Title: Agatha H and the Airship City
Author: Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio
Series: Girl Genius #1
Europa has slowly consolidated (somewhat peacefully) under the rule of one Baron, one man who is intent on either recruiting or wiping out those Sparks whose mad science is apt to tear the world apart. For Agatha, the Baron has little to do with her life, until the day he makes a surprise visit to the university where she works as an assistant. Now her life is in shambles, the Baron has (rather politely) kidnapped her, and she’s preparing to do whatever it takes to get herself out . . .
This is based on the webcomic Girl Genius. I realized this about a chapter in, read some of the comic to compare, and decided that on the whole I much prefer the novelization, as it lends more context to the story.
The world is an interesting one, which gleefully takes mad scientists, Transylvanian horrors, and steampunk and mashes them into an entertaining milieu. A gift (curse?) called the Spark is responsible for the types of science that drives ordinary engineers insane, and can bend the usual laws of physics. This has, of course, resulted in Sparks being perpetually at war with one another, because someone will get the bright idea to conquer his neighbors using, say, lobsters, and then invents something that will carry it out.
It was fairly easy to see where certain pieces of the plot are going. The Heterodyne Boys mentioned in the beginning, and such a big part of the mythology, have their connection to Agatha spoiled by the book’s title. On the other hand, some things are less clear, like whether the Baron is actually wrong to contain Sparks who would otherwise wreck havoc on the world.
The best part, for me, is the Emperor of Cats. His whole introduction is a riot, as is how he takes Agatha’s sarcastic suggestion of fealty utterly seriously. I also adored the scene where Agatha is grilling Gil about how many weapons of mass destruction he’s cooked up (none), and what that says about him as a ruler-to-be and a Spark.
Overall this is a fun, fast read that leaves a whole lot open for a sequel. I rate this book Recommended.