Today I Read…Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess

Agatha H and the Clockwork PrincessToday I read Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess by Phil and Kaja Foglio, the second Girl Genius novel. This is the novelization of volumes 4-6 of the comic, and the entire comic can be found here.

Agatha Heterodyne, the secret long-lost daughter of the heroic Bill Heterodyne and the reformed (?) villainess Lucrezia Mongfish, is now traveling to her ancestral home of Mechanicsburg with Master Payne’s Circus of Adventure in an effort to discover the secrets of her past, while still trying to dodge the forces of Baron Wulfenbach. En route Agatha meets the Sturmvoraus royal family of Sturmhalten: the ruling Prince Aaronev, still loyal to his lost Mistress; his son the handsome Prince Tarvek, with changeable loyalties but with eyes for Agatha; and princess Anevka, who is both less than and exactly what she seems to be. Soon Agatha will learn exactly what is wrong with being her mother”s daughter…

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This is an excellent continuation of Agatha H and the Airship City. Finally, the mystery of the evil Other who terrorized the lands is revealed. Even worse than being the daughter of heroes is being the daughter of a hero and a villain. And as everyone knows, the really good villains never die-they just escape to work on their next plot to take over the world. Lucrezia Mongfish is a first-rate villainess, manipulative, commanding, brilliant, insane, beautiful, and deadly, and with loyal minions everywhere.

Master Payne’s circus is filled with characters as colourful as the ones they play on stage. Pix the prima donna actress, Lars the leading man with a yen for Agatha, solid Abner who loves the flamboyant Pix, the lost warrior Zeetha, the Countess who rain away with the circus, and of course Master Payne, ringleader in every way. And of course all the characters from the last book are here too–the comical yet deadly Jagermonsters, the ruthless Baron Wulfenbach, the lovestruck Gilgamesh, the selfish Krosp, and of course our heroine Agatha, who just can’t catch a break. Hopefully she can use her newfound skills to break a leg.

This story will appeal to those who love “Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!”

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Aaronev smiled in genuine pleasure. “Tarvek. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” He glanced at the box’s empty third chair. “Where is your sister?”

The young man shrugged. “Sorry, father, we had some late guests I had to see to.” The Prince frowned. Tarvek continued, “As for Anevka, you know she isn’t keen on anything that isn’t grand opera. She begs your indulgence and says that she will join us later at supper.” He looked down at the stage, where Dame Ædith was throwing knives with amazing accuracy, especially since she was continually being harassed by what looked like a demented bat. Tarvek wondered how they’d managed to train the creature. “What have I missed?”

The Prince had still been brooding over the news of the aforementioned guests, but at Tarvek’s question, he visibly perked up. ”Quite a bit! An excellent magician, some song and dance, a sword mistress you would have enjoyed, I’m sure, and a hilariously bad midget in a cat suit.”

Tarvek eyed the stage. “Yes, I can see the bullet holes from the warning shots.”

The Prince chuckled. “I was laughing so hard I could hardly aim.”

Tarvek nodded as he spooned some caviar onto a cracker. “It’s good to see you so happy, father. I’ve been worried for you of late.”

The Prince sipped from his glass. “Thank you, my boy. Yes, this show is a welcome change of pace.”

On the stage below, Master Payne was booming out the traditional opening of the main event. The audience grew hushed as his stentorian voice rolled over them, setting the scene. Aaronev quietly continued, “I must confess, son, I…” He breathed deeply. “I have felt—for some time—that our task may be… impossible.” He sighed, “I—We have looked for so long.”

Tarvek leaned towards him. “There are certain realities that are undeniable. No one could say you were disloyal, father.”

Aaronev scowled. “They can! They have!”

Tarvek reached out and took one of his father’s gloved hands. He spoke earnestly. “Anevka and I—We both know you have given this task your all. I know that if The Mistress were here, she’d say—”

“KNEEL, YOU MISERABLE MINIONS!”

Both of the men froze in terror, and then whipped about to stare at the stage. Below them, Agatha, in an extremely tight leather outfit, strode about demanding to know if various implements of torture had been prepared to her unreasonable specifications. After a moment, the younger man slumped back into his chair and chuckled.

“Ho! That gave me a bit of a turn! That girl they’ve got playing Lucrezia certainly has a commanding voice, don’t—”

“Tarvek!” Aaronev’s voice cut across the younger man’s burbling. He had pulled a slim, metal box out from under his coat. Dials and small meters encrusted its surface. At the moment, all of the lights were flashing green. “It’s her.”

Tarvek stared at the glowing device like a bespectacled hamster looking at an approaching snake. “No!” He whispered. “Impossible!”

Aaronev thrust the device into Tarvek’s hands. “Look at the meters! The harmonics match perfectly!” He rubbed his hands together gleefully. “It’s her!”

Tarvek stared at the device. Viciously, he smacked it against the arm of his chair several times. The dials wavered, and then the needles swung back into the green. “The fuses must be old! This isn’t proof—”

His father grabbed his coat, and with surprising strength, dragged him to the edge of the balcony and pointed towards the audience.

Throughout the entire theatre, the audience, as well as the ushers, had dropped to their knees, and were staring, enraptured, at the figure marching back and forth upon the stage.

Tarvek stared at the tableau below them for a moment and then slowly collapsed backwards into his chair. “Oh dear,” he muttered.

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As Master Payne escorted her to the waiting coach, a small frown crossed her face. “People keep giving me rings,” she confided to him, “But I think a small death ray might be more practical.”

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People they say that the Heterodynes—

They will return.

They will come laughing and singing,

sheepish because they have kept us waiting.

They will smile and wink and

Show us marvelous things that will

Make the world a’right and then

They’ll a’pat our heads and put us to bed.

But I thinks the Heterodynes—

They will return.

They will come with fire and smokes

and machines a’blazing in the night.

They will stare at us from bloodspattered faces

They will pull us up and roughly exclaim

“We bought you years, but you’ve done nothing

and now the monsters are a’snapping at our heels!”

—T. Stormboy, La Revue Parisienne des Réflexions Chagrines et Sans Mérite, Vol. 2. Issue 3

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