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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 9 May 2011
"I wasn't born a Shepherd, Mal."
"You have to tell me about that sometime."
"No, I don't."

A graphic novel about Shepherd Book was never going to be as good as a Book-centric episode of Firefly. But wait - it is. (And hell,
he deserves it for his meager role in Serenity.)

"A Shepherd's Tale" is a heavily biographical series of flashbacks through the life of Shepherd Derrial Book. It illustrates where Shepherd
Book was as a child, a teen and a grown man, and does so in a spectacularly unexpected narrative style. There are more than a few twists in
the Shepherd's Tale, and for all those Browncoats eager to discover just how he knows so much about the Alliance, this is a necessity.

If, like me, you are not an avid comic-book reader, there are a few things you should remember. This is not simply a book. The visuals are
as relevant as the text, if not more so. Incredible love and care have been put into the illustrations. Treat this graphic novel like another
episode of Firefly, not like a novel. Read it slowly. Ron Glass played Book with cool wisdom and Zen-like composure, and these qualities
are prominent throughout the story - the narrative style fits Book's character perfectly.

Of course it's not as snappy as an episode of Firefly. There's no music, and the dialogue is less playful. But Malcom Reynolds is a
young man. Book is not. Just appreciate what there is here.

And if you are a graphic novel fan, well, why haven't you bought a copy already?
The book itself is a treasure. Hardcover, high-quality printing, great cover art, and an author's note at the back. Very well presented,
and well worth the money.
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on 9 November 2010
It seems like ages since Dark Horse announced Wash one-shot and The Shepherd's Tale, and as such there's been a massive anticipation amongst Firefly/Serenity fans for this release which finally delves into the complex and intriguing back story of Shepherd Book. The Was one-shot 'Float Out', released a few months ago, was quite disappointing - mostly for a lack of Wash actually being in it, and slightly lowered my expectations for this book. However, it has been worth the wait. The whole story is told through Book's eyes, framed by a scene from the Serenity film. And it is excellent. The story is told in a very filmic way, working its way backwards through Book's life, giving the reader a backwards character developmentwhich excellently hides the twists in the story. The pace is very quick, as every six or so pages you are whisked back several years to understand Book's motives for what you just read. In this way, the story is constantly movng and doesn't drag, but it also means that several important or enjoyable scenarios aren't fully expanded on, for example the last segment which explains Book's childhood could have been expanded to have more of an impact, or Book's role as an Alliance Officer in the war could have been further expanded given the Browncoat perspective of Mal and Zoe being a big part of the show's backstory. Other these quibbles the story gives you about all you could want from Book's backstory, and is excellently written and scripted. The only other complaint I have is with the art. It is in keeping with the style of art used in the other Serenity comics, but it is noticably less detailed, with some characters bearing little resemblance to their TV counterparts and with some charcters and settings reduced to key images.

However, these are minor irritants. Overall The Shepherd's Tale gives Serenity fans exactly what they want in spades and expands the Firefly universe strongly. It is well written and comes highly recommended, and the current Amazon price is the best you will find anywhere. Here's hoping to another Serenity comic next year!
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on 27 May 2014
This short book (only 48 pages of story) does what it sets out to, it's a prequel to the Serenity movie, filling in Shepherd Book's mysterious background in a series of short flashbacks taking us in stages backwards from the Serenity movie back to his childhood. This obviously means that the rest of the Firefly crew barely appear, but then this is Shepherd's story, not a Firefly episode. While Book's back-story is something viewers have been waiting for for a long time it's presented here as a series of events rather than as a story, so rather than a tale in which we learn about Book's dark past, instead we get his life flashing before him, which may have worked beautifully within the context of a larger story, but her it feels a bit like reading a resume.

The artwork is lovely inky brushwork by Chris Samnee, with colour by Dave Stewart, reminding me a lot of Batman Year One. The art's nice & clear & easy to follow (unlike a lot of modern comics) & Samnee nicely captures Book's likeness (the brief cameos of the other Firefly characters fare less well, relying on clothes & hair colour to identify them, but it's still clear who's who).

The story by Zack Whedon is based on an outline by Joss Whedon (judging by comments in Zack's Afterword Joss' outline was probably extremely sparse), so don't expect anything recognizable as Joss Whedon's work (no funny bits or quirky language, not even any imaginative cursing in Chinese).

Overall this is a nice read with excellent art, that fills us in on the backstory that the TV series never got a chance to tell, but the brevity of the book means that this feels more like information than entertainment. This is not the way the story would've been told if it had been told in the Firefly series, but it's the only option we've got. So 5 stars for finally giving us the backstory we've been waiting for, but cut back to 3 for not feeling like a lost episode of Firefly.

