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Fantasy Friday – Agatha H and the Airship City


Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio


Review by Bowden P. (Trey)


This was a very fun book. Partly because I’m a fan of the Foglio’s gaslamp fantasy web series, Girl Genius. I also think it would be a fun one for steampunk fans, and for anyone who enjoys a light hearted fantasy. Don’t get me wrong – there are some dark parts – but by and large this is as lighthearted as the comic.

So … what’s it about? It is about Agatha Clay, a marginal student at Transylvania Polygnostic University, set in a vaguely familiar alternate Europe. One where the Industrial Revolution came early and turned it into an all out war. Mad geniuses, sparks in the vernacular, madboys and girls in the even more vernacular, created various ultimate weapons and, well, either conquered with them, or were destroyed by them. Or some combination thereof. Needless to say, being an innocent bystander in this setting is not for the faint of heart. Or slow of feet. The setting is alternately fun, absurd and very dark. Well worth it as part of the show.

Back to Agatha. She’s not a spark in a world where all the significant advances have been made by sparks (they’ve literally changed the world – you can’t reach the Americas any more and most of the British Isles is under water). Once beyond the prologue (that helps set the scene), it starts with Agatha having a bad day, that rapidly gets worse as she is mugged and arrives at the university late. There, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach (ruler of most of Europe, enforcer of the Pax Wulfenbach and of the motto “Behave. Or else.”) makes a snap inspection of the University with his son and heir Gilgamesh Wulfenbach in tow.

Before the inspection is over, Agatha got expelled, the head of the university and town is dead and her world is completely turned upside down. And by the time the book is done, her life has had so many changes and gyrations that you’d need n-dimensional math to fully describe them all. So I’m not even going to try.

Again, this is a fun book. And a good one too. It does retell the early parts of the series, adding more details (fans like me may get more out of that than others coming into it cold), alternate views, scenes that didn’t make it into the comic and off camera takes on the events of the comics. It also makes things clearer.

And, oh yes, it is funny. If you’re looking for the broad, rapid paced hero of Illegal Aliens and the Bureau 13 books with Polletta, you’ll be disappointed. But its still funny. Not as broad, fairly nuanced, but funny. Its also touching. There is a scene with Krosp and his creator (we learn who it is in the Agatha H and the Airship City) that I found touching.

The verdict:

Likes: Additional details, alternate views on the events of the comics; Character development (Moloch gets fleshed out) and richer characterization; More world details and world building; Strong female lead (by the end – I’m looking forward to the sequel).

Dislikes: Mostly seems aimed at the fans of the series.




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