Thursday, October 01, 2009

Review - Fables (Volume 1: Legends in Exile)

I've heard good things about this series and have almost picked it up many times over the past year or so. I finally broke down and grabbed a copy a couple of weeks ago and I'm really glad I did.

I've enjoyed a lot of the "fairy tale retelling" stories that have been coming around lately, some more than others. What I found even more fun about this premise is that the fairy tale characters have been dislocated from their fairy tale worlds and are now living in our world…trying to 'fit in' but also striving to maintain their own identities.

The character development and presentation was excellent. I loved the adult depth given to these characters that are otherwise fairly 2-dimensional. Seeing Jack (of Beanstalk fame) as a conniving, lying, scheming, unsuccessful con-man of sorts was great. Snow White as the semi-snobbish clean cut acting-leader felt a little flat at first, but as the story went on and we saw more into her personality, she became even more intriguing. Prince Charming was great as the over-confident schmoozer. But my favorite had to be the portrayal of "Bigby" (as in "Big Bad" Wolf) as a sort of noir detective for the fairy tale folks. Having just recently read Red Harvest, I had a feel for the hard-boiled detective and really liked Bigby's portrayal.

The art in this novel was well done and a lot of fun. The central art was clean and nice and helped the story along….while at the same time, the artist had a lot of fun along the periphery by adding in small details that added humor or tension to the scenes and may not even be picked up on (I'm sure I missed a lot of the subtleties).

The story was engaging and very interesting. At the heart of this particular book (the first in the series), there was some focus on introducing us to the characters. By doing it through the course of a murder mystery, it allowed the author to provide backstory without it sounding like contrived monologues. The mystery itself was a lot of fun and very engaging. I wish I could say I had it figured out before the very end…but I can't. I did suspect something along the lines of what happened, but not exactly as it played out, which (in my opinion) is the way a good mystery novel should be framed (the reader shouldn't be able to figure things out too easily, but should feel like they came just inches behind the detective).

I was a little turned off by the amount of swearing in the book (I would love to have been able to share this with my kids, but the language will definitely make me keep it out of their hands for at least the next few years). There were a couple of scenes of violence which were a little over the top (especially for young readers), but weren't overly graphic or offensive. And the one "sex scene" and the couple of suggestive panels we in the PG to PG-13 range. Overall, a movie version of the book would probably receive a PG-13 rating, possibly pushed to R if they decided to overplay the language/violence or expound on the sex.

Overall, this was a great read and a very fun world filled with wonderful characters. I'm definitely planning to follow this series (from the B&N shelf, it looks like there are 10+ books already). I may have to increase my book allowance so I can catch up more quickly.

4 stars

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