far it hasn’t overwhelmed the narrative. It’s female empowerment to the max.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-16-07-01

There’s no better way to walk into a slave auction than in style. I’ll give it to Lady Sophia, she knows how to make an entrance.

It’s an adventure story drenched with the problems of race, war, and disability (both physical and emotional). It’s dark and merciless and it definitely makes no apology in showing the cruelties of the post-war world. Takeda’s depiction of Liu’s people makes for a great collaboration, and there’s really not much I can say against the series at the moment. I loved the entire volume.

Screenshot_2016-07-06-10-10-07

Also, Mister Ren. That two-tailed cat is the bees’ knees.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now, I’m not sure where the rest of this series is going just yet, but my gosh, I want the next issues already. Like, now.


monstress-all