Saga Vol 1-7 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

 

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: October 10th, 2012 to April 4th 2017

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Before a couple of weeks ago, my entire experience regarding comics consisted of religiously picking up Archie comics from the grocery store as a kid and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes books like it was my job. Both of these obsessions happened over two decades ago, so I was a bit uncertain on whether or not I would review Saga when I initially picked it up. Fast forward to today, just a few hours after finishing volume 7, and that uncertainty just seems silly. I have SO MUCH to say about this series, and I don’t think I could shut up about it even if I wanted to.

Full of Fiona Staples’ breathtakingly beautiful art, Saga is part space opera, part fantasy, with a whole lot of romance and family drama. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, and POC characters.  There is a lot of nudity and sex, which I am SO HERE FOR, as well as graphic depictions of violence. I realize this may not be everyone’s bag so it’s worth calling out.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a long fought intergalactic war. There is an extensive history of hate and prejudice between the two races (the wings and the moonies), when Marko is captured as a POW by the army that Alana is fighting for. After a series of events (that I won’t spoil for you here), the two fall in love and escape together, intent on living their lives in as much peace as they can find.  The entire series is narrated by their daughter, Hazel, and the first volume literally opens with her birth. Hazel’s birth is the catalyst for the rest of the story, as we follow two parents wiling to do anything to keep her safe, and carve out a life they can live together despite the constant violence happening around them.

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You guys. After this truly incredible, addictive, and immersive reading experience, I fully intend on making graphic novels a habit again. And while I may read hundreds more, I have no doubt that Saga will stay on my top favorites list for all time. Everything about this story is designed to draw the reader in and keep them as a willing captive until the very end. The world building is jaw dropping and full of lush details that I stopped to admire even while wanting to zip ahead though the rest of the story. Brian K Vaughan writes whip smart, tender, and downright hilarious dialogue and characters that I was invested in from the first panel.

I love the way there are multiple story lines going on at once that swap every couple of pages. Even though I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening to one set of characters, I immediately put them to the back of my mind to focus on the immediacy of what was happening to the rest. I cared about them all that much. There wasn’t a single arc that felt boring or less important than the rest. The sheer number of alien species and worlds that Staples creates is astounding. I was delighted by the creativity and especially loved the robot race and the way the different classes and royal family were portrayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can hold so much in a singular imagination.

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Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend these enough. If you’re considering jumping into the world of comics, I think Saga is a great place to start, but prepare yourself for a serious hangover and a lengthy wait for the next installment. I’m fully invested now, and cannot wait to check out other work by both Vaughan and Staples as well as other graphic novel series. If you have any good ones to recommend, please please let me know!!

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Alana, Hazel, Klara, Lying Cat, Sophie, The Brand, Isabel, Barr

Memorable Quotes:

My name is Hazel. I started out as an idea, but I ended up something more. Not much more, to be honest. It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all important savior… but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does. (Vol 1)

Cool. So glad I got to do all this in a towel. (Vol 2)

All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure? (Vol 3)

A lot of people who came into my family’s life looking like heroes ended up acting more like villains. (Vol 4)

Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. (Vol 5)

We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. (Vol 6)

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a family is more like a rope. We’re lots of fragile little strands, and we survive by becoming hopelessly intertwined with each other. (Vol 7)

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The Fate of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

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Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: November 29th, 2016

Page Count: 496 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed.

Note: If you have not read the other books in the Tearling trilogy, this review in an of itself will be a spoiler. However, I will not be posting any spoilers for the Fate of the Tearling, which is the final installment.

I initially saw these books all over bookstagram and was intrigued by their beautiful covers. After receiving the first two for Christmas, I placed them on my bookshelves and there they languished, until I found the audio versions on Hoopla. I’m always on the hunt for audio versions of books in my TBR, because there simply isn’t enough time in my life to sit and read the print version of all of them. Now that isn’t to say I do not want the print versions (wife if you are reading this, please do not stop buying me ALL THE BOOKS), it’s just that realistically, I cannot get to them all when I’d like to.

