Thursday, May 28, 2015

Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, by Phil and Kaja Foglio

This week I'm completing my steampunk...month...ish, with reviewing Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle, the latest in an ongoing novelization by the Foglios of their graphic novel series. This particular volume picks up where the previous novel, Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, left off, starting with volume seven of the comic series, Agatha Heterodyne and the Voice of the Castle, and going up to about halfway through volume ten of the comic series, Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse. Based on how the comic series has continued, I firmly suspect that the next novel version will go from volume ten up to volume thirteen, Agatha Heterodyne and the Sleeping City, but that's just between you and me and the rest of the internet.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't heard this particular rant before, Girl Genius is by far and away probably one of my most favorite series just because of the sheer amount of awesome packed into it. This is a series that's been going on for fifteen years now and there's still a ton of material we have only the merest inklings about. The thing I really like the most about this series is the fact that the Foglios sat down before they even began this series and planned out their plot and all the different details ahead of time so they have an actual roadmap of where they're planning on taking the series and what's going to happen later on. (Although they've been frustratingly tight-lipped about certain details, much to the irritation of us fans desperate for hints.) This actually makes Girl Genius a pleasure to reread as well because then you start to pick up all the little details and hints that the Foglios scattered through the story that you might not have noticed before. It's really a well-crafted body of literature and it has earned three, consecutive, very well-deserved Hugo Awards in the past. (To the point that the Foglios had to remove themselves from the running because no one else was winning the graphic story category.)

Now I'm sure your question, which was certainly my first question, if the story already exists in a graphic novel form, why do we need a novel form as well. According to the Foglios, the purpose of the novels is to provide more background details and lore that, while not necessarily connected to the main plot, are certainly at least entertaining to fans of the series. Although I can definitely see where the Foglios have also expanded the story a little beyond the original graphic novel, which I'm also in favor of. Aside from the extra world lore, I also really like these novels because it provides an easy way for me to refresh on details. I've been following Girl Genius as a webcomic for something like eight years or so now, at the rate of about three comics a week. Although I've occasionally archive-binged since there's now fifteen years of comics it becomes more and more difficult to go on said binges. Of course, I could buy the graphic novels in print form, and I'm slowly working on doing that, but that's still a long-term work in progress. So the novels, which cover more story material for less initial cost for me are a great way to go through the archives and refresh myself on details which I may have forgotten. (And believe me, there are a ton of details.)

I will admit I haven't gone into any of the plot of this particular book and the reason simply is because of the spoilers. There are just so many spoilers. And I don't want to go into them because this series is so good! And you can go read it! For free if you want! On the internet! And aside from being well-planned out and crafted, this series has a lot of appeal. You like romance? There's romance! I mean, I personally could take it or leave it, but romance! There's mad science! People like mad science, right? Well I certainly do. You like adventure? There's plenty of that and some ridiculous pulp action involved. And boy do I like my pulp. You like strong, well-developed female characters? There's a ton of them in this series! Well, at least more than one. Several, as a matter of fact! It's great! You like fantastic hats? ...oh. No. Just me then? Well there are hats. Hats are important! non-hatted people. If my obsessive fanboy gushing has not convinced you at this point I don't know what short of me poking you with a pointy stick will convince you to go read this series. Whether it be the graphic novels or the print novels or audiobooks. Seriously, it's a great series.

- Kalpar

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