The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited (#2) by Clint McElroy

Published: 16th July 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 240
Format: Graphic Novel
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

In the second Adventure Zone graphic novel (adapted from the McElroy family’s wildly popular D&D podcast), we rejoin hero-adjacent sort-of-comrades-in-arms Taako, Magnus, and Merle on a wild careen through a D&D railroad murder mystery. This installment has a little of everything: a genius child detective, an axe-wielding professional wrestler, a surly wizard, cursed magical artifacts, and a pair of meat monsters.

You know, the usual things you find on a train.

I squealed and smiled and was in a delightful mess of joyous emotions as I read this story. This arc of the Adventure Zone story has some great characters and some of the best interactions. I have no doubt my enjoyment was heightened because I have also listened to The Adventure Zone podcast but I think even without that there is a lot of humour and a great story to get involved with. You don’t have to know the podcast and you don’t have to know D&D to enjoy this, there are character introductions so you are reacquainted with known characters from the first story, or introduces them if this is your first experience, but there’s also stat sheets and introduction for new characters as well. There are great meta jokes and the rules of new items and spells are integrated seamlessly into the design of the pages so you have context for actions and know about weapons and spells.

There is a connection to Murder on the Orient Express, as evident not only from the title but the great train mystery Griffin has laid out. The trio of heroes Taako, Magnus, and Merle all return as they continue the Bureau of Balance’s missions to collect the relics, this time trapped on a train with a small circle of suspects and a mystery to solve. This arc introduces some of the best characters, many are reoccurring and some are brilliant one offs.

A special mention of course has to go to Carey for her amazing artwork. Her interpretation of these characters is divine. I loved her depictions of characters like Angus, Jess and Jenkins, not to mention those at the Bureau. Angus McDonald brings all his sarcasm and cuteness to the page without losing any of his charm. The art is just as important as the story because Carey makes every movement, every background character or action count. The tiny details make it an absolute joy because not only is the story brilliant, but there is an entire other level of enjoyment from her bright, colourful, emotional illustrations. The detail is amazing, the Easter eggs to past and future campaigns/characters are there for podcast listeners and even those who haven’t listened to it get great details like other adventures happening in the background and fun details and jokes.

I actually love the changed ending. It gives a great sense of the bigger picture and the grander adventure that is yet to come while not taking away from the original story. It may be different than the podcast, but Clint has reworked scenes and it still fits with who these characters are. We get a better insight into who they are earlier on with some great intrigue and foreshadowing. At the end of the book there are once again stunning artwork by various fans, each with their own interpretations of the characters and various scenes. It is wonderful to see so many different styles and how each player has been interpreted.

I don’t think I can express enough how hilarious this story is. It is funny in book form and there are wonderfully humorous moments where they break the fourth wall and once again interact with Dungeon Master Griffin. The mystery is pretty good as well. There are clues and surprises and a few moments I had forgotten about from the podcast that I loved reliving again. One thing I find interesting reading these graphic novels having also experienced the podcast is not only knowing what comes next, but I know what lines were omitted and what other aspects have been altered for adaptability. It is amazing to see the work Clint has done to make the story flow even though Griffin had already made a fantastic story and plot, to see it be translated to beautifully to the page is amazing.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

 WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Frankenstein Adventures by Bil Richardson

Published: 3rd October 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Creator Studios
Pages: 136
Format: ebook
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

This is the story of Frankenstein told from the vantage point of Igor, the bumbling, brave boy who will risk everything to save his master’s flawed creation. Hilarious and heart-warming – this is a book that will make you stand up and cheer one minute and fall down laughing the next. Igor’s heart is in the right place even though parts of his body aren’t. He is a loveable, lopsided fellow who has more courage and strength than any of the adults who look down on him. When things go wrong with his boss’s “experiment,” Igor sees it as his duty to save the day – even though most days he is the one who needs saving. Our hilarious hero has to overcome enormous odds on his mission to rescue the most important achievement in human history – the creation of life. Follow Igor on his amazing adventure to prove that he is more than just a not-so-pretty face.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

The blurb is slightly misleading, and while there is truth that Igor does set out the save his master’s creation, the story is not entirely his as the third person perspective offers insight into many different characters, new and old. While it is a retelling of the traditional Frankenstein story, Richardson takes it further and it becomes a story about family, friendship, and discovering the monsters of the world are not the most obvious.

The writing is straightforward but weave a detailed and in-depth story. The tone is one kids will love; Igor and the other characters are funny, there’s snark and drama and puns, and seeing the domestic side of Frankenstein brings in all the scary, gross, fun kids will love. Where Richardson shines is that while it is light-hearted and silly, there is also heart and warmth.

The first part of the narrative retells the original story with a few extra twists and characters to get to know. We follow Frankenstein’s monster as he flees the castle, we see locals as they hunt after him, and we follow the angst of Igor and his master as they work out what to do. From there we see the story continues through the eyes of various characters as the story moves into one of friendship, jealously, and drama.

The tone is suitable for the intended age group but there is no hiding from the scientific methods or descriptions either. We know Frank is burned, with scars and the traditional story is but a lot of the elements are there about violence too. The characters are sweet and endearing once the story gets going and you see the emotion and their misguided goodness. The violent side is restrained but regular but you see the good versus evil in each altercation and know who the bad guys are.

