Vögelein: Old Ghosts by Jane Irwin
Fiery Studios, 2007
Though three hundred years have passed since Alexi’s death, Vögelein finds herself still haunted by the unkept promise she made to her first Guardian. Now the clockwork faerie must confront her past with the help of Mason, an itinerant musician whose spirit bears a striking resemblance to the one she desperately wants to lay to rest. As she struggles to find peace for both herself and Alexi, Vögelein discovers that centuries-old questions rarely have easy answers, intended paths reveal themselves in mysterious ways, and present-day threats strike just as suddenly as those from long ago.—synopsis via Vogelein.com
If you pick up the second volume before the first, as I had, the introduction will reassure you that you’ll do just fine. It catches you up where needed and recommends reading the first for key references, but one might dive right in since the volume is in hand. This is true. Vögelein, the clockwork faerie, is dealing with old ghosts in this volume and the historical context is provided as well as her current situation. Jane Irwin settles the reader into the story and the immersion is quick.
Vögelein: Old Ghosts is fairly text heavy, but not in the way you regret Irwin’s decision to tell the story in a graphic medium. There are nice touches with the text, signalling that the text has been translated, providing translations elsewhere. The way the text/images play out reminds me of [director] who spends a lot of time on dialog but keeps the characters or cameras moving to keep the audience from feeling itchy. Like [director], there are plenty of quiet moments as well, transitions, emoting, contemplation. If you are into a lot of color, movement, and sound effects, Vögelein is probably not for you.
I liked the idea of a clockwork faerie, but I like how a fascination can very quickly be made complicated. Vögelein needs wound, for one. But she is vulnerable in other ways. She is able to be exploited in many ways, whether the intentions are good or bad. There are several attributes to consider, her soul being a significant one.
While the fascination with what complications might be unique to the clockwork faerie, there are complications that are much more universal, and Irwin blends the two at times. Vögelein can be read both as a representative of the vulnerable and her own individual character. Irwin is exploring grief and closure, the value of memory and music and moving on. There is also this lovely hunger for magic in the world—and community. The journey is a definite feature. You could keep the reading light, but the novel revolves around a thoughtful, emotional and courageous clockwork faerie that is interested in making the deeper connections as she looks to find her place in the modern world, ages from where she’d first begun.
Vögelein: Old Ghosts feels indie without all the hipster-cute or young adult edged; primarily because it is a different sort of urban fantasy. This one is for fans of old school faerie reads that are looking to be as timeless as they are entertaining. I’d heard of Vögelein from one of those must-read comic lists, and it was strongly attached to Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting. Some of it is in the illustration, some of it in its themes. I think Castle Waiting more accessible to a greater audience but I was glad to have found Vögelein and look forward to catching the first book in the series. I wasn’t as taken with the art work, a personal aesthetic, but it isn’t displeasing, and the form is good. The wings are gorgeous! I like the perspectives Irwin employs, her use of focus and angle is wonderful. I like how the art so effortlessly sets or reflects a mood. I could smell fuel at the fueling station. I could smell smoke and beer and sweat at the tavern. It was an effect I didn’t think about until I was there, caught by surprise because the story is so quiet. I was following the text not realizing how I was being led by the visuals.
Irwin brings the past into the present in ways that still have the potential to hurt. Some things do not change, and some do and for a clockwork faerie in particular, the stakes are high. Irwin does a lovely job of balancing the tension of how Vögelein will be able to let go even as we wonder how she will be able to move forward—actually, Irwin does this using and alongside a cast struggling with much the same. This is one of those where the more I thought about it, the more I liked it, which makes me like it all the more.
You will also want to visit Jane Irwin’s site if you are interested in self-publishing.
[his name slipped my mind and I can’t find my notes. will update when that eureka happens.]