The following two reviews are going to be short because I find it hard to write about books that I really enjoy. Instead of giving people a fair and accurate description of the good and the bad, I just want to run around in delight, babbling about all the things that I liked. To prevent my review from becoming just a series of animated gifs, I’m going to challenge myself to be brief and concise in my attempts to encourage people to read the latest volumes of both The Unwritten and Locke and Key!
Also, since both books are new or soon-to-be-released entries in popular series, let me be clear that there are at least some SPOILERS AHOY!!!!
Title: The Unwritten: Orpheus in the Underworlds (Volume 8)
Authors: Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Star Rating: * * * *
Genre: Graphic Novel, Urban Fantasy
NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley.
The Unwritten is one of my favourite graphic novel series. The story is phenomenal, the art is great, and it’s so very satisfying in terms of pacing, orchestration, and general awesomeness. Volume 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds, unfortunately, is my least favourite addition to the series so far. After the game-changing events in volumes 6 and 7, it seems as if the authors are stumbling a bit with their narrative. However, I should put these comments in context. Saying that volume 8 is my least favourite is like saying that this is my least favourite piece of fine gold jewellery in my collection of hand-picked pieces. It’s still very good, and is high on my recommend list.
In Orpheus, Tom must travel to a literary underworld to rescue Lizzie, and along the way he encounters several characters that readers probably never expected to see again. In the real world, Richie is trying to wrap up some loose ends about the after effects of Tommy’s battle with the cabal, and the subsequent injuries to the Leviathan.
My two main problems with this volume is that the narrative feels a bit disjointed at times since there are so many plots being dealt with at once, and I don’t think that all of them were given the proper amount of attention. For example, Richie’s breakdown over what has happened to him is wrapped up very quickly, and I really hope that the writers eventually get back to his perspective in a bit more depth. Additionally, Pauly Bruckner is back again, and I find this character absolutely loathsome. While this rabbit-man is not supposed to be likeable, I cringe every time he appears on a page, and he unfortunately played a significant role in this book. I look forward to never having to read about him again as his sections of the story are an absolute slog to get through.
All that being said, Orpheus was still an extremely satisfying read, and The Unwritten is a must read for any graphic novel lover.
Title: Locke and Key: Alpha and Omega (Volume 6)
Authors: Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez
Star Rating: * * * * *
Genre: Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Horror
NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley.
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014 – Spoilers ahoy!
Alongside The Unwritten, Locke and Key is one of my other favourite graphic novel series. It’s a chilling tale about a family horribly marked by paranormal events, where temptation, anger, grief, and selfishness are pitted against compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, and perseverance.
Volume 6: Alpha and Omega is the final novel in this series. As such, I am going to keep spoilers to a minimum. However, it’s hard to reveal nothing in a review, so if you want to remain completely surprised, just take my word for it that this final volume is amazing!
The ending of a series is always hard to write because an author has to conclude the story in such a way as to ensure that all the necessary plots are tied up in a satisfying manner that gives closure to the readers. Hill has continually brought his characters to ever lower lows, but at the end of this series, they finally get to experience some hope and goodness in their lives. At the end of volume 5, the Locke kids mistakenly believed that they were finally free of the paranormal influence that had been ruining their lives. Unfortunately, the evil presence had instead hidden itself so well that it was finally able to bring about the destruction and chaos that it had been trying to unleash since book 1. In the suspenseful climax, many of the characters that readers have come to love will sacrifice themselves to save the ones that they love, and the Locke kids can no longer keep all of the terrible things that are going on a secret.
BIG SPOILERS AHEAD!
The most effecting parts of this book for me were all about the relationships between the characters. First, readers should prepare themselves for the deaths of Scot, Jackie, and Jordan. These losses are particularly traumatic because these three had a chance to reunite and bond with Kinsley and Tyler in the first part of the book. I also shed quite a few tears at the fact that Rufus now envisions his squad commander as his dead mother, and when Tyler finally gets to apologise and say goodbye to his father. While Locke and Key is a paranormal horror series, the strongest bits of the story are about the emotional connections between its characters, and how all of the strange and terrible things that are occurring affect them.
In terms of critiques, I only had a few minor issues with the book. For example, I was rather curious as to how the family was going to explain to outsiders how Bode was alive after a funeral for him had already taken place. I was also a little unclear as to how the keys were going to be protected so that no one else could unleash demonic forces on the world again. However, neither of these questions needed to be answered in the conclusion, and, in fact, the latter is a perfectly appropriate open-ended conclusion.
All in all, Alpha and Omega was a stunning finale to an exceptional series. Long-term fans will not be disappointed, and new readers will be pleased to know that the complete series is one that will give you a decent emotional pay-off at the end.