Aug 6, 2008

Fables 3 and 4 by Bill Willingham

Storybook Love, the third book in the Fables series, begins with an American folktale, “Bag O’ Bones”. Jack (the same Jack of beanstalk and giant slaying fame) goes to the American south to join the Civil War. When crossing a swamp, he comes across a man who just may be the devil, and wins a magic bag from him in a poker game. Then he finds out just what happens when death itself is imprisoned in such a bag.

The following story, “A Sharp Operation”, is about the fate of a man who finds out about the inhabitants of Fabletown and jumps to the obvious conclusion: they’re vampires. He’s seen the movies. He’s read Anne Rice. He knows.

With “Storybook Love”, the main plotline, so to speak, begins. Some of the issues left unresolved at the end of Animal Farm are finally dealt with, and things between Snow White and Bigby Wolf take a very interesting turn.

Finally, “Barleycorn Brides” is about how the Lilliputians dealt with a very serious problem: the fact that only men had escaped from the Homelands.

The artwork in this book is absolutely gorgeous. But then, with Linda Medley (of Castle Waiting fame), Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham among the artists, that’s hardly surprising. I enjoyed these stories a lot. "Storybook Love" was probably the most satisfying. It’s better developed, and I liked how it dealt with themes like love, trust, vulnerability and obsession. But I also loved the first and the last stories, especially because they’re stories in which the series’ fairy and folk tale feel is particularly strong.

On to the fourth volume, March of the Wooden Soldiers. This one starts with a heartbreaking tale told by Boy Blue. He was one of the very last Fables to escape from the Adversary and leave the Homelands, and he tells the story of those who bravely stayed behind and fought so that one last vessel could make it to our world. He also tells the story of his doomed love affair with Red Riding Hood.

Boy Blue’s escape was over a century ago, and that was the last time anyone made it out of the Homelands. Until now, that is. Because Red Riding Hood arrives to Fabletown, and tells everyone that she was enslaved by the Adversary for all this time. Bigby Wolf is immediately suspicious. Can she be trusted? How did she escape? Meanwhile, Jack claims to have seen new and hostile fables in the city. Something big is definitely about to happen. Something that cannot possibly be good.

March of the Wooden Soldiers is quite a bit darker than the other books in the series. There’s a lot of plot development in this one. It seems that the big questions – Who is the Adversary? What is he or she after? Are the fables safe in our world? – are now one step closer to being answered. Of course, at the end of the book we still don’t really know much for sure. I can’t wait to see how everything will turn out at the end of the series.

I just love Fables. I love the writing, the intelligent storytelling, the beautiful artwork, the characters and the setting. And of course, the concept itself. It’s so much fun to find characters from my favourite fairy tales in this story. I really like the fact that Bill Willingham’s concept of a fable is so wide. The characters he uses come not only from traditional fairy tales, but from folklore, legends, myths (Pelinor! Britomart!) and such classics as Pinocchio, Gulliver’s Travels and The Wizard of Oz.

So yeah, two more great books in a great series.

Other Blog Reviews:
Rhinoa's Ramblings (Storybook Love)
Everyday Read (Storybook Love)
Everyday Reads (March of the Wooden Soldiers)
Biblio File (Volumes 1-7)
Book Zombie (Storybook Love)
Fyrefly's Book Blog (Storybook Love)
Fyrefly's Book Blog (March of the Wooden Soldiers)
Stuff as Dreams are Made On (Storybook Love)
The Written World (Storybook Love)
The Written World (March of the Wooden Soldiers)

(Did I miss yours? Let me know and I'll add it to this list)


  1. I looooooooooooove this series! And the spin-off, Jack of Fables.

    I reviewed the first 7 volumes in this post.

  2. Sounds like fun; I wish I had access to more graphic novels but I always want to read the WHOLE series at once and that gets expensive!! :)

  3. You're really making me want to re-read these. It's been a while (got sick of them when I was writing my thesis), but it just might be time to revisit. I loved Storybook Love especially.

  4. Lovely review Nymeth. And thanks for including the links to my post :) I've added this post to the two you mentioned awhile back :)

  5. I've only read the first one, and it was fun! :)

  6. I am glad you are till enjoying Fables as much as I am. I am a book behind you now and hope to read volume 4 this month. I think I liked Bag O Bones best in volume 3. I am really starting to Like Jack and it was fun seeing him trap death in his bag with the suspected outcome.

  7. I had the first of this series on my Graphic Novels Challenge list, but never did get my hands on it. Think I really must try a little harder, huh? They really do sound so fantastic!

  8. Love the series and I have the second book on my shelf waiting to be read. I'm very much looking forward to reading it. So much reading so little time.

  9. Ok Nymeth--its time for me to break down. You've given me some great suggestions in the past for fantasy books (yay for Gaiman and Pratchett). Where do I start with graphic novels??

  10. Yeah...I got read these!! Why is it you make everything sound so good??

  11. Jennie: Thanks for the link! I need to get my hands on the spin-off.

    Daphne: I know what you mean. And graphic novels can really be expensive. It took me years to get all the Sandman books. But maybe you'd be able to find these at the library?

    Andi: I can see how that would happen. Storybook Love was so great. I can't wait to read the others.

    Lightheaded: You're welcome, and thank you too!

    Bunny B: I hope you enjoy the others just as much!

    Rhinoa: The Jack story really was great. I can't wait to read the spin-off series.

    Debi: You have a perfect excuse to do the challenge again next year right there :P I know I won't be able to resist.

    thatsthebook: I know, I know. But the good thing about comics is that they're really fast reads!

    Trish: That's actually a difficult question, because there as as many genres of graphic novels as there are of "normal" books. So let me break this down into sections :P If you're in the mood for non-fiction, Persepolis and Maus are excellent (what I loved about Maus was that it was not only a Holocaust story but also a story about writing a holocausr story).
    For fantasy, the Sandman is brilliant (like everything Neil writes :P). But I think that either Endless Nights or Dream Hunters would be better introductions to the series that the first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes. Both are stand alone books, so there are no continuity problems.
    For realistic fiction, Laika by Nick Abdazis is a beautiful and heartbreaking story set in Soviet Russia. And Ghost World by Daniel Clowes is a witty, sad, funny and quirky story about growing up. I can't wait to see what you think of your first graphic novel :)

    Stephanie: It's not my fault, it's that they really are that good :P

  12. I've got them all noted so I'll have to do some browsing and see what i can find. Thanks Nymeth--and I should have known better for asking such a broad question. Like a non-reader asking a reader--which book should I start with? ;)


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