“All that stuff about the pleasures and dangers of fantasy, and what are stories for?” // Review of “Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen” by Dylan Horrocks

Title: Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
Author: Dylan Horrocks
Genre: Graphic novel/fantasy/sci-fi
Date Read: 25/11/2016 – 26/11/2016
Rating: ★★


This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.

Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.

The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.

Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.

While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels.

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#WWW and #WIPpet Wednesday – 30 November, 2016

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This is a blog hop hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for today, and just answer the three questions.


What have you recently finished reading?


I read the first of the graphic novels I got from the library, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks. I liked what it was trying to do but I felt it got a bit caught up in the message it was conveying and forgot about good storytelling.

By the time I post this, I will have also finished, or very nearly finished reading Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven. I really liked the first two stories, but didn’t quite click with the third one as much. This is the second-last book for my Australian Women Writers 2016 Challenge! And I have the last one sitting on my bedside chest, woot woot!

What are you currently reading?

thetwocoverI’ve started listening to The Two by Will Carver, which is the sequel to Girl 4, which I mentioned in last week’s post. I’m not getting through it quite as quickly as I did Girl 4, and I’m not feeling quite as much tension. But it’s still well-written and I do want to find out what’s going on, so I will continue with it.

I had to return Six of Crows to the library unfinished as I had been struggling to find the concentration to read, and the due date snuck up on me! Unfortunately, the way our library system is set up means that you can’t renew books when people have them reserved after you, so I’ll have to get back to that one in the new year.

What do you think you’ll read next?

heartlesscoverMy last Australian Women Writers Challenge book for the year is Letters to the End of Love by Yvette Walker. Heartless by Marissa Meyer has also come in for me at the library and I’m pretty excited to read that, so it’ll probably be next. I also have Stars Above on hold and it has been saying on my record that it is in transit to my local branch for a week now! So I’m going to ask them about it when I go in this evening.

What are you reading this week? 🙂

wednesdaybannerThe other blog hop for this week is WIPpet Wednesday. If you’re a writer, you are very welcome to join us in this one by posting an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date. You can click the blue guy on the right of this blog to be taken to the link up.

I’ve added the 3 from 30 to the 11 from the month and I have five sentences for you today. Max is trying to get into the King’s chambers to obtain a possession of the King’s. No one is sure whether the royal family is alive or dead, but if they can get something owned by one of them, they can perform a magic trace to check. Of course, the King’s quarters are being guarded by soldiers from the invading force, so Max has aided himself with a shield and enhanced strength.

Max took a step back just in time to avoid the soldier as he lurched forward. He felt a pulse through the air around him as the soldier’s fist hit against his invisible shield. The man cried out in pain. Max smiled grimly to himself. It was good to know for certain that he had activated the runes correctly. 

That’s it from me this week! I will hopefully make it around to as many of your blogs as I can as soon as possible. I have a visit from my landlord tomorrow so I need to power through the rest of our tidying up tonight, and then I have choir tomorrow after that, and I’m going to the theatre Friday, but we’ll see how it goes!

~ Emily