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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)

agathahairshipcityThe 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 acquaintaince it was!

Agatha is a plucky young woman who’s pretty much hopeless at helping out the mad scientists at the 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, and 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 Thornfield

A 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. Might get a novel out one of these days, if she doesn't get too distracted along the way.

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