Shades of Magic, Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (#1 – #4) by V.E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri

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“Here, our story begins…”

I read the entire A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy, and I ended up giving them all three stars. I am absolutely obsessed with Victoria’s mind and worlds, and her characters are truly some of the best I’ve read, but the plot and events always held me back from completely loving them. But when I found out we were going to get to learn more about Rhy’s father (adoptive father of Kell) and the events that lead him to being King, I knew I couldn’t resist. But here I am, still surprised that I ended up giving the prequel graphic novel series start three stars.

Maxim Maresh is only a prince in this brand-new graphic novel series, but he is the sole heir and the king in waiting in Red London. Yet, he wants to be so much more than that, and he wants to prove that he will be capable and earn his rightful place as king one day. Maxim and his family are also people of color, with obvious dark brown skin, but it is never stated what ethnicity in this made up alternate historical London. And he has earned himself the title of The Steel Prince because of his magical affinity with steel.

But in this bind-up, Maxim gets involved with pirates, and magical tournaments, and figuring out who he wants to be. Yet, this first volume barely mentions the parallel Londons, which (to me) is the coolest part of this world, completely. And then with this elaborate magic system finally being visualized, it just felt clunky, and like it missed the mark completely on something that could have been groundbreaking.

“You fight like a royal. Like the weapons are made of wood. Like no one means to hurt you. But this is not London, your highness.”

But my biggest problem with this graphic novel was honestly the art. Trust me, it kills me to say this, but I just never grew to like the style of this book. And especially with something as cool as the world of ADSOM, I feel like an artist really could have turned this into one of the most aesthetically pleasing series of all time, especially with red, grey, black, and white having such a pivotal role in this world. But I don’t have an art degree, so don’t listen to me. I’m just stating what I would have liked more for this story! The artist is still very talented. And if this is your favorite art style of all time? You are valid.

I still really enjoyed this bind-up and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. I hope we get to see more cameos of characters we love, too! And if you are already a fan of VE Schwab and this breathtaking world, I bet you will absolutely love this addition! Content and trigger warnings violence, blood, and torture.

Okay, so like with every graphic novel that I review, I always do a breakdown on what happens briefly in each individual issue. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Obviously, I won’t give away anything too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes that each issue had inside.

ISSUE ONE:
We get to meet Maxim, the prince and sole heir to the throne. We also get to meet the king, and his dad, Nokil. And we also get our first glimpse at Maxim wanting to be more than the prince in waiting, and he wants to prove himself and his fighting abilities.

ISSUE TWO:
We are introduced to Arisa, the pirate queen, and we get to learn about a tournament where the winner will fight her to prove themselves worthy. Also, we get to see the Black Torch, and you know my pub loving heart was so dang happy.

ISSUE THREE:
Isra, the pirate queen’s niece, and Maxim are both battling in the tournament where we see so many different magic abilities, and we learn there are no rules and anything goes.

ISSUE FOUR:
Things do not go Maxim’s way, but he is rescued. Then, after, he receives a letter from his father, asking him to come. But he declines because he still has so much more to learn.

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Bingo Love by Tee Franklin

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“I’ve hidden my love for a woman for fifty years”

Wow, I loved this second chance romance so much. It was sweet, and heartwarming, but so real, and so heartbreaking. I laughed, I cried, I wanted more. Seriously, I’m so dang happy that I picked this up.

This story is told in flashbacks from present day to 1963, where we see two young girls discovering their sexuality. Hazel is at the bingo hall when she lays eyes on the new girl, Mari, for the very first time. Both come from strict and religious homes, but Mari’s homelife is far less supportive. And because of the 60s being a product of its time, they are never allowed to be together. That is, until they meet back up at a bingo hall, fifty years later.

“Since when is it a sin to be in love?”

But both Hazel and Mari have families and are leading lives where people depend on them. But neither is truly happy, or at least they know that they could be happier, if they were willing to take a risk. This story really is about how life is short, but no matter how short it is it will always be worth listening to your heart and trying to live the life that you want to live.

I do want to touch on a few other things that I truly loved about this graphic novel. First this is ownvoices, Tee Franklin is black and queer! Next, Hazel says the word pan on page! Hazel is also plus-sized! And I really loved the normalization of talking to a psychiatrist! This story just had so much good in it, and it truly touched me so very much.

Overall, this was just exactly what I wanted. It was equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, and just made me really appreciate the life I am able to live in 2019. Not saying that 2019 is perfect, but it’s better than the 60s and easier to surround myself with people who love and support me. I completely recommend this graphic novel with my whole heart. The art is perfect, the story is awe-inspiring, and the characters are truly unforgettable.

