I am beginning to see that not reading these in order may indeed have its drawbacks. This set appears to be the start of the Birds of Prey proper, with Huntress unconvinced that she really wants to be a part of it and Batman making a rather unexpected appearance (well, unexpected for me; I know nothing about Bats in comic-world). It also spans the Infinite Crisis… thing… about which I know nothing, except that a year is skipped and all of a sudden Black Canary is off doing weird things in a nameless Asian jungle while the mysterious Shiva is scaring the pants off people in Gotham.
In terms of plot, occasionally hard to follow for someone with little to no backstory, and also not a nice continuous arc like the previous Birds of Prey (Dead of Winter) I read. The art was usually pretty fun, although I did feel uncomfortable with some of the shots of Black Canary and her kicks. It’s nice to see a group of women working together with no arguments about who gets the guy (well, ok, some arguments, but ‘getting the guy’ in this case means ‘kicking the guy’) – they’re by no means perfect, and there is some dysfunction, but it makes sense. So that’s definitely a plus.
Starts off with only a slightly off-kilter telling of Sleeping Beauty – I really liked the focus on the fairies/witches at the start here and moves into the castle and surrounding area essentially becoming a refuge for people who have nowhere else to go, or nowhere else they want to be. The reader arrives via o
ne such, a pregnant woman who later gives birth to a rather… peculiar… baby. But for me, this set of stories is really all about the bearded nuns.
Yes, bearded nuns. Never did I think that someone could have the sympathy, and the art, to draw very attractive women with beards, but such is the accomplishment of Linda Medley. This order of nuns is begun by women escaping an unhappy fate and continues to present just such a chance for other unhappy women. There are many things I loved about the bearded women, just one being that the idea of a man loving one of them was perfectly natural – they are by no means freaks to anyone in the book except those who are clearly immoral/unpleasant/otherwise non-relateable anyway. There’s a nice variety within the bearded women community – the beards and being female are about the only thing they have in common, except that a few of them have also experienced being in the circus. If for nothing else, Medley won me as a fan for this aspect.
She does win me for other reasons: the art is delightful without being distracting or overwhelming; the numerous sub-plots are nicely woven, and I love that the knight in armour is actually a horse.
I look forward to reading more.
(I could say something here about the idea of the wild west being as much of a fairy tale as Rapunzel herself, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
This one is c/-Tansy, and I’m very pleased to have got hold of it. Hale expands on the role of Mother Gothel, and although she’s still a mean nasty magicy person, she’s much expanded: she has a political role in the surrounding lands, there’s a purpose of sorts to her magic, and there seems to be more of a purpose in her taking Rapunzel, too.
Rapunzel herself is way, way more interesting than most of the stories make her, which is unsurprising. She’s learning to lasso from a young age – not with her hair at that stage, that comes later – and she’s much more rounded in terms of motivation, naivety mixed with determination, and so on. She rescues herself from her tower (which is a most awesome tower), she rescues herself and others in a variety of situations, and she has interesting relationships with a bunch of other characters.
The other characters are a really nice part of this story. Rapunzel’s companion for much of it is Jack (who has a goose, and a bean…), who is NOT WHITE – as are a number of the other characters. Jack is quite nuanced, I think, moving from flighty schemer to serious and earnest – in a good way though. The pair run into a variety of law-types and rogues, and while I think all of the authority figures (except Mother Gothel herself) are male, a good proportion of the others, who help or hinder on the way, are female – just because they could be and it really doesn’t matter.
The pictures are fun. Lassoing with hair looks… painful, actually. Also, I loved Rapunzel’s costumes. She basically starts off in a dress that she wears for four years; then she’s in what looks like a nightie, with a belt and awesome green tights – she looks like Pippi Longstocking; she gets into pants eventually, but even when she’s in a ball gown (in which she is uncomfortable), she manages to fight effectively. Which is fun.
Firstly: oh my goodness look how CUTE this is! Seriously, this itty bitty 50-odd page bookling is so cute. Does this count as a chapbook? I don’t know the official definition of chapbook, but part of me thinks this should be one, while part of me thinks no! Chaps won’t read this! This is a ladybook, or a dreamerbook, or something.
Yes, well. Anyway.
This delightful product, whatever it is, comprises two short stories that riff off different fairy tales. Catherynne M Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture” is the first, and I know I read it in Troll’s Eye View but my memory is bad enough that I had forgotten the kinks in the tale. Which was good and bad, since it got to break my heart all over again. This is Valente at her best, spinning an impossible and impossibly beautiful story about a girl and her confectioner father and the dark dark things that can be done in the name of hunger (in all its many variations). This story is complemented by Faith Mudge and “Oracle’s Tower.” While it wasn’t clear to me which fairy tale was being meddled with by Valente until very near the end, it’s clear relatively early on who Mudge is playing with. This does not, of course, prevent the story from working in dark and sometimes sinister ways. This is not a nice story. It is very clever, though, and very nicely told.
Both of the stories are given that extra something by the illustrations of Kathleen Jennings.
The front and back covers are hers, and within there are four more pictures of the women featured in the stories. They’re line sketches (… I am no artist, so forgive me if I get the terminology wrong), and they are delightful and beautiful and add a great deal to the overall feel of the package.
Also? my copy came wrapped as a present. That definitely adds to its specialness.
Full disclosure: I am friends with Tehani Wessely, owner/editor of Fablecroft (the publishing house responsible for this book).