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Remember, remember the fifth of November…—Guy Fawkes chant

 

 

On Monday my neighbors in our little village gathered on the beach to celebrate Guy Fawkes day and Bonfire Night. For my American readers, this is basically like the Fourth of July, except it’s usually really cold. And we have a big fire. And instead of watermelon and beer, we have hot soup and whisky. And instead of celebrating our independence from the King of England, we celebrate um… not blowing up the King of England. And we burn a Catholic (well, in effigy, anyway, although I think this year’s Guy was orange, with a yellow wig and teeny hands…)

So actually, it’s absolutely nothing like the Fourth of July in America. But there ARE fireworks, and little kids DO run around with sparklers, and people clap and “Ooooh!” at their favorite rockets, and it IS a hella lot of fun!

BUT…that doesn’t help me. I’m supposed to be churning out thousands of words per day for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And it’s going well, only… Only I promised several reviews, and I’ve already done the fun part of reading the books.

All of these books are parts of series, and all are spectacular. So rather than hold up reviews, I am asking all their wonderful authors: will you forgive me if I post drastically shortened reviews of your gorgeous books over the next few days?

(If not, I’m guessing some of next year’s Guys will look suspiciously like a short, pudgy senior lady writer from a little Scottish island…)



Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer, painter and award winning poet. She is also known as an esoteric teacher and is one of the Directors of The Silent Eye. Sue now lives in Buckinghamshire, having been stranded there due to an unfortunate incident with a pin, a map and a blindfold; a temporary glitch of twenty years duration. She has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion; that hidden country of the heart that is the backdrop for many of her books, particularly those co-authored with Stuart France. She is currently owned by a small dog who also blogs. Sue and Stuart blog at Silent Eye.

I’m going to introduce my first quick review with a cautionary tale. Back in the dark ages when I was at university, a fellow English major asked me to go to an art movie with him. But—here comes the cautionary bit—I neglected to find out in advance that he was also studying German epic poetry. The art movie, which was in German with those English subtitles that don’t really show up against black and white film, seemed to be some kind of allegorical poem involving King Arthur’s knights and their search for the Holy Grail.

I’m not really sure about the plot of the film because A) it went on for untold hours of torture in which people wearing gauzy clothes over tights talked a lot and floated around but didn’t seem to accomplish much, and B) German art poetry. My date was very excited about all this and did not, I think, notice when I finally sneaked out of the theater on pretext of looking for the Ladies. On my way out, I overheard two people talking about how this was only part one, and how much they were looking forward to returning for parts two AND three. I broke into a run. During the next two years until graduation, I avoided him for fear he’d subject me to more art.

My point here? Sue Vincent and Stuart France took a similarly legendary Arthurian tale, set it up as a graphic novel, and not only added a time-travel intro, but also embedded it in the world of their iconic Mister Fox and his troupe of dancers. And they do the whole thing in just 64 pages. In pure self-defense, from now on I will keep an electronic copy of Mister Fox And The Green Man on my phone at all times in case someone tries to suggest we view a German Epic Poetry Cycle.


Mister Fox and The Green Man by Sue Vincent and Stuart France

“Foxes, Welch!”

When Special Agent Tommy Welch is called into Tee’s office, he has little idea of the perils of his latest assignment. Accompanied by the sensuous Miss Hunnyfludd, Welch believes he is to investigate an outbreak of mysterious Foxes. Instead Tommy finds himself flung far back in time, to the court of King Arthur, where a Green Knight is about to extend a deadly challenge…

Within the humorous spoof that frames the story, the reader is transported to Camelot to witness the confrontation of Gawain and the Green Knight. Based upon the story that lies deep at the heart of Arthurian lore, the threefold nature of the ancient myth unfolds…


My Review: 4 stars out of 5

King Arthur meets Austin Powers…

This little graphic novel reinterprets three quintessentially British myth systems. First we have the suave secret agent who represents the peak of British sophistication, if he’d just stop romancing his beautiful associate Miss Hunnyfludd long enough to save England.

The mix of Christian and pre-Christian themes is certainly not a new one, as seen by the presence of The Green Man as Sanctuary knocker, Durham Cathedral, UK

But just as our hero starts secret-agenting in earnest, he’s ambushed by the Green Man, and travels back in time to the second mythology and Logres, the kingdom of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. When the Green Man challenges the Knights of the Round Table to a fight and offers them the first blow, only Sir Gawain is brave enough to accept what is obviously a trap. Sure enough, the decapitated monster picks up his severed head and informs the company that in one year, Sir Gawain must offer him the chance of a return strike and certain death.

