This is a review for both Boxers AND Saints. You will find the same review in both review spaces.
I read both of these graphic novels in the same night. I had been told the ending for the first book was pretty brutal (and it was) and that it might affect my enjoyment of the story. It did. So I started Saints right after finishing Boxers. That's right. I read 512 pages of graphic novel in one night. Graphic novels usually read pretty quickly though, and I am finding that reading them is a quick way to catch up on those pesky yearly reading challenges. This one read slower than most, and that's because it's one of those stories you just get sucked into and you want to savor every part of what you are reading.
The artwork is not particularly colorful but the panels make you stop and pause at times because of the characters' expressions and the emotions the illustrations convey. I just wanted to read it slow and take my time. The story is easy to get lost in, particularly in Boxers. It sucks you in and doesn't let go until the final pages. I didn't feel quite the same with Saints as I did with Boxers though, and I guess I'd better explain.
Something about the story in Saints just wasn't as written as well as the first. It's very hard to pinpoint, but I didn't find it as immersive and I didn't have the same emotional connection to Vibiana as I did to Bao. I felt bad for Vibiana and the unfairness of being painted in an ugly way when she was innocent, but I didn't really get her character. I thought her motivations for becoming Christian were a little ridiculous, and though I felt for her, I couldn't get behind her actions. I thought they were a bit silly.
Boxers, on the other hand, is amazingly written. The mythology and fighting and the way everything comes together is just something to behold. It was also extremely interesting to someone who basically knows diddly sguat about the Boxer Rebellion. They never taught it to us in school, so these days I am learning A LOT from the books I read. Now that I know something about this topic, I would definitely be interested in learning more. I think these novels are a great place to start if you want to learn about the topic.
Together both books are an amazing experience. I definitely would recommend reading them together. You won't like the ending of the first one and the second book isn't very long, so why not?
Also, look at the covers. Isn't the way the faces match up incredibly cool? The spines also do the same thing so they look pretty awesome on the shelf.
SO yes, I do recommend reading them. I think they are both incredibly done, interesting, and I think the characters are interesting. The panels are easy to follow, and for the most part they flow well. There are a couple of places where I was confused because the story jumped, but it wasn't anything to hinder my enjoyment at all. If this is a topic you are interested in, you like historical fiction set in China, and you are looking for a fairly quick read, this is the graphic novel duo to choose.