Wynonna Earp: All In

By Beau Smith

Rating: 3 stars

This volume collects the entire Wynonna Earp comics from the start of the TV show. Wynonna is now modelled after Melanie Scrofano and we have TV favourites Doc Holliday and Agent Dolls in the cast, as well as some of the characters from the previous comics (Smitty and Valdez). This series also introduces Waverly (who was always my favourite character) to the mix.

Still very different to the TV show, this has more of the gung-ho, badge-waving, gun-toting feel of the original comics. There’s different origin stories for both Earp sisters and no mention of Dolls being anything out of the ordinary (in fact, Dolls doesn’t get an awful lot to do in this series, with Smitty and Valdez, between them, taking his mentor-figure role).

It was a fun run of comics though, even if some of the storylines didn’t actually seem to go anywhere (the Immortalis Consortium one, for example). It was just nice to catch up with the characters that I enjoyed hanging out with for four years (and I couldn’t help but read Doc’s dialogue in his very distinctive TV show accent).

Book details

ISBN: 9781684058686

Full Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #3)

By Nathan Lowell

Rating: 3 stars

The third book in the Solar Clipper series starts promisingly, with what might be considered some plot – there’s an incident that leaves the Lois McKendrick damaged and the crew have to race to save her, and themselves. But this fizzles out quite early on and we’re back to the usual Ishmael shenanigans. This time he finds himself with a temporary promotion to systems engineer and with the officers of the Lois pushing him towards the officer academy.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Ishmael is a Mary Sue character. His abilities seem to know no bounds, from being a coffee expert, to magically deeply understanding women, to, as we see here, being an expert programmer and systems engineer. It’s enough to make me roll my eyes extra hard.

Despite that, I’ve come to like the characters as we’ve gone on, even if there’s not much in the way of actual plot. It’s been fun spending time with the characters and I don’t regret the time taken to read these books. Despite there being many more books in the series, this one seems to draw the Lois McKendrick trilogy to a close, and there’s enough closure that it seems like a good place to say goodbye to the series.

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Year of publication: 2008

Wynonna Earp Volume 1: Homecoming (Wynonna Earp #1-6)

By Beau Smith

Rating: 3 stars

Following the disappointing Strange Inheritance, this newer set of Wynonna Earp comics ties into the TV show. Wynonna now looks like Melanie Scrofano and both Agent Dolls and Doc Holliday appear for the first time.

To be honest, the stories in this volume are nothing to get too excited about. There are a number of supernatural events around the country that mean Wynonna has to run around shooting things, and getting shouted at by Dolls when the good guys die. These lead up to her being called back to Tombstone for another showdown at the OK Corral. This also results in her finally getting hold of Peacemaker, the magic gun she wields in the TV series.

The art is decent, but workmanlike, rather than special. It’s an enjoyable read for fans of the TV series, but it doesn’t tie particularly closely into it (no WayHaught, for a start). Hopefully that will change with later volumes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781631407499

Wynonna Earp: Strange Inheritance

By Beau Smith

Rating: 2 stars

I suspect like many people, I came to this via the TV show from the mid 2010s, and in that context, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. The 90s and early 00s were not great for women in comics, as the awful representation of Wynonna here show. In the first two thirds of the book, she’s pure cheesecake: scantily clad, with physics-defying breasts and big guns. The final third, which was written in 2011 fares better. The art now depicts Wynonna with a more believable body shape and sensible dress. The big guns are still around though. It also really leans into that 90s/00s ultra-violence thing as well.

In terms of storytelling, it’s also very different to the TV show. Rather than an unwilling member of the Black Badge Division, Wynonna is recruited and is an enthusiastic member of the Division, travelling the country, shooting paranormal things until they stop arguing. Whereas the TV show restricts the action to a single town and its surrounding areas, the comic goes all over the US, from the mid-west to New York to Alaska. I do wonder what made some TV execs look at this comic and decide that they wanted to buy the rights to it. Especially given how differently the TV show turned out from the source material.

It’s maybe interesting from an historical perspective, but it’s not that great, to be honest, and maybe only one for a completist. I’m just glad that I read it through Kindle Unlimited and didn’t pay any money for it.

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Year of publication: 2016

Salt & Broom

By Sharon Lynn Fisher

Rating: 3 stars

This is a pretty straightforward retelling of Jane Eyre, but with magic. In this version Jane Eyre Aire is a witch, rather than a governess, but most of the other beats of the original story are present. Interestingly, the author decides to remove the big twist in the original and have Rochester’s wife die before the beginning of the book, doing away with the bigamist element of the original. Many of the locations and people from the original are present and easily identifiable, including Thornfield, Lowood, Mr Brocklehurst and Mrs Fairfax. The author definitely softens Mr Brocklehurst though, and even gives him a bit of a redemptive arc.

To be honest, I spent probably the first half of the book wondering if magic was actually a real thing in the book. It mostly consisted of herb work and minor doggerel verse that you might hear from an old wifey in a Regency or Victorian novel. I did wonder if they’d go down the Scooby-Doo route and that the “ghost” would be unveiled as Old Man Withers from the local funfair. But later on, it does become clear that the magic of this world is definitely real, just very understated.

It’s an enjoyable riff on the original, but I sort of wish it had strayed further from its source material and found more of its own story to tell. I want to go and read Jane Eyre again now…

Book details

ISBN: 9781662515682

Half Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #2)

By Nathan Lowell

Rating: 4 stars

The second book in this series moves the focus from trading to interpersonal relationships, specifically between our protagonist, Ishmael Wang, and three of his fellow shipmates that he gets close to. There’s his new boss Brill, after his move from Steward to Environmental; his former bunkmate Beverly; and his new co-worker Diane. Ishmael is attracted to all three women, but his ship, the Lois McKendrick has a strict no fraternising rule. The book is mostly him working how to live with this situation.

