It’s been a while since I read Saga Vol 1, but I’m discussing it in my comic course so I gave it a reread and remembered afresh why I love this series so much. The plentiful fantasy and sci-fi elements, plus a beautiful forbidden love story between two complex and flawed badass characters, sprinkled with startling imagery and unexpected humour, makes for a really compelling tale.
Vaughan’s dialogue throughout feels so raw and real, especially with Alana who pulls no punches beginning with the memorable first page. The world, too, feels very attached to our own despite the whimsical fantasy of it. The story takes itself seriously at its core, depicting the brutal cruelties of life and war, as well as more tender moments. There are some very messed up things happening in Saga’s universe, but these atrocities are closer to the realities of our Earth than we’d like to think.
It wasn’t until after reading a few volumes of Saga that I learned the amazing and award-winning artist Fiona Staples was Canadian. Today that I learned she was born in Calgary- so cool! Staples’ art impresses me a lot- I really appreciate it when artists show you the nitty-gritty and go all in instead of making something watered down for wider consumption.
Saga doesn’t cater to the widest possible audience, but instead presents itself authentically, unabashedly, and in-your-face, no holds barred. It’s got action, emotion, diverse characters, strange creatures, and an epic feel. It’s totally earned a spot in my top favorite comic series.
Do you remember the early days of fanmade Harry Potter quizzes and the sorting games on the old promo websites for the movies? As a tween and teen I frequented sites like these and I always seemed to be sorted into the same house- Gryffindor. Yet, it never felt like a correct fit for me to be in the noble house of the lion.
I often wondered if, because the main trio from the books and movies were brave Gryffindor students, those early quizzes and/or my own personal bias towards Gryffindor would skew the results towards that house.
I never did accept being a Gryffindor, as it just felt off for me. Sorting is a complex business after all- Hermione would seem a clear fit for Ravenclaw, and yet she’s a Gryffindor. Was it at her own insistence that the sorting hat made its decision? Neville has certainly proved himself to be courageous by the end of the series, but wouldn’t most of his core traits be more in line with Hufflepuff? Fans have pondered these sorts of questions for years, and the only consensus might be that sorting is more of an art than a science. Add that to the multifaceted personalities and traits of witches and wizards, and the sorting hat has a difficult job indeed.
Anyway, when the first rendition of Pottermore was unleashed, I did the sorting quiz and – as usual- was placed in Gryffindor. Yet again, it didn’t feel right to me. Something in the back of my head was saying “you’re a Hufflepuff and YOU KNOW IT.”
When Pottermore was revamped and re-released, I did the new sorting quiz, and the result? Hufflepuff.
I think that most people might have a bit of all the houses in them- I certainly identify with Ravenclaw in a lot of ways, and I feel that Gryffindor does represent a part of me too. Slytherin has always felt the farthest from my personality, but my proclivity to adore the types of characters that Slytherin House attracts might speak to a darker side of my nature.
However, in the end each student is sorted into one house, and Hufflepuff is mine. It feels right.
Even though at first I felt torn (what? I’ve been trying to accept that I’m a Gryffindor all this time, and now here you are confirming my Hufflepuffdom!?) my friends convinced me- one comment: “Dude. You’re so totally a Hufflepuff.” Ok, so she has a point. The Wizardmore Extended Sorting Hat Quiz, which gives you the option of answering every possible quiz question from Pottermore, further confirms my place in Hufflepuff.
When I look at the main traits of Hufflepuff House, I feel proud to be a part of it. We don’t like personal drama, we work hard, we are inclusive and fair. We are perhaps the least glamorous or remarkable of the houses, but that’s in line with what I want in my life- to simply do good and enjoy a good life with the time i’ve got.
The Hufflepuff common room is the sort of sanctuary that I could imagine myself relaxing in at Hogwarts- it’s closest to the kitchens. It’s a cosy, hobbity sort of dwelling that is warm and full of plants. The trick to entering it involves a bit of a rhythm game, which is totally up my alley.
I officiated my Hufflepuff identity when I visited the Wizarding World area of Japan’s Universal Studios park in Osaka last year.
When I picked out my house robes, pet puffskein Pinku, and accompanying willow wand (I always get willow for wand quizzes and such) the young woman who assisted me exclaimed excitedly “You’re Hufflepuff? Me too!”
Last night I finished The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. This is the best fantasy book I’ve read in ages!
A first glance at the cover and synopsis might lead a reader to believe that they are in for a sort of magic-school YA novel about a young girl rising through the ranks. While this story does touch on that sort of feel in the initial chapters, that is not the ride you are in for. This is a brutal war story.
This book is not a romance story. This is not a YA fantasy school story (sorry. I love those too.) Yes, there’s a school, and we learn some things at the school, but please don’t let that description deceive you as we leave that setting quite quickly.
This is, as I’ve always conceived it, a war story. It draws heavily on the Second Sino-Japanese war which–if you know anything about Asia–was one of the darkest and bloodiest moments in Chinese history. It grapples with the Rape of Nanjing. It deals heavily with opium and drug use. (Opium was a source of Chinese weakness. This book asks what would have happened if opium were instead a source of shamanic power.) This book is primarily about military strategy, collapsing empires, mad gods, and the human ability to make awful, ruthless decisions. It’s about how dictators are made.
To be entirely frank, if you’re turned off by violence, I might pick up a different book.
The Poppy War is captivating from start to finish. It went places I did not expect it to go. I was expecting this book to sort of set the scene for the war, perhaps leading into book two (the author says this series will be a trilogy). However, as is the way of war, it was upon me (and Rin) quicker than I expected.
While this story goes into war strategy, worldbuilding and politics, it is balanced with characters that are likeable, interesting, flawed, powerful, and confronted with terrible decisions. It is also refreshingly well-paced, sweeping you off your feet just when you thought you were starting to get comfortable.
In a lot of series the protagonist has an unshakable black-and-white sense of right and wrong, good and evil, whereas I love that in this series (as in real life) characters are faced with ethical questions that have no easy answers.
This book is now one of my top favorite fantasy stories. I won’t give anything away, but will just say this- after the ending of book 1, I am definitely eager to get my hands on book 2. I’ll be with Rin until the end, no matter where she goes or what choices she makes.