the Little Red Reviewer

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Posted on: July 13, 2012

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess (a Girl Genius novel) by Phil & Kaja Foglio

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new










First there was the webcomic.  then came the graphic novels (identical to the webcomic, just in printed form). Now there is the novelizations.

That could too easily be a recipe for disaster, but this is the team of Phil and Kaja Foglio. Disaster isn’t in their vocabulary. Not satisfied with developing the Hugo award winning Girl Genius comic series, they’ve dived headfirst into writing the novelizations of the comics. (read my review of the first novel, Agatha H and the Airship City, here) Not interested in webcomics or graphic novels? You should still pick up their Agatha Heterodyne novels. Why?  Because they are simply fantastic. These books have it all: characters with incredible depth, humor, doomed romances, hysterically ridiculous mad science, more humor, family secrets, excellent dialog, circus folk, monsters, and an all around good time. You will have a smile on your face the entire time you are reading these novels.  Don’t get me wrong, the graphic novels are great (I own them all), but the novels are even better.

In a semi-fictitious Europe, those with the ability to breath life into machines are known as Sparks. Being a Spark isn’t always a good thing, because they are so intent on making amazing creations that they often don’t realize last week’s amazing creation has burned down the village. Some Sparks hide their abilities, others survive by volunteering to work for the powers that be.

Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess is the second book in this series, and it picks up right where the first book, Agatha H and the Airship City left off. Along with the talking cat Krosp, she’s escaped from Baron Wulfenbach’s flying castle, learned who her parents really are (the famous Bill Heterodyne and Lucrezia Mongfish), and discovered that she is indeed, a very powerful Spark. It doesn’t matter that she’s developed some pretty strong feelings for the Baron’s son, Gilgamesh, as she’ll probably never see him again anyway.

Alone in the forest, she comes across a traveling circus, who allow her to travel with them.  Agatha doesn’t tell the troupe who she really is, and they are hiding their own secrets. The troupe puts on what are known as “Heterodyne shows”, with the actors performing the madcap adventures of Bill and Barry Heterodyne, and their sidekicks Klaus and Lucrezia. It sure is uncanny how well Agatha can imitate Lucrezia on stage! She sounds just like her!

Everything comes to a head when they perform in front of a certain Prince and his clockwork sister, who have been on the look out for someone who looks and talks like Lucrezia. Baron Wulfenbach is still searching for Agatha as well, and Gilgamesh has just learned that she’s still alive.

ahh, and then there are the Jagermonsters.  My favorite side characters from the graphic novels, I got such a huge smile on my face when they showed up that my face hurt.  Created by the mad Heterodyne’s of old, the Jagers may have once been human, but now they are horrific creatures. Do you not want to piss off a Jagermonster. When Agatha runs into a few Jagers who are just hanging around in a village square, they immediately know who she is. They can smell it on her. And as such, they become her protectors, all the while causing all sorts of havoc with the circus folk. You may not want to piss off a Jager, but having one sitting on the top of your wagon makes it really easy to get through the city gates without much hassle.The city guards don’t want to piss off the Jagers either

The Jagermonsters Dimo, Oggie, and Maxim. I have a little crush on Maxim. must be the purple hair.

Sounds like this review is pretty plot summary heavy, but trust me, I haven’t even scratched the surface of everything that’s going on.  These books are episodically fast paced, and yet the authors still manage to cram in buckets of subtle characterization and historical background. It really is an amazing feat.  If I listed all my favorite characters, the list would be about 10 pages long. If I told you about my favorite scenes or favorite lines, this review would run 3000 words. Really, all I can say is read these books. They are fun and funny and full of physical comedy and some sex jokes and some of the best characters I’ve ever read.

If you already enjoy the Girl Genius comics, I know I’m preaching to the choir. But for those of you who have never heard of this stuff, it’s not too late to get into it. You don’t need to catch up on 8+ years of webcomics or purchase nearly a dozen graphic novels. You can start with the novels and have a blast.  Your cheeks might hurt from smiling so much, but I think that’s a decent price to pay.

9 Responses to "Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, by Phil & Kaja Foglio"

MMMmm, interesting. Sounds like there’s loads going on – your favourite three characters made me think of the three odd little characters out of Nightmare before Christmas (Lock, Stock and Barrell), great picture.
Lynn 😀


I’ve been thinking about reading this for ages. I think that you may have just convinced me.


excellent, I hope you enjoy it! 🙂


Excellent! I love the webcomic (I’ve read it through three times), so I’m glad to see that it made a good transition to novel form. Too bad you miss out on the excellent illustrations, though.

Also, Maxim is awesome.


very true, no illustrations in the novels. And I”m so used to Foglio’s art style that the beautiful cover art doesn’t even do anything for me. If I said I’d never had the graphic novels open at the same time I was reading the novels, for some visual reference. . . I’d be lying.


Well, I think this all has prompted me to want to go back and re-read it again!


Not having read the web comic or the graphic novels, will I be handicapped if I pick up the first novel?


not one bit. The novels have fewer sight gags than the graphic novels, but far more character depth.


Huh…I sure does sound interesting. Thank you Red for the recommendation. I think that this would be a good read for me as well.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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