BooksOfTheMoon

The Wicked + The Divine Deluxe Edition: Year One

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

I’d heard some good things about this series and it was the hard recommendation of a friend whose taste I trust that finally sold me. Firstly, the physical object here is beautiful. It’s a hardback book with a minimalist black cover showing the logos of the twelve gods who have been reincarnated for this Recurrence.

The art is of a style that I generally enjoy and I really liked it here. The story is intriguing and has kept me engaged the whole way through: every ninety years, twelve gods return as young people, help inspire and change the world, and within two years, they’re all dead. That’s quite the hook, and Gillen and co make good on it. This time round, the gods are all pop stars, allowing the writers to talk about our culture through that lens. Our PoV character is Laura, a fan, maybe acolyte, of all of them who Lucifer (aka Luci) takes a shine to. This is followed by attempted murder, actual murder and a mystery over a death.

Gillen is happy to build up his mystery slowly, as he builds his world. And you can’t help but get drawn in. With such a large cast, to start with, it is sometimes difficult to remember who is who and what their shtick is. This gets easier as the book goes on, and it ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, that completely threw me.

I’m definitely going to be picking up more WicDiv, and how can I not get these gorgeous hardbacks? My favourite ‘extra’ in this volume is the writer’s commentary at the back. Gillen goes through pretty much the entire comic, page by page, with his own thoughts and analysis, pointing out things that I missed in my first desperate rush to read the next page. It’s a great way to read the whole thing again in a more thoughtful manner.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632157287
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2016

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition, Vol. 5

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

In the final volume of Alita’s story (well, her first story, at least), Alita storms Nova’s lab, with only Kaos for backup. At one point, she utters the immortal line “My rage is ultrasonic”, which, I must confess, made me giggle a lot. Meanwhile, since his attack on Zalem failed, Den is making a suicidal charge against the Scrapyard, alone, except for Koyomi.

There’s a lot to enjoy here, especially Nova’s second entrapment of Alita in the Ouroboros program, and Den’s mental battle with Kaos, but I was very disappointed with the canonical ending. It just seemed very abrupt and, frankly, a rubbish way to end Alita’s story.

This is continued with a non-canonical coda, almost, that takes Alita to Zalem and sees her and Nova, along with Lou, confront the master computer of Zalem. This improves a bit on the canonical end, but seems very odd. Nova in particular behaves in very odd ways that don’t seem to follow from his previous actions. Why would he restore Alita like that, and give her that new, nigh-on invincible body?

There’s also a short story set in the Motorball world, not featuring Alita, with a slightly different art style. That was interesting, with quite a melancholy tone to it. The volume finishes with a couple of interviews with the author where, amongst other things, he talks about the end, and how it’s not what he wanted, but various factors converged to force him to end the story where he did.

As for myself, I think I’ll content myself with the non-canonical ending, and not seek out the sequel series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632366023
Year of publication: 2018

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition, Vol. 4

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

This volume picks up 10 years after the end of the last one, with Alita having left Figure Four at some point and is back working for Zalem again, in her guise as TUNED unit A1. This volume sees her encounter with Den, the leader of an anti-Zalem army, and Kaos, someone who can read an object’s history by just touching it. She also finally finds her lost father-figure Ido, although that reunion doesn’t exactly go as she expected.

This is a strange volume and the story felt sort of incomplete. Possibly inevitable, as the pace of the overall arc ramps up towards a conclusion in the next volume. Alita seems more vulnerable here and leans heavily on some of those around her, including her new Zalemite operator, Lou (who’s quite adorable, in a deeply nerdy way).

The storyline with the AR units feels like it just peters out, without really much resolution. There are supposed to be multiple AR units, but we only see two of them. If they are as powerful as is portrayed, they should have had a much bigger impact. Likewise, there’s no real explanation for the missing Figure, with just the occasional flashback to him.

Den, leader of the Barjack rebellion against Zalem, is an interesting character, and had the potential to be quite a complex, layered individual, but it doesn’t feel like that happened.

I’ll complete the series now, but I’m losing momentum.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632366016
Year of publication: 2018

The Complete Mapp and Lucia, Volume 1

By E.F. Benson

Rating: 3 stars

A friend recommended the Mapp and Lucia books to me some time ago, and I got given this omnibus for my birthday this year. Having read the first two (of three) volumes in this collection, I’m firmly of the opinion that I’m not going to read the third, nor will I be looking for volume 2 of this series. I didn’t hugely enjoy either book, although I preferred Queen Lucia to Miss Mapp, the eponymous protagonist of which I actively disliked. Individual reviews below.

Queen Lucia

Mrs Emmeline Lucas, universally known in the village of Riseholme, where she lives, as Lucia, is the undisputed reigning monarch of the village, in culture, music and art. Riseholme is awash with well-off, bored inhabitants, all heavily invested in the tiny dramas that play out in the village, from the saga of the guru to the mystery of who’s taken the empty house. Lucia is a ridiculous, pompous creature, but entertaining in her own way.

