Nimona started off as a free fantasy webcomic and has since been published in graphic novel form (only the first three chapters of the webcomic are still available for free). I read it back when it was a webcomic and remembered enjoying it. I was excited when I heard about the audiobook, but also wary. I mean, it's a graphic novel. How do you turn a graphic novel into an even halfway decent audiobook?
In the case of Nimona, it was turned into something like a radio play, complete with sound effects, a full cast, and a narrator filling in whatever the sound effects and dialogue couldn't get across. For the most part, I thought it was reasonably successful, although I still missed the artwork.
Let me back up a bit. Nimona stars Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain who wants to cause trouble for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics but who doesn't actually want to hurt anyone, and Nimona, his new sidekick. Nimona is a shapeshifter who thinks being a villain sounds cool, and she's overenthusiastic about her new job. She has a tendency to kill people if Ballister doesn't watch her and rein her in. Ballister's nemesis is Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the man who blew off his right arm.
When Ballister learns that the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics is involved in a project that may be poisoning the country's crops, he decides to intervene. The situation is complicated by Nimona's secrets and Ballister and Goldenloin's painful history
(they used to be friends, and it's strongly hinted that they were once lovers).
If the names didn't make it clear, there's a good bit of humor in this. I enjoyed Ballister's enthusiasm for the Science Fair, Dr. Blitzmeyer's complete obliviousness to anything that wasn't her area of research, and anything that poked fun at Goldenloin. The story did take a turn for the serious, though, when the full story of Nimona's past was revealed.
For the most part, the voice acting was pretty good. I was iffy about the casting decision for Goldenloin, but I loved the rest of the main cast. The attempt to have sound effects and narration fill in for the original story's artwork mostly worked, although I'm guessing that my past familiarity with the webcomic probably helped. That said, there were a few times when even I had a little trouble following what was going on, usually when Nimona was doing some of her more rapid-fire transformations.
Story-wise, the pacing was a bit weird. As much as I loved Ballister's reaction to the Science Fair, for example, that part came at an odd time in the story. Also, the ending was extremely unsatisfying. I can't remember if I had the same issue with the webcomic, but I recall a few extra illustrations that at least gave the illusion of more closure. And did the webcomic let readers at least know more about
Goldenloin's ultimate fate? Unless I missed it, the audiobook didn't - the last thing that was said about him was that he might not ever wake up again.
All in all, this was better than I expected, but I'd probably still advise newbies to the story to start with the graphic novel and listen to the audiobook only if they love the original work and want more.
This is my 3-star "I don't even know" rating. I'd probably have rated it higher if it hadn't been for the ending.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
House of Night Other World, Book 1
I Picked Up This Book Because: I am a fan of the original HON series.
The Nerd Herd:
Grandma Redbird, Other Jack and Other Kevin
The Good: The Nerd Herd is back! After being spread all across America everyone is back to celebrate Zoey’s 18th Birthday
The Bad: So is Nefert, or maybe it’s just her influence. The White Bull starts some drama that ends up opening a portal to another world. A world where Neferet’s crazy plan to dominate humankind has worked.
The Unbelievable: I know Zoey has a special connection with the goddess Nix but to believe that a teenager and her teenage friends are the people solely capable to lead an entire species… seems a little too much to me. But I rolled with it.
Overall: I liked the concept of another world. I like how they helped the red fledglings and vampires from that world and I see that developing a lot in the future. I do think there was a fair amount of fluff that was unnecessary. I am looking forward to the next installment but will not go through great pains to
The Random Thoughts:
The Score Card:
I did it, I read Sun Warrior. It was a book I picked up with a great deal of trepidation and no small amount of dread. The House of Night Series remains one of the worst I have ever endured and Moon Chosenmanages to plum still deeper depths. I did not have high expectations for Sun Warrior
Which made reading Sun Warrior, almost a pleasant surprise. Oh, not because it was good. Not because it came even close to good. Not because it could even see good on a clear day with a telescope. Because it wasn’t remotely. Nor was it not deeply problematic in many many ways (especially dwelling on a lot of rape as well as some really terrible treatment of the former slaves the Companions controlled) But it managed to avoid a whole lot of the most awful traits of the first book by… basically pretending they never happened or by retconning or by brushing over them super quickly.
Like the book tries to emphasise what a wonderful caring healer Mari is… we’re all completely avoiding the way she just abandoned her people and listened to them scream. At best we have a brief nod while everyone rallies round Mari to tell her she’s amazing and we spend the rest of this book with just about everyone treating Mari like the second coming. Or there’s the racial coding and Blackface of the last book which is just ignored in this book. The description of Earth Walkers as ugly vs the “refined” features of the Companions has been dropped entirely. The Nightfever is there, but handwaved and we’re all far more concerned by the new plague from the Skin Stealers. She even develops a whole new load of traditions about Clan Weaver weaving - which sounds simplistic, but last book Mari didn’t think her people were capable of art.
It’s not that the book has changed, dispensed with or otherwise redeemed the badness of the last book: it’s just pretended none of it ever happened.
