Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review - Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Weibe

Title: Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery

Author: Kurtis J. Wiebe, Illustrated by Roc Upchurch.

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: 8th April 2014

Genre: Comics/Fantasy

Rating: ★★★★

Who are the Rat Queens? 

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. 

It's also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack! 

In a nutshell: Three dimensional female mercenaries kicking butt, sass galore, goblins, assassins, a fantasy, RPG style quest ensues. 

Rat Queens takes place in a RPG style, medieval fantasy setting, following the eponymous Rat Queens, an all-female group of mercenaries and the shenanigans and mayhem that ensue as they pay back their debts to the city and  get pulled into investigating recent assassinations.  This first volume collects issues 1-5 and works well as an introduction to the characters and world setting but also incorporates a humorous and fast paced plot.

The rat queens include: Hannah, the rockabilly elf mage (and probably the sassiest of the Rat Queens) Betty, the hippy smidgen thief, Dee, the atheistic human cleric and, Violet the Hipster dwarven Fighter. The characters are my favourite thing about this series for the following reasons:

  • First up, the main cast of characters are all female.
  • Second, the characters are very diverse; there is body diversity and the characters are of different races, sexualities, and beliefs.
  • Thirdly, they each have distinctive personalities and styles, the dialogue and interaction between characters really allows for a definite sense of their personalities and of their friendship. Yay for female friendships!
  • And finally, they kick butt and defy traditional gender stereotypes.

There is also a glimpse of character’s back stories which are likely to be explored in later issues but the inclusion of which adds dimension of the characters. Whilst the character development is not the most extensive, in my opinion, the distinctive personalities make up for this shortcoming.

It’s also refreshing to see women portrayed as heroes, regardless of their physical strength. There is a definite sense of diversity in their power and physical strength, for instance, Hannah relies more on her magic, whilst Violet relies more on her physical strength, but they are all portrayed as valuable assets to the team and heroes equally. To round up my feminist appraisal, Rat Queens really does a good job at presenting complex female characters that break the mould.

Plot wise, Rat Queens is fast paced with two main plot lines, one involving goblins and the other involving assassins! It's action packed and combines a good mixture of action, mystery and humour.  In fact, humour and sass is abundant in Rat Queens. It’s very sassy, as hinted at by ‘Sass and Sorcery’ and did indeed make me laugh out loud, multiple times! *gasp* The humour is also quite crude at times, which although is not my preferred style of humour, I found it worked well. It wasn't too overbearing and worked well in combination with the sass; it fits quite well with the adventuring and questing types.  

The fantasy style setting, combined with the questing was quite reminiscent of RPG video games, something which I really enjoyed. There’s not a lot of reference of the world which was a little disappointing as I wanted to know more about the Rat Queens world than I was given. However, I would recommend Rat Queens to those who may not read a lot of fantasy as whilst the plot is driven by fantasy elements, the characters are really diverse and distinctive!  

The artwork is really fitting of the fantasy setting and the colouring of pages was really pretty and appropriate to the mood of the story. Depicting sass through facial expressions was one of my favourite elements of the art style (so much sass.) 

Overall, I would very much enjoyed Rat Queens and I'm really excited to read and the next volume! If you’re looking for a comic series with a great cast of diverse and complex female characters, abundant with sass and goblin slaying action, Rat Queens is a must read!  My only real complaint is that I want more!

JUST A HEADS UP, this series does include a bit of violence, some gore, crude language, and references to drugs and alcohol; maybe give this a miss if that’s not something you enjoy in your fiction. 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Reflections on January to May 2015

*wipes dust off blog*

Hi Internet. I guess it's been a while.  

It seems I was consumed by university and an unhealthy dosage of procrastination and in the process managed to severely neglect this blog. Time management is not my strong point and I am always falling, being pushed,  or sometimes jumping into the black hole that is procrastination. However for this summer at least, I am back- full of thoughts, self doubt, and the intention of updating this blog regularly! *fist pumps* 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Set in 17th century Amsterdam, eighteen year old Nella is married off to wealthy trader and joins the Brandt household where she receives a mysterious dolls house as a wedding present and comes to  learn the secrets of the household. The writing and characters were really captivating however I found some elements of the plot were not explained and left hanging at the end of the novel which was a bit frustrating. 

