Digger: The Complete Omnibus Edition by Ursula Vernon

The Blurb On The Back:

Digger is the story of a shrewd, sensible wombat engineer named Digger-of-unnecessarily-convoluted-tunnels, who finds herself stranded in a fantasy world that is far from sensible.  Thrust into the middle of a puzzling and often perilous situation involving gods, demons, destiny and redemption she finds her way based on a pragmatic honesty and the sincere belief in doing the right thing.  He only wish is to return home, but along the way she makes enemies into friends, friends into heroes, the weak into warriors, and monsters into … better monsters.

Digger is a serious fantasy tale that manages to be both meaningful and light-hearted.  It explores complex themes of honor, responsibility, and the grey areas between right and wrong, but it does so with a frequent application of humour, wit and absurdity that keeps the story lively.  It is an adventure story that can be fully enjoyed by young adult readers, but it also has levels of complexity in its humour and themes that become deeper and more meaningful with age and experience.  

You can order Digger: The Complete Omnibus Edition by Ursula Vernon from Amazon UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Digger-of-unnecessarily-convoluted-tunnels (Digger for short) is a wombat engineer who hits a patch bad earth while tunnelling that leaves her dazed and disorientated.  She eventually emerges in a temple, right in front of a statue inhabited by the spirit of Lord Ganesh who gives her the bad news that the tunnel is polluted by magic, making it unwise for Digger to use it to retrace her steps back to her family.  The temple is near the farming community of Rath in the foothills of the Cerulean Mountains but Digger hasn’t heard of either of location and the temple librarians haven’t dealt with any wombats before and need to do some research to try and work out how she can get home.

As she waits for the librarians, Digger encounters and forms a friendship with an exiled, nameless hyena who she names Ed, draws the suspicions of Captain Jhalm who heads up Lord Ganesh’s Veiled guards, becomes the unwilling mentor to what may or may not be a demon called Shadowchild, unwillingly uses the services of a 19-year-old hag multiple times, and teams up with Murai (an acolyte of Lord Ganesh who’s been driven insane by a different god) to help Lord Ganesh get to the bottom of how magic got into her tunnel and whether someone – or something – decided to specifically bring Digger to Lord Ganesh’s temple and why they did so …

Ursula Vernon’s Hugo-award winning web comic has been compiled into this stunning omnibus that comes with bonus material, including web commentary and a colour supplement.  It’s a great story filled with great characters all told with humour and humanity and in which Vernon skilfully balancing a number of different plot lines and playing with traditional fantasy archetypes and themes.  In short, it’s worth your time and your money.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this book – the characters are all very well drawn (both literally and figuratively).  The pragmatic Digger is, naturally enough, front and centre of the story having to adjust to her change in circumstances and remain patient as Lord Ganesh’s librarians work out how to get home.  I really loved how Vernon weaves the fact that she’s a wombat into the world building, especially the engineering and mining references, which really enrich her background and character.  

However there really isn’t a duff character in the book – they all have great detail to them and are lovingly crafted and the interactions are all just great.  I especially loved the scenes between Digger and Shadowchild (which made me giggle out loud but which also tackle serious questions of what it means to be good) but it’s the relationship between Digger and poor, pitiful Ed that gives the book its heart.  This is partly because Ed brings into the story an over-arching mythology and details about hyena society, which play out through the rest of the book, but also just because of the journey he goes on in the book – from sadness and despair to one of friendship and determination.  Mention should also be made of Murai, who was driven insane while on a mission for the temple, and whose sense of destiny makes Digger wary.

There’s a lot of humour throughout the book and so many funny scenes and moments – from vampire pumpkins to pirate shoes and slugs who give prophecies.  There’s also a lot of sadness as well, including Ed’s backstory and the possibility that Digger will never get back to her home and family.  I loved the fact that the majority of characters in the book are female because, sadly, that’s still a rarity and yet there is no discussion of their gender – it’s a complete non-issue.

The artwork is great – all black and white but there’s so much detail in there and every frame is just a gem.  This omnibus comes with a lot of bonus content, including a foreword by Phil Foglio and a publisher’s note, plus the web commentary, an honour roll of people who helped fund the book into print and a colour supplement.

All in all I just think this is a triumph from beginning to end and is well worth your time and your money if you’re into fantasy or just good storytelling with something to say and a sense of humour.

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