Trillium, by Jeff Lemire

TrilliumI can’t remember where I first read about this comic mini-series, but whatever I read made me think it would be a perfect buy for my library. Now that I’ve read it, well, there are definitely a couple of people I can recommend it to, but not as many as I might have hoped. My library people are not quite as into the super weird as I am, and this is super duper weird.

So there’s a woman, Nika, who is a scientist of some sort on a space base of some sort whose job is to make headway in speaking to the planet’s native inhabitants because they have a bunch of pretty flowers that are the only cure to a terrible terrible plague. Unfortunately, her diplomatic mission is cut short when the plague arrives even closer to her base, so she goes in for a last-ditch effort. To her surprise, she is greeted by hundreds of the formerly well hidden natives, who invite her to eat one of those precious precious flowers, called trillium, and suddenly things get a heck of a lot weirder.

Nika ends up finding a portal of sorts that leads from her base in 3797 to the Amazon jungle in 1921, where she meets a soldier named William, who has been seeking a lost temple, the same one that Nika comes out of. But just as Nika’s colleagues have designs on the trillium flowers, William’s compatriots have plans for the temple that do not involve keeping it sacred. The two of them soon get separated, and as they try to protect themselves and their homes and find each other again, they are beseiged on all sides by people trying to stop them, going so far as to rewrite their histories and swap their lives.

It’s… very confusing. But also pretty cool. The artwork is striking in its sketchy, blocky-ness, with subtly distinct color palettes for each world that become more obvious in some of the crazier panel layouts, including one issue that is read across the top, flipped, and then read across the bottom. I also like that the writer gave the flower-bearing natives an incomprehensible language that is actually just a cryptogram, so that if I were a less lazy person I could indeed figure out what’s up with them. I bet the internet could tell me, though, so problem solved! I also like the way the author subtly plays with gender roles, giving each of the characters equal agency and helplessness, even when their lives are eventually swapped. And the worldbuilding! The space base is okay, but I love what Lemire does with Earth 1921, slowly building it up so that we can see that William is from a completely different Earth than the one we live on. So cool.

I think the best part of this book is that it is a limited eight-issue run, so it has a nice beginning, middle, and end to it when collected. I love my ongoing series, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you just need a neatly packed story, and this is a good one. I will definitely be checking out more from this writer in the future.

Recommendation: For fans of weirdness and spaaaaace.

Rating: 8/10

Weekend Shorts: The Life of the Mind and Bitch Planet

Two slightly different offerings this week: the start of the latest adventure in the awesome Old Man’s War universe, which is aliens and military and explosions and stuff, and also the start of a comic universe called Bitch Planet, which is humans and pseudo-military and fighting and stuff. What do I think? Read on!

The End of All Things, Part 1: “The Life of the Mind”
The Life of the MindScalzi. The Old Man’s War series. Two of my favorite things! I put the four… short stories? Novellas? I don’t know the cutoff here, but anyway I put the four stories that make up this book on immediate Amazon preorder when I heard they existed so that I could have them on my Kindle before I even knew they were out. And so it happened! I got this nice email last Tuesday telling me my book was here, and as soon as I finished China Rich Girlfriend (there is seriously no interrupting China Rich Girlfriend) I read the heck out of it.

It was a bit different than I thought it would be, but it was just as amazing as I wanted it to be, so that’s just fine by me. See, this first story is narrated by a dude who’s a brain in a box. Not the guy who was a brain in the box in whatever other story that was where they found a brain in a box, but a new brain in a box who was asked to tell the story of how he managed to become a brain in a box. Brain in a box, people.

So, because said brain is specifically the brain of a pilot and programmer, the story is written to be not terribly well written, so that was kind of weird. And of course it’s written entirely from this very very limited perspective, with some convenient information thrown the brain’s way so we’re not completely lost, but I’m still looking forward to getting more information from a different perspective in the next story. It had better be a different perspective.