I mention this because the first installment, The Queen of the Tearling, is narrated by a lady named Katherine Kellgren. She made these characters come alive for me, giving each distinct personalities that were larger than life, and larger, certainly, than what my brain would have come up with left to its own devices. Very unfortunately for me, the second installment, The Invasion of the Tearling, was given a new narrator, who completely changed the tone and I was disappointed and underwhelmed. Because of this, I decided to read the third book so I could remember the characters that Kellgren helped bring to life. It was her voice I heard in my head while reading, and it was really wonderful. For anyone who has not started this trilogy, I seriously recommend listening to the first one, and reading the next two.

In the Tearling trilogy, Johansen has created a deliciously wonderful genre salad full of high fantasy, dystopian speculative fiction, sci-fi, and even, some paranormal details. It was wonderfully jarring to be reading about castles and horse drawn carriages one minute and the next be thrown into a futuristic house with self cleaning countertops. My brain could not make sense of it at first and it was really surprising and delightful.

In this final installment, all of the details from the first two books are woven in, and come together to create a powerful conclusion. Kelsea must face the Red Queen, whose identity we have finally learned.  Johansen goes into the history of the Town after the crossing and we are given a new narrator in Katie. We see the Mace grudgingly handling his new role. Simultaneously trying to rescue Kelsea while staying true to the vision she had for the Tearling. We find out who the Fetch is and the identity of the creature in the fire. We learn the origin stories of the sapphires and follow Kelsea through to the end of her journey of self discovery.

The choices Johansen made in this conclusion are so bold and creative. There is always so much pressure for the final book to get it right, and give the characters we’ve grown to know and love, a fitting conclusion. And while I do not agree with all of the choices she made, I can appreciate them, even while my heart was being ripped out and mended again. If I had it my way, there would have been at least five more chapters tacked on to the end.

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Final Thoughts: I love this series more than I can express with words, and certainly much more than I thought I would going into it. So many times while reading, I hugged the book to my chest and thought, THIS IS SO GOOD! Johansen is a bold and brave writer and these have made me a forever fan. She has written characters that I love deeply and I have no doubt I will come back to these again and again.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: The Mace, Kelsea, Aisa

Memorable Quotes:

As always, the story was the compelling thing, worth all of its suffering to find out the ending.

Hell? Hell is a fairy tale for the gullible, for what punishment could be worse than that we inflict upon ourselves? We burn so badly in this life that there can be nothing left.

Entire countries would close their borders and build walls to keep out phantom threats. Can you imagine?

Empathy. Carlin always said it was the great value of fiction, to put us inside the minds of strangers.

June 2017 Wrap-Up

I’m FINALLY caught up with these monthly wrap-ups! Woot! Only six books for the month of June, but some really great reads overall. June is also my birthday month, so I added some fabulous new books to my collection and ever growing TBR. I got The Hate U Give, Ramona Blue, and The Six of Crows duology!!

Some of my favorites from this month were…

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Waking Gods is the second in The Themis Files series. If you haven’t already read Sleeping Giants, you should rectify that immediately. These are epistolary novels and because of that I highly recommend the audio version. I listened to Sleeping Giants when it first came out and didn’t want to wait for Waking Gods so I read it in print. The story really comes alive in the audio version and is a more immersive experience. Despite the format, I still found it very enjoyable and after that ending, legit cannot wait for the third one to come out.

 

 

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I’ve already written a love letter in review form for the Scorpio Races, which you can read here. This book is wonderful in every way. Another audio recommendation, but I have no doubt it will be incredible in any format. Maggie Stiefvater is my spirit animal.

 

 

 

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a really sweet story and yet another audio recommendation. I listened to this one all the way through and immediately started it again. It’s touching and funny and the relationship Simon has with his family is seriously goals.

 

 

 

The whole line up…

 

 

The Scorpio Races – 5 crowns

Dreams of Gods and Monsters – 5 crowns

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – 5 crowns

Into the Water – 4 crowns

Waking Gods – 4 crowns

My Life With Bob – 5 crowns