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Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio (2011)

Book review: Girl Genius #1: Agatha H and the Airship City by Phil & Kaja Foglio (Night Shade Books, 2011)

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. Sixteen years have passed since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over – and terrorizing – the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Heterodynes’ return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the university is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach – and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.

From Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the Hugo, Eagle and Eisner Award-nominated webcomic Girl Genius, comes Agatha H. and the Airship City, a gaslamp fantasy filled to bursting with Adventure! Romance! and Mad Science!

This book was a Christmas present, and apparently it’s based off a webcomic called Girl Genius, of which I was not aware. This is a novel, though, and because I had no idea about the webcomic, this was an entirely new acquaintance. And what an acquaintance it was!

Agatha is a plucky young woman who’s pretty much hopeless at helping out the mad scientists at the local university. One day the ruler of the nation, Baron Wulfenbach, pops by, and shit happens. More shit happens back where Agatha live with her adoptive parents, and she ends up on a big airship city (Castle Wulfenbach), where she meets an intrepid adventurer who keeps wanting to save her, hangs out with Wulfenbach’s genius son, a bunch of kidnapped kids, and meets a very intelligent talking cat. And then some more shit happens. Perhaps there’s more to Agatha than she even knew herself?

It’s not a very long book, sadly, and that’s pretty much it. I haven’t really done it justice in the summary.

Agatha H and the Airship City is a fast-paced and very amusing steampunk/alternate universe sort of tale. Having read the book, I can’t think of the word “sweetheart” without pronouncing it the way the Jaegermonsters do in the book. If there is any criticism to dish out here, it’s that I never really got a good understanding as to what the Jaegermonsters looked like until I had a look at the webcomic.

Another issue I think is that because the title is “Agatha H” but Agatha’s surname is Clay, it doesn’t take more than half a second to realise what the H stands for, so when there is a big reveal toward the end of the book, it’s like “dude, I knew that after reading the book’s sleeve“. Which is a shame.

Aside from that it was a really enjoyable fantasy adventure. Lucky for me the sequel is a lot longer, and I was given it at the same time as this one, so it’s onwards and upwards from here!

4.5 out of 5 clanks. MOAR PLZ.

Traxy

An easily distracted Swedish introvert residing in Robin Hood Country (Nottingham, UK) with a husband and two cats. She's an eager participant in tabletop and play-by-post roleplaying, woodworking, photography and European travel, when there's not a plague on.

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