But anyway, the story itself is great and full of all the action, intrigue, and subterfuge that you have come to expect from John Scalzi. The fate of the Colonial Union after the events of The Human Division is revealed, as well as a myriad of other crazy conspiracies that break my brain (haaa) more than a little. It will be very interesting to follow along with this story over the next couple weeks, or if you’re the instant-gratification type you can wait until it’s all published in August.

Bitch Planet, #1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro
Bitch Planet #1I picked this issue up the day it came out back in December, and I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. The art is amazing, with strong color palettes for each setting, tons of characters that manage to look different from each other, and, impressively, a bunch of naked women who look like actual naked women and not like porn naked women.

Why are there a bunch of naked women, you say? Well, that gets to the story part, which is pretty cool itself. It seems that there’s this planet, see, which is nicknamed “Bitch Planet” but is really the “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost”, which is really just jail for ladies who’ve done something wrong. The naked transportees are labelled “radicals” and “killers”, but we quickly learn that at least one of them is there because she made some threats after her husband cheated on her, so perhaps it’s a little easier than it should be to end up on this planet. There’s also a nice little twist at the end that makes me think that this series is not going to pull any punches. As it were.

I am super intrigued to see where this series goes, so it’s a good thing the first volume comes out next month!

Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie

Ancillary SwordI read Leckie’s Ancillary Justice last summer and loved the heck out of it even though I was absolutely baffled by almost all of it. Person who used to be a spaceship? Difficulties in using gendered language? Political machinations? Awesome and also mind-breaking.

I think Leckie and/or her publishers figured that out, because this novel is differently structured and much easier to read. Our main character, Breq, still used to be a spaceship, but we’re only focused on her present as an individual person so there’s not as much of the switching back and forth between points of view (although there is still some). She’s also primarily hanging out with the single-gender-pronoun people, so everyone’s a she and that’s just how it is, no explanations on every other page. And even the political machinations are simpler, with most of the subterfuge showing up early and the narrative having plenty of time to explain what’s going on. Huzzah!

In this installment, Breq is sent by the leader of the Radch (civilization, more or less) to check out a station for, um, reasons?, and when she gets there she finds herself embroiled in some weirdness from another ship stationed there, some class warfare on the station itself, and more class warfare on the planet below. Breq spends most of her time trying to make things better for all the inhabitants of the area by working to improve their living conditions, trying to talk sense into those who would discriminate for arbitrary reasons, and taking various stands against stupidity.

This book is not nearly as page-turning and exciting and crazypants as the first book, but it does have a nice slow-burning plotline in the weird spaceship at the beginning and there is constant tension between Breq and pretty much everyone else in the story that keeps things interesting. I really love the world that Leckie has created and it was great to spend time in it again.

Recommendation: For fans of the first book, which you probably should read before this one, but also fans of space machinations in general.

Rating: 8/10

Weekend Shorts: ODY-C and The Bunker

Before we dive in to this week’s comics, I want to remind everyone that tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day! I have like a million things I am doing this weekend but one of the most important to me (like, seriously, I took off work for this) is stopping into my local comic shop and grabbing my allotted free comics as well as whatever they have that I want to pay for. If you have a comic shop within driving distance of you (which you can check at that link above), you have no excuse not to stop in and grab 100 percent absolutely free comics!

Okay, back to the writeups!

ODY-C, #1, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
ODY-C #1I bought this issue the day it came out, knowing nothing about it other than that Matt Fraction wrote it and that Matt Fraction is awesome. I then read it shortly thereafter, and only realized that I hadn’t talked about it here as I was packing it up to donate to my library.

Why did I forget to talk about it for five months? Well, I had really bought it for my husband, and almost entirely because the first couple of “pages” are this huge, 8-page fold-out with a giant illustration on one side and a four-page timeline and four-page map on the other. Timelines? Maps? They are squarely in Scott’s wheelhouse. But still I wanted to read it first, to save Scott the trouble of reading it if it was bad and because MATT FRACTION come on.

