Book Reviews Guest Dare The Dare

Guest Dare: Fables vol. 1 – Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Welcome to another Guest Dare – the September edition. For those new to the feature, our Guest Dare is a monthly endeavor in which we invite an unsuspecting victim to read a book totally outside of their comfort zone. You can read all previous Dare posts here.

This month’s daree (yes, we believe just totally made this word up) is Lusty Reader. Her book lusting (a trait we share) and the fact that she is totally a Very Cool blogger (who is funny, entertaining and writes very insightful reviews) has put her under our radar. (She also introduced us to “The Shiz My Boyfriend Says”. Seriously, you need to read these. But do not read whilst drinking and/or eating – you might spill and/or choke. You have been warned) . One day Ana was unsuspectingly doing her Twitter rounds when she read that LR had never read a Graphic Novel in her life and that was cause for an instant-dare and ergo, here we are.

Lusty reader, ladies and gentlemen:

Title: Fables Vol.1 – Legends in Exile

Author: Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton

Genre: Graphic Novel (Fantasy)

Publisher: Vertigo
Publishing Date: September 2002
Paperback: 128 pages

Stand alone or series: First volume in the Fables comics; collects issues 1-5.

Summary: (from Vertigo)
Who Killed Rose Red?
In Fabletown, where fairy tale legends live alongside regular New Yorkers, the question is all anyone can talk about. But only the Big Bad Wolf can actually solve the case–and, along with Rose’s sister Snow White, keep the Fabletown community from coming apart at the seams.

Why did we recommend this book: it started when we both read this first volume and loved it. . Thea went on to read every single one of them (there are 12 so far) and continues to follow all the monthlies as well. Ana (aka The Lazy Smuggler) has only read up to volume 4 so far. But what matters is this: we luuurves it.

Lusty Reader’s Review:

Since we may not know each other too well, dear Book Smuggler readers, I thought I would start off my guest dare post by sharing a secret. Secret sharing is a great way to make new bff’s, I have a picture in my mind of us all in a giggling gaggle at a slumber party – I have dibs on the My Little Pony sleeping bag! So, gather round, it’s confession time…Even Thea and Ana don’t know this, which might have made the dare even better.

I always thought a “graphic novel” was a sex book. Like erotica. Or illustrated Kama Sutra books. Because like in movies and stuff they are rated R for graphic scenes, right? This equaled sex to me. I have had a lusty mind for a long time I guess.

I was so sure of this my whole life I always made a wide berth around the “graphic” section of any bookstore so I wouldn’t be seen near “those sex books.” I couldn’t believe that they had a sex section! Out in the open! With a big sign! Shocking. My heart already beats faster in embarrassment and anxiety when I am in the romance novel section, heaven forbid I get too close to those graphic sex books!

When I started poking around book blogland earlier this year I finally realized what graphic novels really were.

Phew, it felt good to get that off my chest!

This confession illustrates *snicker, pun intended* that I know absolutely nothing about graphic novels. I mean, can I even call them comic books? Or is that a negative connotation thing, like bodice rippers vs romance novels? The last comic book I ever read was Archie when I was a kid in the 90s. I say this all so you can take it as an official disclaimer since my hosts here are winners of Best Graphic Novel Review blog – whereas I have no clue what I’m talking about.

Hence the guest dare! Chatting on twitter Ana discovered I had never read a graphic novel and quickly made sure she would change that, so since I always listen to what the Book Smugglers tell me to do, here I am!

Reading Fables Vol. 1 Legends in Exile was a totally new experience for me. Starting off, I was a bit distracted – I read all the words, but skipped the pictures, or studied all the details in the pictures, but glossed over the dialogue. My eyes were darting in every direction, trying to take it all in at once, afraid I was missing something, like Where’s Waldo’s hat, or scroll, or glasses. But the longer I read the more adjusted I became and began to really appreciate the artistry in the illustrations as well as the skill the writers need to have to only be able to write dialogue, but still communicate enough to the reader. The pairing is such a unique way to follow a story and I found myself really enjoying it!

One reason why is because I love retellings or new twists on fairytales. The Fables series follows a number of well known fairytale characters and legends from folklore as they live in exile in New York City. They were driven from their respective kingdoms, magical woods, and all their lands by The Adversary (whose drawings were so frightening I physically shuddered when we finally got to see what they looked like) and so are now all living in a clandestine community known as Fabletown in the Big Apple.

Those who cannot blend in with the mundanes (aka humans) live at The Farm in upstate New York. This is an example of the depths of the world building, there is so much back-story to their escape from the Adversary, how their relationships have evolved over time, and we learn so much in just the first few pages. More about how Fabletown’s community and government is set up, how some were able to escape with their riches and some weren’t, and what rituals, rules about old grudges, and traditions they have developed to keep everyone together.

One upcoming tradition is the annual Remembrance Day ball in memory of their Homelands. This year it’s not just a ball, it’s a deadline to find a murderer. Hard partying Rose Red’s apartment was found trashed, covered in blood, and she was no where to be found. Suspecting the worst, her sister, Snow White (Director of Operations) and Bigby Wolf (of Fabletown’s Security Office) team up to find the killer.

