Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

37491890I love this series so much.

Maika has been explicitly confirmed as queer! I mean, it was pretty obvious from the first two volumes too, but there are people who will ignore every hint when it comes to women liking other women. Her past romance and complicated relationship with Tuya is both very compelling and heartbreaking to read and I want to know more.

Maika isn’t the only queer character – I described this book as a “gay steampunk Asian matriarchy“, because by now I pretty much assume that every character here is queer until it’s confirmed otherwise, and I love this.
I love the way women are portrayed here. They’re beautiful without being sexualized, and they’re not written for men – it’s clear that men are not the intended audience. (Also, I don’t think there are any white people in this book.)

Another thing I love about this series? It trusts its readers. Which means that yes, sometimes it’s confusing. Sometimes I have to go back and reread parts, sometimes it takes me a while to understand what’s happening. But I love how it doesn’t talk down to the reader, how its world is just as complex as one you’d find in a fantasy novel – and even more beautiful, of course. This series has some of the most gorgeous panels I’ve ever seen. Sometimes, I went back and reread parts just for that.

But I have to say that with this volume, the many PoV changes lost me sometimes. I couldn’t follow so many storylines at once, with all those setting and time jumps, which added to my confusion. Also, I’m here mostly for Maika’s story – both present and past – and some of the subplots just aren’t as interesting.

Monstress is a story about war, about a traumatized teenage girl with a terrible past and even worse secrets. It reads like a darkest, less romantic, more diverse Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It’s everything I want from a fantasy comic, and I’m glad it’s getting the recognition it deserves.
I can’t wait for the next volume – I especially want to see more about Tuya, both in the past and in the present.

My rating: ★★★★½

Adult · Book review · historical fiction

Review: The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

38118138The Black God’s Drums is a novella set in alt-history steampunk-like New Orleans, which has become a neutral city after the Civil War ended with an armistice. This story follows young teen Creeper, a street orphan who, after overhearing a conversation that may upset New Orleans’ already fragile peace, decides to sell information to an airship captain from Trinidad.

This wasn’t easy for me to get into at first, because it’s written in a way that reminds you of how people spoke during that time (it’s almost as if Creeper were talking to you), and English isn’t my first language, but after I got used to it, I loved everything about this novella. The atmosphere is perfect, it makes you feel as if you’re there, and the steampunk-like elements are really interesting as well.
The Black God’s Drums is a vibrant portrait of a city in which African mythology meets nineteenth century technology, in which the tension from the war is still present.

The characters are also wonderful. Creeper is a young, resourceful black girl who has been touched by Oya, the African Orisha of storms, who speaks to her and gives her visions. I loved reading in Creeper’s PoV. The other major characters – Ann-Marie, a bisexual airship captain from Trinidad; Sister Agnès and Sister Eunice, the awesome nuns who know everything that goes on in the city; Féral, the white girl who grew up in the swamps (be careful: she bites) – are all awesome, and I’d love to read more about them too.

My rating: ★★★★¾

Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: Monstress Vol. 1 & 2 by Marjorie M. Liu & Sana Takeda

MonstressI read Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening for the “read the first book in a series” challenge of Marvel-A-Thon.

I loved this. I loved it in a way that I didn’t think I could ever love a graphic novel. The problems I had with it during the first read – mainly, the fact that there was a lot of graphic violence and horror aspects I didn’t expect – weren’t problems during this reread, because I knew what I was getting into.

And the art. It’s so beautiful, I could stare at the pages for hours, so beautiful it almost distracts from the story with its intricate, fascinating details, but let’s be real, the illustration are the main reason I’m reading this in the first place. The backgrounds are themselves almost like characters.

Many people mention being confused by the worldbuilding and plot of Monstress. I understand why – there’s a lot of information to take in – but it wasn’t a problem for me in this reread, and as I always say, I’d rather be a little confused by the world at first than be bored by it later. It’s difficult to follow because it’s set in a complex world with history and plot-relevant mythology of its own (parts of it are inspired by Japanese mythology, but that’s not the only influence here), and I loved all of it. I mean, how could I not love a gay steampunk matriarchy?

The whole plotline about magic animal-like people fighting magical humans told from the point of view of a human-looking girl (who is actually not that human but very magical) reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I really appreciated. I also really like the theme of fighting your own monster in a monstrous world, and I think this story has a lot of potential.

My rating: ★★★★½

33540347I read Monstress, Vol. 2: The Blood for the “read a book inspired by myth or mythology” challenge of Marvel-A-Thon.

This was even better than the first one. Mostly because we start to get some answers – some of them surprising, some of them I saw coming – but also because we get more insight in some of the side characters that were just named in the first volume.
Now I can say with certainty that Moriko Halfwolf is just as scary as her daughter and she doesn’t even need a kaiju inside to be like that, for example. Also, this volume introduced some new characters that have a lot of potential (like Syryssa, she’s… wow. So beautiful. A black lady pirate!)

The art is just as gorgeous, of course, and we get to see new settings, which was just what I wanted. I mean, most of this graphic novel is set on a ship, and there are pirates. We get to know more about the ancient gods, their history, and what exactly is going on with Maika’s monster, and we get to do that in a ghost-city built between the bones of something enormous. Beautifully creepy and atmospheric.
I don’t know if there was less body horror or if I just got used to it, but this book affected me less than the first one did, which I appreciated. More pretty and creepy, less graphic gore, thank you (not that I never like that! It’s just that the first book had so much of it – it almost started to feel unnecessary).

I have only two small complaints:

• The first book introduced the world, the history and mysteries, and this gave many much-needed answer and raised some new questions, so I can’t say it was useless (not at all!). But it didn’t have anything to do with what I thought was the main plotline – the one about the war between arcanics and witches – and we didn’t get anything new about the characters who are alive in the mainland (I really need to know what’s going on with the Cumaea, Lady Atena and Lady Sophia)

• after the ending of the first book, I had hoped to get more about Tuya. I got a surprising revelation, yes, and that panel with Tuya is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, but I want to know more about her and her relationship with Maika.

Anyway the main reasons I’m reading this series are the art and the steampunk aesthetic (also, the casual diversity and many queer leads help) and if that and mythology are things that you like, you should definitely try this.

My rating: ★★★★¾