So I did. And it was… weird. See, ODY-C is a complete rewrite of Greek mythology, specifically The Odyssey (see what they did there?), wherein all the characters are either ladies or an intersex… sex… created for the purposes of procreation. That timeline thing explains it all, I think, if it doesn’t break your brain, which it totally did mine.

As a person with limited knowledge of Greek mythology, I found myself knowing just enough to know that things were oddly different, not enough to know why, and too much to be able to just read the book as a new story and let it do its own thing. I also really couldn’t get past the voice of the story, in which people say things like, “There should come thunderous punishment from we Olympians for their insolence and hubris.” No. My brain is broken already, I cannot read formal language.

But it’s a super pretty book, with wild technicolor illustrations and amazing, intricate detail. If you’re the kind of person who wants to read space-based, gender-swapped version of The Odyssey, I can’t imagine you’ll do anything but love this.

The Bunker, Vol. 1, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari
The Bunker, Vol. 1This, on the other hand, this book was solidly in my wheelhouse. Five college kids go off into the woods to bury a time capsule, because nerds, but when they find the perfect spot it turns out it’s already taken, by a giant bunker. Even weirder, this bunker has their names on it. Even even weirder, this bunker contains letters to themselves, from their future selves. AWESOME.

It seems that most of the letter writers are doing this as a way to stop the terrible horrible things that are going to happen from happening, but the letter we read first wants none of that. This letter wants its reader to make sure everything happens just as it’s supposed to, which may be a little hard with all of his friends working against him.

As we go through the story we get bits and pieces of the letters, with flashes forward to the horrors of the future world and some flashes back that show how all these guys became friends in the first place and how that’s all about to fall apart. The bunker also has a surprise guest who is going to make things very intriguing in the future.

I love the art in this book as well, which is this interesting sketchy pencilly style that fits with the book’s themes of despair and also the malleability of this timeline. I am super excited to see where this comic goes!

Weekend Shorts: Saga and Hawkeye

Saga, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga, Vol. 4This comic, guys. It’s sooooo good. If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out. In this volume, it seems we’ve skipped a bit forward in time — Hazel is a toddler, ex-slave Sophie is a hipster tween, and Prince Robot’s baby is born in a graphic and very human way on the very first page. Good morning! We get to see our favorite fugitive family having a bit of downtime on a planet called Gardenia, where Marko plays stay-at-home dad while Alana plays a… um… I don’t even know. While Alana makes money acting on a very telenovela-ish broadcast thing while wearing awkwardly sexy outfits. As you do? Anyway, this leads to some marital tensions that almost turn really really terrible, but instead only turn pretty darn terrible at the end.

Meanwhile, there is a single commoner staging an uprising on the Robot Kingdom, stealing a royal baby and running off to Gardenia for broadcasting purposes; Prince Robot coming out of his stupor to hunt down his kidnapped baby; Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat on a heist; and a brief but delightful cameo from my favorite tabloid reporter couple. Such excitement!

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: “Little Hits”, by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Hawkeye, Vol. 2Hey, remember when I read the last volume and I was totally baffled the entire time? Yeah, that doesn’t change. I was prepared this time, but this is definitely still a thinky book (which is probably why they’re ending it soon) that requires a lot of concentration.

The first issue (#7) is pretty straightforward — Hawkeye (Clint) helps one of his tenants/neighbors take care of his dad out in Far Rockaway during the storm of the century while Hawkeye (Kate) goes to an expectedly disastrous engagement party in Atlantic City during same said storm. But then things go back to confusing normal in the second issue (#6, just for funsies), in which we see six days in the life of Hawkeye, shuffled up and requiring the use of clocks to help you figure out the timeline. Oh, good. The next issue (#8, and back to a normal order) details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being, from Clint’s point of view, and the one after that details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being from the points of view of the dangerous women in his life. Then there’s a Kate issue introducing a bad guy who is also apparently a clown, and then to cap it off there is the absolute best issue ever, starring Pizza Dog!

