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 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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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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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco – review

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

THE BONE WITCH
by RIN CHUPECO
Series: The Bone Witch (#1)
Published
: March 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 400p
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

The Bone Witch is a bit of a slow burn, and it’s very good at teasing a future that I am 100% invested in. Seventeen year old girl on a beach of corpses? Heck yes I want to know how she got there! It’s a cliffhanger in that this does not come full circle – the final chapter of Tea’s retrospective storytelling does not match up to her meeting the bard at the very beginning. (I am also a big sucker for rune-based magic systems, especially those with a visible cost. Hooray!)

This is very much an apprentice tale, where badass necromancer Tea tells the story of how she came to be a Dark asha – or Bone Witch. As someone who’s read a lot of geisha autobiographies lately, I really enjoyed even the smallest of parallels between geisha and asha. Tea really comes into her own in the second half of the novel, which is when I first started to truly see present-day Tea reflected in her past self. For much of the first half I found myself worried that past-Tea was a little too passive, but I think that was just a product of her circumstances.

After watching Tea grow into her own throughout the story, as well as seeing what she will ultimately become, it was disheartening to have it all hang on some boy at the very end while having near-zero mention of romance in The Bone Witch at all. I expected it, since it’s YA and it comes with the territory, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I just really hope the story isn’t overwhelmed in book two by the apparent necessity of a romance that overwhelms the (in my opinion, far more interesting) plot. While it’s certainly open to a future love triangle (my god, I hope not), I am definitely in for book two at the very least. Tea and her world are far too interesting for me to let go of. For me, this is four stars only because the implication of a future love triangle.

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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – review

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen
by Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen (#1)
Published
: April 26th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: young adult, romance, fantasy
Pages: 352p
Source: library borrow
Rating: ★★★★★

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

The Star-Touched Queen is the most poetic, beautifully crafted tapestry of YA I think I’ve ever read. It’s just really lovely. 10/10 wordsmithing. Roshani’s writing has this quality that just drew me along on a current. This took eleven days to finish because I was intentionally dragging my heels and didn’t want it to end.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, given how steeped it is in romance and I tend to not be a fan of kissing. I suspect the reason I was rooting for the romance is because it wasn’t shoehorned in – it was part of the plot, and entirely necessary. (And sweet, even if it was extra at points.) It’s also certified love triangle free, hooray! The romance is a little insta-lovey, but it’s for a reason I could easily excuse. To be perfectly honest, I had already bought this hook, line, and sinker by that point so even if it didn’t have a reason I would’ve probably swallowed it with minimal resistance anyway.

Maya was properly flawed, which I found refreshing. Toward the end (mostly after the start of part two) I found her a little weirdly detached from the story but I think that might suit the circumstances even if I found it a bit jarring. I won’t say more than that – I wouldn’t want to spoil anything.

More than I was surprised by the kissing, I was surprised by how often I was surprised by the plot twists. I’m definitely not used to such lyrical prose in YA – I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve read a novel as airy and delicious as this. It’s something I wouldn’t mind getting used to! *cough cough*

If there’s anything I would critique, it’s the lack of queer rep. I am starved of queer characters in genre fiction – YA in particular. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll devour A Crown of Wishes in a heartbeat. Gauri’s tale definitely needed telling.

Have you read The Star-Touched Queen?

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