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Literature / Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess

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A novelization of the second major Story Arc (volumes 4-6) of the award-winning webcomic series Girl Genius. It follows the webcomic very closely, often having a distinct 1:1 mapping between panel and paragraph, but it does have a few interesting departures, omissions, and expansions.
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Preceded by Agatha H. and the Airship City and followed by Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle


Tropes included:

  • Adaptational Context Change: The prelude is an expanded version of Master Payne's speech introducing the Circus of Adventure, which happens In-Universe just before Gil and Bang track Agatha down in both versions of the story. The speech works well as an introduction to the events of the novel as a whole.
  • Adaptation Expansion: More than in Agatha H. and the Airship City; for example, Agatha and Lars' relationship is given more time to develop.
  • Amazon Brigade: Dupree's crew consists of pirates who were deemed dangerous by the Empire, but were smart enough to work for the Baron, are all completely loyal to Bang, and are all women.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Agatha finds Lars' "madboy" voice rather appealing. Also part of her attraction to Tarvek seems to be connected with liking the sound of his voice.
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  • Artifact of Doom: The Queen's Tarot Deck, commissioned by Albia of England. According to anecdotal evidence, its users either went mad or spontaneously combusted. It's interesting, then, that Moxana apparently has a deck.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: How the nobility became nobility. A footnote explains their ancestors were thugs and bandits who went around making other people's lives miserable, until people started giving them things to make them stop.
  • Author Avatar: Professor Phil Foglio appears in the book.
  • Bad Boss: The Other killed an awful lot of geisterdamen after their return from... whatever it was that happened to them, before sending a large part of the remnants through a one-way portal to Europa to find Agatha.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The Silverodeon Agatha is given to distract her was wrecked by a gigantic bat, which had then gone marauding before being shot down by one of the Baron's warships.
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  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After the mess at Sturmhalten, Agatha looks at her locket, and remembers how she used to look at the photos of her parents in there, hoping they'd reappear one day and tell her something like she was a princess. Certainly, her mother came back, and Agatha did turn out to be more important than she thought.
  • Berserk Button: Agatha accidentally hits one of Zeetha's, refusing to insist she be allowed to wield one of Zeetha's swords when told she can't yet, since she deduces she'd learn in some hilarious fashion that she wasn't prepared to do so. Zeetha goes into a rage and spends the rest of the day pushing Agatha's training mercilessly, but she does eventually explain her problem. Skifander tradition involves learning to wield the swords, specifically letting them try when they ask but before they are ready, to teach the "you are not ready" lesson. Her much more skilled cousin had a fatal accident trying.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Lucrezia indulges in quite a few stimulants to keep herself up and moving around her priestesses. When she's put away and Agatha is back in control of her body she crashes hard.
  • Brick Joke: See below under Gone Horribly Right; Dame Aedith is later shown being harassed by the bat while trying to do her knife-act in Sturmhalten.
  • Broken Bird: Pix. Exactly what caused it is unclear, but the woman has a great deal of issues.
  • Business Trip Adultery: Played With Lord Rudolph Selnikoff is quite blatantly having an affair, or at least regular dalliances, while his wife is away in Paris or whenever she is on one of her adventures. This is part of the reason he managed not to notice Prince Aaronev's death, since he ordered his staff to give him time alone. For several hours.
  • Composite Character: In-universe, with the High Priestess, the stock character representing all the various women Bill and Barry tended to run into during their exploits.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover depicts Agatha wielding a sword against Anevka on an open lawn outside of Sturmhalten Castle, while Agatha's distress signal plays in the background and Krosp observes from an elevated perch. Lucrezia-in-Agatha does attack Anevka with a sword at one point, but it happens down in the castle cellars, and Krosp is nowhere nearby at the time.
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: Wooster can't figure out why he feels guilty about alienating Agatha and Gil when it's obviously for England's benefit.
  • The Dead Have Names: Averted. When Tarvek and Clank!Lucrezia discuss one of Anevka's dead servants, Tarvek admits he has no idea what the man's name was. Lucrezia decides to name him after a cat of hers that she murdered.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: The Passholdt Fried Cream Things are deep-fried lemon custard. The book includes a recipe. The recipe actually works.
