Weekend Shorts: Wicked, Divine, and Unwritten

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: “The Faust Act”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 1I had heard vague good things about this book around the internets, but not enough to really get me interested. But then I was at the comic shop getting other things and I asked the guy at the counter what he thought about it and he was like, “It’s fantastic, you should buy it immediately.” He was not wrong.

The conceit of this story is that various gods incarnate themselves into the bodies of more or less ordinary twenty-somethings for two years every 90 years, because sure, why not? In their 2014 bodies, the gods are literal rock stars, performing and giving interviews and being totally open and honest about their godly status, but of course no one really believes them. Except maybe for Laura, a groupie who ends up in the right place at the right time to see Luci (slash Lucifer) snap her fingers and explode a couple of dudes’ heads. When Luci is arrested and the other gods more or less abandon her, Laura does everything she can to help out.

This is a fantastic book, starting with the super pretty artwork that I just need to have all over my walls, like, immediately. Look at these covers, people! So gorgeous. And then also it’s neat to see gods from all the different religions (some of whom could be from several religions all by themselves) hanging out doing their god thing, and then even better there’s an intrepid girl reporter on the case who is probably going to be majorly pissed when she finds out these gods are for reals. I’m super in love.

The Unwritten, Issues 45 and 46: “The Corpse Harvest Reiteration”
The Unwritten #45It has been an absurdly long time since I delved into the world of The Unwritten, and I was more than a little worried that I might have forgotten everything. Luckily I found myself at the start of a little two-issue run wherein 1) the action focused mostly not on the overarching plot and 2) our favorite vampire spent a page explaining the important stuff. Thanks, Richie!

The Unwritten #46So in this set of issues, Richie is feeling bad for himself and Didge is doing her police thing, and then the two of them join forces when a little kid loses first his babysitters and then his dad in freak deaths that have brain damage as the common link between them. Turns out the kid is writing stories that come true, and although he’s not explicitly writing anyone into these stories the people he’s basing them on end up in big trouble. It seems that the story world, once thought a bit dead, may be only mostly dead.

I am super excited to get back into this series, which is good because I have a pile of issues and trades lying around for it!

What fantastic short stuff are you reading this weekend?

Stardust Read-along, Part the Second

StardustReadAlongI totally forgot that I was supposed to come here and talk about the rest of this story today, and when I picked up the book last night to start finishing it, I figured I’d be posting this a day late. But then I couldn’t put the dang book down, even well past my bedtime, and so here I am, prepared to have thoughts!

Spoiler: My thoughts are that this is a pretty cool book.

If you missed last week’s discussion, check it out here, unless you haven’t actually read this book yet, in which case go do that and then come back!

1. In the first part we saw a naive, wool-headed and self-involved Tristran. What are your thoughts about Tristran and his personal journey now that the book has ended? I still think he’s a dolt, but of course now he realizes that he’s a dolt so that’s okay, I guess. I found it interesting that he stayed pretty focused on getting this star back to Victoria basically right up until he saw Victoria again. Then he was like, wait, brain wave, I was doing perfectly fine without this particular beautiful woman. It was a little sudden, but then so was his return to Wall, so I’m fine with this. I also appreciated how he took on his new mantle by lending it to someone who actually wanted it for a while and going off and doing probably awesome things instead. He’s a good kid.

2. The star, who we now know as Yvaine, also experienced a transformation of her own. So I ask the same question, what are your thoughts about Yvaine and the journey she took? I didn’t get a lot out of Yvaine’s story, unfortunately. I suppose her ability to overcome Tristran’s doltishness was useful, but I feel like most of her life really took place off the page when she was being a star at the very beginning or being a queen at the very end. I wish she had had a little more to do than be a vessel for a heart and a topaz stone the rest of the time!

3. The villains of the story came to interesting ends, but not necessarily expected ones. How do you feel about Neil Gaiman’s handling of the Stormhold brothers (who had remained at the end of Part 1) and the two witches, the one Lilim and Ditchwater Sal? I thought the Stormhold brothers came to appropriate ends, especially that awful Septimus. It was certainly interesting to see the power of Stormhold up in the air for a little bit, and to see how this fairy tale was going to come together in the end. As to the witches, I was highly amused that the Lilim was foiled by her own spell, and that Sal also deserved her loss in the end, however anticlimactic it was.

4. Were there any descriptions, characters, settings, plot threads that stood out to you personally during this second half of the book? I was hoping for a bit more out of the flying boat and the whole Fellowship of the Castle that kept coming up, and I was quite disappointed that so many awesome things kept happening to Tristran and Yvaine off the page. I would have preferred maybe a little more swashbuckling in this book, but I suppose that’s what the movie is for!

5. At the very end of the book we see that Tristran and Yvaine’s relationship and fate echoes that of Aragorn and Arwen from The Lord of the Rings. If this question makes any sense to you (lol), what comparisons and/or contrasts do you see, especially in the fates of Yvaine and Arwen? I am gonna go ahead and skip this question, because I do not have the knowledge to answer it. If you want to drop me some knowledge in the comments, I’m totally up for it.

6. What are your overall impressions of the story now that it is done? I feel happier about it than I did last time I read it, when I was not expecting this slow fairy tale story. I really love the way Gaiman plays with fairy conceits and even how he doesn’t always give me what I’m expecting, no matter how frustrating that is. I just wish we could have spent maybe twice as many pages with these characters!