It does have its own problematic elements which largely stem from the writing: it’s horribly slow pace, the endless telling-with-no-showing and the Mary Sue omniscience of the main characters held together with a whole lot of magical plot glue.
This book, this oh-so-long-book, covers about a week, maybe a fortnight. And in that time Mari and Nik decide to create a whole new society called the Pack where all people come together in mutual love and tolerance. Which sounds nice - except remember like 2 days ago these Earth Walker women were imprisoned and enslaved by the Companions. They were enslaved for generations as a people and some of these women had literally spent many years in captivity. It is REASONABLE for these women to be at least a little wary of the Companions. It is reasonable for these women to be more than a little concerned when Mari decides to host several Companions in their BIRTHING BURROW. The place where pregnant women of the Clan give birth. And some of these Companions were literally among the raiding party that kidnapped several Clan women AND killed Leda, Mari’s mother and pretty much destroyed the Clan, a few weeks ago. Hey, y’know, it’s not exactly an act of vicious bigotry for the these women to think that they’d rather their enslavers not camp in the most sensitive parts of their home. But Mari treats them as grossly intolerant and drives some of the women out for not embracing them men who hunted and owned them 2 days before - and no-one challenges her on this
This follows Mari, in both books, repeatedly talking about the bigotry of her people and why she had to hide: but we never see this. Literally not one member of Clan Weaver turns on Mari for being half Companion Tree-Person. Not one. But she repeatedly tells us of the lengths she has to go to to avoid this non-existent bigotry. She continually refers to this non-existent bigotry to bludgeon the surviving Clan Weaver women to just ABANDON their society.
We have something similar with the Companions - with Nik and Mari assuming the Companions will definitely try to kill her and return to their slaving ways. Perhaps there’s more justification in assuming the slave holding Companions being regarded with more suspicion - but we don’t see it; no real wide spread rejection or hostility. The only Companion who really clings to real negativity towards the Earth Walkers is Thaddeus - who is infected by the Skin Stealer disease. But Nik decides to leave his people at a time of utter peril, taking with him Laru (his pet dog and the alpha. Which sort of makes him leader. It’s like a Canine Excalibur) when the ONLY opposition he gets is from Thaddeus the diseased one. He leaves his people literally to die for the sake of a prejudice that we never see.
And despite everyone knowing Thaddeus killed the last Sun Priest, no-one does anything about it. He just wanders around being evil, gathering followers and everyone just shrugs and moves on -not for any reason other than the author NEEDING Thaddeus to run around being super evil to advance a plot. Reasonably these characters would have killed/banished/dropped him down a hole but the plot needs him to be there
This whole lack of actual prejudice is a problem because both Nik and Mari use this supposed prejudice as an excuse to abandon the Companions completely (despite having lost over half of their population in a devastating forest fire and desperately desperately needing help, they have no healer, no home, few resources and lots of wounded) and force the Earth Walkers to completely change their way of life. This prejudice NEEDS to be real to stop Nik and Mari being completely self absorbed and utterly callous towards others and without it being depicted they still look self-absorbed and callous… but also weirdly paranoid. “Everyone hates me!” but… no-one does. I mean, ever.
This prejudice is even used as the driving force for Mari deciding the Pack needs to relocate to a whole new unknown land - this prejudice is an essential driver of the plot and it’s NOT THERE
The books also really fails to examine, well, anything in any real depth. Like Mari and Nik are building this new society and, then, deciding to move to the great unknown to live with pretty horses - but it’s ok everyone going with them choses to follow. Except the Earth Walkers will pretty much die without Mari to wash them. And the Companions are vulnerable to the death fungus which means basically half of them die if they suffer even a minor break of their skin: an ailment that Mari can cure. Oh and now we have the Skin Stealer disease which… only Mari can cure. At no point does any character even slightly hint that Mari has complete power over everyone and how little free will everyone else has because of this. Mari herself never thinks for a second about the ethics of everyone’s dependence on her - even when she threatens to leave or abandon people. Just some level of thought would be nice
Which brings me round to how Mari is just the most ridiculous Mary Sue ever. Mary Sue is a much abused term and is often used by sexist readers to dismiss any half way competent female character - but Mari is such a classic example. She has ALL THE SHINY POWERS in incredible amounts and even Thaddeus wants to capture her to use her special shininess. She is everyone’s saviour since she can heal the Skin Stealer Plague - but it’s not just her powers; it’s the way everyone treats her. Unless you’re actually designated Evil, you love Mari. Everyone loves Mari. Everyone agrees with Mari. She’s radically changing society and gets barely more than a token protest. People line up to love her. When one of the Skin Stealers is fleeing her people she prays to the Earth Goddess and MARI HEARS THE PRAYERS. She’s also getting some very House of Night-style divine guidance as well adding to her specialness. And this is why the whole prejudice themes fail - because the author just can’t bring herself to have people dislike Mari.
I love this series based on the life of McLevy, a Scottish policeman in Edinburgh. Mostly because Jean Brash, who is freaking awesome. If you haven't listened to this wonderful series, give it a go. Nice humor, good characters, and Scotland.