Monday, 26 September 2011

Guest Review: Liz from My Favourite Books reviews Fables: 1001 Nights in Snowfall

This afternoon I'm welcoming one of my bessie blogging and real life mates to Floor to Ceiling Books. Liz of My Favourite Books needs absolutely NO introduction. She is one of the pre-eminent bloggers, Twitterers and future authors - I loves her *grin*

And she is here to review Fables: 1001 Nights in Snowfall by Bill Willingham.

This tale is set in the 19th century, in the early days of Fabletown, when Snow White was sent as an envoy to the lands of the Arabian Fables. But the Arabian Fables are actually offended that a woman would be sent to negotiate. When she catches the eye of the sultan, Snow finds herself filling the unenviable role of Scheherazade, the teller of the original One Thousand and One Arabian Nights tales.

Snow has to amuse the Sultan with tales of wonder and imagination every night - for a thousand and one nights - to keep her head off the chopping block. We see the stories as Snow tells them in a framing sequence similar to the original. Running the gamut from horror to dark intrigue to mercurial coming-of-age, it reveals the secret histories of familiar characters through a series of compelling and visually illustrative tales.

This was my first ever Fables graphic novel. Admittedly it was a brave thing to do, to grab it and buy it and read it, having never read any of the other graphic novels in the past, but this one genuinely appealed to me.

It riffed on the original Arabian Nights but with a fairy tale spin. I was initially concerned that I would not understand who the characters are but I plunged in. A helpful “who is who” page easily lets you in on the game, so you get a brief outline as to who the characters are, this was helpful, without being spoilery.

The story consists of ten smaller stories – an anthology, with each story linking to the next, to the next, to the next. I will briefly mention the stories in sequence:

A Most Troublesome Woman

Illustrated by Charles Vess and pencilled by Michael Wm Kaluta this story is the one that sets up the graphic novel, in which Snow White travels to an Arabic country to ask the sultan for his assistance. Fabletown is facing a dark enemy and needs allies. Sadly, for Snow, she finds herself relegated to the side, ignored because she is a woman. The sultan sees all women as nasty creatures, only good for marrying and bedding for a night, before murdering them. Snow devises a plan to get the Sultan on their side, and save her own skin, by telling him a sequence of stories, fulfilling the role of storyteller.

The Fencing Lessons

This is my favourite of all the stories. We learn how Snow and Prince Charming tried living happily ever after. We learn of the godawful things that were done to Snow by the odious dwarfs. And her stunning revenge. A very dark story and beautifully illustrated by John Bolton, this story is very much for adults only.

The Christmas Pies

Reynard tricks the Adversaries’ armies to bake and deliver pies in a clearing. It’s a clever ruse and a proper trickster tale, allowing the captured animals to escape.

A Frog’s Eye View

This one concerns Flycatcher and how things went from him when he became human. It also ramps up the tension and reveals a bit more about the ruthlessness of the Adversary.

The Runt

Oh. Loved this story – beautifully illustrated by Mark Wheatley it tells the story of Big Bad Wolf’s mother and the North Wind and it also tells us a bit more about BBW’s childhood and his bad ways, before he became Bigby Wolf.

A Mother’s Love

A very poingnant and short story illustrated by Derek Kirk Kim it tells how Colonel Thunderfoot is cursed to live as a human (he is a hare) and how he has to live out his days until the love of a female of the harekind can return him from human to hare.


Forms a lead into the next story, The Witch’s Tale. Diaspora focusses on the two sisters, Snow and Rose and Frau Totenkinder (a witch) and...well, you have to read the story. Illustrated by Tara McPherson.

In The Witch’s Tale we see more about Frau Totenkinder and how she’s linked to various other fables and it’s illustrated by Esao Andrews.

What You Wish For

A young girl who has travelled all over the world, wishes to see the sea. She makes a wish and goes to live with the merfolk under the sea, where the Adversary decides to attack next. Illustrated by Brian Bolland.

Fair Division

This is a firm favourite, not just because of the story, which showcases King Cole being magnanimous and caring, but also because of Jill Thompson’s amazing art. She’s managed to keep the art quite adult yet it is reminiscent of the art we’re used to seeing when we grew up. King Cole allows everyone to feast on his food and later, when he passes out from hunger, all his subjects rush around, working as a team, to help him.

The graphic novel ends with Snow leaving the Sultan’s palace alive, and a young beautiful girl called Scheherazade takes her place. Snow however whispers to her that the Sultan seems quite keen on stories.

The graphic novel is a standalone within the Fables series. What the author manages to do is create something that someone like me who loves fairy tales can pick up and read and understand and enjoy, without having any previous knowledge of the existing Fables world. I think that’s genius. What is also incredible is the enthusiasm and detail visible in each page of the graphic novel – from the artwork to the stories to the overall package.

Vertigo has done an amazing job, keeping this series going and Bill Willingham is easily one of my favourite graphic novelists working today. Because of him my own interests in fairy tales has grown even more and my collection of graphic novels, novels, academic non-fiction and research has exploded significantly.

I heartily recommend the series, but if you’re unsure, get 1001 Nights in Snowfall and try it on for size.

Thanks so much, Liz!

1 comment:

  1. I've flipped through these several times because the cover art is intriguing, but I've never made the plunge. Thanks for the review!