Lady of the Shard by Gigi D.G. [webcomic review]

Lady of the Shard by Gigi D. G.

Lady of the Shard
by Gigi D. G.
Published: May 14 2016
Genre: fantasy, romance
Pages: n/a
Source: webcomic’s website

Lady of the Shard is a comic about an acolyte in love with the goddess she serves.

read this comic online

Lady of the Shard is an LGBTQIA+ fantasy webcomic told with pixel art and a limited palette of colors that is striking, to say the least. Its ‘pages’ are long and require vertical scrolling to read instead of being displayed as blocky, book-sized ‘pages’ that fit on a single screen without scrolling, as many webcomics do to be formatted like traditional comics. I found it formatted more closely to webtoons than most webcomics. Due to its long, vertical nature, my best reading experience was on a tablet with a large(r) screen, so I could read the text easily and use a more natural-feeling swipe to read the long ‘pages’ instead of scrolling with a mouse.

This comic is what finally pulled me out of my months-long reading slump (and subsequent lack of blog posts) that I experienced earlier this year. I read this back in early July and I still think about it often. The romance is very well done (albeit a bit silly at times, due to the nature of the characters) and as someone who generally shies from romance in fiction, that takes a lot for me to say. The artwork flows in a natural way, with the palette shifting to evoke certain emotions and it does it so well.

It’s cute and beautiful and has ladies who love ladies and I’m just so happy it exists. Even with the simple pixel art that is often only outlines and the limited palette Lady of the Shard has a world and characters that feel real and whole. They breathe on the screen.

My recommendation is to read this now. Lady of the Shard is a heartwarming, spectacular work of art. It’s free to read online (gigidigi.itch.io/lady), with the option to donate to the person who created it (which I encourage). Just take note of the content warning on the first page.

Rating: ★★★★★

What is your favorite webcomic? Please do share in the comments, I’m always interested in finding more gems like this!

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River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

 River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1) by Sarah Gailey

River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)
by Sarah Gailey
Published: May 23rd 2017 by Tor.com
Genre: western, historical fiction, alternate history, fantasy
Pages: 152p
Source: purchased (ebook)

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

 

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River of Teeth is so far beyond what I expected that I’m not sure if I will ever be able to describe how tickled I was by this novella. There are hippos (which are terrifying, if you don’t know anything about them), their hippo-riding cowboys, a pregnant hippo-riding cowgirl, romance, murder, queer characters, people of color, knives, a gangster creep, and so much more. It’s a tense heisty crew western slice of wonderful with a side of romance.

I will admit, I judged a book by its cover. Well, its genre, because that cover is cool as hell. (Hippos!) Westerns and I… have not ever really gotten along. Had this not featured hippos nor sent me down a four-hour-long Wikipedia rabbit hole looking up “Did the federal government actually want to farm hippos? HIPPOS? Murdery water-cows?” I probably would’ve given this a hard pass. Mistake!

Due to my preemptive judgement, when I opened this ebook I was not expecting LGBTQIA+ rep because, well, unless I’ve actively sought out something that I know has queer characters, I am just prepared to be disappointed. I was not anticipating the main cast to include a nonbinary POC who is the love interest of the queer main character. (I read Houndstooth as bisexual but, as no labels are explicitly used in the text and my Googling hasn’t brought anything up, it is entirely possible that he is pansexual or another flavor of queer entirely.) It is always a delight to see marginalized characters existing and being happy. No racism, no sexism, no anti-queerness on these pages. It feeds my soul to have stories where we simply exist, where we are of no special note at all. Just a diverse group of morally questionable hippo cowboys having a caper in the bayou.

And what a caper it is.

The premise is fascinating, the plot is solid – well, there were a couple wobbles but I was too in love with this to care – and the romance is good. It has dark moments, some gory scenes, but it’s a western and one does expect some murder. Though this is a slim read at only 152 pages, it doesn’t feel rushed. It’s very satisfying to pick up and finish in just a couple of hours, to be fully enveloped in the world Gailey has crafted with such care. Its size is its strength, in my opinion. There are some dark and troubling moments*, and a scene in which I almost threw my Kindle against a wall, but if you ride it out until the end the depressing stuff resolves and doesn’t have time to grab hold that it would were this a 600 page monstrosity that takes half a day of doing nothing else to read. In such stressful times, it’s nice to ingest a story whole without worrying about the characters I love while life does its best at getting in the way.

I love this book to pieces, and I cannot wait to see where Houndstooth and the gang wind up in the second half of this duology next month.

* A spoiler for those who may be sensitive to possible death of queer characters: No Heros were mortally harmed in the making of this book. Don’t worry!

Rating: ★★★★★

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The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill

The Tea Dragon Society
by Katie O’Neill
Published: October 31 2017 by Oni Press
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 72p
Source: review copy provided via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★★

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

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Truly gorgeous, both in illustration and in text, which comes as no surprise if you have read any of the author’s other works (Princess Princess is wonderful!). For as short as this graphic novel is, the story is deep and full. Definitely deserving of a sequel or two… or three. This is a beautiful book I would love to have on my shelves, and certainly one that can stand up to rereading. My only wish is that it were just a few pages longer – the illustrations are just so captivating!

