Reviews: The Magicians graphic novel and more

Before I head off to the Shakespeare Association of America meeting, some reviews:

The Magicians Original Graphic Novel: Alice’s Story by Lilah Sturges, Lev Grossman, Pius Bak. 5/5
I really enjoyed this graphic novel, which shows the events of Lev Grossman’s novel The Magicians from the POV of character Alice Quinn. If you’re familiar with the book, you’ll be fascinated by this new take on the story, starting with Alice’s arrival at Brakebills and culminating with the thoughts and experiences of the quasi-Alice she becomes at the end of the novel. The artwork of the graphic novel allows for readers to literally see how other readers imagined that characters and the places and the events of the original, and the book overall is a great addition to any Magicians’ fan’s library.

The Travelers by Regina Porter. 4/5
This is a sprawling mosaic of a book with fascinating and engaging and conflicted and very real characters that spans generations and friendships and family and good days and bad days and dark times and better ones. Although the beginning of the book and its very clinical tone initially turned me off, I’m glad I kept reading. As the stories of the many characters got underway, the writing became more intimate and interesting.

Blossoms in Autumn by Script by Zidrou / Art by Aimée de Jongh. 2/5
A retired moving man in his late 50s and a cheese shop owner in her early 60s embark on a relationship. When the woman, against all odds and apparently having never been told that even older folks should practice safe sex, becomes pregnant, they flee the judgement of the man’s family and go to Corsica, where the book ends before the woman has given birth. The book is meh–not particularly interesting or deep or thoughtful, but not unpleasant to read.

Executive Assistant: Iris Volume 1 by David Wohl, Eduardo Francisco. 1/5
Fan service and exoticism. Drawn well, but reifies the trope of the beautiful and deadly exotic woman who works for a man.

Three Ways to Disappear by Katy Yocom. 5/5
This is a beautiful novel about family and truth and being an outsider. Sarah , a journalist, takes on a job with a tiger conservation NGO in the small village in India where she and her family once lived, while in the US, her sister Quinn deals with a callous husband, a sick child, and the weight of guilt from her childhood in India. The two work to create a new relationship with each other and those around them, all the while threatened by the politics of their presence in India. The plots are compelling and the writing is gorgeous without being overambitious or false.

When We Were Arabs by Massoud Hayoun. 1/5
This was a near-unreadable mess of polemic, history, family history, and memoir. It’s poorly organized and written, jumps around in a scattered and unedited way, and ultimately is a chore to get through. I think the author has a story to tell and a point–or several–to make, but those aren’t served well in the current state this book is in.

The Fragments by Toni Jordan. 4/5
I mostly liked this thriller about about a lost book, its enigmatic author, an older woman who seems to know more than is possible about both, and the young woman who puts all of the pieces together. Caddie Walker, who left academia after a relationship with a predatory professor and now works in a bookshop, is devoted to the work of Inga Karlson, whose first book was an enormously popular and moving bestseller. Karlson’s second book, along with the ms, all of the press plates and any ephemera, went up in a fire that also killed Karlson and her publisher. But when Caddie goes to see the fragments of that second book on display, she encounters a woman who seems to know more about the second book than is possible, and Caddie tracks her down for the full story. While the reveal of this true story is predictable, it’s done well. The fact that Caddie goes to the predatory professor for help, and then seems to set him up to be hoist by his own petard, is a bit annoying and not easy to follow in terms of readers understanding what Caddie is doing; the same goes for her will-they-or-won’t-they relationship with another man burned by the same professor. If the relationships and Caddie’s intentions had been a bit clearer, the end would have been even more delicious.

Swords, Sorcery, & Self-Rescuing Damsels by Lee French. 2/5
There are some okay stories in here, but not enough that I could really recommend the book. Often the “self-rescuing” women and girls aren’t really so much self-rescuing as they are simply engaging in good manners or being friendly to the friendless and so on.

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly. 4/5
An atmospheric gothic read about a wealthy family and its secrets, as teased out by a newcomer to the family and its estate in Bethlehem, PA. It could be dismissed as just another entry into the long line of books about rich white people and secret love affairs and tragically short lives, but it’s beautifully written and the author’s inclusion of class-based conflict makes it seem more real and more compelling than if that aspect hadn’t been present.

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