Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217, by Richard Brooks

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Robin Hood and his band of merry men? Yes, probably most of us have seen Robin Hood movies, or read books, seen plays, or poured over the comics to enjoy the story of the injustices of John's taxation of the poor people. And, of course, Robin Hood's antics as he robbed the rich and gave to the poor. So, like many others, I am generally familiar with the era in which Robin Hood lived, Richard the Lionheart, John, the king that followed Richard, an era of knights in armor, beautiful ladies, chivalry, kings and courts and the honor or dishonor that could attach to one of the players.

     I remember studying the middle ages in grade school, learning about the peasants and how they labored long for little. Our teacher explained how the feudal system worked so, as students, we could reach a basic understanding of people and life in the middle ages.

One spin-off of the classic
story of Ivanhoe, by Sir Wal-
ter Scott, is the Classics
 version. [2]
     Since I lived out in the country while I was growing up, I was able to see country life with a variety of animals all around me. This rural life allowed me to own my very own horse--a black Quarter Horse mare, I called Beauty. Like many young women I loved horses and would read anything about the beautiful animals, not the least of which was about the knights and their horses. As many of you already know from reading past posts, one of my favorite books was written by the author, Sir Walter Scott, and is entitled, Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe, is set in twelfth century England while Richard the Lionheart is, yet, king. [2]

In Robin Hood (2010), starring
Russell Crowe, Max Von Sydow,
and Cate Blanchett, William
Hurt takes on the role of William
. While the movie was a
fun watch for most, it was, none-
theless, roundly criticized for its
historical inaccuracies. [3]

     So, whether it is Robin Hood or Ivanhoe who captures your fancy, William Marshal was the one who transcended his own country's history to leave an indelible mark on the world. As we begin discussing William Marshal through Richard Brooks' book, let's start by taking a look at a brief synopsis of The Knight Who Saved England.

     We've already learned that William Marshal is a man of the middle ages. Why should we care about someone who lived so very long ago and has nothing to do with today? Well, my answer is Richard Brooks' book, itself. That is to say, Brook's book explains to us why William Marshal is really a man for all centuries.  In short, it has to do with the rights of the common man.
This is one angle of the walls of Lin-
coln Castle, castle where Marshal won
his greatest victory. Note the steep in-
cline approaching the castle walls.  It
is no small wonder the French had to
set siege to the castle. [4]

     Brooks shows us a man who lived during a brutal time of medieval warfare and growing concepts of chivalry and nobility. Marshal faced the betrayal by his countrymen, rebel English forces who had allied themselves with the French. In England's darkest hour, Marshal was called upon to stop the French and rebel troops from pillaging the country. Marshal led the campaign, culminating in the siege of Lincoln in 1217, earning a victory of more import, perhaps, than even that of Agincourt. 

     In politics, Marshal had to walk a medieval tightrope and not only survived, but thrived. Moreover, as the "right-hand man to three kings and regent for a fourth," he also campaigned for and defended the rights of the common man and the Magna Carta.

This image is a copy of the Papal Bull annulling the Magna
Carta. In it, Pope Innocent III calls the Magna Carta,
"shameful and demeaning." [5]
     King John never intended to honor his sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215, since he viewed the signing as having been coerced and unlawful. An appeal to the Pope by John resulted in the document being deemed null and void. John's rejection of the document was short-lived, how- ever, for after his death (1216), his son ascended to the throne. A child of nine years, King Henry III, won a bid for Marshal's protection and support. In 1217, Marshal, vowing to protect the young king, began the last period of his life as Regent of England. It was then, as he became regent to the young king, that Marshal issued the edict and made law of, none other than, the Magna Carta.

     First, I think it ironic that a man of such stature has no famous quotes with which to be remembered--but his father does. John Marshal, father of William Marshal, had given his son in ransom to King Stephen as a surity to relinquish his castle. Stephen used what time he had, instead, to reinforce his castle. 

The Magna Carta. [7]
     Then, when Stephen ordered Marshal to surrender his castle, John Marshal called his bluff. He was reported as having said to King Stephen, "I still have the hammer and anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!" [6] 

     It is ironic, because long before I ever heard of William Marshal, I had heard of John Marshal and his words to a besieging King. Instead, we remember William Marshal for the things he did rather than for what he said.

     Second, it cannot be doubted that no topic for a book could be much better than William Marshal. It really is wonderful to see more attention brought to this historically important person. I hope Marshal's importance continues to be more appreciated and more people grow to learn of his life. So, Richard Brooks really could do no better in my book than to select Marshal for his subject matter.

     Technical Considerations: 
(1)     The very first technical consideration we will look at today is, "What was the author's main purpose in writing a book about William Marshal, and did he accomplish his objective?" Richard Brooks tells us in the INTRODUCTION, that he wrote the book to "reconsider" England's forgotten champi- on, William Marshal, as the author looks forward to the Battle at Lincoln's 800th anniversary (May 20, 1217 to May 20, 2017). I would say Brooks' objective was met, in that he wrote and published the book about William Marshal and the French Invasion of 1217 in anticipation of the 800 year anniversary of the culmination of the victory over the French at Lincoln. His book is also a good way to spread the word about William Marshal and the exemplary life he led and the legacy he left to the world.