The addition of Extracts from the Tea Dragon Handbook is an excellent touch. Learning the quirks of different breeds of tea dragon as well as tips for their care made me nostalgic for the Dragonology Handbook and similar fiction books written as nonfiction guides that I adored when I was a kid. Coupled with clear rep for characters with different skin tones, disabilities, and sexualities, this just knocked it straight out of the park for me.

Soft, exquisite fantasy at its finest.

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The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Enemies of Versailles
by Sally Christie
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy (#3)
Published
: March 21st 2017 by Atria Books
Genre: historical fiction > France
Pages: 416p
Source: eARC provided via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches inevitable revolution.

Goodreads

I’ve been ill (thanks, brain) and this is much, much later than this review should’ve been posted. Forgive me!

The Enemies of Versailles is masterfully crafted, there is no doubt about that. It’s told in first person by Jeanne Becu (Comtesse du Barry) and Madame Adélaïde (daughter of King Louis XV) in turn. Both of their voices are strong and ring through every word of their narratives. I was enraptured with them both from the beginning – even Adélaïde, which surprised me, since I almost always root for the mistress(es) exclusively in these novels. Adélaïde is a direct antagonist to Jeanne, vying in subtle and later overt ways to oust her from Versailles and keep Jeanne from the king. Madame du Pompadour dies offscreen near the beginning of the novel and this sparks Adélaïde’s crusade against mistresses that carries the plot along.

The beginning was so strong that I lost a few hours and found myself more than a little late to an appointment. The introductions of new characters didn’t always leave it clear who may be important later on. This is less of an issue for a reader who may be coming fresh off of Rivals.

Around halfway, however, I lost the spark. There was a lull in the drama. This, unfortunately for me, coincided with a personal reading slump I was having and suddenly I was reading this book for weeks before I finished it. It wasn’t long after the lull that the story really kicks off again (and I do mean really), and I finished it in a very long night.

When viewing the series as a whole, one gets a scope of just how selfish Louis really is. I don’t think I have ever gone into or come out of a mistress novel thinking that the king was a real stand-up guy. One of my favorite things about this series is that it’s completely unnecessary to read them in order. Each one works as a standalone, which is a marvelous thing. You lose only the king’s overarching plotline this way. Characters overlap in minor ways, if at all, save perhaps Choiseul and Louis himself.

Adélaïde and Jeanne are perhaps the strongest characters of the whole series. They are the voiciest, the most unabashed in their desires, and both of them are pretty witty. I adore this trilogy and the women who have told it. If you’re in the market for a historical fiction series with unique female voices, The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will not steer you wrong.

Disclaimer: A free eARC was provided for review via NetGalley.

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The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 2: Fandemonium
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles
Series: The Wicked + The Divine (Vol. 2)
Published
: July 1st 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, fantasy
Pages: 168p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★.5☆
The second volume of the award-winning urban fantasy series where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. Following the tragic and unjust death of Lucifer, it takes a revelation from Inanna to draw Laura back into the worlds of Gods and Superstardom to try and discover the truth behind a conspiracy to subvert divinity. Includes issues 6-11 of the series, plus supplementary material.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

For those unfamiliar with The Wicked + The Divine series, the basic plotline is this: Every 90 years, a pantheon of gods are reborn into the human world. In the modern day, they are treated as modern pop star celebrities. It features a diverse cast of characters, and follows the human Laura, a fan of the gods who encounters this century’s Lucifer early on.

I started The Wicked + The Divine series in late 2015. I never reviewed it, either here or on my original blog, and my Goodreads review of Volume 1 is simply this:

I do love me some deicide. And hot damn it was beautiful!

Volume Two is no exception to this at all. The Wicked + The Divine is beautifully crafted, with exquisite art and interesting character designs. This series has haunted me ever since I picked up page one. Too often do I read a book, rate it highly, and then forget about it entirely until it’s time to go through what I’ve read for the year for a Top 10 list and go “oh yeah, this book exists.” Not so with TW+TD. I have meant to grab Vol. 2 ever since I flipped the last page of Volume 1 – for whatever reason, I just kept missing it.

If second-volume-sag is a thing, I felt that Vol. 2 definitely was a victim. Maybe I just loved Luci a little too much. Volume 2 focuses on Laura’s desire to find out who framed Luci, and find out she definitely does. The plot was there, it was solid, I just found myself drifting off while reading and going ‘Is this it?’. I was invested in the plot but detached in a bizarre way. Perhaps my memory of Volume 1 and my self-hype meant that Volume 2 couldn’t live up to my expectations –

Until the ending. Holy shit, was that an ending. The writer certainly knows how to keep someone invested in the storyline. Regardless, my apathy toward much (if not all) of the volume leads me to a sad 3.5 star rating for the collection as a whole.

