This time it is different. The first story takes us to the past, to the final battle before all avenues back their magical homelands were closed off. The next three stories very much drive the story arc forward building and building until there is a blazing finale.
When the book opens it is the Ides of May and Boy Blue has been playing the blues on his saxophone all day. When his boss, Deputy Mayor of Fabletown Snow White asks him why he confesses that it is the anniversary of the final battle against the adversary and the day that he lost the woman he loved. Through Blue's eyes we see the lead up to the final battle including the evacuation of the fable refugees. They were the last boatload of fables to make it out from the homeland safely and that was the final gate to be closed meaning that no one else could escape. Blue only escaped thanks to the generosity of his commander who made it possible for him to be on the last boat, not realising that his new love had been left behind and he grieves his losses on every anniversary.
Cutting back to modern times, Prince Charming has decided that he wants to be mayor, Snow White is dealing with an expected complication from the events in the last book and everyone is surprised when it seems as though someone has escaped from the homelands and made it through to the safety of Fabletown. Nearly everyone is absolutely delighted because it means that other people might be able to join them. Nearly everyone, but not absolutely everyone.
When Blue's old girlfriend, Red Riding Hood, is the woman who makes it to safety, he has more reason than most to be thrilled. Right from the beginning the security chief Bigby Wolf (as in Big Bad) is suspicious and he insists that it is nothing to do with their past encounters but everything to do with the way that she came to find herself in on this side of the gate.
It also soon becomes clear that she is not the only person who has made it through, and that the others have destruction on their minds. Both the Fabletown community and the inhabitants of the farm where non-human fables reside have to work together to defeat the seeming constantly multiplying enemy before they destroy Fabletown completely. Somehow, they also need to keep the battle a secret from their Mundy neighbours. This is no easy task, but once again Snow White, Bigby, Rose Red and all their friends rise to the fore.
Willingham and his collaborators have been slowly building up to this battle since the beginning of the series, and does so masterfully. This books is quite dark - lots of death and bloodshed and more - but it is also darkly funny in parts (I loved the scene where the wooden soldiers got to decide what they would wear), poignant in places (Pinocchio's blind faith in his father was touching although I am not 100% convinced that it isn't misplaced) and just downright fun most of the time.
I am very interested to see where the story goes next as it did feel as though some of the story arcs were resolved in this novel but I suspect that there will be plenty of drama in the next book as the characters have to recover from the terrible battle and the losses that they have sustained in the course of it.
Additional artists include Mark Buckingham, Craig Hamilton, Steve Leialoha and P Craig Russell.
To the Barricades
For centuries the fables have watched the gateways between our mundane world and their lost magical homelands, even on guard for signs of invasion. Now, after decades of quiet, it seems that someone has finally escaped Adversary's oppression and made it to the sanctuary. But appearances, as always, can be deceiving, and there's plenty about this refugee's story that smells wrong to the right noses. In fact, things are worse than they suspect - plans are already under way for the complete destruction of Fabletown, and every one of its citizens is about to get a refresher course in the unforgiving lessons of war