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Book Review: Peter & Max: A Fables Novel
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Peter & Max: A Fables NovelPeter & Max: A Fables Novel
Paperback | Kindle
By Bill Willingham
Illustrated by Steve Leialoha
Vertigo
Released: October 2009

For those of you that have not read Bill WIllingham‘s wonderful Fables comics or graphic novels, you do yourself a disservice. But worry not, the new spinoff, Peter & Max: A Fables Novel is a standalone novel. Not that it doesn’t tie into the comics by name and locale but it requires no former knowledge of the series or its characters.

I find myself in awe of the writing style, so much so that it is inspiring me to add flourish to my own review. As with the entirety of the comic series, this novel is less about the length of the tale (which is quite long) and more about the depth of its telling. And what a tale it is! It delves deeper into the life of a Fable than I have ever before been honored to witness (or in this case, read).

This is a story of two brothers. You guessed it, Peter and Max. Well, truthfully, it’s a story of who they were and how they came to be who they are. The story, which quickly splinters into many shorter tales, is one of life and death, good and evil and the consequences that we all face when poor decisions are made. No one is immune to love and lust, nor to jealousy and rage…not even the eternal Fables.

We are quickly made aware of the main characters and that dire circumstances have brought them to where they are now, but only throughout the course of the book do we find the reasons that drive these men towards their entangled destiny. We are given insight into the workings of the world of Hesse, from which these Fables escaped into our own. A light touch of history and fantasy help this fairy tale achieve that which all stories seek… an inability to put the book down.

If I had to find a complaint about this story (besides the fact that I have yet to see another novel in this series appear) it would have to be that the ending was so very abrupt. Fear not, gentle reader, there was a climax to the tale, but one so shockingly short that I flipped back a few pages to see if I’d missed something. All said, a better tale of love, hate, loyalty and sacrifice would be hard to find.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book so enjoyable; not because I dislike the comics — far from it…I recommend Fables to people regularly — but because too often the transition from penning sequential illustrated stories to novel length writing can be a difficult feat for some (we can all testify to some really bad Marvel and DC novels having been released over the years). But Bill Willingham not only manages it, he far surpasses anything I thought possible. He took minor characters and breathed a new and fabulous life into them. If anyone ever tells you that fairy tales are for kids, hand them this book and tell them to shut their mouths…or I’ll send Cinderella after them, or worse, Bo Peep.

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