(2)     Since this is a nonfiction book, alternatively listed as military history, we must next ask whether or not the facts that the author, Richard Brooks, shared with us in this title, The Knight Who Saved England, are accurate.  Since this is a scholarly work, Brooks has documented both his primary and secondary sources at the back of the book. Additionally, Brooks has listed the publishing company, and provided contact information.

This image is one included in Richard Brooks' book, The
Knight Who Saved England
. This graphic is a 13th Century
image of the Battle at Lincoln. An archer shoots at the
fleeing French knights. [8]
     I have not checked Mr. Brooks' sources personally, and leave that to someone with more time to do such things than the little time I have. Moreover, since I am not a scholar on William Marshal, I cannot say with any authority whether everything Mr. Brooks presented is wholly accurate. However, on the face of things, it appears to me that Mr. Brooks' not only has considerable personal knowledge about William Marshal, but that he has completed exhaustive research into the background of this historic individual.

(3)  Our third consideration is the target audience...just who are they? It seems most apparent that the target audience is those appreciating military history, or history in general. Other offshoots could include those interested in medieval history, royalty, war reenactors, armor, mail and weapon reproduction specialists, those interested in politics, law, or strategic alliances. I, of course, fit into none of those categories. Instead, I am a simple book reviewer who happens to love horses, knights, and the era in which they existed.

From Richard Brooks book, The Knight Who
Saved England, Brooks says, this image is of a
group of "[c]losely formed conrois of knights
pursu[ing] fleeing opponents with lances couch-
ed for impact. Mail shirts are longer than [they
were] at Hastings, but helmets remain open.
One knight (left) has lowered his lance to finish
off a dismounted enemy." [9]
(4)  Consideration four concerns any extra features that may add to either the appreciation of the story or book, or its under- standing. Some might even include whether or not these added features made the book more attractive. Since this book is an ebook, such features are not under consideration since we have no cover, dust jacket, or glossy illustrated inserts. However, Richard Brooks has included a number of features that makes the book both easier to understand and also helps the reader to visualize the period or the point Brooks attempts to make. The extras Brooks has included are as follows:
  • A Preface and an Introduction that helps explain the book to get the basics down. For example, a section on medieval money. I found the Introduction to be most helpful!;
  • A chronology of events aids the reader in keeping events straight;
  • A series of maps showing locations and layouts of strategic areas;
  • A Glossary to include important terms;
  • A list of Select Bibliography for checking references;
  • A list of Illustrations (Plate Section): Full color plates of various scenes, people, and events.
     I found the full color graphic images beautiful and well selected for the book. They were quite enjoyable and I spent a goodly amount of time perusing the images. Because of the extras, I think this book might be a helpful addition to a public library, or perhaps a university library for those who wish to do research into English history or William Marshal.

The image is a representation of the stone effigy of William
Marshal. As you look at the close-up of the face you see the dam-
age the stone received as a result of the Blitz (WWII). [10]
(5)   Our fifth consideration is to ask whether or not the book was interesting and held the reader's attention. I've already commented, above, that the topic itself is interesting. William Marshal is a superb topic! Moreover, it is not overdone and seen every- where. Now as far as the topic, the topic held my attention; however, Richard Brooks intellectual style may not appeal to everyone. Since this book is not a novel, we don't get to see character develop- ment. That is we don't really know what William Marshal thought or felt. Also, as I mentioned, above, we do not get dialog or quotes from Marshal, but straight out action. We see what he has done.

     We are not only asking whether or not the topic is interesting, but whether or not the book is interesting, as written. Mr. Brooks is obviously an intelligent, and erudite persoyn. His book is apparently well-researched and documented. I have to say, however his writing style in presenting factual information seemed to digress or meander from the path before culminating in the paragraph or chapter's thesis. At places I felt a bit lost, and sometimes the material seemed dry because the information about the surrounding cast of characters or events may have been a bit too much when describing the background information or family lineages. My attention wandered a bit and I felt it bogged down, just a bit. For this reason, I don't feel I can recommend this book to younger readers.

This is the coat of arms adopted by William Marshal. [5]
(6)     The sixth consideration is what about the book is its greatest value to the reader? Is there anything that would make it especially worthwhile? Obviously, the greatest value is to learn about William Marshal. To read about him and his life makes it easier to understand the legacy he left to the world in his contribution to the the Magna Carta and the rule of law that had been undertaken. Marshal's life of honor and dedication to higher principles can demonstrate that real people exist to make things like freedom and law come into being. Learning about his role in the Magna Charta was lovely; equally as enjoyable was to learn just how many things in which he took part that were notable and important throughout the course of his whole life.