Maybe it would've worked better as an audio adventure read by Ron Glass (Book in the series), similair to the Doctor Who audios.
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This is an excellent episode in the Firefly serial, which through a series of well-chosen flashbacks, takes us sequentially backwards through the life of Shepherd Book, starting from the settlement we saw him living in in Serenity [Blu-ray] [Region Free], through his leaving the crews of Serenity, to his leaving his abbey, through his leaving his down and out life as he finds a religious calling (and one of the best religious awakenings I have seen portrayed), through his leaving his military career with the Alliance, through his leaving the Independence movement, through hs leaving his life on the streets, through him leaving his home... and so on. Each flashback scene reveals something about the preceding (future) scene, usually something you were not expecting, and all reveal something about the lives that Shepherd Book kept leaving behind him.

This is a superbly scripted and well-illustrated story that fills in some of the history of the Firefly/Serenity continuum. It is completely `in-continuity' and gives away no spoilers of anyone else's storylines, while fully illuminating the life of Shepherd Book.
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on 2 May 2015
I spent every episode of 'Firefly' wondering who Shepherd Book really was; he obviously had skills beyond those expected of a preacher. I loved the way that this graphic novel peels back the layers to show not only how he found God in a bowl of soup, but how he gained all those skills we catch glimpses of, how he came to have the I.D. that gained top class medical treatment from the Alliance.
To go with the well constructed storyline, this novel offers some excellent art-work that is worth taking your time over. Although it takes us back in time to reveal how Book came to be, it stays true to the characters created by Whedon.
A thoroughly excellent read that I would recommend to anyone.
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on 27 July 2014
I bought this book because I really, really wanted to know more about Shepherd Book. There are hints throughout Firefly that there's more to him and meets the eye. I was eaten up with curiosity about him.

The book is short and fast paced. It answers the questions, sure, but it's just lumps of backstory. There is no sense of unity, no real characterisation. If you haven't see Firefly (even if you HAVE seen Serenity) you would feel no connection to the characters whatsoever. It just wouldn't stand alone.

I really wanted to like this... but I felt it was an addendum. Not a story in itself.
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on 19 January 2012
I did read the various reviews before I bought this graphic novella, and decided to take the risk. I now regret that. The story basically is a series of flash backs, each taking you a few years further back, each either linked or related, but none satisfying, and while Shepherds back ground is explained, it's feels like it's just a pander to those who could only believe that he was ever good, so even where he's been bad there have been reasons.

This is the sort of story you wish had not been done, and instead Shepherd's back ground left a mystery. Early parts are just refreshes of existing knowledge and later (earlier in his life) vignettes are quickly over. Also at least one of these makes an incident in the television show impossible to happen.

If you are going to buy this, look for a second hand copy, you'll be less upset by the cost.
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on 22 December 2013
Arrived in perfect condition. Didn't realise it was a hardback till it got here, was a nice surprise, i should read descriptions more cafefully. Will be perfect for a friend who is a fan of everything serenity/firefly quantum mechanix stuff
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on 12 May 2012
I had bought everything to do with Firefly I came across. Eager, mostly, to find out about Book. Standing out as such an interesting character in an ensemble of interesting characters, his background was tantalising.

And finally we get it.

The format is clever. I might not have "got it" had it not been explained in sleeves notes (I don't tend to look for subtext). But knowing it from that, it is clever. That his journey through life is all about movement, and pinned around specific signficant events, the story starts where his life ended then tracks back to the previous significant event and leads up to where we left off.

Personally, I had figured Book to have had a more independant and covert role in the Alliance, but what we're told, it works. So glad to finally get to grips with the story.
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on 22 December 2011
The background of Shepard Book remained mysterious and unknown through the short half-season of Firefly and its follow-up film, Serenity, with just vague hints to show that he once had a life very different from that of a wise old preacher. I always assumed that this was because Joss Whedon felt that allusion and hints had created something so interesting and elusive that revealing Book's true past would inevitably end up disappointing the audience. Accordingly, when I saw this, I was delighted. "Surely," thought I, "the long silence regarding Book's past has only been broken because the writers thought up something even better than whatever we could imagine. They wouldn't ruin his aura of mystery for no good reason. Instant purchase!" I was totally mistaken. Far from giving wider contexts to the small elements of Book's backstory that were shown in the series, the comic contradicts them. It is told in reverse chronological order (a bit like Memento, except, you know, bad) and simply gives snapshots of various parts of his life rather than a coherent narrative. ***Minor spoiler alert*** (until the end of this paragraph): only a few of the glimpses show him in employment with the Alliance, and they make total nonsense of an incident in the show where he was helped by the Alliance, as, frankly, if the events in the comic are regarded as canon, I don't see why the Alliance would ever help him with *anything*.

The visual elements are okay (not amazing, but not incompetent), which made me contemplate giving this two stars for all of, say, two seconds. I didn't because the story drags everything else down.

To conclude: I wish I could unread this comic. I would have felt cheated even if I hadn't paid for it, but, because I did, I feel doubly cheated. I write this review so that you can avoid my mistake. While most of the reviews here are positive (which is part of what led me to buy it), the product's page on Amazon.com has many more reviews, a large proportion of them negative. I wish that I had seen them first. See here for the one-star reviews (some of which contain spoilers, but, frankly, I think the comic comes pre-spoiled due to its awful quality) [...]
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