Sass and Sword and Sorcery || Rat Queens Review

Initial Thoughts:

HOW have I not read this series until now?! This is pretty much sassy sexy females romping around a fantasy world slaying orcs and partying when the deed is done! With more plot, of course, but COME ON. Sassy. Sexy. Females.


RAT QUEENS, VOL. 1 AND 2

Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch (illustrator), Stjepan Sejic (illustrator)
Image Comics, March 2014
Adult fantasy, comics
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

Who are the Rat Queens?

They’re a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire and they’re in the business of killing all the god’s creatures for profit. Meet Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.

This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent, monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!

So I pretty much devoured the first two volumes of this series and realized I couldn’t really review the first one without reviewing the other. For one, the first volume was this super-quick introduction to the world and the chaos that is the Rat Queens. The Rat Queens definitely brook no apologies for their penchant towards booze, drugs, and foul language, and if this was an ’80s band, they’d certainly be quickly assimilated into the world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Which makes them badass in a high fantasy world, and I love each one of them for it.

But seriously, Hannah steals the show every time.

Not exactly the “leader” of the Rat Queens (I don’t think there’s a definitive one between Dee, Hannah, and Violet, to be honest), Hannah is the elven mage who’s got some uncanny affinity towards necromancy and the black arts. She’s the crudest as far as language goes, and a lot of her story in the first two volumes definitely gets more fleshed out (heh, “fleshed out” hehe…I’m immature) than the others. Not saying that the other three don’t get their limelight–they actually do!

But still. Hannah killed me every time.

Also, I totally ship those two. But I mean…Sawyer is kind of delish, not gonna lie.

This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.

But anyway, the first volume really just lays in the groundwork of the series. The Rat Queens are a sordid lot, and for the most part chaos ensues when they’re around. This makes them an unwelcome presence in the kingdom of Palisade, a thorn on the mayor’s side, and a headache to Sawyer, captain of the guard and former assassin. In the end, though, they eventually save the day, gain the town’s praise, and host a super psychedelic party!

By volume 2, though, the tentacle monster attacks, and shit starts to get crazy. And no, not in that hentai way (though we do see some nudity on both sides of the river). The second volume picks up the story, and I actually loved it more than the first because the volume deals with a lot of character backstories. I loved Violet and Hannah’s arcs, and Dee gets to do some major butt-kicking against the forces of darkness and the far-reaching tentacles of N’rygoth. Of course, don’t forget Betty, whose mushroom-loving bubbly personality brings light to an otherwise dysfunctional group.

Because of course Betty would.

Seriously, though, my review can’t really do justice with these first two volumes. I’d just urge anyone who likes fantasy and fierce females to read it and experience the series for themselves.

Okay, I’ll stop with the Hannah pics already!

5 out of 5 cookies for both Vol. 1 and 2!

Have you read this series? What did you think?

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TTT: Badass Female Cover Girls

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I think I was staring too long at Silence Fallen because this is clearly what spawned by Top Ten Tuesday this week.

Badass female leads. And badass female book covers. What’s not to love about this list, right? RIGHT?

Okay, so I had this thing where every year in a forum, I’d make myself a signature and feature my year’s “Signature Cover Girl.” I’ve been pretty good with that for years now, and when the opportunity came to do a Top Ten Tuesday about book covers, I figure…why not do a top ten list of book covers that showcase their fabulous femme protagonists?

Top Ten Badass Female Cover Girls

River Marked by Patricia Briggs – This is probably one of my favorite Mercy Thompson covers. Mostly because you see Mercy within a tribal-marked backdrop, looking fierce and badass. I mean, okay, so it doesn’t necessarily tell me about what the book is going to be about, but SHE IS FIERCE, OKAY?! (Note: I did end up loving this book, so there.)

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – This wouldn’t be a list without Delilah Bard. Especially when she graces the second book of the Shades of Magic trilogy so nicely. SO NICELY.

Fire by Kristin Cashore – I don’t have a copy of this cover of Fire, but it is super-lovely. I am rather fond of archer-girls. I’ve been fond of them since I’d read of Maid Marian shooting just as awesomely as Robin Hood in a piece of fiction (which I’m pretty sure was Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley…). Fire is just fabulous.

Monstress by Marjorie Liu – I had immediately yoinked this graphic novel off the NetGalley list because holy hell that cover is amazing! And I mean…of course it’d be on this list!

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst – This version is one of the more recent ones, I think. The copy I’d read showcased Mara as an ’80s heroine in white priestess robes, which didn’t really convey the sense of a Japanese-inspired society. I’m super-glad they updated it to this cover, because hell, I’d love to be Mara of the Acoma if I can wear that getup at least once.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – There was another cover I would have preferred to put up here of another Laini Taylor book, but this is Karou. I love Karou. She’s the girl with the blue hair and the string of teeth around her neck. And these covers always leave a bit of ethereal mystery.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – Yaaaaas Shazi yaaaaaaas. She slays on both covers, but I will say this one I liked most because when you open up the book, you see Shazi inside looking resplendent in her Middle-Eastern-inspired outfit. And she is gorgeous.

