Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Rat Queens Volume One: Sass And Sorcery

by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

If high school cliques graduated and then found they had to fight dragons, the bands of adventurers plaguing the town of Palisade are something like what you'd get. One of those bands, the Rat Queens, is made up of four girls who party harder, fight dirtier, and stay up later than all the rest. They're meant to protect the town, but after a bar brawl gets out of hand and they trash everything the five bands of adventurers are given an ultimatum: complete an assignment, or get kicked out of town forever.

The Rat Queens' mission doesn't go smoothly, and they're soon in a heap of trouble, some of which they have brought upon themselves. The group are hilariously irresponsible in the face of frequent deadly peril. Hannah the necromancer has a sharp tongue and a hot temper, whilst the tiny smidgen called Betty is always intoxicated and thinks sweets are a staple food. Betty can be smart and sweet when she isn't killing or out of her tree.

Violet the dwarf is the group's muscle, and the tough little swordswoman is intent on escaping her roots. Meanwhile Dee, their healer, is an unbeliever who nevertheless uses magic. Dee is rebelling against her parents' influence in her own way. They are cultists who worship a giant squid, so she has had a weird upbringing and possibly more reasons than most to rebel.

The characters are like a bunch of rowdy teens who know they're too wild and immature, but who can't seem to stop themselves from learning everything the hard way. Although they may be childlike, the story itself isn't. There's a sense that they are about to grow up and find themselves, and that uncovering who is out to get them is only a small part of that.

There are quite a few cross-race romances, which isn't surprising when humans are outnumbered by the other races. Elves, dwarves, orcs, and smidgens mingle in Palisade, and there's even the odd troll. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, and although this is an adventure the fighting, which can be graphic and gory, doesn't dominate the narrative. And whilst there is some resolution to the initial mystery, this is clearly only the beginning of a series so it leaves many questions unresolved.

The art is colourful, clear, and beautifully drawn. Female characters are shown with a range of body types, and although some of them dress more like revellers than warriors there is a pleasant lack of chain mail bikinis and pouting Escher girl poses. It's a shame that in the 21st century finding a graphic novel that depicts women in a rounded and not over-sexualised way remains enough of a novelty to be worth mentioning. Fortunately this graphic novel is funny, exciting, and charming as well, so Rat Queens has a great deal to recommend it.

9th August 2016

Book Details

Year: 2015

Categories: Books

  Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

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Source: own copy