These were the two characters we followed the most and I loved both of them, especially rugged Bigby. He is the perfect tortured, rough-around-the-edges hero just begging for the right woman to come along and fix him with her love. There is the slightest, teensiest, tinyest, vaguest suggestion of a romantic undercurrent between him and Snow White, which tickled my fancy, but was certainly not enough to fulfill my usual romance preferences!

The pacing, plot twists, and the big reveal are awesome, it doesn’t feel drawn out at all. And while I guessed a little bit about what happened, the way the clues are shown and later explained is super fun and keeps you on your toes.

The best part for me was all the characters we met along the way: a pissed off Pinocchio trapped in a little boy’s body, but after 300 years is horny as hell, a troubled marriage between Beauty and the Beast, several divorced Prince Charmings, a fencing Cinderella, and a Little Pig who escapes from The Farm upstate. How they evolved in Fabletown was my absolute favorite, was such a cool “what happened after they lived happily ever after” way of imagining their stories.

I did enjoy having the visual side of the story as well, but I will say that all the female characters were drawn in bit too much of a “va-va voom” way for me, like a Jessica Rabbit or something. I know so many of these fairy tale women were SUPPOSED to be gorgeous and what not, but they were uber sexy in the comic book.

Overall I am so glad I made my first foray into the graphic novel world and would recommend Fables Vol. 1 to anyone who likes a good whodunit and retellings of classic fairytales.

And it helped me make a new friend on the DC metro. The colors and pages are so splashy they drew a lot of attention on my commute to work. The nerdy, 20-something guy with glasses I was sitting next to kept sneaking peeks and he finally asked me what I was reading. When I flipped the cover, his eyes lit up as he proclaimed his love for the series. He thought we had a lot in common and recommended the book he had open on his lap – H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, definitely not my usual cup of tea either!

But I will absolutely be reading more graphic novels in the future. Even though they are not sex books 😉 I’ve already added The Surrogates to my TBR so I can read it before the movie comes out!


Needless to say, we are delighted that LR liked Fables and will try other Graphic Novels. And hey Lusty, if you liked the romantic dynamics between Snow and Bigby you might want to keep reading this series. It only gets better. Like, REALLY, really good. *ninja*

Next on the Guest Dare: Kati of Katidom reads her first Steampunk Novel: Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassoti!

Until next month!

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  • Guest Dare Post « Lusty Reader
    September 24, 2009 at 5:45 am

    […] please, head on over the Ana and Thea’s place to check on my guest post on Fables Volume 1, Legends in […]

  • LiLu
    September 24, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Hi, I love you. Thanks so much for the shout out! 🙂

  • Daya
    September 24, 2009 at 6:40 am

    I luuurved Fables also! I love how Bigby casts a wolf shadow..and of course he is delish anyway, beastly or not 🙂

  • mylittlebecky
    September 24, 2009 at 6:52 am

    you are always good at reviews, lady! this sounds like a good read. i love the fairy tales after stories.

    not that you EVER take my book suggestions but if we’re now doing graphic novels, try “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.” so great! i double dog dare you!

  • Christina
    September 24, 2009 at 7:36 am

    The movie 300 (released in 07) was the first for me, in discovering the world of graphic novels.

  • Cara Powers
    September 24, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I agree that the graphic novel format definitely takes some getting used to. I didn’t really appreciate the art in Gemma Bovary until the second time I read it for my review.

  • Danielle
    September 24, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I have seriously got to get around to reading these some time…

  • Lustyreader
    September 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for the sweet intro, and since i’m shamelessly addicted to seeing romance stories all the way to HEA I just might have to read more Fables for Snow White and Bigby alone! And good luck Kati next month!

    Lilu: ditto dear

    Daya: oooh such a good call on the wolf shadow, i loved that too. and the scenes with him shirtless. yum.

    becky: thankye lady! and i take your book suggestions, i just haven’t read them yet 😉

    Christina: oooh i didn’t even know 300 was a graphic novel first! it’s a whiole new world for me, love it!

    Cara: There is a lot going on, but if you let it, i think it only adds to the story.

    Danielle: you should! i *dare* you too!

  • Peta
    September 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Oh dear – guess I just *have* to buy it now… What a brilliant excuse. 🙂

  • Rose Lerner
    September 25, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Ooh, I love the Fables comics! I have to admit, I haven’t enjoyed the most recent installments as much as the early ones, but the art is still consistently awesome!

    Re: “comic book” vs “graphic novel,” my understanding is that they refer to two different things. A comic book is the short little pamphlet-looking thing you buy, usually in serial format, and a graphic novel is a square-bound, longer story. There’s a gray area obviously because some graphic novels, like Legends in Exile, are collections of comic books. But I am not an expert, so someone correct me if I’m wrong!

    I’m excited for next month–I love steampunk (it’s like sci-fi and historical fiction had an awesome baby!) but haven’t read as much of it as I’d like to.

  • Rose Lerner
    September 25, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Oh, and I second the recommendation of Maus!

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