mini-review · Reading Diversely · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

34506912Summary from Goodreads:
Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Do you want a beautifully drawn original graphic novel about a teenage prince in Belle Époque-esque France who secretly does drag and the dressmaker he finds to both dress him and keep his secret? Oh, you do.

The Prince and the Dressmaker written and illustrated by Jen Wang is gorgeous novel about identity and friendship and dreams. Sebastian and Frances are such wonderful characters, one trapped by gender expression and the other by class, and their story is so sweet. I love how Wang explores artistic expression and gendered clothing style. I feel like she’s noodling with the concept that what clothing one puts on one’s body is separate from one’s sexual orientation or gender. The reader is never shown WHO Sebastian is attracted to – whether men or women or both (or neither, since he’s only sixteen) – or if he doesn’t identify as male or is genderfluid. In the space of this book, Sebastian just loves to wear beautiful clothes and Frances is the one who can make them. In my opinion, the Lady Crystallia persona is really only used when Sebastian is hiding that portion of himself; once his secret is discovered, the persona is no longer necessary for him to dress in drag (FYI, there is a very cruel “outing” scene). I really like how Wang left the specifics unfinished and fluid. Fluidity in gender identity or expression still isn’t often found on the shelves. The art is lovely – fashionistas should be very, very jealous that these gowns do not exist for real.

The Prince and the Dressmaker is out now!

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book since I wasn’t cool enough to get a galley.

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mini-review · Read Harder · Read My Own Damn Books · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Ladycastle, written by Delilah S. Dawon, illustrated by Ashley A. Woods and Becca Farrow

34466854Summary from Goodreads:
When the King and all the men of the castle die, it’s time for the women to knight up.

When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on a crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out—that’s a lot less armor polishing to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle . . . well, the women take umbrage with that.

Now, Merinor, the blacksmith’s wife is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight, Sir Riddick, is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build, and do all manner of noisy things the men had done while the women assumed they were just drunk.

Novelist Delilah S. Dawson (Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon, As Wicked as She Wants) brings her first original series to the graphic novel world, and is joined by breakthrough illustrator Ashley A. Woods (Niobe: She Is Life) for a rollicking fantasy adventure in Ladycastle.

What do all the women of Mancastle do when all the terrible dudes they are married to/related to go off and get themselves eaten by a dragon and the castle cursed by a wizard? They do all the stuff the men were doing – but better, with more cooperation and much less violence. (The only dude left is the most inept knight who looks like the Santa Claus version of King Pellinore.) They take advice from a Lady in the Pond who dispenses swords, the Well-Hag Hagatha, and a badass castle librarian in a wheelchair to fight off salamanders, werewolves, harpies, and a surprising Big Bad. And they re-name the castle Ladycastle.

I really enjoyed this funny, rompy take on Arthurian legend-ish tales. There were a lot of riffs on Disney movies, musicals, and Monty Python jokes. The writing does hit you over the head with very obvious criticisms of gender norms/stereotypes, compulsory heterosexuality (maybe?, no one seemed to be in a happy heterosexual marriage but no one was in a non-hetero relationship, either, and no one was exactly bemoaning having no dudes around for sexytimes; it wouldn’t have hurt to put an explicitly non-heterosexual partnership or actual genderqueer character on the page rather than some implied coding), and toxic masculinity (all the dudes these women were related to or married to were the actual worst). But sometimes we need the blindingly obvious, though. I very much enjoyed reading Ladycastle and the art was excellent, very straightforward. This is an all-ages comic, not a whole lot of violence, no language or sex.

Dear FTC: I bought my copy of this book to read for the Graphic Novel Book Group at my store. It fulfilled the “read a comic from a publisher other than DC, Marvel, or Image” task for Read Harder.

mini-review · Read My Own Damn Books · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Cairo by G. Willow Wilson

4907450Summary from Goodreads:
The original graphic novel by breakout talent G. Willow Wilson, a Cairo-based journalist, with art by renowned illustrator M.K. Perker, is now available in trade paperback! The creative team behind the new monthly series AIR brings together ancient and modern Middle East with a Vertigo twist. A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East’s largest metropolis.

This magical-realism thriller interweaves the fates of a drug runner, a down-on-his-luck journalist, an American expatriate, a young activist and an Israeli soldier as they race through bustling present-day Cairo to find an artifact of unimaginable power, one protected by a dignified jinn and sought by a wrathful gangster-magician. But the vastness of Africa’s legendary City of Victory extends into a spiritual realm – the Undernile – and even darker powers lurk there…

Don’t miss the incredible graphic novel Publishers Weekly called “lush and energetic…a beautiful book,” and The Los Angeles Times Book Review praised as “lyrically beautiful.”

What do you get when you mix a hash smuggler, a lost Israeli soldier, a Cairene journalist, a Lebanese-American man with secrets, an idealistic California Girl, and a jinn? A bananas graphic novel about choice and sacrifice. I was a little worried going in that I wouldn’t like it because I love Ms Marvel so much, but this has the same quippy, dry humor. It’s definitely for adults – there’s a lot more violence and magic than Ms. Marvel. Good art, but I wish it had been in color.

I picked this up during Willow’s signing when she was in town this year and got it signed.

Dear FTC: I read My Own Damn copy.