Like, no, seriously, this thing is amazing. Pizza Dog is the dog Hawkeye rescued from some bad guys, and this whole issue is from his point of view, so there’s not much dialogue except for what the dog presumably understands. Mostly it’s just page after page of Pizza Dog wandering around, recognizing people by how they smell and noting what things are related to them, and then also stumbling upon a murder scene, flirting with a neighbor dog, attacking bad guys, escaping bad guys, and leaving one Hawkeye to adventure with another. This is probably my second-favorite single issue after the choose-your-own adventure in The Unwritten. I am intrigued to see what Fraction and Aja can do to top this.

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?

The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsEverything I heard about this book in the last few months indicated that it was a sort of spiritual (haaa) successor to The Sparrow, which I think we’ve established is my favorite book and is super awesome and therefore I was like, well, gotta read The Book of Strange New Things, then.

But what’s really fascinating about this book is how completely unlike The Sparrow it is. It has the same basic premise — dude goes to space on a mission trip to hang out with aliens — but that’s basically the only thing it has in common. So come at this book without all those preconceived notions, or you’ll find yourself fighting the story the whole time.

So in this story, a fella called Peter is chosen after rigorous interviewing to become a Christian missionary to a place called Oasis. He doesn’t know much about the private company, USIC, sponsoring his trip; he doesn’t know much about the aliens he’s going to meet; all he really knows is that he’s leaving his wife behind on Earth for a few months in exchange for an amazing missionary opportunity and lots and lots of dollars.

On Oasis, Peter finds his job both easier and weirder than he expected. The aliens already know about Jesus and are in fact clamoring to hear more stories from what they call the Book of Strange New Things. But Peter can’t figure out why his new congregation is so super into Jesus or how to tell these fetus-faced (his words!) aliens apart or whether said aliens have any emotions that he can work with in his ministry. And when he goes back to the USIC base, things are strange there, too. The place has almost no locks on any door and the technology is primitive and the workers communicate solely face-to-face and the magazines have any useful information about Earth ripped out and it’s just weird.

Meanwhile, Peter is getting messages from his wife, Bea, that indicate that life on Earth is not going well at all, with natural disasters and supermarket shortages and public services becoming completely ignored. And speaking of ignored, Bea is getting more and more irritated that her long and descriptive messages about her life are being met with simple responses or, more often, no response at all. Peter knows that he should care more about Earth and Bea, but he is just so far removed from everything except his aliens that anything else seems unreal.

And that’s the whole story, really. With all the mysteries and oddness in the space part of the book, I kept waiting for the Big Reveal — that USIC was actually some nefarious corporation, that Oasis was something more akin to Area X, that Bea’s notes to Peter were totally faked, something. But this particular story is just about a guy who goes on a dangerous mission and finds out that not going might have been the more dangerous option. Which is pretty cool, actually.

Also cool is just the way that Faber writes. He gives his aliens an accent by replacing some English letters with unpronounceable symbols, his descriptions really make you feel the difference between the sweltering but open outdoor living of the Oasans and the climate- and everything-controlled living of the humans, he writes the letters between Bea and Peter in such a way that you know exactly what is going to be misconstrued and how, and it is all so lovely. I will definitely be checking out his other book, The Crimson Petal and the White, as soon as there’s an opening in my reading schedule (a totally not metaphorical thing that I have).

Recommendation: For people who want to think some thinky thoughts about life and love.

Rating: 9/10

Weekend Shorts: Rat Queens and The Woods

Comics comics comics. I have lots of comics. Let’s read some!

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: “Sass and Sorcery”, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Rat Queens, Vol. 1I had heard decent things about this comic from people I trust, but the concept — dwarves and elves and stuff going on quests — is one that I tend to like in theory more than in practice, so it wasn’t on the top of my reading list. Then I got stuck in a long line at my comic shop and this book was hanging out on the counter, and one flip through the artwork had me sold. It is super pretty, guys.

