Jan 28, 2009

Fables: The Good Prince and War and Pieces by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham et al

‘Oh no’, you say. ‘Not again!’ But I promise that this time I have something other than ‘FABLES SQUEEEEE’ to say. After two brief and spoilers-free paragraphs about these two volumes in particular, I’m going to talk about how series in general work. And not just this series.

The Good Prince is such a nice book. It’s Flycatcher’s story, and by the end of it I wanted to give him a big hug. I really can’t say much other than this, and that it’s epic and exciting and full of really sweet bits. It is, along with Wolves and Storybook Love, one of my favourite Fables books.

As for War and Pieces, the title is enough to let you know that this is it: the full-scale war between Fabletown and the Empire has finally come. This is not the end of the series, but the main plot that was introduced in the very first book is resolved. Some things surprised me quite a bit, others not so much. On the whole I found this a satisfying book, but it’s not by any means one of my favourites.

Which brings me to how this series works. I think most fans agree that Fables has both plot-oriented books and character development/background story oriented books. And although I’ve always been very much interested in the main plot of the series, I much prefer the latter. I prefer the quieter moments, the in-between, to the action itself.

I couldn’t help but feel that War and Pieces felt a little rushed. Not much of anything had been happening for the last few books (granted, a very enjoyable “not much of anything”), and then everything happened too fast. I would probably have been more satisfied with a slower resolution.

Fables is different from series like, say, The Sandman exactly because the alternation between plot— and character-driven stories is so clear. (There are other differences, of course, but I'm leaving those alone for now.) And personally I like it when the two happen side by side in each of the books in the series. It’s actually not really fair to say that this isn’t the case at all with Fables because sometimes it is, the balance isn't quite right.

My very favourite kind of series is the kind in which each book has a plot of its own that reaches a climax and is resolved at the end, but still contributes to the main plot of the series. Again, The Sandman is a good example of this. And so is Harry Potter. I think this also happened with the first two Fables books, but not so much after that.

This isn’t really a complaint, though. It’s just me thinking aloud about how the series works. Series in general, really. I obviously still love Fables – not as much as The Sandman, but a whole lot. I was telling my boyfriend the other day that the difference is like the difference between Sufjan Stevens and the Great Lake Swimmers, but I somehow suspect this analogy makes no sense whatsoever if you’re not me.

Anyway, because I’m above all a character-oriented sort of reader, the main reason why I love this series so much is the characters. More than the world, than the humour, than the plot or the ideas, they’re what kept me reading. Fables has such great characterization. There’s always more to the characters than meets the eye. Take Prince Charming, for example. He's introduced as a conceited idiot who objectifies women and who counts Snow White, Briar Rose and Cinderella among his ex-wives. He is indeed all that, yet as the series progresses he surprises you, and you realize he’s not as vapid as that. His flaws are still there, but he reveals a whole other side. And the most interesting thing of all is that this new side isn't expected to redeem him or anything like that. He is what he is.

I'm glad I still have the prequel to read. And the Jack of Fables spin-offs. Plus I know read the whole series again. I love spending time with these characters, and to me that’s what truly makes a series great.

Other Opinions:
Stella Matutina (The Good Prince)
Fyrefly’s Book Blog (The Good Prince)
Casual Dread (War and Pieces)
Fyrefly’s Book Blog (War and Pieces)
Stella Matutina (War and Pieces)

(Let me know if I missed yours.)


  1. I absolutely agree with you that Vol. 11 happens too fast. I feel like at least parts of it could have been put into Sons of Empire, leaving some room for more expansion, and more integration of character (and maybe some more suspense, if I'm being greedy).

    That's an interesting comparison to Sandman as to the relative importance of plot vs. character. I'm not far enough into it yet to see the overarching plot of the whole series (if there is one?), but each individual piece is very character-driven, while still having a plot. Hmm.

    (Oh, also, now that you've read The Good Prince, get ready for Fly's story in 1001 Nights of Snowfall to make you misty-eyed. It's so good.)

