Monday, September 26, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on September 22nd. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian

Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank, by Phil & Kaja Foglio

The above title may seem a bit long, but that’s nothing to its subtitle, “A Gaslamp Fantasy with Adventure, Romance and Mad Science”. It is the first of a ten-part graphic novel series called “Girl Genius” (Stratford Library has parts 1 through 9, number 10 is on its way), by the award-winning husband-wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio; the Girl Genius series is regularly on the Best Adult Books for High School Students list from School Library Journal. After having read the entire series (and eagerly awaiting number ten), I can vouch that it is everything the subtitle states: a stylish, sprawling, steampunk adventure, with emphasis on the mad science (mostly the building of cogs-and-wheels devices of mass destruction) and the odd hint of romance thrown in for good measure. 
What I loved about this series is the humour - in particular a threesome of characters called the Jagermonsters who are an intriguing combination of brains and brawn, adorable and creepy - and always strangely witty in their brotherly-rivalry banter. Their job is to protect Agatha Heterodyne (and her talking cat), the last in a long line of powerful mad geniuses capable of singel-handedly building said machines, or 'clanks' of mass destruction and marvel. In an attempt to regain her heritage, she must escape a mad barron and his genuis son (who has a thing for Agatha), get to Mechanicsburg, where the Heterodyne castle waits for the true heir to repair it. Yes, the castle is alive (in a manner of speaking), and deadly. Along the way Agatha meets up with a troupe of travelling actors and becomes one of their strange family, gets possessed by the spirit of her crazed mother, battles a false Heterodyne heirs and a couple of sentient clanks who are out to destroy her, all the while without breaking her big Harry-Potter glasses. 
Beyond belief, to state the obvious, but it is an excellent adventure story, the illustrations are brilliant, the characters expressive and the humour is so sharp you could cut yourself laughing. And if graphic novels are not your thing, there is a full-size novel about Agatha's adventures, called "Agatha H. and the Airship City" to satisfy - and SPL has that one too. 

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