There’s quite a bit of male gaze at the three women which isn’t great, and it’s not exactly balanced by the attention that they focus on his physical appearance – to remind people, this is an eighteen year old. But everyone is pretty respectful all the way through. Ishmael, in particular, shows a lot more emotional maturity than I would expect in a young man his age, as he comes to understand quickly about the limits of seeking comfort ashore.

There’s also a slightly unexpected strain of mysticism running through the book, related to some pendants that some of the crew buy for trade goods and which later ties in to Ish’s replacement on the mess deck, Sarah Krugg. Nothing that took me out of the story particularly, but just unexpected in this sort of book.

While I missed Pip and Cookie, who fade into the background here, the additional development of Brill, Beverly and Diane is lovely. I was a bit disappointed how quickly that Sarah’s story came out and how little a mark that her history seems to have left on her, although I guess we’ll see in future books, which I fully intend to read.

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The Sorceress Transcendent

By Casey Blair

Rating: 4 stars

Theira is one of the most powerful sorceresses of her generation, but has managed to find a way to get out of the war. Varius is one of the Empire’s greatest generals, but is disgraced when he refuses to attack his own people. Injured and forced out, Varius turns to Theira, once his greatest enemy, for help.

This is an enemies to lovers story, but without the enemies. Varius and Theira may have been enemies on the battlefield, but they’ve respected each other on the battlefield, and have had the hots for each other forever and there’s very little of the sparks that you’d expect from two enemies forced together. It’s a delightful little novella, and surprisingly gruesome at times for this author. My favourite death is probably the one who’s bashed repeatedly against a wall by a giant golem like a rag doll.

Definitely fun, and with a nice bit of world building for a fairly short novella.

Book details

ISBN: 9798985110180

Quarter Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #1)

By Nathan Lowell

Rating: 4 stars

After his mother dies, the company that runs his planet evicts Ishmael Wang within hours. He ends up signing up to the lowest position on to an interstellar freighter and we follow him as he makes friends on the ship and falls in love with the “Deep Dark” of space. It’s a gentle, cosy story with lots of food, trading, and so much coffee.

Despite the far-future setting, there’s very little science fiction in this book. Other than the really nice food, there’s little that would change if we moved from a space freighter to a sailing ship. But I enjoyed spending time with the characters, so I didn’t particularly mind that. There’s a lot of trading as well, where they pick up items from one world and take it to another to sell. It reminded me of a game of Traveller that my RPG group played a while ago. I found the trading aspect the least interesting part of the game and it’s one reason that we’ve never really gone back to that game.

I was also quite surprised by how quickly and easily Ishmael settled into the ship. There had been talk in the early chapters about hazing and lack of respect for the junior crew. But there’s no sign of that on the Lois McKendrick. I also couldn’t entirely believe that the drills were a surprise to Ishmael. Surely that would be front and centre in the Handbook and he’d have been instructed in that on day one. But then there didn’t seem to be much of an induction on the ship.

But despite the minor complaints, I enjoyed getting to know the crew of the Lois McKendrick. I’ll definitely be reading the next one in the series.

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By T. Kingfisher

Rating: 4 stars

Rosa is the youngest of a family of magical artists. While bored, and wanting to help her family, she discovers a box that seems determined to keep her away. Obviously, this can’t stand so she works out how to get past the defences and open it. Hilarity mayhem ensues.

This is a lovely little YA story, the first half of which I found immensely frustrating, as Rosa hid what she’d done from her (loving) family and tried to resolve things on her own. It drives the plot and seems like the sort of thing a young person would do, but it’s not until things come out into the open and everyone starts working together that things start to work out. I’m sure there’s a lesson there…

Rosa’s family is sketched but they’re all lovely. Her parents were killed in a fire when she was young, but her grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousin are all delightful, with their own quirks to differentiate them. Uncle Alfonso’s kindness and joy in life especially stand out.

I loved the idea of these magical “illuminations”, that have to be so specific (to keep mice away, you can draw any sort of cat, but it has to have blue eyes) and are used in both big things, such as cleaning the water in the city’s canal, or tiny things, like stopping sparks spreading a fire and are all over the city.

It’s a delightful little story, quick and fun to read. It’s standalone, but has the same sort of feel as Minor Mage or A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking.

Book details

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio
Year of publication: 2022

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

By Agatha Christie

Rating: 4 stars

I’m a fan of Christie in general but hadn’t read this one before. I really only picked it up because I was looking for new books and noticed this going for free on Kindle. I enjoyed it all the way through, as Christie does her usual whodunnit thing, with Poirot being wonderfully Poirot. The setting is also classically Christie, in a small English village, with a coterie of elderly spinsters running the local gossip network in an efficient and delightful way. Poirot laments the missing Captain Hastings (who has apparently moved to Argentina) several times throughout the book to his substitute, the village doctor, James Sheppard, who narrates the book.

And then we have that twist! Without dropping any spoilers, I was completely floored and did not see that coming. There’s a lot of layers of misdirection going on here and I thought it worked really well. I’d like to reread it at some point to see how it reads knowing the resolution. The end was interesting, being reminiscent of Murder on the Orient Express, with Poirot foregoing the legal process in favour of his own conscience. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. But it’s an excellent whodunnit with a great cast of characters and a twist I’ll be thinking about for days to come.

Book details

ISBN: 9782380378061

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