  • Dem Bones: The upholstery in Dupree's private quarters consist near-entirely of bones. And that includes the lampshades. Klaus has made very sure they're not human bones.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The footnotes — and Phil's own appearance — treat this as a history the authors have compiled.
  • Dirty Business: Wooster realizes his profession (as a spy, not a butler) is this after he tries to tank Gil's and Agatha's romance by lying about Gil getting engaged. He feels oddly guilty about it.
  • Exact Words:
    • Dame Aedith's wagon has a sign on it proclaiming its owner can cure anaemia, sleepwalking and aversions to garlic. It just doesn't specify as to how.
    • A poem quoted toward the end of the book goes on about how the Heterodynes will return, bringing glory and wonders never seen with them. The second verse then adds they'll return and ask what the hell everyone has been doing while they were gone, because the monsters are on their tail.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: A variation is told with Baron Wulfenbach and two snake-like constructs. Klaus was wearing body armor under his coat, and chose to spare the life of the construct who was able to go against her nature and not try to kill him.
  • Footnote Fever: Footnotes that expand on points and backstory are used first here and implemented in every book there after.
  • Foreign Queasine: The Geisterdamen opinion on food in Europa. They've survived largely on a special cheese of their own making. Using milk from their spiders.
  • Foreshadowing: The (wasped) messenger from Sturmhalten is identified as a Count of the Blitzengaard family, making him a relative of Tarvek, and Martellus (whose appearance is a long-way off in the books). That he is wasped is also a minor factor for the next book.
  • For the Evulz: The Spark who created the clank that attacks the Circus had a habit of doing this, creating machines or monsters and sending them out on random paths of destruction to keep things from being "boring". Needless to say, the Baron made sure his demise was anything but.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: There are very few in the Circus who actually like Pix, possibly on account of her being rude, haughty, self-focused, loud, and just generally unpleasant. Though everyone admits that she is an excellent actress.
  • Gentle Giant:
    • Sergeant Nak, one of the many monsters in the Baron's employ is large, terrifying-looking... and actually something of a sweetie. The Baron encourages this, because it scares the hell out of people.
    • From what we see of him, Yeti the Circus member is very calm and easy-going.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Vampire-hunter Dame Aedith tests a small box-like device that Agatha has been fiddling with. Seconds later, a large and overly friendly bat appears and becomes her unwanted permanent traveling companion. Agatha belatedly reads the label on the device and learns it's designed to summon bats, with someone having added a note stating it works "exceedingly well".
  • Heartbroken Badass: Gil, after he thinks Agatha died, starts largely falling apart. He channels his pain into cleaning up the Wastelands of constructs and clanks, which Klaus does at least approve of.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Agatha's outfit while performing in the notoriously saucy Socket Wench of Prague is noted to be leather.
  • Hotter and Sexier: In print form, no less. In the original comic, when Lucrezia decides to "admire" Agatha's body, she strips down to her skivvies. Here, she strips down completely.
  • Hypocritical Humour: When getting dressed for her first Heterodyne Show, Agatha compares the thought of people walking by while she's in a state of undress as being similar to those of scandalous sociological experiments conducted back in Beetleburg. Of course, she never got to attend those because there were so many volunteers.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Tarvek is perturbed when he learns what the Geisterdamen make their cheese out of (giant spider secretions), since he'd eaten quite a lot of it.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Jägers take up human hobbies to reconnect with their lost humanity. Oggie tries to set up his descendants on dates (which has led to Phil being the last of his line), while Dimo apparently knits multicolored socks. Agatha herself experiences shades of this while traveling with the circus but following her fight with the Baron and his forces, she accepts this was never a realistic possibility.
  • I Want Grandkids: Oggie in fact wants great-great-great grandchildren, and frequently tries to help his descendants in this regard. The operative word being "tries".
  • Love Epiphany:
    • Tarvek has one, when he sees that Agatha is ready to give herself up to the Baron to keep the Other from taking over Europa.
    And seeing her there-seeing the fear in her eyes, alongside the simple raw courage, Tarvek realized that he would do anything. Move mountains, crush cities, toss all of his carefully laid plans into disarray, if that was what it would take to help protect this young girl who was willing to sacrifice herself in order to save Europa, who was standing there alone and helpless before him.
