I love spy things. I grew up watching James Bond and adore the TV show Archer. I only heard about Kingsman: The Secret Service when the film with Colin Firth came out recently. I put the graphic novel on hold, fully intending to read it and compare it to the movie.
Haven’t seen the movie yet. And now I’m not sure I want to.
Based on the trailers, the Kingsman movie appears to deviate significantly from the source material. That, obviously, is very common in movie adaptations (I’m looking at you, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies…). But I really enjoyed this graphic novel, which was written by the creator of Kick-Ass and illustrated by one of the creators of Watchmen. I’m concerned that the movie will lose the important themes of the graphic novel.
The Secret Service follows the adventures of Gary. He’s grown up on a London estate (low income housing, for my fellow Americans who haven’t watched a lot of British television) and his life is basically going nowhere. He, his younger brother and his mom live with her drunk, abusive boyfriend and Gary spends his nights stealing cars and wreaking havoc with his friends. That is, until his uncle (and renowned secret agent) Jack London shows up. Taken under Jack’s wing, Gary is trained to be a spy. The story of his espionage education is woven into a larger mystery concerning disappearing celebrities (including Mark Hamill, David Beckham, etc.).
Because of Gary’s background, class distinctions are discussed throughout Kingman. Environmental concerns prove to be a driving force behind the plot. The media and the culture it creates are critiqued as well. These topics are not necessary fleshed out to the degree I would like, but the story is contained in only one volume, so space is limited. Gary’s mom is a pretty realistic depiction of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, but any other female characters are few and far between.
Overall, this graphic novel somehow combines a fun spy coming-of-age story with themes of class struggle, environmentalism and media culture. 4 cups of tea.
If you watch Lainey (gingerreadslainey) on BookTube, you’ve no doubt heard of the Falling Kingdoms series. I listened to the first book, Falling Kingdoms, on audiobook from Hoopla, which is a streaming media service through my library (shameless library service plug). I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks on roadtrips, especially the Jim Dale-narrated Harry Potter ones. Falling Kingdoms was well-narrated, though the voice the narrator used for Magnus reminded me a lot of Kit Harington’s Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. (Not really a bad thing.) What I didn’t like was that the description of the book revealed as semi-twist concerning Lucia.
The plot centers around the continent of Mytica, which is divided into three countries: cold, pious Limeros in the north, sunny, properous Auranos in the south and the dying nation of Paelsia in between. The four main characters are divided among these three nations: Cleo is the Princess of Auranos, Jonas is a poor Paelsian wine merchant’s son and Magnus and Lucia belong to the Limerian royal family. Their stories are woven together gradually, finally colliding at the end of the book. This is clearly a set-up book and I’ve heard good things about the sequels (there will be six books in the finished series).
Falling Kingdoms has been described as the YA version of A Song of Ice and Fire; it is full of political intrigue and death. But – perhaps because I’m familiar with fantasy tropes and the plot twists – I found Falling Kingdoms very predictable. I was able to predict all but maybe one or two plot ‘twists’. I was also sometimes able to predict the next sentence or word before the narrator said it.
This predictability is not necessarily a bad thing – I definitely enjoyed the book. The characters are interesting. I feel this series would be an excellent starting point for someone looking to get into fantasy. The writing is approachable (if a bit repetitive and using modern phrase), without any of the specialized jargon that often comes with fantasy. There’s plenty of twists and action to entertain a more seasoned fantasy veteran as well. I liked all the characters and wanted to find out what happened to them next, but didn’t have a particular favorite.
Overall, I give Falling Kingdoms 4 cups of tea. It’s a fun, fast-paced YA fantasy that is approachable for non-fantasy readers. I’m interested in continuing the series, but don’t feel the strong desire to dive into the next book like Mistborn or the Winner’s Trilogy. Maybe someday.