The Battle of Blood and Ink by Axelrod and Walker

The Battle of Blood and Ink: a Fable of the Flying City
Jared Axelrod and Steve Walker
2012

This book has my qualified approval. Without the time (or ability to concentrate) for reading a full book, I recently read a graphic novel instead. Given the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” if all of your descriptions can be replaced by images, a graphic novel can be read a whole lot faster than a traditional novel and in fact I read The Battle of Blood and Ink in about forty-five minutes.

On the up-side, it was wonderful to just relax with a book and this one had fun characters and interesting intrigue and really beautiful illustrations. The art is both lovely and lively and was what first attracted me to the book. Then, the characters drew me in, as well as how the authors addressed moral issues regarding ethics versus pragmatics and personal versus political responsibility. It was both beautiful and interesting.

The story is about a woman, Ashe, who grew up as a street kid on a flying city and now makes her living printing a newsletter regarding city events and happenings. The city is a place of wonder, but from Ashe’s perspective, we see some of the gritty underpinnings of how things actually work, and so too does her readership. This gets her into trouble with the city ruler and events progress. Since the role of information and censorship are currently particular interests of mine, this plot was just right for me.

On the down-side, the climactic scene relies on a lot of world building that wasn’t actually presented previously in the book. Given the setting is a flying city, the universe is obviously a science-fiction/fantasy one, but the physics of the world isn’t really explained at all, and the climax depends on certain premises that I hadn’t expected.

Having read and enjoyed the book but feeling a bit bemused by the ending, I discovered that the book was intended as a stand-along sequel to a set of 44 online pod casts (i.e., audio recordings). I listened to the first two of them and was not nearly as impressed by them as by the graphic novel. The world building issues may or may not be addressed in these pod casts, but of the two that I listened to (each about 15 minutes), both times the speaker rambled for a significant period of time before getting to the story and then the story was filled with poorly written descriptions that were much better presented as images in the graphic novel.

So, on the whole, while there are serious flaws in this graphic novel, it’s still lovely, fun, interesting, and well worth the half-hour to an hour that it would take to read. If you want to get a taste of it, the first twenty or so pages are available online.

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