Lumberjanes: Volume One: Beware the Kitten Holy

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lumberjanes: Volume One: Beware the Kitten Holy
Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, 2015

Premise: Collects Lumberjanes #1-4. Alice, Molly, Jo, Mal and Ripley are spending their summer at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. They should be learning scouting skills, canoeing, hiking and learning about nature. Instead they’re trying to get to the bottom of some seriously mysterious goings-on.

I read the first issue of Lumberjanes a while back, and knew that all the hype is true: this is a really special book. I bought the collection of the first four issues a few months back, and just finally got time to read it. And good timing, too! Lumberjanes just won two Eisners, for Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17).

This book deserves its awards and its laurels. It’s loads of fun, funny and clever and sweet all at once. It stars great characters in an insane, cartoonish world, where exploring a cavern full of deadly booby traps is not the weirdest thing the girls do that day.

I ended up reading the book twice in quick succession. The pace of the story is extremely quick and light, and there isn’t a lot of dialogue on many pages. There is so much going on in the art, though the style is deceptively simple.

I love the way the characters are developed. There isn’t the smart one and the girly one and the tomboy, etc. They each have particular quirks, but they’re all scouts. They’re all at summer camp, and willing to fight magic foxes (see issue one) so they’re already on that level together. Alice, for example, is maybe the most feminine in look, but it’s more notable that she’s the most brash and outspoken. Each of the girls is a unique character, and it comes through not only in the dialogue but in the way they stand and move. I really want this series to run for a long time, because I can feel the edges of backstory for several girls that I am very intrigued by.

They are friends, and that’s the most important thing. The teamwork is great, the adventure satisfying. There’s a hint of something stronger possible between two of the girls by the end of issue two, and it’s adorable.

Occasionally the action gets a little more cartoony that I personally like, but it works with the style and tone as established.

I just love the whole premise here: five friends at camp, exploring a crazy mystery, because who else is going to do it… grownups?

5 Stars - An Awesome Book (to the max!)

PS: It risks being cutesy, but the habit of the girls substituting names of female icons into oaths is pretty great. (i.e. on page two: “What in the Joan Jett are you doing?!”)

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin: Book Two)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin: Book Two)
Robin LaFevers, 2013

Premise: Sybella blessed the day she was told she was a Daughter of Death and taken into Mortain’s convent to be taught to kill. Because her human father, the nobleman d’Albret, was the stuff that nightmares are made of. But now she is back in his household, spying for the young Duchess of Brittany, and trying to keep both her life and her sanity intact long enough to kill d’Albret.

If you liked Grave Mercy, don’t be foolish like me and allow a few years to go by before you read this sequel. I was intrigued but terribly confused for several chapters before I remembered barely enough of the political plotline to pick up on how this story fits into that story.

I remember being very interested in Sybella before, as she was a mysterious side character in book one, and at least the first half of her story lived up to those hints. She was subject to an incredibly dark childhood, but now must face those demons, external and internal, while she works secretly on behalf of the convent.

She constantly wonders whether the darkness that she sees in d’Albret is in her as well. She is good at the skills taught at Mortain’s convent. She enjoys killing those who deserve to die. Adding that to her background, it’s only natural that she worry about the darkness within her. Balancing what she wants with what the convent wants, her past with her potential futures, and her instincts with her fears, are her core conflicts, and they are well handled, for the most part.

And she’s really interesting, and her story is complex and haunting….for the first half of the book.

And then there’s a romance.

And really, really I’m fine that there’s a romance. It’s done well, and the characters fit together in a satisfying way. Even if there is some painfully maudlin stalling in the form of some predictable I’m-sure-he-hates-me-so-I’ll-hate-myself-no-of-course-he-doesn’t-really shenanigans.

And then she gets a big piece of plot/character/world knowledge dropped in her lap by the protagonist of the first book. Maybe this wouldn’t have bugged me if I’d remembered the first book, but I found it awkward. It could have been more effective if she’d discovered more of it on her own.

And THEN late in the book she gets a big dollop of (spoiler) mental and spiritual healing from the visit of a divine character who only appears the once. Which, for me, rather makes the whole story that came before seem unimportant. It’s all a bit deus ex machina, and between this, the romance, and the way the final fight shakes out, for a badass assassin maiden, she sure depends on validation from a lot of dudes.


All that said, I did still enjoy the experience of reading the book, and the parts that were good were very good. I’m intrigued by the third book as well. Maybe I won’t let years go by again? Or maybe not.

3 Stars - A Good Book