Friday, October 23, 2015

Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle - Phil and Kaja Foglio

   2014; 481 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 3 (comprising of Volumes 7-9 of the graphic novel editions) in the “Girl Genius” series.  Genre : Comic Novelization; Gaslamp Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    It is the moment of reckoning for Agatha.  Now that she’s discovered her true lineage – she’s both a Heterodyne and a Spark, it’s time to claim her rightful place as the ruler and master of Castle Heterodyne.

    Of course she still has to prove to the rest of the world that she’s not a pretender.  That’s easily enough done; she just has to enter Castle Heterodyne and have it accept her.  Which may sound strange, but the castle is a sentient …er… being, and will exterminate all false claimants as soon as they pass through the front gate.

    So it is rather curious then, when another girl, Zola, sashays up to the castle door and enters without any terminally dire consequences.   Surely there is only one Chosen One, and that’s Agatha.

    Hmm.  It’s enough to make a girl think twice about entering Castle Heterodyne.

What’s To Like...
    Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle is the third “novelization” of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s fabulous Girl Genius graphic novel series.  As before, the book encompasses three issues of the graphic novels, meaning this book covers Volumes 7 through 9.  I’ve read the two previous novelizations; they are reviewed here and here.  to read this trilogy in order.

    If you liked the first two, you’ll enjoy AH&tVotC as well.  It has the same wit and humor, and is another fine piece of literature for inspiring girls to become scientists and engineers.  The scene where Agatha is determined to improve the coffee brewing process was hilarious.  So are the multitude of footnotes, which will remind you of the late great Terry Pratchett.  And I’m very intrigued by Airman Higgs.

    The authors work a fairly long and detailed backstory into the beginning chapters, which slows things down.  However, since it’s been more than a year since I read Book Two, I was glad they did.  And once that’s gotten out of the way, things hum along nicely.

    Everything builds to a tense climax, but unfortunately, it has a cliffhanger ending, something that I detest.  I’ll forgive it here, only because the primary source of the storyline is the graphic novel, and we all know comic books are notorious for ending with a cliffhanger to get you to guy the next issue.  Still, it sucks.  I’m glad I got this as a library book, not a purchase.

Kewlest New Word ...
Bindi (n.) : a decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead by Indian women..
Others : Raconteur (n.).

    Gil cleared his throat.  “The very trait that allows Sparks to apparently warp the laws of physics seems to affect probability and statistics within their vicinity as well.  Every visible action will be open to misinterpretation and their motives can easily be misconstrued.”
    Klaus looked startled.  Gil leaned in.  “Your words, Father, used to explain a rather catastrophic incident in your father’s laboratory when you were eleven, if I remember correctly.”
    Klaus glared at his son.  “I was lying.  I knew the cat was there.”  (pg. 84)

    Mr. Oilswick piped up.  “They’re still gaining, sir.”
    The captain thumped a fist down on a bulkhead.  “Blast!  There’s got to be something we can toss!”
    “You scum!”  The voice caught everyone by surprise.  It was Duke Stinbeck.  He had pulled himself up to a sitting position.  “You dare to strike my royal personage?  I’ll have every member of your crew flayed alive!  I’ll see to it that you never collect a pfennig of your pensions!  You’ll never fly again!”
    Lieutenant Lorquis exchanged a glance with the captain.  Occasionally, problems solved themselves.  (pg. 223)

“Whenever he goes on like this, I just think of how many different ways I can spell ‘eviscerate’”.  (pg. 283)
    Agatha H and the Voice of the Castle is another solid installment in this novelized series, but I found it just a bit “off” from the two earlier books.  It seemed like the cause was nothing major, just a combination of several little things.

    First, there aren’t a lot of locations to explore – just Castle Heterodyne and the town below it, Mechanicsburg.  Second, there were a slew of characters to meet, remember, and/or keep track of.  Also, the tone seemed darker and more serious, and Agatha’s side-endeavors into chemistry and engineering, which I find particularly entertaining and motivational, seemed fewer and further between.  Lastly, it just felt longer and slightly “draggy” due to the need for an extensive backstory.

   I suspect this is mostly because the stories were originally visual, in boffo comic book style.  Perhaps it all works better in graphic novel format.  I intend to find out, as my local library carries a lot of the newer graphic novel issues (to be eventually made into Book 4, I’m sure) and I’m going there this weekend.  If I can find where they stash these, I’ll bring one home.

    8 Stars.  Add 1 star if you’re a YA girl and Agatha H. inspires you to set your sights on becoming a scientist, instead of a princess.

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