Mini Reviews: Snow White, Camelot

Oh, blog. I know I have neglected you. Come to think of it, I’ve been neglecting many things lately. In lieu of the end of the year shenanigans, I’ve been generally swamped with grading, exam writing, teaching, and more grading. I’m behind on my Goodreads goal, I’ve not written a blog post since the end of May, and I’ve completely dropped off the face of the editing and short story writing circuit.

Buuuut…

I needed to get out of this slump/hiatus. And it’s ALMOST the end of the school year. And I have a ton of catching up blogging-wise, so hang onto your, uh, figurative hats, yeah?

Anyway, got a few blog posts I need to write for the next few weeks, I just need the actual time to write it now!

So first, a couple of graphic novel reviews. I went back to reading some Fables goodness because it was high time I finish reading this series once and for all. My goal this year is to at least finish a couple of completed series, novels and graphic novels included!

** Note: These two graphic novels are Volumes 19 and 20 of the Fables series by Bill Willingham, so while I do attempt not to spoil the story so far, there is a bit of a jump.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: Hamilton, Legenderry

Ugh, balancing time between work and hobbies have become almost impossible at this rate, especially when I find myself constantly thinking about grading papers instead of doing other, more sane things. *shudders*

That said, books must be read, reviews must be written! At least, I try to get as many reviews written as I can.

One of which is a nonfiction. Yay! I need to add more of these in my life, and I do have a few more lined up somewhere. Audiobook-style.

This other one was a bit disappointing after a time. I try not to dwell on it, because it’d be my first attempt at steampunk this year and the results were lukewarm at best. (And I usually am biased for my steampunk, so that’s saying something…)

Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure counts as #1 on my Steampunk Reading Challenge.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

A Fabletown Mystery || The Wolf Among Us Review

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Initial Thoughts:

Reading this volume really made me want to play the game again, if only to redo some of my crazy decisions (like trying NOT to get certain people killed, hem hem). That said, this was highly entertaining to read, and I adored the addition of random fairy tale summaries as told by various Fables characters (honestly. Gren’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood was THE best.)


FABLES: THE WOLF AMONG US, VOL. 1

by Matthew Sturges, Dave Justus (writers)
Vertigo, November 2015
Graphic novel, fairy tale fantasy
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

wolfamongusEven before the first issue of Fables , there were stories to be told, shadowy avenues to explore, and lives hanging in the balance! Bigby Wolf has seen plenty in his time as Sheriff of Fabletown…but nothing can prepare him for this…

It all starts with a simple domestic disturbance. But when Bigby learns that his old nemesis, the Woodsman who has an axe to grind, is part of the scene, things go downhill fast. And how will Bigby and Snow White keep their heads long enough to crack the case when they get caught up in a grisly murder mystery?

So there’s this series I’ve enjoyed the past couple of years called Fables. I had heard of it a while back because of course I had, being a fairy tale enthusiast and an admirer of comic books. I mean, come on. Fairy tale characters living in secret in the Bronx because some crazy Adversary took over each of their worlds. That’s the kind of shit I’d read in a heartbeat. Admittedly, the Fables series didn’t really pick up for me until I’d read the text story of how Bigby met Snow White in Volume 2, and from there, I was hooked.

When I’d first heard that Telltale was actually doing a game based off of it, I was pretty damn excited. Heck, it was one of my first posts on this blog.

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Needless to say I have since played The Wolf Among Us game and loved it. And then I realized that they made a graphic novel of TWAU, which was based on the works of Bill Willingham. Funny how that happens, but I went ahead and decided to read it just to see which route the writers went and decided was “canon.”

That can sometimes go either way, to be honest. Either you’re the type of person who likes having a canon story to fall upon, or you like paving the path of your character with your decision. In any case, it’s not really feasible, making the graphic novel a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure kind of thing, and in this case, I’m not the type of person who minded so much that it didn’t. So generally, I enjoyed it.

What I Loved

First off, the illustrations. The artwork in TWAU is stellar, and I absolutely loved the issue covers as well. I’ve always adored Bigby, but his rendering in the TWAU graphic novel is definitely my favorite of the lot (that said, Bigby in the actual Fables comic will always win out for me).

Character retellings of fairy tales. The major difference in the game and the graphic novel is definitely the addition of visual retelling in the novel. Where the game focused on a showing-not-telling format and an action-packed pacing, the graphic novel took a few breaths in the pages by getting characters to color the retelling of a story in their own words. Gren’s retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and Bigby Wolf’s past has got to be my favorite. Bigby’s own retelling of Gren’s past was just as good.

Bigby’s sardonic humor is still there. Honestly, I always play scumbag!Bigby, but his sarcasm in the graphic novel is even better. Especially where Colin is concerned. Colin’s a lovely pig.