Oh, and this panel? Added five years to my life:

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Content and trigger warnings for homophobia, grey area cheating, and talk of illness/loss of a loved one.

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

Fence Vol. 2 (Fence #2) by C.S. Pacat & Johanna The Mad

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1.) Vol. 1 ★★★★★

“All I have to do is fence.”

Oh my word, this was such a damn treat. I love these characters and this graphic novel series so very much. Vol. 1 completely stole my heart last year, and Vol. 2 was a wonderful addition. Even though the wait for Vol. 3 to get published is going to maybe be the death of me.

This bind up really focuses on how all of the fencers are still in tryouts, therefore they are being ranked based off their wins verses the other candidates. Harvard and Seiji are at the very top, while Nicholas is trying to climb his way back up the rankings. But we get to see so many match ups in this volume and I was absolutely living for it.

I just love this storyline and seeing all the students at this boarding school trying to live out their dreams with fencing. The conversations are perfect. The art is a new masterpiece on every page. The friendships and brewing relationships are beyond words. The only real negative thing I can say is that sometimes the pacing feels so very slow. But I have no doubts that it’s absolutely going to be worth the wait!

Okay, so like with every graphic novel that I review, I always do a breakdown on my thoughts and feeling of each individual issue. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Obviously, I won’t give away anything too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes that each issue had inside.

CHAPTER FIVE
Aiden vs. Seiji! Aka: be still, my freakin’ heart! Also, seeing everyone love Aiden just warms my damn heart every single time. Also, Nicholas is finally and officially back!

CHAPTER SIX
Why is Bobby the greatest character of all-time? We get to see a little bit more background on Jessie Coste! And we get to see that Nicholas is really ready to be back and he is even more ready to fence!

CHAPTER SEVEN
Nicolas vs. Aiden! Still, Aiden’s fans give me life. But the winner of this single issue is easily seeing Seiji through Bobby’s eyes! Also, Aiden leaving a cute guy because something more important came up? Good lord, OTP status incoming, I swear to everything.

CHAPTER EIGHT
Seiji vs. Harvard! But also, Seiji vs. Nicholas and their rubber ducky shower curtain divider! Slowest burn of all slow burns! And the next match is going to be Harvard vs. Aiden and I’m not sure I can handle it!

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❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

Saga, Vol. 9 (Saga, #9) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

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Vol. 1 ★★★★
Vol. 2 ★★★★
Vol. 3 ★★★★★
Vol. 4 ★★★★
Vol. 5 ★★★★★
Vol. 6 ★★★★★
Vol. 7 ★★★★★
Vol. 8 ★★★★

“War can’t be ended any more than the rain.”

This is for sure the most emotionally driven volume of Saga yet, which is really saying something considering everything that has happened over the course of all of these issues. I can’t help being invested with each and every character, but this volume just hurts. Especially not knowing when Volume 10 will be released because the creators are taking a break. But this addition to the story was a masterpiece, a painful masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

I’ve always said that it is completely genius to have this story be told with Hazel as the narrator, and Volume 9 really showcases that. Just seeing this baby, this toddler, this little girl, be forced to grow up in a world where hatred is bred. While also always being forced to live on the run, while being forced to grow up faster than anyone in the galaxy, while realizing that no one you love is ever safe. My heart breaks for Hazel and heals for Hazel every single page. And I truly think she is one of the best protagonists, of any story, of all time.

As always, Saga is a dark story that has very adult, NSFW content! So, please use caution! Content and trigger warnings for slavery, fatphobic comments, death, murder, talk of past child abuse, and sexual content.

As always, I’m now going to break down each chapter (single issue) in this bind-up. I mostly do this so I can go back and refresh what has happened in which specific issue. There will be SPOILERS, so please do not continue if you have not read this graphic-novel or the ones leading up to this volume!

“It takes someone you love to break your heart.”

CHAPTER 49
Ianthe has The Will and has forced him into slavery, while looking for Hazel. Petrichor and Prince Robot are officially a thing, and it’s the best. We get to see Upsher and Doff again, and they are still working on news stories, even off the grid with the gang. They are all on Jetsam, which what appears to be a planet with an abandoned amusement park. And Ghüs is the new babysitter.

CHAPTER 50
Oh boy, sexy times! Ianthe makes “The Help” kill. Squire, Prince Robot’s son, doesn’t want a new body or to leave with Petri and Prince Robot, after they tell their story.

CHAPTER 51
Marko is writing a secret book, that I’m sure is going to have a profound impact in the next volume. Doff is killed, but The Will is finally free, even if all he can see is rage and vengeance for The Stalk.

CHAPTER 52
Squire runs away, but soon runs into Ianthe. Meanwhile, Prince Robot and The Will meet up.

