Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil & Kaja FoglioAgatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil & Kaja FoglioThe GIRL GENIUS novels are so much fun! When I picked up the first of these (Agatha H. and the Airship City), I assumed that a novelization of a web comic wouldn’t work very well. Boy, was I wrong! Though the Foglios’ artwork is fabulous, and I urge you with all the force of my will to take a look at it online, I find that I enjoy the story just as much with the novels. The Foglios have a wonderful sense of humor that really comes out in this expanded format, especially with the funny footnotes that allow them to fill in details, remind us of events that happened previously, and provide little jokes just to make us laugh.

Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg (2020) is the fourth novel and it makes no sense to start here. You really need to read the previous three novels, or be up-to-date on the web comic through June 25, 2010.

At this point in the story, Agatha is in Castle Heterodyne, attempting to claim her inheritance. However, the castle has a lot of structural problems, making it unstable and dangerous and, to add to the troubles, Agatha has enemies both inside and outside the building. In fact, she even has an enemy inside her own head! Nobody in the castle, or even in the city of Mechanicsburg, is safe in this precarious situation and Agatha must set things right.

Fortunately, as usual, she has the help of some delightful (and sometimes crazy) friends, old and new. All of the characters are over-the-top, but that’s part of the charm of this gleefully wacky story. In addition to the regular cast members, we’ll meet some new characters such as giant subterranean mecha-narwhals and a dragon named Franz.

Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil & Kaja Foglio science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsIn this installment, we get some additional information about Agatha’s world. For example, we learn more about the castle, about Agatha’s parents, why the Baron hates Agatha, and why there are so few female sparks. Some new questions come up, too. For example, who is Gil’s mother? And, there’s also more romance, including a love triangle that will not be resolved in this book.

Some of the plot of Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg feels a little repetitive, like an extension of the previous book (Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle), and it seems like way too much happens in way too short a time. But overall, Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg provides many hours of madcap entertainment and I loved it, though I’m really looking forward to getting out of the castle in the next installment. Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg ends with this scene from April 10, 2013.

The audiobook editions are now being published by Tantor Audio (previous editions were published by Brilliance Audio). Fortunately, they’ve been able to keep the narrator, Angela Dawe, who does a marvelous job with these stories. I just wish they’d come out a little quicker. It’s been six years since the previous audiobook release!

Published in print in March 2020 and in audio in March 2021. In Agatha H and the Siege of Mechanicsburg, Agatha Heterodyne, the last of the Heterodyne family, has returned to her family’s hereditary town with the might of the Wulfenbach Empire hot on her heels. The only thing holding off an outright attack is Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, the heir to the Empire, who has joined Agatha and her friends inside the great artificially intelligent fortress of Castle Heterodyne. Now they must race to repair the mechanisms that once allowed the Castle to defend Mechanicsburg, before the rest of Europa shows up to take all the revenge the mad Heterodynes of the past so richly earned. From the Hugo Award–winning Girl Genius online comics comes this fourth book in the Agatha H. series, and like the previous three books, it will engage you in a unique world of adventure, romance, and mad science!


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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