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I managed to forget/just plain not write any notes about this book and I read it quite a while ago so this is going to be brief. Set in Afghanistan, pre and post Taliban rule. Childhood recollections as well as adult reflections, Amir attempts to redeem himself betraying his best friend. I liked the scope of this book, as the time span switches around from childhood to present day and from Afghanistan to America.

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
I have to admit, the premise of this novel felt very creepy - a zombie and a human falling in love? Creepy. But this turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Not half as creepy as I was expecting (but still little creepy) this novel broke the zombie canon with intelligent zombies and being told from a zombie point of view was a pretty unique and interesting scope. It contains some interesting nuggets on mortality and humanity as well as what it means to be human and feel emotion.  

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This book follows Violet and Finch, who meet at the top of a bell tower, both seeming to deal with suicidal thoughts. This book obviously deals with some sensitive topics (suicide) and I think does a good job at dealing with such a topic in a conscious and realistic way. There are a lot of allusions to Virginia Woolf, which was interesting, especially to see them weaved into the story and has kind of sparked my interest in her works. Not sure exactly what it was, but I felt the novel was a little lacklustre towards the end, I wanted something more than what I got? 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl 
Although this was not quite as creepy as I was expecting (or wanted it to be) it still managed to creep me out at both 3am and 3pm. Following a reporter trying to uncover the story behind the suicide of a reclusive film maker's daughter, this a really engaging and addictive read. I loved how different all the characters were and the blending of crime mystery with the paranormal. I found the idea that some truths can be subjective and can change over time a really interesting and intriguing part of this book. The ending was a little frustrating but I can appreciate it. Although, I found the description of one woman, who was compared to Mao physically and then referred to as 'Mao' for the rest of the paragraph a bit disturbing and quite offensive.

Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My goodreads review for this read: 'so much sass. so much sorcery. so much awesome' which I think encapsulates how I felt about this graphic novel perfectly. The main characters, Betty, Dee, Hannah and Violet are all female and all exude diversity in different forms! They break conventions and subvert expectations (my personal favourite) of traditional 'femininity' which was really refreshing and awesome. The whole story seems reminiscent of a fantasy quest style video game with all the adventuring, slaying, questing and badmouthing you could want. 

The Humans by Matt Haig
The Humans follows an alien experiencing life on earth for the first time, literally living in the body of Andrew Martin, a professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. This was a really humorous and pleasant tale about the intricacies, contradictions, and beauty of being human. I'm all about not sweating the small stuff (or at least trying to) and this book really encapsulates the philosophy of not taking the small, socially constructed things in life too seriously as well as embracing humanity and being human. 

The Storied Life of A.J Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 
This book follows grumpy book store owner A.J Fikry, whose life is transformed when a little bundle is left in his store. I really loved the writing style in this book, it was the perfect mixture for an easy and enjoyable read whilst conveying a lot of emotion and depth as well as some of he harsher realities of life. The diversity of the characters was also refreshing and enjoyable, I think both A.J Fikry and Maya were mixed (two different mixes though wow!) which was a huge plus and difference from the usual white/vague non descriptions of skin colour. I loved the idea that the community is brought together by the bookstore and the celebration of books and reading, no matter the genre or author!

These were some of my most interesting books I've read over the past few months (five!) I'm currently reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens as well as What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen. When I was a young teenager, the only books I really read were Sarah Dessen books so it will be interesting to see how this one will compare to the ones I read in my youth! 

Has anyone read any of these books? What books are you guys currently reading and/or loving?

Bonus content: I'm a huge music fan and one of my favourite bands, Young Guns, released their album Ones and Zeros this week. I implore everyone to give it a listen because it is an amazing album and they are such a dedicated and incredible band that fill my ears with happiness and heart with joy!