Lair of the Geek

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Girl Genius: Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess

GirlGenius1
Author: Phil and Kaja Foglio
Publisher: Titan Books £7.99 buynow1
Review By: David Stonehouse

Not too long ago I reviewed the first Girl Genius book, Agatha H and the Airship City. While there was a lot to enjoy it wasn’t a whole-hearted endorsement. Book one was entertaining and frustrating in equal measure. The success of the set pieces and comedy was undermined by chaotic plot and underdeveloped ideas. So, on to book 2, and at nearly six hundred pages it really needs deliver on the promise of all those good ideas.

The story picks up where the first book finished. Agatha has escaped from Baron Klaus Wulfenbach’s airship fortress and crash landed in the murky forests of central Europe. She fakes her death in the crash and quickly falls in with a travelling circus troupe who specialise in doing dramatic stagings of the Heterodyne brothers’ adventures. It’s the perfect hiding place for Agatha, who seems to be on the run from just about everybody.

Agatha, of course, actually is a Heterodyne herself. Her father and uncle may have vanished years ago but Agatha has inherited their ‘madboy’ spark skills and these talents are quickly used to help out her new circus family. This is a big book and, as you would expect, it’s full of incident and adventure before Agatha’s identity is accidentally revealed and all the competing factions descend on her for the grand finale.

The good news is that this is a much better book than the first. The pace of events has been slowed and events play out at a more reasonable pace which allows many of the questions from the first book to be answered. We learn about the complex history and politics of Agatha’s world. Much more information is given about the Heterodynes. The Jagermonsters return but, this time, their existence is explained and they become much more than just comic relief. Time is spent building a large cast of sympathetic characters as Agatha becomes part of the circus family. The humour is well judged with some genuinely laugh out loud moments and the addition of Terry Pratchett style footnotes from the narrator is a really nice touch.

It isn’t perfect and there are still some minor issues. Characters who seem important just drift out of the plot; Gilgamesh, who is set up as romantic interest, gets sidelined completely. The huge finale is very ambitious but does suffer from some of the first book’s confusing and chaotic plotting. However, those niggles aside, this is a huge, entertaining and satisfying book, overflowing with imagination and energy, and a vast improvement over Agatha’s first outing. Despite approaching The Clockwork Princess with trepidation I finished it wanting more. The book closes this adventure but opens up plenty of possibilities for more. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get another instalment.

David Stonehouse

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