Review – Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio

Title: Agatha H. and the Airship City
Author: Phil and Kaja Foglio 
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Pub Date: 08/09/2011
Category: YOUNG ADULT / ADULT: Science Fiction & Fantasy – Steamppunk.

Agatha H. and the Airship City is a delightful book of tongue in cheek heroism set in a Steampunk alternate reality version of Europe. Mad scientists with bizarre names, a wealth of robotic
constructions and the very funny Jagermonsters populate the pages. I kept bursting into giggles as I devoured this wonderful book, which I assume is the first in what should be a very popular series.

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out
warfare. It has been sixteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today,
Europe is ruled by the Sparks,
dynasties of mad scientists ruling over – and terrorizing – the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Hetrodynes’ return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated
to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive
airship Castle Wulfenbach – and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science
after all.

From Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the Hugo, Eagle,
and Eisner Award-nominated webcomic Girl Genius, comes Agatha H and the
Airship City, a gaslamp fantasy filled to bursting with Adventure! Romance! and Mad Science!

Agatha is intelligent, likeable, creative and stands up for herself, but is also rather volitile. The other characters, particularly all the wonderful Jagermonsters; Gil, the brilliant young spark;
his father, the Baron; Bangladesh, the murderous ex – air pirate; and the little automaton, Zoing, were all believable and as delightful as their names. In the context of a culture addicted to heroic stories, even Othar, a renegade spark, was believable in his pseudo-heroic-story language and seemingly inability to die.  Klaus is the arch bad guy, ( not all bad) but as delightfully mad as all the others. You could say that he and Othar are stereotypes, but in this larger than life cartoon-style, they are meant to be. They are a satire of

I liked the way that the relationship between Agatha and Gil developed from his respect for her intellect rather than from an attraction to her physical charms. Their connection is one of like minds meeting and the recognition of a shared passion. This is a refreshing change to the physically based instant attraction so often seen in young adult novels these days.

The story, whilst fitting squarely in the one-installment-of-the-epic-hero-style was imaginative, unpredictable and had
me devouring the pages. The ending was perfectly satisfying with plenty of strands to follow up in sequels, and it left us pondering which one is evil, Gil or Othar?  To find out, we will have
to have a sequel or two .

I give this 5 stars and recommend it for all lovers of Steampunk, mad characters, fascinating inventions and humour. It is my favourite Steampunk novel so far.  If you like comics, you’ll like this. Although it was listed on netgalley as Adult, it’s a wonderful book for young adults too.