     The following short list is just a few important things from the life of William Marshal that I learned about in Richard Brooks' book.
Eleanor of Aquitaine. [5]

  • William saved the life of Eleanor of Acquitane, being injured and getting captured in the process;
  • William fought Richard the Lionheart on the field of battle--he avoided killing his future king by aiming his lance at Richard's horse and killing it, instead;
  • At age 70 (roughly), William was summoned to defend the kingdom one more time and won a great victory at the 1217 battle at Lincoln;
  • William negotiated a truce between the barons (nobles) and King John;
  • William encouraged the creation of the Magna Carta and fought for it until his death;
  • William pledged himself to the nine-year-old King Henry III, with tears in his eyes, pledging to care for the fragile king;
  • William reissued the Magna Carta after John had it revoked and placed his seal as Regent on the document.
     I am glad that I read Richard Brooks' book, The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217. I enjoyed the book and learned some important facts about William Marshal; in conclusion, I find that I can recommend this book to those who love or are interested in history, military history, reenactors, weapon or armour forgers, William Marshal, Richard the Lionheart, John, Henry III, battle strategists, The Magna Carta, those interested in law and human rights, Runnymede (location of Magna Carta signing), Thomas Comte de Perche (French forces commander killed at Lincoln), Nicola de Haye (female Castellan and protector of the castle at Lincoln and pro-John supporter) and those in education, research, or higher learning. I am sure others will be interested in this book, as well. I cannot recommend this book to younger readers or those who have reading difficulties as Brooks writing tends to digress and meander before going back to topic. 

     As to the rating, I find that given all the above information, I am very happy to award 4.0 stars out of 5 to this book. Congratulations to Richard Brooks on his informative new book.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we delved into history with a man who was called "The Greatest Knight Whoever Lived." Richard Brooks presented an informative and well-documented book. Please join me again, next week, as we take up another book from a different genre. I hope you join me, then.

     Today we do not live in the Middle Ages, mankind has grown and worked to establish laws and justice systems to treat human beings fairly. Please be fair to everyone with which you do business and try to keep your honor in your daily life like William Marshal--a man for all ages.

Until next time . . . 
This flower is a white with red center, Rose of Sharon. [14]
. . . many happy pages of reading!  

My best to you all.


[1] "The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217." [richard brooks] Retrieved 11-08-15.
[2] "Ivanhoe." [walter scott] Retrieved 11-13-15.
[3] "Robin Hood: Production Reins Over Story." [diana saenger] Retrieved 11-09-15.
[4] "Nichola de la Haye, England's Forgotten Heroine." [sharon bennett connolly; 12-11-15] retrieved 11-14-15.
[5] "William Marshal - The Flower of Chivalry." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[6] "This Day in History: [June 15,] 1215 Magna Carta Sealed." Retrieved 11-14-15.
[7] "William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke." Retrieved 11-14-15.
[8] "The Battle of Lincoln (1217), According to Roger of Wendover." [drm_peter; 03-24-14] Retrieved 11-15-15.
[9] "Manuscript Miniatures." Retrieved 11-17-15.
[10] "Elizabeth Chadwick: Living the History." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[11] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." Retrieved 11-09-15.
[12] "How to Pitch the Top 50 'New Product Review' Bloggers." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[13] "28 Honor Quotes to Live By." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[14] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." Retrieved 11-18-15.
[*] "NetGalley." Retrieved 11-18-15.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Children of the Comet by Donald Moffitt--New Release by Author of the Genesis Quest Series and The Mechanical Sky Series!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I hung on every word he spoke. Suddenly, so suddenly I hardly realized it, maybe like being unable to sleep and suddenly you find it is morning and you open your surprised eyes to greet the day. Maybe like working on your computer for a little while drafting a few e-mails, or letters, or...whatever, look up and suddenly discover three hours have past, and you never knew it.

     I almost felt like I was sitting by a campfire listening to someone telling a story about some legend or myth in the local area. But "his" words, they bore into me, until it seemed to me like I was awake; really awake.

     Yet the the stories he spoke were little stories from various parts of the world, from every culture and era. As the words fell onto my ears, they bored into me, worming their way into my heart, and warming my very being. The "Truth Speaker" was Joseph Campbell speaking about his book, the The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers on public television--about myth and the hero's journey. [2] As Joseph Campbell puts it in the televised show, I was caught by them (these stories and words). [3]

     It was after reading Donald Moffitt's book, Children of the Comet, that Joseph Campbell came to mind, again. I thought about rites of initiation, The Tree of Life, and the hero beginning their hero's journey by being thrust out of their little place of security into an unknown world. Let me share with you why Donald Moffitt's book resonates with me just as Joseph Campbell's stories did. Before we discuss more, here is a short synopsis of Moffitt's book:
Here is a gigantic tree in space; although, this tree
doesn't look exactly like the one described in
Moffitt's story, it is a tree in space. In the story the
tree attaches itself to an ice comet and because
of little gravity and the orbitational pull of the
comet, the tree grows to an astronomical height.
The tree is life for the people of Torris's tribe: their
food, wood for implements, and even spiritual
awakening for their young men in their initiation
into manhood. It is their tree of life. [5]

     As a large comet flies its ordained orbit; on it, a gigantic tree of immense proportions, adapting to life on the comet, grasps the ice, sending its roots down into the frozen orb. A small tribe of people live on this remarkable "world." Life, a daily rugged and hard-fought existence, is made bearable through the tribe's ingenuity and difficult labor.

