Rat Queens: Doing that Fantasy Twist

I’ve been swept up into a new series I tried just earlier this week. Lucky for you guys, I finished reading all that’s been released until now, or I would still be reading and I can’t guarantee I would’ve stopped to blog, bathe, or read the textbooks that my GPA is actually requiring me to read right now. Still though, if you can’t let yourself get swept away by some amazing books, then your life doesn’t have the necessary ingredients to create joy.

This time, I found the graphic novel series Rat Queens written by Kurtis Weibe with art by a couple different people, including Roc Upchurch, Stjepan Sejic, Tess Fowler and Tamra Bonvillain. It’s also published by Image, just like some of my other favorite reads, The Walking Dead, The Wicked + The Divine and Saga. If I fall in love with many more of these books, I may have to get the Image logo tattooed somewhere on my body.

Taking on the Fantasy genre and giving it a modern, edgy or otherwise unique twist is definitely a common motif in today’s fantasy landscape. It’s led to the popularity of fantasy variations like twisted renditions of fairy tales, and urban fantasy with traditional fantasy elements set in a modern urban environment, like one of my old favorites, Cassandra Clare. I love it all. It’s all my genre. Rat Queens is another interesting version of doing a fantastical twist on the traditional Tolkien, D&D fantasy.

The titular Rat Queens are a group of women with a variety of talents and interesting back stories that fancy themselves adventurers. They believe, or say they believe, that they keep their city, the Palisade, safe by questing about and killing monsters, but their drunken debauchery and mischief increasingly makes them, in some people’s eyes, more and more trouble than they are worth. This story takes the classic questing party, a mainstay in both fantasy books and roleplay games, and toys with it. The Rat Queens are almost more comparable to a gang than the ideal chivalrous knights/ rogues/ squid priestesses errant. Sure, they mostly save their truly deadly rage for goblins and trolls, but they definitely aren’t afraid of theft, brawling, and some serious destruction of property. This angle, along with an excellent sense of humor, makes the series a blast to read.

The characters, the Rat Queens themselves and the supporting cast, are what could really give this series some longevity. While at first you think they can be summed up in a quick word or two, Hannah the mage, Betty the rogue, etc. they each prove to have rich, well written back stories that make them much more fascinating with each revelation. Delilah is a healer and priestess that isn’t sure, at first, that she even believes the god she’s invoking her holy spells in the name of. Violet is a dwarf that’s not afraid of bucking tradition and expectations, including shaving off her luxurious dwarf beard. I don’t want to say much more and risk spoiling some truly enjoyable character arcs, but these are fun yet well realized characters whose personal foibles definitely kept me well entertained.

If you are a fan of the Fantasy Twist and/or graphic novels, I encourage you to check out Rat Queens for a great time. It’s an original series that likes to play with your expectations of the fantasy genre, but still always delivers quality stories.

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