The Wicked + Wendy.

Had a little more money than usual lately, so when I was in Dundee last weekend I went on a little shopping spree in Waterstones, and bought a whole bunch of graphic novels. Been kinda stingy with the indulgent spending recently, so it was nice to have the opportunity to splurge. There were a few books I wanted but couldn’t find, but luckily I found a few hidden gems; with the highlights being The Wicked + The Divine (which I shortsightedly only bought the first two volumes of) and Wendy – a book which is, rather amusingly, about an art student…

Wendy was actually quite interesting, as it made me realize something (quite obvious) that had been eluding me – not all art is the same. I’ve been suffering from a bit of artist envy recently and was beginning to feel like every published artist I saw was at a skill level I was never going to reach. Wendy’s art was… different. Definitely not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it didn’t have that polish and consistency that has been so prevalent in my recent reading material – it was creative, and bold, but it also seemed achievable. Really achievable.

It’s really encouraged me to think about my art development in a different way. Instead of constantly aiming for technical perfection, it’s made me want to work on loosening myself up, and being more expressive and imaginative. That isn’t to say I have any intention of not trying to improve my technique, but I definitely think reading the comic has brought about a healthy change of priorities. And hopefully this shift will also allow me to appreciate my favorite artists a little more, by lessening the jealousy that their work often instills in me.

The Wicked + The Divine was also pretty great – and reminded me a little of Morning Glories (which, somewhat amusingly, it shares a publisher with). I’ve only read it once so far, so I will likely need to read it again before I can fully determine how I feel about it, but it definitely seems like a series I’ll be keeping up with. Although I felt the same way about Morning Glories, and I haven’t bought a new volume of it since Vol. 4…

Anyhoo, I feel like The Wicked + The Divine is something I could potentially rant about for a while, but I’ll leave it here for just now and wait until I’ve had a chance to sit down and give it a more thorough read. I might wait until I get my hands on the third volume, or I might just do it on my next day off. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Wow, that’s starting to feel like a catch-phrase…

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KID CHAMELEON | FIGHTING FANTASY

FIGHTING FANTASY GAME BOOKS

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I remember the first Fighting Fantasy book I purchased. It was at some random charity store, and came to around £5 – which was quite a lot for a six year old – though, it was technically two books… as it was a quirky “two-player” concept (that didn’t work very well, and luckily proved to be a one-off within the series). Even though I was unable to properly play the book, the fact that I was able to try to play it anywhere was incredibly appealing (as I didn’t have a Game Boy at the time), and on the family’s numerous long drives I would have a little adventure in the back seat. Killing some trolls and whatnot.

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Over the years, and plentiful trips to car boot sales and the like, I managed to amass an incredibly comprehensive collection (approximately 80% of the original series at one point adorned my shelf). As I grew up, however, and video game consoles took over, I eventually threw my collection out – seeking to make room on my bookcase for video cassettes and Playstation games, which had become my new “collection”. I regretted it nearly immediately, and soon realized that purchasing the books had become a much more difficult affair than it had been when I was younger. Luckily, for me, the series was revived in 2002, and my mother knew me enough to purchase the set for my birthday.

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For anyone who hasn’t played a Fighting Fantasy book, they’re incredibly similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, that everyone has played at least once – with the main difference being the addition of rpg elements; like statistics, an inventory, and the occasional battle, or “saving roll”. Assuming you don’t cheat while playing, they can be an incredibly enjoyable experience. While the series was primarily based in the fantasy genre, there were also numerous sci-fi, modern, and horror installments to break the monotony – most of which also had their own unique “gimmicks” to keep things fresh.

The series itself was created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone – although by the end of it’s run they began to write a smaller portion of the books. Nonetheless, my favorites were almost always written by one of the two. While I can’t remember every book now, I can remember most of my favorites – though, luckily, with enough gaps in my memory to still be able to play them without spoilers. In particular, my favorite books were part of the “Sorcery!” series, penned by solely by Steve Jackson. For anyone interested, the first two parts of the Sorcery! series can now be purchased on iOS, Android and Kindle.

KID CHAMELEON | ANGELFALL

Angelfall is actually the first “proper” book I’ve read in the while. I’m not sure whether it’s been my busy schedule, or just my inability to concentrate, but in the past few years I’ve transitioned from being someone who would read a book every couple of days, to barely reading a book once a month. I think a part of it has simply been that most books I’ve read recently just haven’t captured my interest like my child/teenhood favorites did – and I can only make myself read the same book so many times before I start to hate it.

I purchased Angelfall in a charity shop for 50p. Like most books purchased on a whim, I didn’t really expect I would actually enjoy it – I just thought the idea of an urban fantasy novel that didn’t revolve around werewolves or vampires would be a refreshing change. So, while I was on the bus home that day, I decided to “force myself” to give the book a chance – and I’m honestly glad I did. Probably the best thing I’ve ever gotten for 50p.

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Angelfall is an amazing book. Written by Susan Ee, it chronicles the journey of Penrynn Young, a 17 year old girl who finds herself forced to traverse a barren post-apocalyptic setting on a mission to rescue her paralytic sister, Paige, from her angelic captors. Joined by the recently-wingless angel Raffe, Penrynn must venture to the angel’s “aerie”, in the desperate hope that her sister is still alive to be saved. The relationship between the two is explored in the way you would expect from the average paranormal romance novel, but it is handled very skillfuly, and the story never relies on it – if you took the romance out the plot, Angelfall would still be able to stand firmly on it’s own two feet.

With a movie apparently in the works, and a sequel (which I’ve yet to read myself) out already – called World After, I believe – now is probably the best time to get the book. Before the inevitably handsome actor hired to play Raffe in the film franchise begins to overshadow everything else, and the series devolves into one of those “untouchables”, due to a bad reputation caused by an insurmountable number of randy tween-age girls.