     Torris, one of the tribe's young men, will soon be ready for initiation into manhood--to become a man, he must climb the monumental tree and have a "vision dream" given to him by the tree, then make the long climb back down to the comet's surface. Torris will then present his dream to the priest.

     Daily life for Torris and his family means a life of very little gravity, frozen air that must be harvested, thawed and captured in a pouch, for later use. All must wear a kind of homemade space suit, stitched and glued together to hold the breathable air. Hunting, also must be done; though in Torris's world it is hunting in the branches of the tree. All hunters must take care, or the prey they hunt could turn the tables on them and quickly the hunter could become the meal.

Just like this artful rendition of Jack-in-the
Beanstalk, Torris and Ning climb towards
the top, all the while facing many dangers.
Perhaps those dangers end up being larger
than expected, but they keep climbing,
     The rites of initiation decree no hunter should help or hinder another, but when Torris begins his climb up the trunk and branches of the tree, he finds more than flutterbeasts and meatbeasts with which he must contend. A mysterious climber keeps to the shadows and trails Torris. While Torris watches for glimpses of the mysterious hunter who follows him, Torris acquiesses to a period of sleep. In the dead of night, the mysterious hunter, sneaks in and steals Torris's supplies.  What the thief doesn't need, he destroys; for this any hunter would be branded for the sacrilegious waste and cast out into space.

     When Torris wakes he is devastated to see his supplies gone, but he immediately starts anew, collecting the things he will need from the tree and crafting new tools. Torris has a second encounter with a hunter, but this time, with a much different result. Torris finds himself suddenly caught and upside down in a snare similar to that of Luke Skywalker in the ice cave on planet Hoth (Star Wars). Oh, yes...the hunter who catches him is a woman! Discovering that the female hunter is not the one who stole from him, they band together to reach the tree's topmost branches--Torris for his dream quest and the female hunter, called Ning, to get food for her family.

     The two hunters will encounter great flutterbeasts, meatbeasts, and fight for their lives as they set their hearts for the top of the tree. Will their quests end abruptly, interrupted, yet again, by the mysterious sacrilegious tracker? Throw into the mix an alien starship, a murder most foul, aliens capturing Torris, bride raids that threaten not only a nearby tree comet but Torris's, as well. With the Earth now dead, will its children survive as Children of the Comet? Or, will the remnants of the human race and other arriving starships end in destruction and a free-for-all grab for survival and dominance?

     As I mentioned, above,Joseph Campbell's work instantly came to mind when I read about the comet and the gigantic world tree growing on it and, of course, Torris's journey to become a man through tribal tribal initiation. I found a short video for you (four minutes), to see what I mean--in Joseph Campbell's own words. [3]


     As Campbell said in the video, "Life is always on the edge of death, always!" And that is where Torris and Ning find themselves. Just as in the synopsis, the two are threatened on every side by flutterbeasts (to avoid being eaten by them), meatbeasts (to catch for food), mysterious trackers who follow the two hunters, a murder that takes place, their, Torris's and Ning's, tribes (bride raids and impending war), and eventually strange aliens in a huge space ship. And remember, even the elements threaten the young people--lack of air (for their homemade space suits), gravity (or the lack of it) in falling from the great tree's branches and even the freezing cold. Indeed, for Torris and Ning, their "Li[ves are] always on the edge of death!"

     This technique that Donald Moffitt uses is nothing short of wonderful. He builds tension as we (the readers) follow Torris as he faces challenges that could change everything, not only for himself, but for his comet tribe and others. We also know that an ultimate challenge awaits Torris in his journey. Moffit makes the whole story exciting and anticipatory right up until the climax, at which point he gently moves to close the book.

     Moffitt's book, Children of the Comet, had me thinking of what I had learned years ago from a college class. We see "the world tree," "rights of initiation" "masks (in the form of space head gear)," "the hero's journey," itself, just to name a few. Also, know that Torris's father is important in the tribe, all on his own as "Facemaker" for the initiates who succeed and come back to the tribe, he markes their faces as a sign of adulthood.

     Lastly, looking at the book cover can tell you a lot about a book if you look closely enough...and think about it. Moffitt's book has a modernistic space helmet and a bow and arrow superimposed, one upon the other. The background looks black, until you look at the edges and see stars and realize that it is outerspace. A rather odd pairing of images, don't you think? One of the approaching spaceships is called, "Celestial Arrow."

