Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

Malice

In middle school, I was one of those kids going through all the adventure books the library had to offer. From the The Famous Five to kid detectives to opening that wardrobe, I loved it all and then had fun with my friends digging holes, running away from imaginary bad guys and hidden doorways. After that, a lot of “grown-up” books were a disappointment to me at first until I learned to embrace speculative fiction and started to consider other topics exciting as well. But this is a very long-winded way of saying that I still am that kid looking for adventure stories and when I heard about Malice in Ovenland, I knew I had to give it a go. And yes, middle-grade books still deliver the same fun and no, I did not try to explore behind my kitchen oven, cause that would be weird. (it was very dusty!)

Malice in Ovenland is a middle-grade comic by Micheline Hess and published by Rosarium. The first volume introduces fierce young, Black Lilly Brown, who does not get to spend her summer at camp like her friends but instead has to take care of her mother’s organic garden and a list of other chores. Already, and with adult eyes, I find this positioning important: Lilly lives with her mom and loves fast food but her mother has chosen to grow organic food to take care of her daughter and herself and Lilly also has responsibilities that she might not enjoy but takes care of nonetheless. This is not your spoiled middle-class kid and I love this glimpse of Lilly’s mother. And then, when Lilly attempts to clean the oven she tumbles into Ovenland, like Alice once fell into Wonderland.

malice1

How fantastic are those colors and especially that last panel!?  I love all the details like the cracked glasses and the horribly-green Bleh! Now in Ovenland, Lilly is locked into the dungeon, meets a queen and finds a kingdom in crisis over the lack of incoming grease. Yup people, if you’re going organic, make sure you’re not cutting off the kingdom behind your oven!

Lilly is everything I’ve always wanted from a heroine in an adventure story and I was in turns delighted and grossed out with her. There is a lot of monologuing going on initially but keep on reading it’ll get better and I did not find the message overly preachy, so hopefully middle-graders won’t either. I think there is a lot of potential in this story and I look forward to future volumes and Micheline Hess’ next project. I wish I’d had more female characters of color to look up to when I was younger, especially ones so visually present as in comics, and Malice in Ovenland totally delivers. It makes me want to get some kids from somewhere just to push this comic on them. And since I don’t have and don’t want kids, this is high praise indeed.

Malice in Ovenland Vol.1 will be out August 31, get it for your kids and your inner child! Also make sure to check out Rosarium Publishing here, they specialize in multicultural speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction.

Disclaimer: I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. But never fear, I remain my opinionated self!

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Once Upon a Time X

once upon a time x

It’s that time of the year again: Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting his Once Upon a Time challenge for the 10th time! It’s probably fair to say at this point, that the event has become an institution. Kudos! Here’s what the challenge involves in Carl’s own words:

“Monday, March 21st (my wife Mary’s birthday) marks the official start date of the tenth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.”

I’ve decided to go for more books but less restriction on categories and thus the Quest the First category: “Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.”

quest the first

Making a list for a reading challenge is all kinds of fun in itself, so here’s a number of books I’m very excited about and which are probably heavy on the fantasy, but combine other elements as well:

kynship chronicles

The Way of Thorn and Thunder (Kynship Chronicles) by Daniel Heath Justice

This is a trilogy of epic indigenous fantasy set in the Old World during the 18th century, about the Kyn of the Everland and their detructive encounter with humanity. Drawing on traditions of high fantasy and indigenous mythology, Cherokee author Daniel Heath Justice creates a founding tale of non-European fantasy that bends gender, genre and sexuality. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!

olondria

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

This one’s been on my list for ages and it fits the challenge perfectly. Merchant son Jevick has been raised on stories of Olondria, a land where books are common. When he gets the chance to make a trip to Olondria, his dreams seem to come true. But once there he is haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. And there’s now a second story about Olondria, Samatar’s The Winged Histories.

who fears death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

I picked this up recently, read a few pages and only then noticed it wasn’t The Book of Phoenix, which I thought I was reading. But, this is quite convenient as I will just read this one for the challenge now. Who Fears Death is the story of a child born of rape in post-apocalyptic Africa, who discovers her magical abilities and seeks to end the genocide of her people.

princeless

Princeless by Jeremy Whitley

I absolutely adored the first issue of this one and with Scribd changing its policy, I wanted to get some more comics in. This is for the fairy tale category and it brilliantly subverts gender and racial stereotypes. The author is white but has thought of these stories for his Black daughter, so that she can see herself represented in non-oppressive stories.

midnight robber

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

I loved Hopkinson’s Brown Girl in the Ring and just cannot resist this one either. This one is fantasy/sf with lots of Caribbean folklore. Set on the Caribbean-colonized planet Toussaint and Tan-Tan must become the Robber Queen to save herself from folklore creatures.

Race and Popular Fantasy Literature

 Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness by Helen Young

And as a sort of non-fiction compendium, I want to take a look at this one. I’m lacking the sort of context and background that comes with reading a lot of fantasy for years, so I want to catch up but also do this through an critical race studies lens.

Are you joining us in the Once Upon a Time challenge? Or maybe you have some folklore and fairy tale suggestions? Let me know in the comments!