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The tie-in with Ichabod Crane and Bigby, as well as some interesting backstory. I really loved that Bigby’s backstory is a bit fleshed out here. We don’t really see much of what has happened prior to present-day Fabletown, so seeing a glimpse of how Bigby and a few other of his fellow Fables dealt with living in New York throughout the centuries is an eye-opener. I liked that they put Bigby in Salem during the witch trials. Gives you an idea of how the whole thing might have gotten instigated by Fables living among the mundies, haha.

My ONLY caveat of having a graphic novel (and a story) take place way before Fables: Legends in Exile, is that Snow and Bigby are going to be dealing with so much sexual tension and absolutely NOTHING WILL HAPPEN. I can tell you that much. Unless they completely change the canon. I’m hoping to see more Snow/Bigby moments anyway, even if Bigby doesn’t get the girl until Volume 5 of the actual series. And OH. No Cinderella. Bummer. She was definitely my favorite of the Fable women, hands down.

4 out of 5 cookies! I’ll have to hunt down a copy of the second volume, just to see how Bigby canonically deals with a few baddies that have yet to show up in Volume 1.

This counts as #1 of the Graphic Novel Challenge Reading Challenge and #2 of the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge.


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Have you read this book? What did you think?

Frau Totenkinder and the witches of lore

Right, I know I squeed about Fables a bit already (mostly in relation to the upcoming video game by Telltale Games). But in this case, I figure I can do a bit of gushing again, along with mentioning a list of other witches strewn along the annals of folktales.

I thought about posting this while I read Fables: Witches, the 14th volume of Bill Willingham’s Fables series. I felt, considering the massive filler that volume 13 produced (nonsense with Jack and literals and crossovers, ugh, not worth going through), that Witches was the starting point of another decent story arc after their war against the Empire (and their defeat of the Adversary). I don’t know how long this saga will last, but one thing–well, one person, really–jumped out at me as I read through the stories.

Her name’s Frau Totenkinder, and she’s a witch.

ImageFrom what I’ve gleaned from the Fables world, Frau Totenkinder is the representation of the unnamed witches in fairy tales. She is the gingerbread house witch who tries to eat Hansel and Gretel, she is the vegetable garden witch who traps Rapunzel up a tower, she is the sorceress who curses the Beast, she is the witch who curses the Frog Prince. I can think of a number of other fairy tales out there that mentions a curse or a scorned sorceress without a name, and more than likely–according to Willingham–that witch is a form of Frau Totenkinder. While she has no real name and currently goes by a German derivation of “child killer”, she has been forgiven her crimes through the agreed-upon Amnesty–where every Fable is granted a blank slate and not prosecuted for her past, so long as he or she reforms, of course (Bigby and Bluebeard are prime examples of this…though I’m not sure Bluebeard was ever the reforming type).

Totenkinder is the leader of the 13th floor Fables; that is, the coven of fairy tale witches/warlocks. Her main enemies include Baba Yaga and Mister Dark (who is prominent in the post-Adversary issues), and in some ways, Ozma (the other prominent witch of the 13th floor). Judging from the storylines, it seems to me that Totenkinder is probably the most powerful witch to have escaped the Homeland (which is saying much, because there are some very powerful Fables out there). She is definitely a woman to reckon with. Also, don’t be fooled by her form; she keeps the guise of an old woman so that her friends and enemies underestimate her. Big mistake if you think the frail old lady on her rocking chair can’t handle herself.

A thought, then. Growing up, I’d heard or read about numerous witches with an abominable amount of power, some named, others obscure (much like Totenkinder). All the same, witches are littered in folklore and mythology, and good or bad, their presence in any tale screams danger to the hero, heroine, prince, and princess.

So I’m just going to take a look at a few of my favorites:

babayagaBaba Yaga – Always the first witch I can think of in any mythology, Baba Yaga is most known for where she lives. Baba Yaga is never far from her small hut, which stands on chicken legs. When she isn’t migrating long distances, she travels on a mortar, with the pestle as her weapon (sometimes it’s a broom or mop, but it’s so much cooler imagining her sitting atop a mortar, to be honest). While often used as a figure to scare children into behaving, Baba Yaga shouldn’t be characterized outright as a villain (sometimes she is, other times she’s not). Often, like many of the witches in folklore, she gives just as much benefit as a hero’s sacrifice will allow. A most well-known example of this the story of Vasilisa the Beautiful, who was given board in exchange for servitude.

morganlefayMorgan le Fay – Who doesn’t speak of Morgan le Fay when talking about witches? Seriously, she’s probably the epitome of them all. She’s an enchantress who has featured in numerous tales through Arthurian legends, and has not lost her popularity in later literature. She is seductive, dangerous, powerful, and seriously not an enchantress you want coming after you. There are many theories as to her origin, some tracing Morgan le Fay down Welsh mythology, others linking her to the Morrigan (an Irish goddess). Heck, she’s even considered a fairy queen, owing to the French bit of her name that ties her to the world of the fae. Whatever the case, the stories do not dispute the amount of magic she wields, whether for ill or good.