    • Lars has one as well, again directed towards Agatha.
  • Made of Iron: The Jägers, as one would expect as the creations of the Heterodynes. And yet the Slaver Wasps managed to kill three of them.
  • Mad Artist: A rare subset of the Spark, who design things not in an attempt to see whether they can turn entire towns into ham, but simply because it makes the world look nicer. Who cares if it doesn't change science as they know it? It's Art!
  • Mad Scientist: Aside from the obvious ones, Klaus (being Klaus) also has a number of mad social scientists on his payroll. They're used to help with morale.
  • Make an Example of Them: Anyone who messes with warning signs in the Baron's territory and gets caught tends to end up becoming a sign themselves.
  • Moment Killer: When it seems like Agatha and Lars might have to share the Baba Yaga, Krosp intervenes in the way only a cat can: by being an utter nuisance.
  • Master Actress: Pix; able to fool Gilgamesh Wulfenbach a genius and leader into thinking she's just an ignorant peasant and keeping to the script even when there is a very good chance she'll get killed in the attempt. The rest of the book goes into her other exploits but this is one of her Establishing Character Moment.
  • Noodle Incident: Many, in the footnotes, and the exploits of the Heterodyne Boys.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Infiltrating Passholdt proves unnervingly quiet. The circus waits for hours by the only bridge leading to it, and not a single person comes over it. And as Lars explains, while looking around the town there were several farms outside that had apparently just been abandoned. Or in some cases, burnt out. The circus eventually learns all too well what the problem is.
  • Not So Harmless Punishment: In reference to Master Payne previously dealing with a trouble-causing member of the Circus:
    "His firing had been cathartic however, even if it had taken awhile to put out."
  • Old Shame: In-universe, the Fifty Families aren't terribly proud of their origins... because it sounds too much like actual labor, not because their ancestors were murdering bastards.
  • Opposites Attract: Agatha explicitly notes that she and Lars are a case of this, in that while he's certainly not stupid, he's also about as far from being a scientist or an intellectual as you can get.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: One chapter begins with a song that is apparently uncredited, with a following note stating that, no, really, the authors don't know who wrote it, just in case the Fifty Families take offense.
  • The Prima Donna: Pix is actually called as such, and she really is. Master Payne seriously considers at one point just locking her up in a chest and dropping her into a lake, the only reason he hasn't is a magician doesn't do the same thing twice. Mind you Pix has the acting talent to back this up.
  • Retired Badass:
    • Mention is made of one of the Heterodyne Boys' allies, a sentient magnet, retiring to the North Pole.
    • Lord Selnikov, a man in his middle ages who has gone to seed, led a team into an overrun Passholdt, grab what they were after and get out again.
  • The Reveal: Why do Slaver Wasps not affect Sparks? A conversation between Anevka and Lord Selnikov reveals it's not because of a lack of ability. The Other just made a promise to the Knights of Jove not to infect them.
  • Rewrite: On occasion, moments from the comic are altered.
    • Instead of calmly accepting the news, the Jäger generals go on a fake rampage when the Baron presents the corpse of "Agatha".
    • When Tarvek casually mentions to Lucrezia that he has uncertainties about leaving Sturmhalten, in the comic Lucrezia's reaction is one of offense / annoyance, in the book it's instead deep sorrow.
    • As the Jagers nearly stumble on the Geisterdamen march, they're mentioned to be walking past in grim stoicism, as opposed to the comics, where several Geisters are chatting and laughing between themselves.
    • When Klaus figures out that Agatha is in Sturmhalten, he provides a full chain of logic and calculates based on time versus distance and the fact that Passholdt is out of commission, on top of the fact that that Aaronev loves Heterodyne shows, that the circus is currently in Balan’s Gap. In the comic, his only reasoning is that Aaronev was fiercely loyal to Lucrezia, which made it seem like he was only going off a hunch, whereas the novel lays out a solid chain of reasoning where he establishes that Balan’s Gap is at the very least n excellent starting point for searching for Agatha.
  • Rooting for the Empire: invoked In-universe, Lucrezia Mongfish is one of the most popular characters in the Heterodyne Boy plays... right up until the inevitable third-act loved-based redemption.