CHAPTER 53
Everyone is dying, The Will appears to have killed Prince Robot. Ianthe is hurt, but Alana is shot. Everything is falling apart.

CHAPTER 54
Marko and the Will have a fight scene to top all other fight scenes. And at the end, it appears that Marko dies. Friends, I don’t even have words. Only tears.

“At least I get to grow old.”

I truly believe that Saga is truly a once in a lifetime series, and this last installment has really left me speechless. This is just such a profound staple in not only graphic novels, but in the entire reading community. There is a reason so many people love this series, and it really proves over and over that no one is safe, nothing is safe, but the story always gets better and better. Okay, I’m off to go cry some more.

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Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

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Vol. 1 ★★★★
Vol. 2 ★★★★
Vol. 3 ★★★★★
Vol. 4 ★★★★
Vol. 5 ★★★★★
Vol. 6 ★★★★★
Vol. 7 ★★★★★

“In the beginning, there was Landfall and there was Wreath.”

This ended up being such a heartwarming volume, after bawling my eyes out after Vol. 7. The start of this was for sure still a tearjerker, but Saga truly will make you feel every emotion possible. This series continues to prove that it is a tier above so many out there, and I truly hope it never ends.

I just feel like this Romeo and Juliet story is done so well, that I’m actual at a loss for words. I know we are eight volumes in, but I care so deeply for all of these characters and side characters that it just continues to astound me. They all deserve the literal galaxy and all the stars within it, but every volume the risks and stakes just continue to get increased. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have really just created something so amazing and inspiring that I am left in awe after almost every page.

I will say that this volume heavily talks about how people should choose what they want to do with their body, regardless of what anyone else chooses to believe for their bodies. This bind-up is really prochoice, which is also something that I’m very passionate about, and seeing it portrayed in a graphic novel is something I really wasn’t expecting, but I loved it with my whole heart. But content and trigger warnings for talk of miscarrying, talk of stillbirths, talk of abortion, violence, child abuse, depictions of trauma, depictions of PTSD, and graphic sexual content. Saga is always a bit of a darker graphic novel, so please use caution if any of these things could be triggering to you.

As always, I’m now going to break down each chapter (single issue) in this bind-up. I mostly do this so I can go back and refresh what has happened in which specific issue. There will be SPOILERS, so please do not continue if you have not read this graphic-novel or the ones leading up to this volume!

CHAPTER 43
Marko, Alana, Hazel, Petri, and Prince Robot land on Pervious to remove the baby that Alana is still carrying after the terrible events of Vol. 7. Petri talks a bit more about being a transwoman, and we see Alana has developed some new powers!

CHAPTER 44
Alana is also struggling with everything that happened to her in such a short time, and she is beginning to see the son she should have had. And we are introduced to some new bad guys.

CHAPTER 45
Alana’s new powers are allowing her to project the son she wishes she had, and Hazel is becoming attached. But using this new ability is hurting Alana more and more, until Hazel has to learn a new power to save her. Meanwhile, those new bad guys are attempting to kill Petri, but Prince Robot saves her.

CHAPTER 46
We learn that Prince Robot is genderfluid and we get to see a little bit of a romance brewing between them and Petri. Marko, Alana, and Hazel meet Endwife, who takes care of women who are too far along in their pregnancies for help elsewhere. And Endwife gives Marko a small glimpse of why being prochoice is so important.

CHAPTER 47
Ianthe currently has The Will captured and has him hooked up to a machine that allows them both to view his memories. We see him and Sophie growing up with an abusive father, and how their uncle, The Letter, came and took them away. We get to see him and The Stalk starting their romance, too, but soon Ianthe becomes aware of who Hazel is and who her mother and father are.

CHAPTER 48
We are finally reintroduced to my favorite character, Ghüs, and the rest of their friends that have been stranded while waiting for Marko and Alana. Squire, Prince Robot’s son, has gotten a lot bigger, and is getting more and more adventurous. But they are soon reunited when the crew comes back with much needed food for the gang. And we get to see Squire and Hazel start a beautiful friendship. Oh, and Hazel can finally fly!

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Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

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Vol. 1 ★★★★
Vol. 2 ★★★★
Vol. 3 ★★★★★
Vol. 4 ★★★★
Vol. 5 ★★★★★
Vol. 6 ★★★★★

“Nothing in the universe was safe from the endless war between mom’s planet and dad’s moon…”

This seventh installment is truly a masterpiece, and one of the most impactful graphic novels I’ve ever read. The ending of this is true and utter perfection, and the emotional range that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are able to evoke is truly something I don’t have words for. This but seventh volume truly shows why Saga is one of the best graphic works in existence.