circeCirce – Greek mythology contains numerous witches, some of them goddesses and monsters (Hecate and Medusa, respectively). There are definitely so many of them in tales to pick from, but the one that does come to mind–and one that does feature in my favorite Greek tale of all–is Circe. Sometimes considered a goddess, other times a nymph, most times a sorceress or enchantress or witch. Regardless of her denomination, Circe is practically an Ancient Greek feminist; she is most often associated with her love for turning men into animals. Heck, it took two gods advising Odysseus to counteract against Circe, and even then, the Greek hero was not immune to her feminine wiles (even though he mentally fought her off for like, a day). Travelers beware, if you land on an island filled with animals, in all likelihood, try not to be too easily seduced by the woman zookeeper offering you sumptuous feasts.

lilithLilith – There are a few origin accounts of where Lilith came from (Jewish, Arabic, Mesopotamian), though it is the Hebrew Lilith that is most prolific of the tales. Still, I do have to give some credit to the Mesopotamians, since it’s the Sumerian mythos that first gave me an inkling as to what sort of demon witch Lilith was. Whether she is a female demon herself is prone to debate, and in the Hebrew literature, she is known to be Adam’s first wife. That said, the marriage didn’t last long, considering Lilith was having none of the inferiority business that masculine Adam expected of his feminine wife; so she evidently left him for someone better (like an archangel). In later depictions, Lilith’s even considered a sort of lust demon (most often termed a succubus), or the head witch in a coven.

yukionnaYuki Onna – You get very few mentions of Eastern mythologies in the Western world, but they are certainly rife with powerful figures. There are witches and enchantresses that fill the pages of Eastern folklore, some of them even take the form of female and male djinn (Arabic folklore). In Japan, Yuki Onna holds a special place, for she is often a figure of power, either as an elemental spirit or a succubus preying on travelers amid snowstorms. Sometimes she is likened to a vampire, feeding on folk in order to stay young. She is most often associated with winter and snowstorms, and she is almost always depicted as a beautiful woman who has no compunctions of killing people with a quick call to a blizzard. Also, judging from the amount of appearances she makes throughout Japanese popular culture, it’s clear that Yuki Onna is–if we’re going by the power and frequency of fairy tale retellings–going to be one very powerful witch.

Fairy Tales and Werewolves and Telltale Games oh my!

I’d been meaning to gush about this, actually. And after seeing the Fairest spinoff at the regular geek store I go to, I had planned to make a post about Bill Willingham’s Fables this week (it was either this or talk about my pop music taste, and believe me…you did not want that). Imagine my pleasant surprise that timing agreed with me, ’cause the Telltale Games trailer of the newest addition to the company’s franchise was released yesterday!

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My sister had told me that Telltale Games was making a new set of graphic adventure games (a sort of choice style interface). When she mentioned it was fairy tale-themed, I had already become intrigued, since, you know, I’m a little obsessed with fairy tales. And when I saw the main page for The Wolf Among Us? Suffice to say it took a lot of willpower not to get up and squee that Bill Willingham’s series was being turned into a game. And by the company who did such a fantastic job with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead series, too!

For those unfamiliar with the Fables series, a brief summary:

Fairy tale characters have been forced out of their environment (the Homeland) by the menacing Adversary. In order to survive, they make their way across the magical portal to live in a New York City community, what they come to call as Fabletown. There, these characters attempt to live a normal way of life, or, at least, what normal can get when you’re suffering a fairy tale complex. It’s not peachy keen, either, especially when evidently, not everyone fits in (heck, they have to ship the more animalistic characters upstate to the Farm to better hide their identities).

fablesThe beginning of the series pretty much introduces us to some of the problems in trying to adapt to Fabletown. It’s obvious not every fairy tale character escaped to continue their happily ever after. Prince Charming is a renowned cheater, Snow White is divorced, Beauty and the Beast are suffering from their cursed romance–and doing so with meager income, and the reformed Big Bad Wolf (aka Bigby) has been charged to keep Fabletown safe. Hard to do when half the characters in the town are a danger to themselves.

The series is published by Vertigo, which is an imprint of DC Comics. Vertigo has also published The Sandman series, so, um, that’s already plus points in their favor. But I won’t digress (Neil Gaiman and his Sandman take are completely different squeeing fests altogether…).

I love Fables, though admittedly, I have not had the opportunity to read all of the spinoffs that emerged due to the popularity of characters and storylines (and I think I might have stopped reading after issue #82 because I was still depressed over one of the character deaths). I definitely have to pick up Fairest at some point, though, solely because I think the Fables women are fantastic in their own right.

So yes, kind of excited how Telltale Games will pay homage to this fantastic series. From what I saw on their Facebook page, it looks like Willingham is pleased with the direction that the writers are heading with the game. The fact that Bigby is the main character is even better, seeing as he’s one of my favorites in the series. And if it’s anything remotely close to The Walking Dead? Count me sold.

See the trailer here!