A fast-paced genre mashup sure to find a cult following.

THE WITCH OWL PARLIAMENT

From the Clockwork Curandera series , Vol. 1

Mix Fullmetal Alchemist with steampunk in a fictionalized version of 19th-century Mexico, and you have Bowles and Raúl the Third’s new graphic series.

It’s 1865, and Cristina Franco is an apprentice curandera, or healer. The witch owls lay siege to the East Laredo train depot in the Republic of Santander, where she awaits her brother Enrique’s return, and despite the best efforts of her green magic, she is fatally wounded. All is not lost, however, as Enrique has been studying alchemy and engineering while he was away at university. He uses his new skills to bring Cristina back and creates mechanical limbs for her. Yet Cristina struggles with this blasphemy, knowing it will result in her expulsion from her curandera community just as the witch owls are rising to terrorize Santander. The pace is fast and clipped, with little time for worldbuilding; even brief flashback scenes can cause more confusion than clarity. Nevertheless, the combination of steampunk and cyberpunk genres in such a novel setting will appeal to many. Readers lacking a familiarity with the mestizo and Indigenous cultures of Mexico may be inspired to learn more in order to fully appreciate this work. Illustrated in black, red, and, occasionally, green ink on a background that mimics the sepia tones of old paper, the dramatic and expressive artwork and creative use of panels greatly enhance the reading experience.

A fast-paced genre mashup sure to find a cult following. (maps, author's note, sketches) (Graphic fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62014-592-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A sweet romantic fantasy that tackles the uncertain future.

CRUMBS

A seer (with limitations) experiences first love as she tries to navigate her future.

Unlike traditional seers, Ray can only see a person’s present, not their future. Despite the frustrating limitations of her gift, Ray studies at the Council Academy, hoping to join the Grand Council of Sorcerers. As a weekly reprieve, she visits Marigold’s Bakery, where the pastries possess spells to help manifest desired emotions or outcomes; Ray always chooses “romance.” It is there she meets barista Laurie, the owner’s nephew and an aspiring musician. The pair grow closer after Laurie invites Ray to an open mic night with his friends. As Ray contemplates whether the future she’s been working toward is truly the right one for her, Laurie is learning how to overcome rejection after rejection in his musical career. Despite life’s curveballs, each learns to look inward for answers but also lean into the other. Stirling’s graphic novel, adapted from a webcomic, presents readers with an enthralling new world brimming with magic. The bright pastel palette makes it all the more inviting. Steady pacing allows the story to blossom as Ray and Laurie grow as a couple and navigate the disappointments that come with chasing dreams. Brown-skinned Ray is fat with wavy brown hair; racially ambiguous Laurie has straight black hair, black eyes, and light skin. The supporting cast is diverse in race, sexuality, and body type.

A sweet romantic fantasy that tackles the uncertain future. (Graphic fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-46779-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Etch/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A romantic romp through the supernatural.

BLACKWATER

Blackwater, Maine, isn’t an ordinary town, but Eli Hirsch and Tony Price are mostly ordinary boys.

Eli, a trans Jewish boy, is isolated by an autoimmune disease, an overbearing mother, and a standoffish attitude. Popular track star Tony, who is cued as Puerto Rican, fights with his distant father and is watching his childhood best friend turn into a bully. But mysterious things are afoot: Tony is bitten by a werewolf, and Eli is being followed by a ghost. Trying to unravel the werewolf curse, Tony, Eli, and Marcia, Tony’s levelheaded goth friend who reads as Black, investigate, coming across intriguing complications and haunting dangers. The horror elements are playful, spooky, but not too frightening, providing a backdrop that adds to the developing relationship between the boys. Despite some animosity, they accept one another exactly as they are, with no pretenses, as their friendship turns into a mutual crush. There’s a kind earnestness to their connection, particularly Tony’s easygoing support toward Eli’s chronic illness. An exciting element lies in the artwork: The creators illustrate alternate chapters, with Arroyo’s vivid and dynamic lines and more cartoonish style serving action scenes well and Graham’s precise approach highlighting more heartfelt, character-driven moments. The styles blend together seamlessly to make a stronger whole. However, the story, while breezy and enjoyable, feels incomplete, missing details that would make characters and their emotional arcs more complex.

A romantic romp through the supernatural. (Graphic horror. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-30402-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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