Release Date: September 27, 2011
More Info: Amazon The Book Depository
Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Master storyteller Jane Yolen ("Owl Moon" and "Sword of the Rightful King") and celebrated fantasy artist Rebecca Guay ("Swamp Thing" and "Magic: The Gathering") weave a textured and lyrical tale of adventure, homelands, and heroism the hard way. Two hundred years ago, humans drove the dragons from the islands of May. Now, the last of the dragons rises to wreak havoc anew - with only a healer's daughter and a kite-flying would-be hero standing in its way.
The illustrations in this graphic novel are amazing, perhaps my favorite part of the whole novel: Lush yet with a beautiful, delicate simplicity, imaginative, captivating; the images bring the story to life. There is a vaguely Japanese feel to the illustrations, reminiscent of Japanese paintings and scrolls with the spare, clean, evocative lines and the gentle shades of color. Despite the Japanese influence, it was never clear what background the people had - some looked Oriental, some Caucasian, while the names of people and places were clearly of British derivation. The dragon too blended characteristics of both Oriental and European dragons.
Like the artwork, the story is a mishmash of myths, fairy tales, and folk tales, blended into an all new story that has the look and feel of a classical myth. The setting appears to be Europe in the Middle Ages, but again, the details are vague. At times, the landscape resembles Japan. The dialogue too is a mix of contemporary American and a cleaned up, modern version of Middle English.
The story is fairly simple, and utilizes classical tropes, it's a modern take on a classic hero's quest. But the "hero" is a coward and a liar; he's more interested in taking the reward and leaving before he has to actually face the dragon. Still, he works with Tansy, the daughter of the town's healer, who was also a victim of the dragon. Tansy is both smart and clever and in conjunction with Lancot, (reminiscent of Lancelot from the Camelot myths) come up with a plan that relies on cunning and reflexes more than strength. Tansy and her sisters are a female version of the traditional three brothers leave home and set out to find their fortunes. In this story, though, it's daughters and they don't leave home to find their fortunes or happy endings but find them in their village. There were a few nice little twists and turns and yes, there's a happy ending, unlike most myths.
The text was sparse yet evocative:
"dragons slept by the ocean's edge, in the green shade of trees that wept their leaves into the water.";
"At sunset the low tide scrapes the beach, pulling cold fingers the sand and rock."
It worked well with the artwork, not overwhelming it, but adding to it. Both Yolen and Guay had a good feel for when to let the artwork speak and when to add text. They makes full use of the graphic novel format and it works beautifully. The art is crucial to telling the story. The story itself could have used a bit more fleshing out; Tansy and her sisters sometimes felt like cardboard figures, with not much to distinguish them. The story is aimed at younger readers, approximately Middle Grade, or 8 to 13 years. There's enough meat to the story to hold the attention of the younger readers, maybe not the older ones. It will likely encourage some readers to seek out some of the older versions of fairy tales, or classical Greek and Roman mythology or look up Chinese and Japanese fairy tales, and that's an awesome thing as far as I'm concerned.
Whatever your age, this is well worth your time, if only for the illustrations.
I received this eARC from NetGalley.