And this volume really talks about heaven and hell and believing and not knowing. All six issues really have the theme of what if there is something better after this life? What if there is something worse? What if there is nothing at all? And we get to see so many people live their lives feeling very differently on the spectrum, while also seeing it shape their lives entirely.

We get to see some amazing new characters in this, but we also are forced to say goodbye to many. All the volumes in this world can get pretty dark, but this one especially has some major content and trigger warnings for sexual content, violence, attempted suicide, death, murder, an animal death, talk of miscarrying, and war themes. Please use caution going into this bind-up.

And it feels extra heartbreaking because you only want the best for these characters, after seeing them go through such horrific things for the last six volumes, all because two people, from two different races, decided to fall in love.

As always, I’m now going to break down each chapter (single issue) in this bind-up. I mostly do this so I can go back and refresh what has happened in which specific issue. There will be SPOILERS, so please do not continue if you have not read this graphic-novel or the ones leading up to this volume!

CHAPTER 37
We get to see Alana (who is very pregnant), Marko, Hazel, Izabel, Petri, and Sir Robot all together on their latest ship. But they desperately need to refuel, so they go to a new place called Phang, where they meet Jabarah, Kurti, and their whole big family! We also get to see Gwendolyn, Lying Cat, and Sophie (who is ten now), on a new adventure together!

CHAPTER 38
Hazel and the family end up staying for six months on Phang! And they become very close with Jabarah, Kurti, and their family! We get to see The Will meet up with Velour (Gwendolyn’s wife), because he is trying to track her down. And we get to see a new villain, The March, who is a two headed alien, who kills Izabel and I’m forever crying.

CHAPTER 39
The Will is fired from his freelancing job and is just doing worse and worse mental health wise. Hazel and everyone else are trying to deal with the loss of Izabel. And this volume really starts the questions about an afterlife, and what people are willing to do in the name of it.

CHAPTER 40
Gwen is selling or trading a very mysterious box that is going to do very bad things. Prince Robot is spiraling worse and worse, and finds some drugs that helps remind him of everything he as lost, and he makes some really poor choices.

CHAPTER 41
Phang is going to crash into a timesuck, so Marko and Alana are desperately trying to get everyone together leave. The Will meets up with Sophie and the gang, and gives her the choice to come with him. Sophie stays with Gwendolyn, and Lying Cat doesn’t want to leave Sophie, so she stays, too.

CHAPTER 42
Marko shoots a weapon, but it’s going to really impact him down the road, but there was no other choice. The Will’s dog dies, and I was not prepared. And then Jabarah decides to keep her family on a dying thing because she has faith in a higher power. So, Hazel and the gang are forced to leave, but they lose so very much.

Again, this entire volume is about faith and believing and loss and how each person will live their lives differently surrounding those three things. The last pages of this? They broke me. I had tears streaming down my face as those heartbreaking black pages. Again, the emotions this story is able to evoke from me is something I will never have words for. But I love these characters, this art, and this beautiful story with my entire existence.

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Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill

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ARC provided by Oni Press in exchange for an honest review.

“But there’s no home without a future…”

I just want to say that Katie O’Neill has the most breathtaking, most gorgeous, and most adorable illustrations out there right now. Each page is literally a brand-new work of art. Never have I ever loved the illustrations in anything as much as I do in this and in The Tea Dragon Society!

Aquicorn Cove stars a young girl named Lana, and she and her father come to visit her Auntie Mae on her little island. Lana is grieving the loss of her mother, but feels happier in her hometown, before Lana was forced to move to the city with her father. And the village is rebuilding after a disaster has struck. But Lana is more than happy to help. But when she goes to the water, she finds a little seahorse-like friend, who is in need of her help!

We also get to see Auntie Mae’s journey below the water, where the Aquicorns live! And Aunt Mae and their leader, Aure, strike up the most heart-warming f/f relationship. But we also get to see firsthand how important it is to keep our waters clean and that we need to respect coral reefs and underwater ecosystems.

Every book I’ve read by Katie has also has such an important and powerful message. Aquicorn Cove is about conservation and how the actions we take on land are impacting our waters. How overfishing, climate change, and polluting is hurting these water sources, and if we don’t change our actions then the results are going to be more and more severe. This is a book that really focuses on the delicate balance we have with all living things, and how we have to respect and protect each other to keep the cycle going. We all have to be responsible for our carbon footprint, or nothing will be safe; land or sea.

“Children don’t deserve to lose their home with the sea.”

Overall, I loved this more than words. Some of these panels were able to evoke such an emotional response from me. I shed so many tears, but also grinned so many smiles. I truly think Katie O’Neill is doing so much good in the world, and I wish I could put her work in everyone’s hands. Beautiful and breathtaking illustrations, empowering and important messages, and characters that I wish I had growing up. I hope you all pick this up and fall in love, too!


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.