'We failed to see it was merely the end of a chapter. A punctuation, a page turned. We considered ourselves heroes, little realizing we were in fact storybook villains with a reckoning long past due - "Except from The First Book of Monday"
Ian Edginton & Francesco Trifogli
Hinterkind - a race of mythological beings that humans have murdered and hounded into the dark corners of Earth. Until now. After 300,000 years of being top dog, the Blight has wiped out nearly the whole human race, taking them from the top of the food chain to an endangered species. Pockets of humanity remain in a dystopian, post-Apocalypse United States, living off the land and striving to survive the wild beasts that now stalk the world. Nature has breathed a sigh of relief and reclaimed the Earth, but so have the Hinterkind. Ogres, demons, trolls, fauns and the elven race of Sidhe are now capturing, tormenting, eating and burning any human they find, hellbent on crushing the last remnants of the race that destroyed their lives them so many years ago.
First let us take a casual look at the title. A quick Google translate tells me 'Hinter' can mean both 'behind' and 'after' in German, which I find an interesting little twist in the title and quite true to the plot: they are the kind who were both before and now after the human race. My afterthought to that is simply: why is the title in German if the story is set in the United States? It isn't related to 'humankind' in much more than sound, the word 'human' originates from Latin, with a little bit of Old French and Middle English thrown into the mix. But wait for it! There may be more to this language choice than meets the eye: most of the creatures in this volume originate from 'folk tales' rather than pure straight mythology (which, as a personal viewpoint, I often associate more with gods, goddesses, god-mortal accident offspring and some of the bigger, scarier beasts such as dragons - though there is a three-horned unicorn who gets a shotgun to the face). Folk tales are an oral tradition, according to the BBC (https://tinyurl.com/lcq47mj) they originate from the 'unlettered', the common people, the Volk. Another quick search throws up this definition:
The concept of Volk (people, nation, or race) has been an underlying idea in German history since the early nineteenth century. Inherent in the name was a feeling of superiority of German culture and the idea of a universal mission for the German people
- A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust, Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 2013. Link: https://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/DEFN/volk.html
Now what do we typically associate with this statement? Yep, yep we're using the 'Nazi' word here and the concept of an Aryan race. This "perfect" race was often portrayed as being bleach blonde, pale and strong, without physical defect. Now while not all of the elven race of Sidhe is blonde, take a look at who is running the show (right side). Their attitude also reflects this idea of 'superiority' and their aim to wipe out all who have subjugated them as a race fits the idea of a 'universal mission'. Now I am not about to claim that the Elves are Nazis, particularly as my evidence is purely the result of a few google searches and circumstantial evidence, but at the very least it makes the title a little more intriguing. The word 'Sidhe' actually derives from Irish mythology, which describes a race of fairy or elf like creatures who are the 'people of the mounds' known as Aos Sí and also have roots in Gaelic folklore. Have they simply taken a Gaelic/Irish folk lore and given it a German name?
Yet it is the human race who appear to be the villains, humans who harbor the hatred for what can be considered different: "You’ve never been good at accepting anything other than yourselves. You even turn on each other– black, gay, jew, muslim. You look for any excuse to grind someone else under your boot heel!" Yet, isn't that exactly what the likes of the Sidhe are now doing? The princess rants about the other races in this hunt for humans, calling them vermin and parading a self-entitlement rival to humans. Everyone wants to take the high-horse but no one has the right to ride it.
The artwork itself I found very pleasing. The cover with its vibrant colours and interesting layout drew me in, the actual positions of the characters reminding me of Greek statues poised around a globe, such as Atlas. There were also at least two female characters on the cover, neither with their boobs popping out, which is an immediate recommendation. Trifolgi uses wide shots to display skyscrapers covered in green plantlife and the layout of each page is different, avoiding the dangers of repetition. The colour palette of this volume is generally warm, bright with sharp edging and often high contrast. In some panels, I cannot help but feel there is an untidiness or maybe 'grittiness' is a better term. The art is not always clean.
Now let us move on to the story. I always do a quick search for other reviews and opinions on a work after I've read it, but prior to writing my review. This way I know more about the literary landscape surrounding this book, often throwing up ideas I had not thought of before. The feedback for this book is generally negative. A quick scroll down Goodreads will tell you many readers thought the dialogue insipid, the characters cliche, the plot confusing and raged against many unanswered questions. Now - I do agree with many of these points, but I also will delay judgement until I have read more. The main character - Prosper Monday - comes across as a whiny teenager Katniss Everdeen who wants to prove herself and just like many typical teens, whats to get away from home as fast as possible. She has only her grandfather - her grandmother and mother were both killed - and she still thinks it is perfectly okay for her to escape into the wilds, disobey those wiser than her and completely ignore the danger she is clearly aware of. Teenagers never change, even in a post-apocalypse. Her dialogue is often predictable and for someone who has lost so much, she comes across as very self-entitled and righteous, refusing to accept that she lives in a 'kill or be killed'. Also - how did she get so good at using a bow and arrow when at the very start she states her job is a planter (effectively farmer)? Are all kids trained to protect themselves? I would like to have a clearer idea of just how long ago the Blight did its dirty work on the human race. Prosper isn't an idiot, she has some of her grandfather's cunning - who is of course this bearded, bad-ass mentor type walking-cliche - but those moments are rare. So far I'm not liking the character, but I sense a character arc in play here.
There is no much to say about the other characters at this stage. Prosper's friend Angus discovers he has a tail - a mystery left to another volume presumably - and he has that typical 'good kid but doesn't get a break' feel. He's the friend Prosper has grown up with and think it is perfectly okay to walk in on him, as a pre-adult, and see him getting changed. Neither of these two characters have much to recommend them, they are quite bland and predictable in their behaviour. We also meet a motley gang of bounty-hunters who capture and sell humans, led by a bad-boy type Jon Hobb, who wants to see humans suffer for what they have done. He is traitorous, charming and I smell this redemption arc coming from a mile away - and if there ends up been a love triangle between Jon, Prosper and Angus then I'm out!
However, it was a fun, quick read and I did enjoy it, despite the fact there was nothing particularly unique in this The Walking Dead and Fables love-child. It typically reads more as a young adult graphic novel than one intended for adults, except for the graphic violence which may have got a little heavy handed in places. The political content is the same brand of racial sledgehammering as we see in the likes of Skyrim, where everyone wants to murder the other without remorse. Even the Sibhe, who reign over the fairy tale creatures - and whose reign is slipping now that an alliance is no longer paramount to everyone's survival - are slagging off other members of the mythic species. The Queen wants to enslave the human race - but by the sounds of it that was the original status quo that went horribly wrong for them - and the Princess wants to kill them all without sense or guilt. Everyone's thinking is very shallow and clear-cut, without that beautiful complexity that helps us fall in love with characters. The only character I quite liked was Star, who is a punk Tinkerbell on a really bad day. She is leading a different band of bounty-hunters, seeking out humans for the Queen. So far she is a clone of Tersia, the Princess, but further down the political food chain and way more sass. I would love to see Tersia and Star team up in some vengeful punk duo, but I think that may be a pipe-dream.
Overall, there is not much to recommend this book but I am interested to read on and see how the story develops, how the characters develop and whether it is as predictable as I fear it might be. I never try to judge anyone by the first chapter (or volume in this case) and will hunt down volume #2 shortly. With the likes of Saga and Fables, it is hard to imagine what Hinterkind could do to surprise us when the fantasy apocalypse battle for survival has already met its quota.