“Sofia Wizards” by Martin Kolev

Софийски магьосници(Author: Martin Kolev) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)

(Around the World: Bulgaria)


Review:

After a whirlwind of a year and after moving away from Bulgaria, I ended up nearly finishing 2017 with a Bulgarian book. And what a book it was.

While I was eager to start Sofia Wizards (I got the translation from the author’s Facebook page. Alternatively, I would think Wizards of Sofia would sound better), I didn’t have very big expectations. The friend I borrowed the book from told me that it’s basically Bulgarian Harry Potter, which was more or less scary, because no book would live up to that name.

It turned out that while they had many similarities, including a first chapter almost identical to the main points of the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book was not a rip-off. That is not to say that it didn’t borrow many ideas, like the hidden streets (similar to Diagon Alley), or the magical pubs, etc., but it was not done in a blatant way.

Kolev actually brought a lot of little things to the book that I quite enjoyed, such as the quest games in which you actually physically get sucked in, or the schools of magic which are separated by abilities, rather than personality traits and preferences (nature magic, mirror magic, fire magic).

Something that I really loved about the book was the alternative look on Sofia. Having made the decision to leave Bulgaria, I didn’t think I would miss it very much. But while reading Sofia Wizards, I did remember fondly the streets and places mentioned, as well as imagine this other Sofia that I would have liked to be a part of, if it existed.

Overall, a very enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to the next installments in the series (as I saw the author mentioned on his Facebook page that there will be others).

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“Fables, Vol. 4” by Bill Willingham

Fables (The Deluxe Edition, #4)(Author: Bill Willingham) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I feel like there was a bit of bad period for Fables around Vol. 2-3, but then it started picking up pace here and I’m really happy with the current progression. I see a development both in the characters that we already have as people, a narrative progression towards the Adversary, and an increase of fable characters, which I highly appreciate.

My favourite part of this deluxe edition, however, were the 1001 Nights of Snowfall. I thought that that was just fantastic, because I love backstories and they make characters feel more realistic to me. Most of all, I was interested by the stories of Flycatcher and Snow White. I seem to have either missed it, or it still hasn’t been explained, but I had no idea why Snow felt the way she did about the seven dwarfs. As I am aware that Disney Snow White and fable Snow White are very different characters, I wasn’t sure how these two stories would fit into the same world, or whether they would fit at all, but I expect something more grotesque to be revealed soon.

In all honesty, I am already reading the next volume, so I already know that the story is getting even more juicy, and I’m definitely hyped right now.

“Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal(Author: G. Willow Wilson) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Awesome!

I had started developing a small phobia of superhero comic books after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to read them (namely, and to my partner-in-crime’s huge disappointment, Hawkeye). The thing is, I love the Marvel movies, I also like a lot of the DC movies. But the comic books just don’t live up to it a lot of the time.

Ms. Marvel definitely did, though. This comic book was so cool and unconventional, that I couldn’t help but really like it. It’s just so original and a lot more heartfelt than some of the other superheroes’ origin stories. Part of this might come from the fact that I have been over-saturated by movies about Batman and Superman’s sap stories, but Ms. Marvel is something else altogether.

As a character, she is a big dork, so I can definitely sympathize. However, she also comes from a very conservative family and background and this volume does a good job at trying to explain this culture in an easy-to-swallow kind of way. It also tries to show the soul of the regular Muslim family, instead of the inhumane side of Islam that we see through terrorism. Considering the fact that I, myself, despite being a Christian, have spent a lot of time among Muslims, I know that I have a different view of them and that many people do have a hard time understanding the difference between Islam and radicalism. Ms. Marvel is not subtle about trying to explain that to its readers, but nevertheless, the authors have burdened themselves with a rather unorthodox and admirable task.

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I also thought that the story was generally very cute and light-hearted, unlike many of the superhero comic books that I’ve read. In that sense, it kind of reminded me of Batgirl, back when I loved it. The atmosphere was fun and exciting, instead of depressing and dark, so to me, it was a big plus.

The art was pretty but in a way which was as equally unconventional, as the book itself. The characters were drawn in a cartoonish but pretty way, and with some very nice colors.

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I’m definitely adding Ms. Marvel to my list. The only drawback is that the list never seems to get shorter. Eh…

“Saga, Vol. 7” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 7(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I definitely liked this volume more than the previous one. Aside from the story being a lot more thought-through and less transitional than the one in the previous volume, it was also a lot more serious and mature.

In fact, I think this is one of the most serious volumes of Saga in general. Despite Prince Robot’s ding dong close ups and everything…

Two things made this volume more grown up for me:

  1. The refugee crisis. It was reflected 1:1 as what we see in our day-to-day reality. The native population of Phang was how the author wanted us to see the real refugees as well. There was the element of religion, the element of outside intrusion, and also that of the innocence/fanaticism of the locals.
  2. This quote:

“You know that old cliche about the millions of deaths being a statistic… while the loss of just one life is a tragedy?

If that’s true, what is it when you lose something that never even had a chance to be born?

I’ve had lots of relationships in my lifetime, platonic or otherwise, but the ones I think about most are those that never quite made it to term.

I guess I’m just haunted by all that potential energy.

One moment the universe presents you with this amazing opportunity for new possibilities…

…and then…

I also saw in this volume that the stories of the characters are finally moving forward, all of them, from Hazel’s family, to The Will. I’m looking forward to the new volumes.

“The Devil’s Prayer” by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer(Author: Luke Gracias) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The Devil’s Prayer were two very interesting books!

The reason I say this is that there can be a line drawn very distinctively between the first and the second part of the book, and each could have been perfectly great on its own.

The Devil’s Prayer is the story of a woman, Denise, who, after winning the lottery is abducted, raped and left to die. Instead of dying, she makes a deal with the Devil. Later on, she finds out about the existence of an old book, one part of which is called The Devil’s Prayer, and she sets out to find it.

I greatly enjoyed the first part of the book – the story of Denise before she started looking for the book. It was a page turner and it was very exciting and creative. The end of this first story was a big surprise, even though I had guessed the general lines of where it was headed.

The second part, the one about The Devil’s Prayer, was something else. It was interesting in a completely different way. This storyline was more in the vicinity of Dan Brown back when I enjoyed his works, and it had a great plot behind it. It also sort of reminded me of one of my favourites, The Historian, so that was another bonus for me. However, this part of the book also felt underdeveloped. It took entirely too little time in terms of the book, and it could have been so much bigger and more explosive. The author had a great “conspiracy theory” about a document signed between Arnaud Amalric and Jebe Noyan in the 13th century. I would have LOVED to read a more detailed and suspenseful novel about this. Not to mention that part of this story was set in Bulgaria, so I couldn’t help but being proud of our history. Sadly, it seems that the author wasn’t sure what to do with this treasure of a plot line, so he rushed it and he left big parts of it just hanging there.

The ending of the book was also not ideal. The entire narrative seemed like the introduction to a much larger story, which never happened. The ending was supposed to be, in my mind, a bigger event, and instead it was left completely unresolved. If there’s a second book coming, I would definitely read it, because the ending didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

Nevertheless, a very interesting book indeed.

  • Also, for those who have read the book, this is the vampire burial from Perperikon:

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He had a metal knife stuck in his heart, and his left leg was cut off under the knee, severed in three and put next to the body. As The Devil’s Prayer points out, this grave is from the 13th century and this “anti-vampire” ritual was Christian.