Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Fairest Vol. 2 The Hidden Kingdom by Bill Willingham (author), Lauren Beukes (Author), and Inaki Miranda (Illustrations)

Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom wasn't for me. I can't really say it was a bad book. I think, probably, for what it was, it was a good book, but despite wildly loving the Fables series and thoroughly enjoying Fairest Vol. 1, I found this not my cup of tea. There will be some spoilers in the following, though I will try not to touch on major plot and turning points.

Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom is Rapunzel's story which, like most Fables tales draws from and exaggerates elements of the traditional tales. It seems that, after being kicked out of the tower by the witch, who was none other than Frau Tottenkinder, Rapunzel gave birth to twins with the help of a kindly elderly woman who told her they were stillborn and took the bodies away. She is sure they are alive and that the woman was Frau Tottenkinder, and she spend years looking for them, eventually ending up in the Hidden Kingdom (the Fables version of Japan) shortly before the Adversary invaded.

Now, in present day Fabletown, she is attacked by a flurry of origami cranes with the words "your children" on them. She immediately bargains for help with hair control and heads out to modern Japan in search of the twins. She takes her friend and barber, Joel, with her. She also takes Jack who proceeds to be his egotistical, oversexed, unreliable self through the rest of the book. Yes, I know he's a trickster and that's what tricksters do and are; that doesn't mean I have to like this particular incarnation of the Trickster type.

in any case, the story switches between the three time periods: Rapunzel's life just after being kicked out of her tower, her life in the Hidden Kingdom, and her present-day hunt for her children and attempts to navigate alliances old and new alliances in the unstable Fabletown communities of Japan.

It's not so much that Fairest breaks the Fables mold as that it takes it and pushes its darker side, hard. There's dark and then there's "Dropped down a well and trapped under a pile of your friends' corpses as they decay." There's "weird and a little twisted" and there's "eating your own hair to survive and then coughing up deadly, angry bezoars who devour everyone around." The humor that marked the other tales was largely absent as was most of the warmth.

Too, I found neither love story present particularly compelling. Snow and Bigby have me on their side all the way. Ali and the Snow Queen had me laughing and hoping. Rapunzel and the kitsune? Not so much. As a sexual indulgence I could more or less believe it, as a love that lasts through the centuries and survives multiple perceived and actual betrayals? No. By the end of the story, I did not particularly care for either partner, and was definitely rooting for Puntz to put the past behind her. The other story should have been more compelling; Joel actually is likable, but the ultimate pairing didn't really have the kind of emotional resonance I want.

The art, also, seemed to be more of more: More crowds, more creatures, more scenes, more sex, more fighting. Like the story, it wasn't bad precisely, it just wasn't to my taste.

Read it? What did you think? Got a review I should link to? Let me know, here in the comments or by clicking the "Contact Me" link up there.

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