Stacked Books


  • Anouchka Harris

A Year of Books: April

This year has been a bit of a mad one so far. On the upside, the weather is finally starting to warm up and it's given me the energy to do a whole lot of spring cleaning and tidying. Now, on with the books...

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriot

Scales & Scoundrels by Sebastian Girner, Galaad and Jeff Powell

Unnatural by Mirka Andolfo

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

This is a queer, sci-fi interpretation of the myth of King Arthur in which Arthur is a gay woman descended from the Arab people who settled on the planet that came to be known at Ketch. She is the last person from Ketch to live outside the barrier around the planet, a barrier erected by the super evil corporation Mercer. Mercer owns basically everything and has forced most of civilization to depend on them for their every need. Part of Ari’s destiny is to defeat the biggest evil and... that’s Mercer. As for Merlin, he’s aging backwards (and is now a teenage boy) and has lived through fort-one previous incarnations of King Arthur, each one ultimately dying without fulfilling the true goal of uniting humanity.

This book was so much fun to read! It’s compelling, tense, and maintains a number of mysteries throughout. Despite Merlin’s knowledge from the previous cycles which enables him to foresee certain details, the way in which these events play out stays a surprise without feeling forced or dissatisfying. The writing is also witty and very funny at points. That said, there were some moments that really hit me in the gut. Then there’s the positive inclusion of many LGBTQ+ characters. Some characters’ orientations are not explicitly stated, but this book includes gay and lesbian characters, a non-binary character and an asexual character. The universe of this novel just accepts these identities and orientations. It’s not a big deal.

Once and Future is the first novel. The second is due to come out next year and I am very excited! There are a lot of great details in the world. I particularly enjoyed the planet of Lionel, a medieval themed society ruled by a regent. They have horse-bots there. That they ride to joust. Do I need to say more?

Shadows on the Moon by Zoë Marriot

This one was also a lot of fun. It’s a rough retelling of Cinderella, although I think ‘inspired by’ is probably more accurate. It’s set in a Japan-inspired country in which the protagonist is trying to find her place. Suzume is born into a decent noble family, although they are not particularly prominent. When royal guards come to her home, she manages to escape certain death, but sees them murder her father and cousin, as well as much of the household. She instinctively hides herself, calling on her latent powers of ‘shadow-weaving’. The power to create illusions. There’s a nice call-back to the fairytale when Suzume hides herself in the hearth, covering herself with soot and ashes to conceal herself from the guards. Marriot gives Suzume a lot more agency in this story than in the typical Cinderella story. Part of what appealed to me was that in first half of the story, Suzume is just trying to work with the hand that’s been dealt her, reeling from change to change. But, in the second half, she reclaims her agency and begins to make her own choices. Ultimately, Suzume wants revenge and each of the personalities she dons during the story is partly for protection and partly for revenge. I particularly liked the inclusion of the wicked stepfather and the way Marriot described him felt very familiar and real.

A note though... this book got dark. Without spoiling anything, it gets pretty grim in places. There are explicit descriptions of self-harm throughout, which was not something I expected at all. My one criticism is that I kind of saw most of the twists coming. I didn’t feel the writing was super subtle in its foreshadowing, but that said, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. I did think that the ending was a touch convenient, but it was easy enough at that point to wave it away as a ‘fairytale ending’. I’m a sucker for fairytale reinterpretations and reinventions, and this one was very enjoyable.

Scales & Scoundrels by Sebastian Girner, Galaad and Jeff Powell

I started reading this under recommendation from my husband. It’s a fantasy comic about a persistent scoundrel called Luvander who goes hunting for the treasures of a legendary dungeon, The Dragon’s Maw. On the way, she meets a prince on a quest to prove his bravery and worthiness of the throne, his cynical and cautious bodyguard, and a young dwarf who is afraid of the dark. This definitely has a similar vibe to Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona. The tone is comedic and light-hearted. It feels like it falls into a similar stable to Lumberjanes as well, although it leans much more heavily into the fantasy genre. Scales & Scoundrels is accessible, engaging, and suitable for most ages. The main character especially, Luvander, is exactly the kind of happy-go-lucky protagonist (with a darker edge) that I would have completely fallen in love with at a younger age.

For a light story that’s easy to dip into, but with enough depth and mystery to gain and keep interest, I highly recommend this. I, for one, have been finding recently that reading an issue or two at a time of a comic is the perfect way to bring me down before going to bed. The third volume will be releasing in early July...

Unnatural by Mirka Andolfo

This is an Italian comic (translated by Arancia Studio) about a society of anthropomorphised animals. In this world, inter-species relationships are illegal. Procreation is compulsory, through the reproduction program that matches unpartnered people with an ‘appropriate’ partner. There are a whole lot of parallels to homophobia in this comic and it turns what could have been quite a comedic scenario into something much more sinister. The main character is Leslie, who has been having these dreams... Unnatural is surprisingly raunchy, so mature readers only. The dreams she has are of a wolf and land squarely into what the government categorizes as ‘unnatural behaviour’. The story follows Leslie as she is drafted into the reproduction program when she turns twenty-five. She’s supposed to be paired with a perfect partner, one who is also an approved match. However, things get a lot more complicated from there on out. There are powerful people who need something from Leslie and it becomes clear that it isn’t just the government that wants control over her.

Unnatural is a lot darker than Scales & Scoundrels and entirely different in tone. It’s less light-hearted and significantly more brutal in places. Andolfo’s art, however, is beautiful and she creates and excellent story that weaves together a totalitarian government, mythology, reincarnation, and mind control. It’s a unique and fascinating series, and I’m just waiting for the next volume.

That’s all for April!

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