Richardson demonstrates that Frank (as he’s named himself) is not the real monster, nor is Frankenstein either. There are messages in there about kindness and being a friend and how monsters are made by people and what blind judgement can do. There is also a fantastic message about what makes a family. A great story for kids to enjoy where they can experience the Frankenstein story without delving right into Shelley’s horror masterpiece.

You can purchase The Frankenstein Adventures via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Dark Lands: Requiem (#1) by Lyn I. Kelly

Published: 26th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Lulu Publishing Services
Pages: 216
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
★   ★  – 2 Stars

Life. Death. Time. They have now been circumvented. Welcome to the Dark Lands. In this cataclysmic realm where the most benevolent and most caustic of souls wage war for the rights to eternity, siblings Webb and Sundown Thompson find themselves reborn. If they are to survive they will have to overcome their fears and prejudices, understand the powers inherent within them, and navigate the trials and temptations that surround them. The tide of battle is turning and the influence of evil under the reign of the Dark Man is growing. It is their world. It will effect everyone’s future. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

I was intrigued by the premise of this story, a limbo-type world where you’re dead but haven’t moved on. The battle for good and evil rages on and these two siblings have been pulled into the fight upon their untimely deaths. Our introduction to the world is filled with immediate danger and suspense and with no baseline anything could quite possibly happen.

There isn’t a lot of depth in the characters but you almost don’t notice as there is a lot to take in. Sundown accepts her place in this new land fairly easily but Webb has a lot of questions, as does the reader, about the workings of this place. Webb is used to fill in these gaps as Kelly uses his queries to explain things to readers. There are of course comparisons to Harry Potter’s world in the magical schooling aspect, but there is a uniqueness as well.

With his inquisitiveness a lot of Webb’s personality is brought forward. He is hot-headed, impatient as he wants a result and he wants answers. This is where you can understand a lot of Webb’s feelings, removed from his life into this war with no real say is bound to cause anger and I think if Kelly had both characters accept their fate then this would be unsatisfying. Sundown’s age and nature plays a role in her decisions but it also makes for conflict especially when Webb’s anger has consequences in itself.

The concept is interesting and Kelly has a lot of mysteries which she leaves clues for throughout but I wasn’t entirely captured by it. There is a touch of predictability and while some aspects were engaging, other parts were not. The writing is ok and the premise is interesting but I couldn’t get right into the story. I didn’t really care about the characters and whether that had something to do with their lack of depth I’m not sure. Being the first in a series no doubt things will develop further but aside from a few moments, I’m not really engaged enough to keep going.

You can purchase Dark Lands via the following

Booktopia | Book Depository

WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

 

 

 

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Published: 17th February 2003Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Starscape
Pages: 246
Format: Sci Fi/Fantasy
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. 

It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals…to be destroyed.

Her only hope for survival is to keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council?

This is the book which introduces us to Carmody’s world after the Great-White but aside from a brief mention and a few other references you don’t get a great sense of what it is like.

Elspeth is a nice character, sweet, no real substance despite her magic powers and the first person narration. A lot of the characters have little depth but they progress the story and fill a gap. The dialogue is stilted and there is a lot of telling but since the whole book is like this you find yourself just putting up with it and moving on.

The plot itself was interesting, it was just simple and poorly explored. It took a little while to get into the story as Carmody gradually brings us into the world but it was enjoyable in its own way. I didn’t dislike it and there were moments of mystery and intrigue but I wasn’t wowed. But, with seven books in the series it’s obviously going to be a wide world that gets slowly developed. I hope it lives up to my expectations because I want to enjoy it and now that I have finally started, I want it to make me regret not starting it when I was first told about it 20 years ago.

I wasn’t instantly grabbed but I didn’t dislike it enough to make me stop. Based off this first book I will start the second. The narrative picks up further into the book and leaves us with somewhere to go. Even though it isn’t the best, I’m trusting it’s a story that needs unpacking slowly. Just not too slowly.

You can purchase Obernewtyn via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson | Fishpond | Wordery

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Published:  26th September 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Imprint
Illustrator: Sarah Kipin
Pages: 281
Genre: Young Adult/Short stories
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

Things to love about this book: fantastic fairytales, beautiful illustrations.

This collection of stories was a divine read. I definitely loved some of these more than others, which sounds like I hated some, but I didn’t. I just adored some A LOT. There is great diversity in the style of stories and the surprises are brilliant and are incredibly clever.

The fairytales have the timeless era setting which makes them everlasting. There are sneaky characters and innocent victims, but there are wonderful tricksters with ulterior motives and who buck against their expectations.

Bardugo abides by the rule of three when it comes to fairytales. It’s great to see that fairytales are not just old tales we’ve retained or reimagined, they can be new stories as well. I love that fairytales keep being created, they are not a long ago genre we must be satisfied with only retelling the ones we already know. These new fairy tales are beautifully written and beautifully illustrated which makes them even more magical.

One thing that must be mentioned as many times as possible is the beautiful designs that border the pages. They creep their way around the pages as the stories unfold, adding an extra dark and sinister layer as they go. Perfect in their revelations and their foreboding.

If you love fairytales you will love this. It was dark and sinister, and all the creepy, unexplained magical things of the original fairytales. This is set within the Grishaverse of Bardugo’s other books but there is no need to have read them before starting this as it makes no difference if you’re coming in blind.

You can purchase The Language of Thorns via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

Previous Older Entries