From there the knight must solve a series of riddles, survive traps and tricks, and find his way a year hence to face his death—or worse, marry a hideous hag who offers hope in exchange for marriage.

Interspersed is the third myth system, perhaps most ancient of all, in the form of mysterious foxes whose presence and especially their dances both frame and resolve the story.

While this retelling of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight sticks with a familiar mix of Christian and ancient themes, it does lean more heavily on the pre-Roman themes and heritage. As a graphic novel, the gorgeous pictures literally paint the background, mood, and fantastical setting. The story itself seems secondary to the themes of death as one point of a cycle that includes past, present, and future.

I love this (admittedly weird) series of little books. This one is perhaps the strangest, but certainly deserves a read.

*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*


  • Book Title: Mister Fox and The Green Man 
  • Author: Sue Vincent and Stuart France
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Publisher: Silent Eye (16 August 2016)
  • Length: 64 pages


You might also check out my review of another book in this series, Mister Fox The Legend. And finally, the latest book in the series, Mister Fox Winter’s Tail follows below.



Mister Fox Winter’s Tail by Stuart France & Sue Vincent

Where is Mister Fox?

The night howls in triumph… pale eyes watch from the shadows…

It is the night of the Hunter’s Moon and the dancing ground should be alive with flame as the Foxes dance in the dark. But the dancing ground is deserted. They are gone. No earthly light pierces the gloom, only the sickly glow of a veiled moon. Don and Wen stare in disbelief.

Whispers in the shadows, a faceless voice, a tale of ambush and betrayal… of Foxes driven from their home and scattered, condemned to wander far from their ancestral lands. Charles James Fox wounded… none has seen him since that fateful night.

Will the Hunter’s Moon pass in darkness? Have the Demon Dogs succeeded in their mission to bring eternal winter to the land? Or will their celebrations be short-lived?…

For none may mar the Dancing Ground
Nor add their darkness to the night,
Nor stand against the Silver Fox,
The wielder of the Staff of Light…


My Review: 4 stars out of 5

The graphic novels that make up the Mister Fox series are, frankly, weird. Character development, plot, pacing, or almost any of the elements I would normally demand from a book—especially one I like—are virtually irrelevant. Instead the authors have created a visually stunning retelling of the cycle of the seasons, presented as an otherworldly re-enactment of a myth.

Every culture has stories of supernatural interference with the cycle of nature. Persephone has to go to Hades before she can come back to bring spring. The great summer and winter solstices have to be observed so planting and harvesting can be scheduled. Night has to follow day. Egyptian sun god Ra must fight the underworld serpent Apep every night in order for the day to return. The Greek goddesses of day and night, Hemia and Nyx, meet each day. “Nyx and Hemera draw near and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze: and while the one is about to go down into the house, the other comes out at the door.”–Hesiod’s Theogony, c. 700BCE”

And how do you mark this importance? By showing what happens when the cycle is broken of course. When Persephone’s distraught mother Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, can’t find her daughter, all the crops fail. It’s only the return of Persephone every spring that allows crops to grow.

And, as all believers know, it’s better not to leave anything this important in the laps of easily distractible deities. So you build temples, chapels, stone circles. Conduct ceremonies, say prayers, and even channel your gods through ritual to ensure they stay on task.

And that’s where Mister Charles Fox and his band of (anonymous) dancers come in. By firelight as autumn moves toward winter, Summer, in the form of a giant crow, wages epic battle against the foxes who herald the change of season and the arrival of winter. Their primeval battle is a dance, set to drum and pipe music and waged against the flickering flames of fire and torch.

But when the friends of the foxes, Wen and Don, arrive expecting to see the usual dance, they’re shocked to find all the foxes have disappeared. Their search for their friends turns up a story that starts in 1591…

For this modern day recreation of a myth, the graphic novel format is perfect. The flames glow against the darkness, wrapping the dancers in a layer of magic and fantasy. And you’ve just got to love a background mystery that begins with, “The year,” he said, “is fifteen-hundred and ninety-one…”

Like all books in this series, Mister Fox Winter’s Tail is beautiful, fun, confusing, and leaves you feeling there are a lot more things going on than the few words and gorgeous pictures tell you (besides that pun in the title, of course!). And, while there are only a small number of pages, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this book is an epic.

 

*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*


  • Book Title: Mister Fox Winter’s Tail 
  • Author: Sue Vincent and Stuart France
  • Genre: Graphic novel
  • Publisher: Silent Eye Press (2 September 2018)
  • Length: 38 pages

 

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