And then I read it, and the story is equally as awesome, as it is closer in tone to that Terry Pratchett style of fantasy that I find enjoyable despite myself. Rat Queens isn’t quite a parody, like Pratchett’s work, but it does play around with the source material in fun ways. To start with, our main heroes are all ladies with distinct personalities and looks (coughxmencough), and then also they’re all pretty aware of the fantasy tropes they are following, and then also they are violently and excitedly gouging out goblin eyeballs, which is super gross but fascinatingly realistic. Well, “realistic”.

In this volume our Rat Queens are one of several raiding parties who are sent out on generic goblin-killing, loot-gathering quests that quickly turn out to be ambushes. The Rat Queens survive their ambush (with goblin eyeballs to show for it!), but not everyone else can say the same, and so the Rat Queens set out to figure out who set them up and why. There’s intrigue and subterfuge (my favorite things!) and also shapeshifting and sibling rivalry and an adorably tiny kick-ass Sherlock Holmes and love and sex and mystical religions and um, when does the next volume come out?

The Woods, Vol. 1: “The Arrow”, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas
The Woods, Vol. 1Now this one I had just seen mentioned on a blog somewhere, and I wrote down that I wanted to read it, and then by the time I got to the comic shop I had no idea why I had wanted to read it but I bought it anyway, trusting my past self even though her short-term memory is terrible. Plus, again, the artwork is awesome, so I figured it couldn’t be all bad. And… it wasn’t! Two for two!

This book is much much darker than Rat Queens, though. Here we have a bunch of teenagers and teachers in a school that somehow gets transported somewhere that is proooobably not Earth. The air is breathable but the animal population is less than friendly, and so most of the humans are content to stay inside the school. A small faction, led by a kid who has apparently spoken to a mysterious statue, go off into the woods to see what they can find there, but of course it’s super dangerous. Sadly, it is not much more dangerous than staying at the school, as an ex-military current-egomaniac sportsball coach has made himself de facto leader of the school and is installing martial law and convincing impressionable teen sportsball players to help him keep the rest of the students in line.

It is a terrifyingly appropriate metaphor for high school — damned if you follow the status quo, damned if you don’t — and you know I like those. And I am super curious about how and why the school is in its current location, and what any of these guys are going to do in a week when all the frozen pizza and chocolate milk cartons are gone. And now I am thinking about exactly what is going to happen when the chocolate milk is gone and I am very very worried for those kids. Uh-oh.

What comics are y’all reading that I should be adding to my list?

Weekend Shorts: X-Men catchup, part the last

I’m finally done! All it took was forbidding myself from reading another comic until I got through the backlog of X-Men on my shelf. Thank goodness my stack ended exactly at the end of this particular storyline. I can’t imagine what I’d’ve done if I were missing one, or if the last one started a new interesting run. I’ve definitely enjoyed the action-packed adventures of these lady X-Men, but I am frustrated by the sameness of the drawn characters, the threadbare “plot” (as you’ll see soon enough), and the fact that I am obviously supposed to know who all these people are and I just do not. I’ll stick with my tiny-universe comics in the future, thanks. But just in case you were curious how this storyline ends, here are some recaps with super spoilers:

X-Men #9
X-Men #9Deathstrike is on the move with the live sample of Arkea, and I realize that I really have no idea what Arkea is. Probably doesn’t matter. The X-Men, with the reluctant help of Arkea’s brother John Sublime, track Deathstrike & Co. to Dubai, where Arkea has unsurprisingly started taking over bodies, “upgrading” Deathstrike, Typhoid Mary, and Enchantress in unspecified fashions. There’s a cool part where one of the vaguely ethnic X-Men flies through a building at Mach 3, as you do, I guess, but I am most intrigued by the strange underwater army that shows up at the end.

