Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody
This is the first of a sci-fi retelling of Victor Hugo’s classic Les Miserables. It jumps between the stories of Chatine, a scavenger and a thief in the squalid slums of the 3rd Estate; Marcellus, heir to the general in the opulent 2nd Estate who struggles to fill the role he was thrust into; and Alouette, who lives amongst the secret guardians of the lost library. Filled with fantastic world-building and intricately explored characters, Sky Without Stars is an engrossing re-imagining!
10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak
A story as gorgeously told as its content is enraging, we find in the first few pages Leila, murdered and stuffed in a bin, the latest victim of a serial killer targeting prostitutes. According to a rather interesting study, the brain remains active for the first 10 minutes and 38 seconds of death.
For the first half of the novel, Shafak links each post-mortem minute with a scent memory, taking us through the stages of Leila’s life — her childhood, her escape to Istanbul, her first love, her soul connection with five very good friends.
The second half, we are privy to the love and loyalty Leila’s friends have for her as they find ways to properly mourn her death. An immersive story with wonderful characters who linger, there’s little wonder why this one made the Booker shortlist.
Once Upon a Time in France by Fabien Nury and Sylvian Vallée
No superheroes, mutants, monsters–just people in extraordinary ethical dilemma drawn by a masterful hand. Once Upon a Time in France is the story of Joseph Joanovici who misuses the Nazi occupiers and supports the French Resistance; riches resulting from profiteering off the war. A profiteer, yes, but is he a patriot, a collaborator? Where is the line? What will he sacrifice to foster and protect his own interests?
And it’s gorgeous. Fabien Nury has smithed and intricate and detailed plot that both recognizes the fickleness of humanity and inexorable circumstance. Joseph struggles with and against his family, Judaism, business, continually walking a knifeblade of ethics until he doesn’t during the Nazi occupation of France. The threads of narrative are authentic and demanding, seldom black-and-white, and fully resolved, albeit, not as poetically as one might wish. Hmm, sorta like real life.
The whole thing is beautiful; 360 pages, the first installment in color, the remainder done in greys and black ink. Where most American comics moderate panels per page, the larger size of these European albums allows many more frames per page and not one is wasted here. This is one that will stay in my collection for another read!
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