Reviews in Brief

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Okay, here’s a quick run through of what I’ve been reading..

Magic Study is the sequel to Poison Study, once again following the adventures of Yelena as she continues to encounter political power plays and navigates her new-found magical powers. Interestingly, she discovers that she’s not at all a super-powered demi-goddess. She’s got some neato powers, sure, but she can’t start fires, which is a pretty common magic, and her insistent desire to be independent still gets her into trouble. She’s def not a Mary Sue. Also refreshing is a novel set in a nation of POC filled with characters described as such. I’m a bit miffed that the series following this, set in Sitia, has cover art featuring a bunch of blondes, but then again I’m a big mean RACIST who hates Sorceress Barbie with a passion. Plus, I like my art to follow canon. This and Poison Study would be a good gift to your precocious teen niece, who’s craving a strong female lead and can handle some mild sexuality.

I followed this with Skulduggery Pleasant, which features a skeleton mage detective and his wise-cracking Girl Wonder. The novel is narrated from Stephanie’s perspective, and is quite wry. She’s snarky, doesn’t take Skulduggery’s leadership for granted, and is quite brave. Also awesome are China Sorrows, the archetypal naughty librarian who is totally in it to win it (by this I mean she’s constantly expanding her collection of arcane archival materials) and Tanith Low, a courageous woman warrior who’s willing to take on both trolls and zombified Cleavers single handed. This young adult novel would be another good gift for the tween reader in your life.

I flipped through Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, and was amused. He’s got to dual the seven evil ex-boyfriends of the woman of his dreams, as well as finding a way to break up with his 17 year old high school sweetie. It’s a fun, kooky world marred by some racialized weirdness involving Knives Chau, the high schooler in question. While I’m down with the humor of the plot-line and get that it’ supposed to be funny that she’s going to be a batty Asian girl in a Catholic school-girl uniform, I am weirded out by the ways in which her age and race seem to be where her characterization begins and ends. It’s like with Bridge of Birds — why does subverting a genre include blatant racialized stereotypes, where the characters are in fact exactly what they appear? I’m probably going to finish out the series, just to see how it ends and if Knives improves as a character.

I also re-read Stagger Lee, and am still amazed at the depth of historical research going on in this graphic novel. Both the male and female characters emerge with startling clarity, and the writers do an amazing job of conveying the convoluted race, class, and political relationships going on in St. Louis, MO during the 1890s. They also explain the rise of the mythos of Stagger Lee/Stack O’Lee, and describe the different things folksongs do for the communities in which they emerge.

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