7. If Gaiman were to return to Wall/Faerie, would you take another journey there? If so, are there any adventures hinted at in Stardust that you would like to see Neil expand on? Um, yes! I would love to learn more about the Fellowship of the Castle and whatever Tristran might or might not have done with them, and definitely more about his adventures on the ship.

Have you read Stardust? What do you think about these questions? Let me know in the comments!

Stardust Read-along, Part the First

StardustReadAlongMy husband, to me, last night: “What are you reading?” Me: “Stardust.” Him: “Didn’t you already read that? Why are you reading it again?” Me: “Because it’s good?”

And, I mean, yes, that, but also I am reading it again because I am talking about it with people on the internet! And I can’t keep the internet waiting, so here’s the first batch of questions for approximately the first half of this adorable little novel. There may be spoilers ahead, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum!

1. We have spent a little time with Tristran and even less time with the star. What are your initial thoughts/impressions of our two protagonists?
Oh, Tristran. First of all, what’s with that extra R, and second of all, you are an idiot. Chasing after a fallen star? Continuing to kidnap a fallen star after it turns out to be a person-shaped star? Love is weird, but you, sir, are weirder. At this point in the story the star has just run off, and I do not blame her, and also I don’t remember what happens to her next so I am quite worried. It doesn’t seem fair, getting thwacked and then broken and then kidnapped.

2. There are some very interesting potential villains introduced in this first half of the book. Do any of them particularly stand out to you? If so why or why not?
I adore the brothers, and especially the ghost brothers as portrayed in the movie, but we’re talking about the book right now. I love their ruthlessness and I was greatly impressed by Primus’s fancy plan to send his brother on a wild goose chase. The witches… they haven’t really done anything yet, but not-Morwanneg is pretty much terrifying.

3. In Chapter Three, just after the section with the brothers in Stormhold, Neil Gaiman gives us a description of Faerie that includes “each land that has been forced off the map by explorers and the brave going out and proving it wasn’t there…”. What imaginary lands do you then hope are a part of Faerie?
Um, all of them? Especially the ones labelled “Here there be dragons”? I guess I don’t really see Faerie as, like, the land of actual fairy tales and Snow White and all, but as a place of general magic and wonderment and the “what could have been” that our quest for absolute truth has worn away.

4. We do not get to spend a great deal of time in the market but while there we are given a number of interesting descriptions of the wares being bartered or sold. Which if any of them caught your eye, either as items you would like to possess or ones you would most certainly hope to avoid.
I do very much like the glass flowers of which one is given to Dunstan, because pretty! They can keep the miniature cats (I have enough full-sized ones, thanks) and the eyeballs, but all the shiny things are coming home with me!

5. If you have read much of Gaiman’s work, particularly his short fiction, then you have come across some rather graphic and disturbing portrayals of sex. Gaiman offers up something very different in the way of a sex scene early on in Stardust. What are your feelings of the scene either in general or as a contrast to other Gaiman-penned scenes involving sex?
Ugh, thanks for reminding me of those awkward stories, Carl. Ugh. This one was much much better than those, although differently awkward on account of the servitude and the chain holding that poor girl. There’s a real sense of melancholy and of a need for escape that’s quite depressing, which is oddly an improvement over the seeming gratuity of those aforementioned awkward stories.

6. I suspect Neil Gaiman is influenced by a number of fairy and folk tales in Stardust. Are there any elements of the story that made a particular impression and/or reminded you of other fairy stories you have read or are familiar with?
Not… particularly? Gaiman tosses the reader a couple of poems that I don’t personally recognize and so therefore I assume are British things that I didn’t grow up with. But even though I can’t pinpoint any one thing and say, hey, that’s from that one story I’ve heard, the sense of fairy tales and fantasy is definitely strong. If there are specific stories that Gaiman is referencing, I’d love to know so that I can track them down!

7. And finally, which of the many side characters introduce have caught your eye and why? Or what else about the story thus far is of interest to you?
Currently I am rooting for our friend the bird slash Tristran’s mother. I’m pretty sure she comes back later in the story, but I think even reading this for the first time I wanted her to break free and take back her life. And, of course, I’m cheering on Primus in defeating his younger brother, if not in actually capturing the star because that’s just mean.

Are you reading along? Have you read this delightful tale before? Tell me what you think of this first half!

Once Upon a Time VII

Once Upon a Time logo

I think we all know my love of Carl and his RIP No-Longer-A-Challenge, which I have participated in and enjoyed five entire times! Good lord, I’m getting old. Anyway, Carl also does other no-longer-challenges throughout the year, including the one I mention here, Once Upon a Time. I’ve never done this one before, even though it’s been going on as long as RIP, because of… reasons, I don’t really know. But this year Carl is including a read-along of Stardust, which is something I wanted to read again anyway, so I’m basically already participating in OUaT, so… here it goes!

Like RIP, OUaT has different levels of participation, and since I’ve never done this one before and also I have become a person who is busy, I’m sticking with the basic level, The Journey. This involves reading one entire book, for which I pick, um, Stardust, but since the event lasts from today until June 21 I have a feeling I’ll end up reading more.

The genres for this event are “Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.” Please leave me some suggestions for things I should make the time to read!