Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

What You Need to Know:  This is a clever, violent take on the power of story that will frustrate readers who want to know more.

Summary:  Tom Taylor's father was the creator of a beloved fantasy book series.  Wilson Taylor's boy wizard was named Tommy Taylor, and Tom (the man) now lives in the shadow of Tommy (the fictional boy).  When scandal erupts around Tom and his missing father, he goes looking for answers, and finds violence and secrets.

What Works:  Carey is a hell of a writer, and he is on familiar ground here, where the fantastic and the mundane meet.   I was impressed by the strong characterizations on display here.  Tom is an jerk,  but understandably since his "fame" has him trapped.  I also liked the character of Lizzie Hexam, mostly because she reminded me of Thessaly one of my favorite characters of all time. The art works well for the story, being realistic but not overly detailed.  The colorists, Chris Chuckry and Jeanne McGee deserve credit, as the use of shadow in this book is really striking.  

For me, the strongest part of the book is not Tom's story, but the piece at the end "How the Whale Became" detailing Rudyard Kipling's interactions with the same shadowy group who seems to be targeting Tom.  Beautifully written and drawn, this segment really lets letterer Todd Klein shine, as the text, and how it's presented is integral to the story.

What Didn't:  Mostly, this book suffers from being the first in the series.  It has "when are we going to get to the fireworks factory"  syndrome.  I want to know more.  What happened to Tom's dad?  Who are the shadowy figures commanding the killer who shows up in the last act?  What does Lizzie have to do with any of this?  They'll probably tell me in the next book.  While I will continue reading, it was frustrating not to get more answers.

Also, while the art in this book is well done, it pales in comparison to Yuko Shimizu's original series covers, also included here.  Shimizu's artwork is breathtaking, detailed and exquisitely covered.

However:  I know the reasoning behind having a different cover artist.  I just don't like it.

Who Would I Give this Book To:  Given the large amounts of violence and cursing on display here, this is definitely an older teen/adult title.   Harry Potter fans who are ready to move on to more mature books, people who like a modern horror story and fans of long arc fantasy fiction are the most likely to enjoy this book.

Also Note:  The Magicians by Lev Grossman would be an interesting paring with this book, as both involve young men figuring out that the worlds they've always assumed are fictional are actually real.

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