  • Samaritan Relationship Starter: Tarvek seems to fall in love with Agatha partly because he sees how she is ready to sacrifice herself to prevent the Other from taking over Europa.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Back in Beetleburg, Professor Beetle had made it so that Agatha was allowed to attend whatever lesson or lecture she wished, regardless of how unpopular she was.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Inverted when Agatha is invited to dinner with Prince Aaronev. Her circus friends make her look as plain and unappealing as possible to make sure she doesn't have to worry about any unwanted advances. Tarvek (being an expert on fashion) is initially mildly put out and thinks they tried to send the wrong girl... until he realizes that it was completely intentional, and is impressed by the genius of it: Perfectly neutral, too ugly to attract attention, but not so much that the prince would take it as an intentional insult.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One of the chapter quotes is a snippet of dialogue from The Socket Wench of Prague, and is a parody of a similar quote in The King in Yellow.
    • One of the tools in Circus-member Rivet's vast collection is a sonic screwdriver.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    • Given the setting, it's not entirely unsurprising that this attitude exists. Bang has encountered people with these attitudes towards her. Consequently, the people who replace them do not share these opinions, and are exceedingly polite towards Bang for good measure. Klaus is well aware of this, and doesn't mind.
    • The Baron's all-female forces encounter this too. Then they go and turn their opponents into smoking craters.
  • Threatening Shark: A bizarre shark-like construct, with mouths at both ends, is one of the many horrific things in the Wastelands. Fortunately for the circus, it ran into Da Boyz first, and wound up being dinner.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Pix, after she gets into a relationship with Abner. She even starts doing things when asked.
  • True Art Is Angsty: In-universe, a music instructor back in Beetleburg thought that 14 year old Agatha "lacked the raw emotion" to be a great musician.
  • Trust Password: Lucrezia had one set up in order to recognize other copies of her consciousness — Tarvek notes that when Lucrezia-in-Agatha and Lucrezia-in-Anevka's-Clank-Body first interact, they blink complicated patterns back and forth to confirm their identities.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: A recurring problem with Sparks. One Mongfish of note mysteriously died trying to study the phenomenon.
  • The Unintelligible: A footnote handily explains that in order to represent Agatha's confusion on hearing the Geisterdamen language, which doesn't follow European linguistic roots, the authors have rendered it entirely as gibberish.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Jäger Generals, when they are informed Agatha has died. It takes Klaus over half an hour of sustained fighting to subdue them. Subverted in that while Jägers never need an excuse to fight, it's ultimately all an act to throw off Klaus; the Jägers can tell immediately by smell that it's not Agatha's burned body.
  • The Un-Reveal:
    • Vriin gives Agatha a lot of information about The Other, and the geisterdamen, but the way she phrases it means it's still not absolutely clear what happened with Lucrezia and The Other. Likewise, on one or two occasions the narration briefly goes to the Other / Lucrezia's point of view... but doesn't give anything away.
    • Whatever it was that actually happened at Sturmhalten between Andronicus Valois and Blädtharst Heterodyne. Just as Krosp is about to explain it, Agatha dumps a bucket of water over him.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Working royalty", which here refers to Bang's position as a pirate queen. A footnote states more than one party was dramatically livened up when some noble didn't understand what it meant.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The Storm King's Muses were very specifically programmed to never tell him what to do, just give him general advice. This leads to them being frustratingly vague, which is why he is happily surprised when they come to him one day and simply explain the Heterodyne's plans. Because it is too late to stop them.
  • Whatevermancy: In the prologue, the Storm King refers to Sparks as Thinkomancers.
  • What Is This Feeling?: Krosp feels what might just be pity for the first time when Zeetha drags a sleep-deprived Agatha out to train.
  • The Wicked Stage: When the rescue party barges into Lord Selnikov's pantry the on duty butler is rightly flumexed by the warrior woman, Jägers and constructs but when its mentioned that Lars is an actor the Butler is able to revert to his social programming and goes to hide the silverware.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Dame Aedith intermittently talks in this fashion.
  • You Are Who You Eat: Brillat-Savarin fell victim to this when a not particularly bright construct took the saying literally, decided it wanted to be Brillat-Savarin, and ate him.

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