     Do you wonder how arrows fit into the story? Also, did you wonder about those images when you first saw the cover of the book. What did you think about the disparate images? If you decide to read this book think about the images as you proceed through the pages.

     I was a bit worried about the book, but only at first, because the book seemed a little slow to develop. I think the opening sections could have been condensed and still provide the atmosphere and setting for the story. I did find Moffitt's style of writing to be eminently readable. It felt comfortable and smooth, with no verbose or overly long sentences or paragraphs. His use of language and word choice is very subtle, but understandable and easy to move through.

     And then, as I read on, I began thinking that Donald Moffitt's story had become for me one of the most innovative and creative stories I've ever read. What a creative mind he had to craft such striking images, and excitement in a story. Without giving more of the plot away, I have to tell you that I found this book to be so rare in its originality, that I've never read another like it.

     Also, in this wonderful book you will find many things to consider besides what we have discussed, today. I especially enjoyed the superb way Moffitt contrasted the roles of women in the different societies and tribes. Really, food for thought! Another consideration is "time." The beginning and end of worlds, and the time given them. One spaceship is named "Time's Beginning." Very apropos as time is a major consideration  throughout the book. (Sorry, no more juicy hints than that.) "Gravity" plays throughout the book as well as the other themes and motifs, as well as being cast out, shunning and rebirth.

     As well as Joseph Campbell, I fell in love with the words of Black Elk of the Oglala Sioux. Joseph Campbell, in his work, spoke of Black Elk and other Indian tribes, their stories and myths. The quote I leave you, here, is very much appropriate as a tie in to today's book. By the way, if you haven't read about Black Elk, or read any of his words, I urge you to do so. Here's the quote:
I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy...but anywhere is the center of the world. [10]
     Very much akin to Torris and his dream quest to the top of the gigantic tree. These holy dreams are messages to be taken to the priest or holy man and deciphered as a guide for life. Here, though, Black Elk is the holy man and he speaks to the people and tells them about the "center of the world." If you are excited enough to read this book, you will understand--no more juicy tidbits about the book--sorry.

     We have covered a lot of material in Donald Moffitt's book, today. I wish we had more time to talk, but we always have next time to cover more exciting reading material. By the way, next time we will be leaving science fiction and taking a trip into history; we will be looking at Richard Brooks' title, The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217." What an amazing true story.

     As I have indicated, above, I really enjoyed Donald Moffitt's new title, Children of the Comet. This book from NetGalley deserves a great rating; so, based on everything I have indicated, above, I rate this book 5 stars. Even with the minor problems with the opening, I believe this wonderful book deserves a great rating.

     Thank you for joining me, today. I sincerely appreciate you reading and considering the material I have provided for you in this post. As always, if you have any comments or questions, please contact me here, or on twitter. Please join me next time as we delve into history with William Marshal and learn how Marshal saved England from the France's invasion.

I hope everyone's Halloween was safe and fun for all.
Until next time...
This flower is a white, with red center Rose of Sharon.[14]

...many happy pages of reading!

My love to you all, my reading friends!


[1] "Children of the Comet." Retrieved 10-18-15.
[2] "The Power of Myth." [Joseph Campbell] Retrieved 10-22-15.
[3] "Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey Abridged." Retrieved 10-20-15.
[4] "Are You Monomythic? Joseph Campbell and the Hero's Journey." [image only from: 06-25-14; the conversation; by craig Batty] Retrieved 10-31-15.

[5] "Mythology: The Stranger the Better." [selphyrthefae] Retreived 10-18-15.
[6] "Jack and the Beanstalk." [by yusef-abonamah] Retrieved 10-29-15.
[7] "NetGally." Retrieved 10-31-15.
[8] "Arrow." Retrieved 10-31-15.
[9] "Creative Thinking." Retrieved 10-31-15.
[10] "The Sunset." Retrieved 10-30-15.
[11] "Black Elk Speaks." [image only] [John G. Neihardt] Retrieved 10-31-15.
[12] "The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217." 
Retrieved 10-31-15.
[13] "Five Shooting Stars." Retrieved 10-31-15.
[14] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." Retrieved 10-17-15.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers--They Release a Totally New and Original Story!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     As a long-time fan of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files," and Dynamite Publishers, once I learned a brand new original story was available as an advance reading copy (ARC) from NetGalley, my adrenaline surged and I hit the "accept" button as quickly as I could. I downloaded my e-copy to my computer and began reading. I did not stop reading until I finished the book.

     Sometimes books come out and functionally act to extend the main storyline in between series books. In the case of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, "Down Town," falls between White Knight (series book, #9) and Small Favor (series book, #10). [2] Anyone who is a Jim Butcher "Dresden Files," fan will be ecstatic to be able to read a new original story that helps fill out the background of familiar characters, explains mysterious secrets, or just gives the reader explanations about various characters' idiosyncrasies, fears, or foibles. 

     In Down Town, we are reacquainted with old familiar characters, we also get to see a great deal more of Harry Dresden's world. But before I say more about the book, let's take a quick look at the book's synopsis.


