Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess by Phil and Kaja Foglio

Last year I read a fun little romp called Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio, this was the novelisation of the first 3 collections of the duo’s successful and highly acclaimed webcomic Agatha Heterodyne Girl Genius. The sequel Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess is a novelisation of collections 4, 5 & 6 of the webcomic and picks up almost immediately after the end of Agatha H and the Airship City.

Our plucky and resourceful heroine has escaped from Baron Wulfenbach’s flying fortress, with the genetically altered talking cat Krosp, and seems to have been accompanied by a number of the cute mechanical clanks that she has a knack with. She’s had to leave the love of her life Gilgamesh ‘Gil’ Wulfenbach behind and wants to get to the city of Mechanicsburg so that she can try to make some sort of sense out of her life.

While it’s not entirely necessary to have read Agatha H and the Airship City to enjoy Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess I can’t imagine you’d want to do things that way. The two books were designed to work as introduction and sequel. The nature of the book meant that a lot of exposition and introduction was no longer necessary, and this served to advance the story and character development.

Agatha and Krosp joined a circus or a travelling Heterodyne show, they provided both protection and shelter. It was rather a surreal experience for her as she had discovered she was in fact the daughter of the almost mythical Bill Heterodyne and his wife Lucrezia. The show largely exists by putting on highly fictionalised versions of events in the lives of Bill and his brother Barry, so for Agatha to see her own background portrayed this way was odd to say the least.

While the world and setting gained some depth and got wilder and wilder I felt this followup displayed some of the issues with converting a story told largely by pictures into a completely prose medium. I got rather confused by who was who, especially when Agatha kept channelling her mother, and I found it hard to work out at times who was, and who wasn’t a mechanical construct. I made mention of the Jagermonsters in the previous book, and that particular problem was exarcerbated in this one as three of the super solidiers are key characters and comic relief in the book. I find it detracts from the story to have to stop and decipher their accents. It probably works better in a comic, than it does in a book. I also had difficulty telling one from the other, because they all speak and act the same. Their interactions with Krosp were a lot of fun, though. There was very little of the clank Zoing in Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, which was a shame for me because he was one of the highlights in the series opener.

Overall it’s well worth a read, and it’s a must get for any fan of either the webcomic or the collections. Both character and world building skills do improve markedly and it’s lots of good silly fun, filled with mad science!        

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