Monday, September 22, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/20

Every week, I write a list like this: all of the books that arrived at my house serendipitously, posted by publishing publicists (say that ten times fast!) to get the word out about those books. As always, I haven't read any of them yet, but I can tell you some things about them -- without too much snark, I hope -- and maybe one or more of them will sound really interesting to you.

This is the big week: every month, I get a box of the new manga and other books from the fine folks at Yen Press, and this week was it this time around. But, before I get into the Yen box, there were a few other books to mention:

Silverblind is Tina Connolly's third novel, continuing the story of an alternate fantasy world where a long cold war between human and fey flared up in Ironskin and Copperhead. This one seems to be set sometime later -- from internal details in the first few pages, I'll make a wild guess at roughly the turn of the 20th century -- and focuses on Dorie Rochart, the half-fey young woman who uses the skills of the former to get around prejudices against the latter and obtain a job at the Queen's Lab to study wyverns. (Because fantasy alternate histories must always have dragonic creatures and involve the British Empire, of course.) It's a Tor hardcover, available October 7th.

R.S. Belcher continues his steampunk Western series -- begun in The Six-Gun Tarot -- with The Shotgun Arcana, another Tor hardcover coming October 7th. This time out, the weird town of Golgotha, Nevada has to deal with a small army of thirty-two "outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals" who are seeking "a horrific relic that dates back to the Donner Party...and the dawn of humanity." So fun times are definitely in store.

The Dragon Brigade trilogy from Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes concludes with The Seventh Sigil, a Tor hardcover arriving September 23rd. It's one of your usual saving-the-world stories, with our heroes the masters of their world and the folks who are battling them are using contramagic and have been banished Below. (I'm assuming that the books themselves don't feel as much like a slave revolt from the POV of the slaveholders as the jacket copy does.)

And then we get into the Yen books, all of them coming out in September -- as usual, I'm organizing them by volume number, to give an ascending sense of confusion:

The Way of Shadows: The Graphic Novel is an adaptation of the epic fantasy novel by Brent Weeks. The book is a bit opaque with its credits, but I believe Ivan Brandon adapted the novel into comics (possibly with some input or oversight or kibitzing or co-writing by Weeks) and that Andy MacDonald drew it. (No letterer is credited, and the book is in black-and-white.) This is the kind of fantasy story with names like Azoth, Durzo Blint, and Kylar Stern; the kind with small armies of feral children living in filth and practically superpowered assassins lurking; the kind where villains (ones who haven't even seen puberty yet) say things like "I want you to be a hero. I want everyone who doesn't dare stand up to me to look at you and start to hope. And then I will destroy everything you've done. I will destroy you so completely that no one will ever defy me again." If you like books like that, and you like them in comics form: here it is.

Void's Enigmatic Mansion, Vol. 1 begins a series from the Korean creator HeeEun Kim (art and adaptation) -- it's also credited to "original by JiEun Ha," so I think it was originally a light novel or anime series. Void is the mysterious owner of a big house filled with tenants, who can give anyone their greatest wishes -- but, like most wishing stories, things don't work out well for the wisher.

Reki Kawahara's light novel of the same name comes to comics in Accel World, Vol. 1, which was adapted and drawn by Hiroyuki Aigamo (using the character designs of the novel's illustrator, Hima). This is a combo picked-on-boy-makes-good and virtual reality story, with a hero who actually looks believeably roly-poly.

MiSun Kim has gotten to Aron's Absurd Armada Omnibus, Vol. 3, continuing a comedy four-panel series that I covered in a round up a couple of years ago when the first volume came out. This is probably the oddest pirate story you ever will see -- in fact, think right now of the oddest pirate story possible, and Aron's Absurd Armada has probably already topped that.

And Satoko Kiyuduki is back with Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, Vol. 4, which is odd in a quieter, more subtle way. (See my reviews of the first three volumes: I like this series, but I wouldn't claim to really understand it.)

Then there's Bloody Cross, Vol. 4 by Shiwo Komeyama, which is a plot-tokens style supernatural adventure, with a mythology that's something like Christianity as seen from very far away by someone who isn't paying close attention and likes to change things to suit a story. (I reviewed the first three books this year in Book-A-Day as Days 33, 91, and 154.)

Are You Alice?, Vol. 6 continues as well, written and drawn by Ikumi Katagiri from the original "Drama CDs" (I'm not at all sure what that means -- interactive Flash games? audio dramas?) by Ai Ninomiya. It's nominally an adaptation of Lewis Carrol's Alice stories, but it seem to really just use some names and visual reference from popular Alice movies of the past, and tell its own very different story.

Then there's The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Vol. 6 by Nagaru Tanigawa and Puyo, a side-story sprouting off Tanigawa's The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya manga, which itself adapts Tanigawa's light novel series of the same name. By the way, the back cover copy doesn't seem to have anything to do with Nagato Yuki-Chan, but I suppose that's onlky to be expected, if she's disappeared.

Sataoko Kiyuduki's GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Vol. 6 once again tests my ability to type complicated titles with its sixth volume. I reviewed the first book of this slice-of-art-school 4-panel comedy series and basically liked it, though a lot of comedy doesn't translate easily across languages.

And here's another thick volume: Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 7 gets us over the two-thousand-page mark in the story by Hiroshi Takashige (writer) and Double-S (artist). I know it has an oracular girl, a blind swordsman, and the nasty folks who want to exploit the former and kill the latter, but I imagine a lot of detail and changes have happened in those two thousand pages.

Another adaptation from another medium: Spice and Wolf, Vol. 9 is a manga by Isuna Hasekura and Keito Koume that follows the light novels by Hasekura (and thus the character designs from the novels' illustrator, Jyuu Ayakura). It's a mercantile fantasy about a master trader and his sidekick, a minor fertility goddess turned wolf-girl (hey, everybody needs to re-tool for a second career these days) as they wander around their world, buying and selling stuff.

Another series that has foiled those of us who like to see a consistent numbering scheme so we can keep things straight is Durarara!! Yellow Scarves Arc, Vol. 1. The book itself doesn't list the other Durarara!! volumes, which I think is a mistake, but it follows five volumes of plain Durarara!! and three of Saika Arc. As far as I can tell, it's still about a large, amorphous cast in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo doing various, usually illegal, things.

And then there's Park SoHee's Goong, Vol. 16, which is still an alternate-history romance about a girl who married and divorced the crown prince of Korea (a position which doesn't actually exist in our world, hence the "alternate" bit). By this point, it looks like we're into the reconciliation phase, of course blocked by the usual palace schemers and mean girls who want the prince for themselves.

Last for this week is Atsushi Ohkubo's Soul Eater, Vol. 22, latest in the series about the demon-fighters-in-training of Death Weapons Meister Academy and their shapeshifting sentient weapons. (See my reviews of volumes one and eight for slightly more detail.) It's fun shonen adventure with high energy and crisply drawn storytelling, which is a lot, actually.

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