Titan Books, p/b, 264pp, Â£7.99/Kindle, Â£6.07
Reviewed by David Brzeski
I was intrigued to see this book. I’d first discovered Phil Foglio as the artist on the comic book adaptations of the late Robert Asprin’s ‘MythAdventures’ series. He also illustrated the original prose books, but I saw the comics first. While ‘MythAdventures’ started life as books and was later adapted into comics. ‘Girl Genius’ did it the other way around. In fact, there are currently eleven trade paperback collections reprinting the comic books and the webcomic version, which, I believe, is still ongoing. This novel is a prose retelling of the first 3 volumes.
Which brings me to my only major complaint. What on Earth were Titan Books thinking when they chose to replace Foglio’s excellent artwork with such a bland, nondescript cover? Granted, Night Shade Books didn’t use Foglio’s artwork on the cover of their hardback edition either, but Tom Kidd, the artist they commissioned, was personally selected by the authors, and was a much better representation of the contents.
Having got that little niggle off my chest, I have nothing else particularly negative to say about this wonderful book. The characters work as well, if not even better, in prose form as they did in the graphic version. The only major loss from the original comic book version is the plethora of very funny sight-gags that Foglio worked into the artwork.
The book is set in a sort of alternate universe/alternate history version of Europe (Europa) with a steampunk sensibility. Instead of wizards and witches, this world has â€œsparksâ€, people born with a mutant-like gift for mad science, which, when it manifests, can often lead to disaster as their inspiration vastly outdistances their common sense. Europa existed in a state of almost constant all-out war, with mad scientists on all sides, until Baron Wulfenbach managed to bring about a fragile peace. Agatha H. discovers that she’s the last living member of the Heterodyne family, a line of very powerful sparks, who went missing around the time of her birth. Needless to say, this discovery complicates her life considerably.
It’s a mad, mad (scientists) world, populated by sparks, clanks, constructs, slaver wasps and JÃ¤germonsters. Tremendously entertaining.
I already have the follow-up, ‘Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess’ on my to-be-reviewed pile, and am looking forward to getting to it soon.