Soulless by Gail Carriger – Alexia Tarrabotti and her parasol! I will admit I totally put this book in here because I love the outfit. Well, and Alexia is lovely, too, duh. But mostly that outfit. I’d totally wear it. Well, minus the super-tight corset.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce – Old school! I must have a couple of covers for this series sitting on my shelf, but this particular one is still my favorite. It’s got that early ’90s vibe, it’s bright and colorful, and it has two of my favorite Song of the Lioness characters ever.

Sabriel by Garth Nix – Also another cool ’90s cover. This was certainly the original before a more modern edition entered the fray, but I loved it for the artwork. And Sabriel’s coat and bandolier were rendered so well! And Sabriel is striking quite the cover girl pose.

TTT: More Limelight Ladies Pls

ttt

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here.

I saw the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, and remembered that Jolien @ Fictional Reader did this topic in her previous TTT. I thought it was cool, so I’ve put my Limelight Ladies spin on this week’s TTT. I love having females in my fiction, and the more badass ones the better! Sometimes, though, a few of the books are missing those ladies, and while there’s occasionally one or two females that stick out, I would prefer to see many more in the story.

Top Ten Books I Wish Had More Limelight Ladies

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks – The later books do a better job with adding more female presence in the story, but the fact of the matter is that the females in the trilogy were either prostitutes/former prostitutes or virgins, and I swear there had to be a better way to categorize these women, because they were so much more than their sexual partners (Viridiana and Elene and Kirena, anyone?!).

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – Alright, this book has a relatively small character list, but I kind of only liked the one girl in the story. Which is a shame, because I tend to love most of Schwab’s characters, protagonist and antagonist alike. In Vicious, not so much, so I wished there were more badass girls.

And I Darken by Kiersten White – There were a few secondary females in the harem, but not many that really stood out. Mehmed’s mother was one of the few who stood out, but other than Lada, I was pretty much missing other badass female characters. Especially when I had to deal with Radu being a whiny baby half the time.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – I…did not like any of the females that were prominent in this book. They were all pretty much catty, petty, and angry for anger’s sake. Even the protag grated on my nerves every so often.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – I suppose there’ll be more female presence in the next book, but there was a severe lack of them in the book. One of them occasionally showed up as a slightly crazy person, but most of Fitz’s role models were male.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – I was actually pretty happy that more badass females showed up in the later half of the book. I was less happy that they were limited to societal pressures, so some of the females I really wanted to know about got downplayed.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – Not gonna lie, I just really wanted more Devi in the first book. Yeah, that’s really it.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore – Other than Six, I wasn’t wowed by any of the females in this book. It’s probably why the series ranks super-low on my list and I never took to it. (I suppose there are other reasons, but I’ll leave it at that.)

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty – I don’t remember too much about this book, just that there were a lot of monsters and Zoe. It was enjoyable, of course, though I do wish there were more memorable femmes in the book.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta – I suppose there were a few other females in the book other than Evanjalin, but all I remember was her, and I found her absolutely obnoxious. That’s just me, though, I’m sure she’s somebody’s cup of tea.

What’s on your Top Ten list this week?

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.

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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.

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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

Retro-Review: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

It’s weird reviewing a book you fell in love with when you were around 11 or 12. Even weirder that when I re-read this book a couple years back, I didn’t write much of a review. I still loved the book, though, but I just couldn’t bring myself to stop gushing over how great Aeryn is and how fabulous this book was, not only as a near-perfect representation of badass women, but hot damn, this story.


THE HERO AND THE CROWN

by Robin McKinley
HarperCollins, 1984
High fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies

herocrownAerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.

It was the story of her mother, the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her, to get an heir that would rule Damar; and it was told that she turned her face to the wall and died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son.

Aerin was that daughter.

But there was more of the story yet to be told; Aerin’s destiny was greater than even she had dreamed–for she was to be the true hero who would wield the power of the Blue Sword…

Gifly Thoughts

The Hero and the Crown was a gem of a book I’d encountered in elementary school, wedged into a corner of the library, right beside a story of another fabulous fiery-haired female (Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce). Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which book I’d read first, but I do know that I’d borrowed them both at the same time.

Then I read them and I was just all:

“OMGAH FANTASY. MOARPLZ.”

Well, something like that.

What I really did was along the lines of taking out more books and hoping that there would be more females in the stories that could hold a candle to Alanna and Aeryn. That there’d be more females that could slay dragons and have adventures and come home to a fella who’d treat them the way they should be treated: like a goddamn equal.

All the same, The Hero and the Crown rocked it. It had a protagonist who pushed the boundaries during a time period that saw her as a supposedly dainty female who’s not even considered the next ruler of her father’s kingdom. That right seemed to be reserved to her male friend; though I have no complaints against Tor (none at all, I actually adore him!) as a person.

The book had an excellent adventure story. It had a romance for the ages, though to be honest I never got ’round to liking the magical male lover, since I shipped Aeryn/Tor even as I laughed at how oblivious Aeryn was to love and such nonsense. There was a scene in the first part of the book where Tor gives her a smooch, and she pretty much hurries off to play chemist with her dragon ointment. Super oblivious–and admittedly–kind of lovable, that Aeryn.

All in all, there’s not much else to be said. I’ve since loved McKinley’s books, and with The Hero and the Crown being my first McKinley, it certainly garners a special place in my list of favorites.