  2. I'm sloooooowly moving up the list for the first Fables volume from the library. You're killing me over here. :p

  3. I loved your words...they made me want to explore this series...Where do I start?

  4. awwww...lol. Thats great that you love Fables so much, hey blog about it! enjoy the books.
    I tend to feel like i'm
    always mentioning Pride & Prejudice at my blog...lol

  5. Great reviews, Nymeth!

    BTW, I've tagged you with a Happy Things Meme. See my post here. :)

  6. There is also volume 12 which comes out later this year! I almost read the whole series in a month... *cough* Actually, if I was rich, I probably would have read the whole series in a month!

  7. Great review Nymeth, I'm so behind in this series!

  8. This has absolutely nothing to do with Fables, but you have to watch the new Coraline button trailer. It's pure gold.

  9. War and Pieces was really rushed, but I kinda liked that. I'm not sure I could have handled multiple volumes of the final battle. *yawn*

    I'm hoping now we go back to the quieter, character driven stories.

    Have you read the Jack of Fables: Bad Prince yet? It's related, but not, to The Good Prince. I'd be interested to know what you think of the relationship between the two.

  10. have you read "1001. Apparently it's a sequel to the series and I was wondering if it could be a good start. It's just that it's the only fables book we have in the shop and the library doesn't have them:(

  11. I have on my shelf right now the first few volume of Fables and I'm very excited to dive right in. I've been reluctant to get into any graphic novel series because my library doesn't do a great job of consistently getting the whole series, but my local branch actually has all the Fables series, so I know I won't get hooked and then have to purchase the rest. (Sandman, on the other hand, is a lost cause. They have four in the whole system--and I don't mean the omnibus editions. Four single issues. Total.)

  12. Fyrefly: Sandman does have am overarching plot. At first it seems much less structured than Fables, but as you go along it will become clear. But yeah, above all I like balance. I really want to get my hands on 1001 Nights of Snowfall now, but on the other hand I also want to wait a bit so I don't run out of Fables things to read too quickly :P

    Eva: lol :P I hope you get it soon!

    Staci: The first book is called Legends in Exile, and it mostly introduces the characters and the reason why they're living in our world. There's a plot too, though - a murder mystery!

    Naida: I definitely don't think you mention P&P too much. I do enjoy reading people's thoughts on things they are passionate about, so I don't know why I worry people will tire of me going on and on :P

    Melody: I did it last week, but thanks for tagging me anyway!

    Kailana: I know! But August is such a long way away :( I can't wait to see where the series is going next.

    Mariel: Catching up will be tons of fun :D

    Loren Eaton: lol, that IS brilliant!

    Jennie: I haven't started Jack of Fables yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. And I agree, several volumes of the final battle would have been too much. I do prefer the quieter stories.

    Valentina: I haven't read it yet, but from what I read it has so spoilers whatsoever for later volumes in the series. I guess the stories might be more enjoyable if you already know the characters, but then again the opposite could also apply...if you read it first, you'll feel at home with the characters quicker when you pick up the first book proper.

    Teresa: I know how you feel. Libraries here have no graphic novels at all, so I have to buy all the ones I read. I was lucky, I got a bunch of Fables books for Christmas and my birthday and then used gift cards to get even more. But it took me years and years to collect all the Sandman books. I love them, but they're so expensive.

  13. Oh, you're killing me, sweetie! Every time I read one of your Fables reviews, I get this incredible yearning to just go order them all! Including the first one that I read from the library, because it just seems like one needs to own them all.

  14. I agree completely, as much as I enjoy the series as a whole, it's the characters that keep me going. Most novels don't even have this level of development!

  15. Debi: First Eva now you..I need to stop killing my favourite people with Fables reviews :P

    Joanne: Indeed! I guess it helps that it's a series...it gives them more room to really develop the characterization. And it's so well-done too.

  16. My copy of War and Pieces just arrived and I really need to catch up with this series. I can't read your review as I have only read the first 4. Are you going to read the spin off Jack of Fables series as well?

  17. I'm afraid I have nothing to contribute, but I found this very interesting.

  18. War and Pieces was a bit rushed, but I liked that. I wanted to read about the final battle and see the Fables win, darn it! I'm just glad that the series is continuing, because I love the Fables world and I'm looking forward to reading more stories from it.

    I need to read the Jack of Fables stories - I found the first three issues, but I prefer reading these in GN format. I like getting the whole story arc at once, rather than having to wait. :)


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