X-Men #10
X-Men #10Oh, hey, turns out Arkea is a virus. And the bad guys all got what they wanted from her (them? it?) even though I didn’t see them asking. Exposition does have its benefits. After the recap, our human missile gets picked up and sent back to work as the X-Men continue trying to hunt Arkea down. Meanwhile, there is a bit of one-way dissent between Deathstrike & Co. and Arkea as the Ana Cortes part of Deathstrike realizes that things have not gone at all according to plan. Then Arkea asks for more backup in the form of yet more people I have never heard of but are apparently super dangerous, and the underwater army turns out to be SUPER HUGE and I am not sure how this showdown is gonna go down.

X-Men #11
X-Men #11Sooooo Ana and Enchantress go rescue some mutant who is somehow being stored as particles in air, which, AWESOME, but also wtf. I really wish I knew who any of these people were. Meanwhile, the X-Men finally figure out that they’re being played, John Sublime talks some shit, and Ana Cortes solves her problems by somehow putting a sword through herself. Then, FINALLY, the epic underwater showdown begins, but it’s mostly just more X-Men I don’t know (except for their names handily printed alongside them) flying around doing… stuff? And then apparently Jubilee is a vampire, which, wait, what? Come on, guys. I am totally unclear how this is going to wrap itself up in one more issue.

X-Men #12
X-Men #12Uh, quickly, apparently. Arkea gets her super dangerous people all resurrected and ready to go, and then the X-Men show up and there is the briefest of standoffs during which Storm is like, hey, we’re here for Arkea, you leave now and we’ll call it a draw. The new ladies are dangerous but not stupid and take the deal, leaving Arkea alone with Karima and Karima’s new toy that will apparently kill Arkea, though we see how that went last time. Then some X-Man or other psychics the giant army to death, or whatever, the end. And that’s all you’re getting from me on this subject EVER AGAIN.

Weekend Shorts: FBP and Flavia!

It’s a science round of shorts! First there’s physics, then there’s chemistry, how can anyone go wrong? Well, I mean, there’s also death and a bit of destruction, so… I guess that’s how. What are you reading this week?

FBP, Vol. 2: “Wish You Were Here”, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez
Wish You Were HereHey, remember how I read Hawkeye and that one issue nearly broke my brain due to strange chronology? That’s how this entire volume was for me. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when we’re talking crazy pseudo-science, but I am still very confused as to what exactly just happened.

What I can understand is that our freelance physics friends go to a remote outpost where they meet an old friend of Cicero’s who has a shiny thing she wants to show them. Hardy and Reyes go off to explore the nearby town, there’s fancy physics fighting, Hardy learns about Reyes’s crazy physics past, Hardy learns some things about his own present, and a magic physics canyon becomes a magic physics cannon (well, sort of, let me have my wordplay) and it’s amazing. The brain-breaking part is that some or all of these events are taking place in a reality created by Hardy and Reyes, or possibly by Cicero and Sen, or possibly some hyper-intelligent mice, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I’ll know in the next volume, but for now I’m going with the mice.

The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse, by Alan Bradley
The Curious Case of the Copper CorpseI’ve stated several times here that I love Flavia de Luce, but the books about her have been hit or miss with me almost solely on the basis of how much time is spent solving mysteries versus extolling the virtues of Bishop’s Lacey and environs. Mysteries, yay! Ruminating about the history and future of Buckshaw with regard to laws governing estates, yaaaawwn.

But it turns out that long-windedness is a foundational Flavia attribute that really cannot be replicated in a 27-page story. Here’s Flavia, sitting around, oh, a note!, bicycling bicycling bicycling, a jaunt up the stairs, copper-covered fellow in a bathtub, meeting the boys of Greyminster, evading capture, mystery solved! No long rants about horrible sisters or even daydreams of criminal mischief via chemistry, and I rather missed them! It’s fascinating to find out how much you don’t even know about yourself…

The mystery itself was perfectly satisfactory, and it stands completely alone from the rest of the series so if you’re not caught up you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. But it’s no substitute for full-flavor Flavia, so luckily it’s just a few weeks until the next book comes out!