La’Ron Readus did an excellent review of Volume 2 not long before I got my hands on my copy. He enjoyed it far more than I did, and I wonder if that’s to the massive span of time between readings for me. His review goes a bit more into depth on the connections between the volumes, something I can’t do quite as well since it’s been so long since I began the series.

Right now I’m off to pick up Volumes 3 and 4.

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Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine – review

Bitch Planet Volume 1

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Writer), Valentine De Landro (Artist), Robert Wilson IV (Artist)
Series: Bitch Planet (Vol. 1)
Published
: October 7th 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: graphic novel, science fiction
Pages: 156p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) team up to bring you the premiere volume of Bitch Planet, a deliciously vicious riff on women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Volume One of BITCH PLANET collects the first five issues and it was a treat! This was such an interesting read. Some points made definitely pour salt in fresh wounds. I had to finish this in a series of sitting because, especially in the climate we’re living in today, the tyrannical patriarchy aspect really chapped my ass.

BITCH PLANET features a cast in skin tone, body type, and sexuality (this hasn’t really been touched on much yet but there do appear to be some queer characters). Every main character is a woman. Even better, it’s written by a woman, so this doesn’t have that uncomfortable aftertaste of “I can tell a man wrote this female character because her breasts are mentioned on nearly every page.”

The nudity is not gratuitous, it is secondary to what’s happening even though it’s necessary given their circumstances. Women shower naked. What they’re talking about in the shower, and what it leads to, are far more important that the outlines of average breasts. (This was another favorite part of mine – they look like normal women of all shapes and sizes, including their breasts that don’t sit just beneath their collarbones like skin-colored grapefruits.)

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I could name more than a couple of characters though I do recognize them when they show up. The same thing happens to me with TV shows, and I wind up referring to Eleanor Guthrie as “the blonde lady” for the whole first season of Black Sails before her name sticks in my head. When it sticks though, it does stick. BITCH PLANET has a large cast of characters and I am just used to fiction that reminds you of someone’s name every other paragraph. The characters are definitely intriguing, especially when it’s mentioned what they’re ‘in for’ before they’re really introduced. Sci-fi is normally hard for me to connect with (probably because it’s often weighed down beneath the male gaze) but I had no such issues with BITCH PLANET.

The art has a very typically comic book style. It’s not the most polished thing, but it definitely suits the aesthetic of the story. Let me tell you, this is one of the more aesthetically pleasing, humorous graphic novels I’ve yet put my eyeballs on. The story is hard to follow in some places, especially if you only read the first issue or two. Definitely pick up the volume for a more full story arc if you’re interested.

One of the final pages (possibly an endpaper? my copy is digital so I don’t know) reads:

ARE YOU NON-COMPLIANT?

DO YOU FIT IN YOUR BOX?

ARE YOU TOO FAT, TOO THIN, TOO LOUD, TOO SHY, TOO RELIGIOUS, TOO SECULAR,

TOO PRUDISH, TOO SEXUAL, TOO QUEER, TOO BLACK, TOO BROWN, TOO WHATEVER-THEY’LL-JUDGE-YOU-FOR-TODAY?

YOU JUST MAY BELONG ON

BITCH PLANET

What sci-fi trope are you least fond of?

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Plutona #1

Plutona #1

Plutona #1
by Jeff Lemire, Emi Lenox, Jordie Bellaire (Illustrator)
Series: Plutona (Issue #1)
Published
: September 2nd 2015 by Image Comics
Genre: comics, fantasy
Pages: 31p
Source: purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

A brand new heartfelt super-hero series by JEFF LEMIRE (DESCENDER, Hawkeye) and amazing newcomer EMI LENOX! PLUTONA follows the story of five suburban kids who make a shocking discovery while exploring the woods one day after school…the body of Plutona, the world’s greatest superhero. A dark and heartbreaking journey about friendship and coming of age all through the lens of the superhero genre.

Goodreads | Amazon

I’m not normally a fan of superhero… anything. Sorry, Marvel fans (or DC). I like a good Batman or Spider-man film on occasion, but more often than not I am not interested in the typical superhero thing. I like my characters to be way more imperfect than the stereotypical super allows.

While I do like the idea of a glimpse into the world of an average person in a world where there are superheros (I was a massive fan of The Rest of Us Just Live Here, after all), this just didn’t really speak to me. I would’ve rather seen more of how Plutona came to be in the woods instead of 95% of the first issue being about the kids, especially since them finding Plutona in the first place is spoiled by the blurb. If I already know the major thing that happens, what’s the point?

Also, I don’t think the r-slur was necessary. At all. Characters don’t need to fling slurs around to show that they’re grimy people.

The art style is very cute. It reminds me of a webcomic or a 90s Nickelodeon cartoon.

I don’t know. I just really don’t vibe well with single-issue comics because I want much more than they’re willing to tell. I feel like if you’re trying to draw me in with just 31 pages, it better be a damn good 31 pages.

What superhero do you like the most?

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