     Harry Dresden lives as a wizard--one that advertises in the local newspaper as a wizard-for-hire. Harry and recently acquired apprentice, Molly Carpenter, suddenly find themselves trying to find and stop an unknown monster that has been killing Chicago citizens. Soon, they find themselves dealing not only with Chicago's Karen Murphy of Special Investigations, but also, Gentleman Johnny Marcone and his thugs, as well as a new "baddie" from Chicago's notorious supernatural badlands, "Undertown." They will find themselves at risk as they dare to pass through the portal into Undertown. Will apprentice, Molly, be out of her depth and cause Dresden trouble? But most worrisome is whether or not Harry and Molly will make it out alive. Or, will Gentleman Johnny Marcone cause his own brand of trouble in Undertown? [4]

     Having reviewed a number of graphic novels over the two years that I have been writing posts for this blog, I worked hard to follow what other experts had said were the hallmarks of the graphic novel. Well, that changed, in part, after having read On the Graphic Novel, by Santiago Garcia (to read that post click here.).

     Garcia said that as far as definitions go, it is mostly critics who have created "...a set of formal parameters that unambiguously trace the shape and size of the graphic novel versus other, different kinds of comics." [5] Moreover, Garcia explained that what were mainstream comics in the 1950s changed, in part, due to subsequent audience loss, into a niche market. The result was that scholars and critics suddenly began discrediting the comics that came before by considering "...the graphic instrument for legitimizing comics.[5]

     Here is list of formal parameters (not from Garcia) that many (not all) critics use to define "graphic novel":
  1.  Story Arc: A story with a beginning, middle and end;

 2. Character Development: Does the protagonist grow and change?

 3.  Number of Stories in the Book: Ask, "Is the story episodic in nature?" (With different Issue and Volume numbers--like comics.) Or, "Is the story a complete (one) story with a complete story arc (and the same protagonist and important characters)?"

My copy of Ghoul Goblin by
Jim Butcher/Mark Powers. On
the right is the hard cover with
iridescent green print. On the left
is the book's dust cover construct-
ed of  glossy, full color paper.[8]
4.  Publication Covers: Comic books tend to have inexpensive paper while graphic novels usually have a type of cardstock, or even a hard cover. This "requirement" does not always apply since we have seen collections of older comics with hardbound covers. The other issue is with e-books. Since e-books have no covers or paper pages, none of the physical parameters apply;

5.  Paper Quality:Episodic publications (comic books) tend to be published on pulp paper. Graphic novels are usually published on higher quality paper--sometimes, heavy, textured, or glossy. Again, paper quality is not dispositive because some episodic publications have been collected and published on good paper;

This is a photo of my copy of Ghoul
 by Jim Butcher and Mark
Powers. A well-constructed book by
Dynamite Publishers. To see the com-
plete book review of War Cry, from
which this photo is taken,click here.[8]
6. How is the Publication Bound? 
  Episodic publications tend to be stapled, or in the case of collections they can have glued bindings or stitched and glued bindings. Graphic novels are usually bound the way books are bound (but not all). 

Here's a photo of the book with the pages all falling out of it.
I love my books and handle them gently--I never break a
spine or fold pages to mark my place! This book literally
fell apart as I read it. To see the full review of this
book, please click here. [9]

        I have had some bindings on a few of my graphic novels in my personal collection that are coming unglued. One publisher, however, reached an all-time low--they used such poor glue to bind their graphic novel, that all the pages literally fell out even before I finished reading the book for the first time. 

[To find out which graphic novel this is, click here.]; 

7. What is the size of the book? In the U.S., comic books are generally 6 5/8 x 10 1/4 (Trade paperbacks: 5.32" x 8.51", and Digests: from 5 3/8" to 5 1/2" x 7 1/2" to 8 3/8").

8. How many pages are in the book? Early comic books of the 1940s had about 64-96 pages where modernly, comics total about 32 pages (22 for the comics and 10 for advertising). Graphic novels, on the other hand, are about three times the size of a comic book with a minimum of 100 pages. Many graphic novels I've seen, have been closer to 150-165 pages.


9. Advertising: Does the publication contain any advertising? If a comic book, then, obviously, the answer is yes. Usually a minimum of ten pages of ads. If a graphic novel, the answer is no. 

10. Price: Early comic books would cost about $.10 and modernly might run you $4.00, more or less. Graphic novels, on the other hand, can start at about $9.99 and run to $25.00 (or more if they are large or deluxe gift editions, or personally signed by the author). [10]


     This is the million dollar question that can trump most of the above parameters for distinguishing a comic from a graphic novel. If the publication is openly advertised as a graphic novel this can go a long way in helping to determining whether or not it is a graphic novel. If, however, the author/publishers advertise the publication as comics, the question is generally easy to determine.So, intent of the author/publishers and how it is promoted or advertised may be dispositive.

