May Short Book Reviews

Homelands: Fables Volume 6 – Willingham, et al. Have I mentioned before how much I am enjoying this series?  This volume isconcerned primarily with the departure from New York (in typically flamboyant fashion) of Jack of the tales, and with Boy Blue’s journey into the homelands to rescue his long lost love. Neither course of action goes quite as planned. In spite of confirmation of the identity of the Adversary and mechanics of his rule, this wasn’t the highlight volume for me, probably because of the narrower range of characters. But I enjoyed the adventures of the Black Knight, Boy Blue’s fanatic indefeasibility, and the surprise of seeing the Adversary’s land not as the Mordor-like wasteland I expected but a functioning and corrupt empire and the ending was typically complex – goals achieved but not in the way expected, friends reunited but seeing each other differently. The characters are not bounded by immutable fairytales, but grow and shift and change.

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice – Valente. The second half of The Orphan’s Tales and I enjoyed this one just as much as the first volume. It captures the feeling of old tales read for the first time, and in spite of the desert- djinn- and spice-laden character of this volume, the book reminded me of those northern European fairytales that begin as a riff on Cinderella and go east of the sun and west of the moon and into the arctic and change into bears and fall in love with the King of Arabia’s daughter and meander on and on. In the case, the stories go inward, looping around and in on themselves and gradually coming together, repeating names and stories from themselves, and the first volume, changing and shifting perspectives until the goal is revealed. The ending was not earthshattering, and could perhaps have been stronger, but this story was never about the end. Go. Read. Preferably one after the other so you don’t lose the paper-thin subtelty of the connections.

Batman: Black and White – Miller, Gaiman, Lee, Kubert et al. I wandered into Borders and found this on a discount rack and it was good. I said last month that I couldn’t review Batman. This was something else. This was brilliant – an anthology of 8-pagers by different artists and writers, in differing styles. Classic, tight, sketchy, surreal, comedic, metatextual, hilarious, poignant, hard-bitten, bitter. Facets of an iconic character, of a man, of an idea, of a city (“We are Batman” was my favourite line). I recommend this very highly – for the art, for the tales, for the feeling of being let into a world of minds which have been influenced by this story.

Arabian Nights (and Days): Fables Volume 7 – Willingham, et al. Back to New York and the politics of the Woodlands. Still not nearly enough of Snow and Rose Red and Bigby, but they are there – or their influence is – and the old Mayor is put to a new purpose (it took me a while, but I like King Cole). And crawling out from under that influence come the new generation of the government in exile – Charming as much of a cad and a bounder as ever, but realising abruptly what the title he has won means; Beauty and the Beast getting their feet under them and realising that they can’t do their jobs the way Snow and Bigby did, but they just might be able to do them their own way. The main problem I found was the Arabian delegation and I can’t work out whether its treatment could have been different. They are Arabian characters from the Arabian Nights as told in Europe and come with all those ideas and notions and I’m not sure if those will be or are examined. Particularly the women of the harem. But I will wait and see, because so far the series is doing a strong job of developing stock characters into strong individuals, and for all the cardboard villainous viziers, there was Sinbad, who showed promise. Like Baghdad of the two worlds, there may be more than meets the eye.

Batman: Black and White volume 2 – Dini, Ellis, Claremont, Azzarello et al.:Not as deep or multifaceted as the first (although it has received higher reviews on Amazon) but not as bad as I feared it was going to be from my first glimpse. It seemed much lighter and more comic-traditional in feel and I did enjoy it. And I can’t get the story of Batsman (the one that put me off to start with) out of my head. I keep laughing over his cape adorned with flocks of tiny bats. But it didn’t have the extra information about the writers and artists and the pages of sketches and script that the first did. I liked those.


Also: Isaiah; 1,2 and 3 John in German and English; Jude; Philemon in German and English. I am cultivating a low appreciation for paraphrasing and dynamic equivalents, particularly when one parallel translation is just so obviously much worse than the other.

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