The strange baby talk that she indulges in with her “grand vizier”, the rather camp Georgie is odd (and a little creepy to my mind). Georgie is possibly the most sympathetic character in the book, although he’s no less ridiculous than the rest of them. The inhabitants of Riseholme, while all scheming and gossiping, for the most part aren’t actively malicious towards each other. Lucia has a need to be the centre of attention and sometimes does underhand things to achieve that, but she usually gets her just desserts.

Spoiler
While I was fully expecting the guru to be a scoundrel, I was disappointed that the only non-white character in the book also turned out to be a thief. This left a sour taste to an otherwise entertaining escapade.

Three stars.

Miss Mapp

Miss Elizabeth Mapp lives in the village of Tilling, where she aspires to fill a similar role to Lucia, but is more just a hate-filled, hypocritical shrew. She has shallow, rivalry-filled friendships with her neighbours and spends her evenings plotting and playing bridge.

The most enjoyable relationship in this book was that between the “frenemies” Major Flint and Captain Puffin, who spend their days playing golf together, and their evenings “writing memoires” and “researching Roman roads” respectively. Miss Mapp’s intervention in that friendship especially made me quite angry.

I wasn’t interested in the stories of these people at all (although the duel was quite entertaining to begin with). I found myself waiting for Mapp to get her comeuppance on a regular basis, which isn’t the basis for me to enjoy a book at all.

Two stars.

Book details

ISBN: 9781840226737
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
Year of publication: 2011

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)

By Robert Jackson Bennett

Rating: 4 stars

Shara Komayd is dead (not a spoiler, it’s the first sentence on the blurb on the back). Her old friend and ally Sigrid finds out and sets out to find her murderer and avenge her. Amongst his grief, he finds himself in the middle of a hidden war and learns me than he wanted to about his own past.

This book is about cycles. Cycles of violence and revenge and, eventually, forgiveness. The Divinities of the Continent were the source of so much pain to Saypur; Saypur in turn imposed its will on the Continent, returning the favour. The book questions these sorts of cycles and what is required to break them.

Sigrid was probably my favourite character from City of Stairs. He was huge, inscrutable, competent, and just destroyed things that got in his way. But I wasn’t sure about making this book about him. But it was good to get inside his head and find what’s been driving him through the series. The way he held on to his anger and pain until it became a millstone around his neck. His fear of being unable to change, and the anger at losing the last person in his life that he truly cared for.

It’s exciting, with lots set-pieces, as the hidden enemy slowly starts to reveal himself, leaving Sigrud as the last thing in his way, now that Shara is gone. The pace is good, as well, and there’s a neat twist right at the end which made me smile (and, for once, I worked out the main ‘twist’ before it happened, which is something I’m normally awful at).

It left me with a feeling of melancholy, but this feels like a good way to end the trilogy.

Book details

ISBN: 9780857053596
Publisher: Jo Fletcher
Year of publication: 2018

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided

By Amanda Foreman

Rating: 4 stars

It usually takes me ages to read non-fiction books, but I raced through this one, and given that it’s over 800 pages, that’s not to be sniffed at. It’s very well-written, and keeps you turning the page, with a well-structured narrative, and lots of interesting characters. Despite its prevalence in popular culture, the American civil war is not one that I know very much about. This book has its particular angle, regarding the British links and reasons for British neutrality, but it also does a good job in covering the major reasons for and battles of the war.

I did find myself struggling a bit towards the end, as the number of people increased. Keeping track of who was who and which side they were fighting on was much harder by then, but made easier thanks to a very comprehensive index.

The book covered the political and diplomatic aspects of the British involvement with the civil war quite well, with Lords Lyons (the British “Minister” to the American Legation [not embassy]), Russell (the foreign secretary) and Palmerston (the prime minister) on the British side and William Seward (the American Secretary of State) and Charles Francis Adams (Lyons’ counterpart in London) on the American. It also covers individual stories well, following Britons who joined both sides of the war through their letters and other historical documents.

What I think it does less well is talk about the reasons that the average Briton joined or supported the different factions of the war. I was surprised by just how popular that the Southern cause was in Britain (Liverpool, in particular seems to have been a hotbed of sympathy for the South), given the general disgust with slavery, and I would have liked to have seen more on that.

Something else that I never really appreciated with the depth of enmity of America (both sides) to Britain in this period. It seems Seward in particular was happy to whip up the public against foreigners (particularly Britain) to bolster his political standing (plus ├ža change, eh?). This leads me to view the so-called “special relationship” between Britain and the US with more than usual cynicism.

This is a very readable, in-depth history of the American civil war, from the very particular perspective of the British links, but it’s a page-turner, and with nearly 200 pages of endnotes if you want to go into more depth. A good overview of the war.

Book details

ISBN: 9780141040585
Publisher: Penguin
Year of publication: 2011

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