     Since we've just been talking about whether or not a publication can be determined to be a comic or a graphic novel given a set of formal parameters with which to judge such a publication, let's just jump right in and talk about Jim Butcher's new book. Let's start with, "Is it a comic or graphic novel?"

     Answers to the questions posed just above: (1) Yes, there seems to be a beginning, middle, and end to the story; (2) Harry always seems to learn something and grow more into his wizardry powers. Here, Harry learned to trust his apprentice, Molly, that she would be competent to act. He also learned that sometimes enemies can help out in a mutually dangerous situation; sometimes, Harry gets distracted, so he learned that he needs to try harder to stay on the path.

This is one of the six issues pub-
lished episodically as a comic
book. This issue is #3 of Down
. [13]
     (3) The six parts or chapters were originally published serially with issues numbered 1, 2 3, etc.; no volume numbers were attached as in comics. Serial publication usually indicates the publication is a comic. Even so, when put together, the chapters made one entire story, flowing seamlessly from one chapter to the next. In fact, if I hadn't learned that the chapters in the book were previously published individually, I would never have known it because of how smooth the transitions were. So, the answer to this issue is "I'm not sure."

     (4) I am reviewing this book as an e-book edition through NetGalley; because it is not a physical book, with a cover, the issue is moot for this book review. However, I did purchase the "Down Town" hardcover book for myself. The book has a beautiful glossy dust cover. (5) Again, an e-book has no physical pages, so this issue is also moot for this book review. Just to let you know, however, the physical book's inner pages appear to be semi-glossy and are just beautiful to hold and turn. (6) Since e-books have no (physical) cover, you can not have a binding; this issue is also moot. My hardcover edition is bound perfectly; I cannot tell if it is stitched and glued or just glued, but however they did it, it is sturdy and no pages are in danger of falling out.

     (7) An e-book has no physical dimensions--in terms of actual book size. The hardcover edition, however, as given by the publishers, are: 6.8 x 0.5 x 10.2 inches. (8) The publishers have given the number of pages as 144. This is certainly within the page range for this graphic novel. 

     (9) Since I am reviewing an e-book, advertising doesn't come in to play. My edition of my purchased "Down Town," likewise, has no advertising, whatsoever. (10) Price. Before the six episodic editions were put together, they cost $1.99 each from Amazon. Again, though I am not reviewing the individual episodes, I am reviewing the whole book, Down Town. I received my copy for free through NetGalley for providing an honest review, and not obligated to give a positive review. People purchasing the e-book, from Amazon, for example, will pay (as of today's date) $14.74; the hardcover will run $18.62 (again, as of today's date).       
     We have finally come to the big question for this book. It was on October 9, 2014 that Dynamite Entertainment announced that Jim Butcher was to release a "contemporary fantasy miniseries featuring an original Jim Butcher story exclusively developed for the comic book medium." The miniseries was set within the continuity of the Dresden File Series. The announcement included that the serialized line would come in "six comic book issues ...before collection as a hardcover graphic novel later in 2015." [15] Logically, we come to the conclusion that the book is a series of six comic books in one.

This photo was part of the press release for Jim Butcher's,
Down Town mini series for the spring of 2015 and HC
graphic novel for the fall of 2015. Jim Butcher is co-
writing with Mark Powers and art is done by Carlos
Gomez. Jim Butcher says he likes comics. [2]

     We not only have the intention of the publishers and author that they were "exclusively developed for the comic book medium," they actually have different issue numbers. So, now we ask if collecting the six issues into one volume negates the intention of the author/publisher to create a comic, and transform it into a graphic novel. According to The Beat, in Todd Allen's article about the Down Town mini-series, not only was the story to be "serialized in six comic book issues," the intent was to turn the mini-series into a "collection as a hardcover graphic novel later in 2015."[2]

     So, how does this intention to change the the comics into a graphic novel result in such a metamorphosis? Santiago Garcia, in On the Graphic Novel, said:
The prestige captured by the graphic novel, on the other hand, has in some way rubbed off on traditional comics, and traditional publishers have wasted no time trying to co-opt it by repackaging their old tired products as brand new graphic novels for mature audiences, in the hope of bringing in unwary readers, as if you could go from Persepolis  to X-Men just by switching formats. [xi]
One thing to keep in mind, is that modernly, the graphic
novel consists of adult themes. These "adult" themes are
not only sexual, but includes violence of all sorts, rape,
murder, genocide, torture, supernatural, cultural and
hate crimes, etc. [17]
     Even if one could say Jim Butcher's six serialized comic books are "new," and neither "old" nor are they "tired," can one still claim that authors/ publishers can metamorph comics into a graphic novel by merely "intending" to do so? It would seem the answer would be "No." if we relied only on Garcia's, above, statement. But, we must also consider that the story was written for adult audiences, not preteens buying from the comic book rack. 

