Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham: Book Review

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Cover of Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

4 Stars

All our familiar storybook characters have had to leave their homelands because an evil creature known as the Adversary has destroyed them. They have all converged on New York. In order to fit into mainstream society, there are some pretty stringent rules in effect. Snow White is effectively in control but her right-hand “man” is Bigby, otherwise know as the Big Bad Wolf.

Jack the Giant Killer comes tearing into their headquarters one day with a story of finding Rose Red, his on-again off-again girlfriend and Snow’s sister, missing from her apartment, which is covered in blood. Has there been a murder? Who did it?

The first thing that struck me is how very much Snow White in the opening pages of this graphic novel looks like Regina/The Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time. My husband was even struck by it when I showed him. I know that doesn’t have much to do with anything, I just found it amusing.

Anyway, I really liked this story and the world that Willingham has built here. I am a fan of Once Upon a Time, so the idea of storybook characters living in our world is familiar to me. Still, this take is slightly different (and first–I just came to them backwards). They aren’t cut off from the world in a little out-of-the-way town; most of them are living in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world. I liked seeing how their personalities allowed them to thrive or not in that setting.

I was surprised by the mystery and had absolutely no idea “whodunnit.” I was also amused by the characters gathering at the end for the classic “parlor scene” so familiar to fans of the cozy mystery.

I liked the art a lot as well. I liked the whole book, but what really stood out to me were the–frontispieces?–for each chapter. I spent a long time looking at each one to make sure that I didn’t overlook some subtle detail. They were amazing.

I don’t have a whole lot else to say. I like the tension between Bigby and Snow White and I’m interested to see where that goes. I felt this was a strong beginning to a series that will probably get better with time.

I recommend this is you’re a fan of retold fairy tales. I’ve already picked up the second book from the library.

Find author Bill Willingham on his website, his blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Read more reviews at Iris on Books, Beth Fish Reads, and Tif Talks Books.

If you liked Fables: Legends in Exile, you might also like Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale; Dust City by Robert Paul Weston; and Jack of Kinrowan by Charles de Lint.

Buy Fables: Legends in Exile at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. I really, really like this series and agree with Jessica that it gets better! I'm on #7 and can't get enough!!

  2. Good news: the series gets better as it progresses. This first volume is just fine on its own merits, but things really start to pick up around volume 4 or so.

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