A night in the swamp converts a mild-mannered clerk into a wily yarn spinner in this hair-raising tribute to the life-changing power of stories.
In his debut, Merritt shows both a knack for evocative phrasing—“evening shadows had sidled in like predators seeking out the sick animals in a herd”—and a deft hand at crafting flamboyantly icky monsters in creepy settings. He sends his nerdy-looking protagonist into the murky gloom of Halfrock Swamp, where the price for a room at the only shelter, rickety Cankerbury Inn, is a story. A story? Jonathan York has none to tell. None, that is, until he’s cast out into the night and into the clutches of the extraordinarily toothy West Bleekport Gang, then swallowed by the dreaded Bogglemyre (to be ejected “with one great phlegm-rattling belch…like a human loogie”). Proving increasingly quick both of wit and feet, he escapes the terror-scenting Fear’im Gnott and numerous other hazards on the way back to the inn and, one yarn later, a well-earned night’s sleep. “Time will take many things from you,” the innkeeper declares, but “you’ll always have your story.” The atmospheric drawings not only offer an array of luxuriantly grotesque swamp residents to ogle, but sometimes even take over for the legibly hand-lettered narrative by expanding into wordless sequences and side tales.
Poor Jonathan York, condemned to newfound self-confidence and awed listeners wherever he goes. (Graphic fantasy. 11-14)