     Also, consider that Butcher planned his story to have a complete arc, to be a complete story, that no advertising graces the pages of the "graphic novel," and that there's an adequate amount of pages (here, 144). Finally, we must also consider that it was the intention, all along, for the story to eventually be a graphic novel. I believe the answer is yes.Butcher wasn't just trying to merely "repackage" his comics in a different format, his comics metamorphosed into the graphic novel he intended, all along--not just a mere switching of formats.


     ART WORK: Original art was done by Carlos Gomez and color by Mohan, letters by Bill Tortolini and the cover by Stjepan Sejic. Let's start with the cover: issue #1 of the 6 issue comics was used for the graphic novel. I've enjoyed other work by Stjepan Sejic before and this cover also does not disappoint. The drawings and use of color is beautiful, placement impeccable, as is the point of view! Inside the book, the drawings by Bill Tortolini are wonderful. Just enough detail to enjoy the art, but not so much that the reader gets lost in the drawing--ending up in confusion, boredom, or not paying attention to what is happening. Mohan's use of color really complements the beautiful drawings. Not only do the drawings, but the use of color help set scene and mood for each frame. None of the frames appear washed out and muddy. 

     BONUS MATERIAL: Original character sketches of the major players in the story are fun to examine and imagine how the images were drawn from the mind of the artist. Additionally, twenty-two pages of original rough line art (for issue one) are included and are almost as enjoyable as seeing them in color in the story.

     STORY: The story line begins as any story line does with exposition and some basic background, moves into rising action, followed by climax, falling action, and resolution. I know this sounds terribly dry, but I can't really give away any of the action more than I have in the short synopsis, above. I can say, though, that I really enjoyed another one of Jim Butcher's stories. Yes, it is shorter than any of his novels, but this story seems to fit the format. It's like Harry Dresden and Molly have a job to do and they go out, say, over the weekend, and do it. It isn't complicated with a lot of extraneous characters and subplots; just a nice clean and to the point story.

     Given all the reasons I have stated, above, I am very happy to award, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town, by Jim Butcher and Mark Powers a rating of 4.0 stars out of 5. I truly enjoyed the e-file download to my computer and know that if you should choose to get your story through an e-book, you will enjoy it. I love Dynamite Publishers and have many books that they have published. I have already received my copy of my hardcover edition of Down Town, and am enjoying the beautiful cover, the wonderful art work, great story, beautiful colors and characters we have all come to love. 

THANK YOU! Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me today as we got to take a look at Jim Butcher's exciting new graphic novel, Down Town. I enjoyed speaking with you, my dear friends, and hope you were able to take away something useful for yourself this week. I always like being with you to share a little of the joy I feel at reading and writing about some of the wonderful books that have come my way. If you have something special you would like to share with me, please just leave me a comment or contact me on twitter.

     Please join me, again, next week, as we will be going back to the world of sci-fi with Children of the Comet by Donald Moffitt. Mr. Moffitt's book is another of one of my NetGalley books that I have looked forward to reading and reporting on, here on my blog. Anyway, until next time, thank you for joining me. Remember to be good to one another because you never really know what sorrows another person has in their heart or what burdens are weighing them down. A smile or a kind word can go a long way, sometimes, in cheering another person up. God bless you all.

Until next time...
This flower is a white with red center, Rose of Sharon. [22]

...many happy pages of reading.



[1] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town." [jim butcher and mark powers] [Retrieved 10-12-15.]
[2] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town Coming in Spring 2015." [Retrieved 10-13-15].
[3] "Harry Dresden--Chicago, IL." [11-22-14] [jaholst] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[4] "Jim Butcher's: Dresden Files "Down Town." [jim butcher and mark powers] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[5] "On the Graphic Novel." [santiago garcia; p.ix] Retrieved 10-13-15.
[6] "Some More Writing Advice--Beginning, Middle, End." Retrieved 10-14-14.
[7] "Homenaje, Wolverine 1 de Frank Miller y Chris Claremont (ensenando las garras)." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[8] "GRAPHIC NOVELS: An Exciting New Graphic Novel--A New Original Story! by Jim Butcher, THE DRESDEN FILES: WAR CRY." [Jim Butcher/Mark Powers; 10-15-14] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[9] "Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore [Book-to-Movie Staring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson." [06-29-14] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[10] "How to Distinguish Between a Comic Book and a Graphic Novel." Retrieved 10-14-14.
[11] "NetGalley." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[12] "My Thoughts on Night of Champions." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[13] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town #3 (of 6)." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[14] "3 Tips For eBook Marketing For Inbound Leads." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[15] "Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town Coming in Spring 2015." Retrieved 10-14-15.
[16] "Prosper / Prosperous Living--January 16." [01-16-13; ivy prosper] Retrieved 10-14-15.
[17] "Adult Books, Adult Themes and Teens That Read Them." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[18] "Other Considerations." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[19] "Good Story." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[20] "Jetpack Joyride." Retrieved 10-15-15.
[21] "Thank You!" Retrieved 10-15-15.
[22] "Children of the Comet." [donald moffitt] Retrieved 10-15-15.
[23] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." 10-07-15.