Agatha H and the Airship City is the first installment novelization of the Girl Genius comic series by Phil & Kaja Foglio. Largely based on the first three volumes of graphic novels, it examines a Victorian alternate history where the fine line between technological intelligence and madness has blurred into war.
The character of Agatha Clay is a bumbling student at Transylvania Polygnostic University. What she doesn’t realize is that she has something called the “spark” in her, the element of Mad Science within one which gives them the ability to create fantastic things. Her character is fun to follow as she gradually discovers new things about herself.
Agatha is working as a lab assistant at the university when it is overthrown by the Tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach in an attempt to control those who possess the spark and use them in his quest to expand his power. Forced to live aboard the colossal airship Castle Wulfenbach, Agatha begins to feel a connection with the Baron’s son Gilgamesh. With conflicting emotions, the action and mystery is in full swing as she tries to escape.
The cover art by Tom Kidd gives Agatha more of a sexy librarian look rather than a confused lab girl. But seeing how this story is based on the long running Girl Genius series, the exaggerated imagery makes sense. It undoubtedly helps sell both products, but the literary value of this book is much more impressive than the over the top graphic version because it allows the reader to experience more credible or acceptable images. Sure the comics are well done, but the reader would obviously get more out of the novelization if he or she is allowed to explore the book first to prevent any preconceptions.
Phil & Kaja Foglio have clearly made their mark in the Steampunk comic arena, but there is still plenty of room for them to expand further into the literary field if they so choose. Full of extraordinary characters, the storyline in Agatha H and the Airship City is crisp, well established and teases the reader just enough to demand more. Let’s hope there are plenty more books to follow.