A sure bet for young readers who may be cultivating interests in ancient history.

BLACK SANDS

THE SEVEN KINGDOMS

This graphic novel collects the first three installments of young prince Ausar’s adventures in ancient Kemet.

Human civilization is 1,000 years old, and nations fight over finite resources as strange gods called “ancients” look on. Prince Ausar is the grandson of Rah, the current pharaoh of ancient Kemet. Ausar spent five years honing his impressive strength and speed under Rah, but the boy still has an impetuous streak. One day, the god and mentor Tehuti brings Ausar and several other powerful young royals—including Ausar’s sister, Auset, who can control weather and other aspects of nature; Seth, who can manipulate sand and other people’s perceptions; and Nehbet, who’s skilled in deception—to visit King Apedemak’s court in Kush. Ausar is eager to test his mettle against Kush’s son, Prince Bes, so they duel in the courtyard. Rah drilled a desire for battlefield perfection into Ausar, which pushes him to use a powerful move called “Soul Enforcement Mountain Strike.” The maneuver causes damage to the city and earns him a reprimand from his father, Geb, who wants him to be less like Rah. Meanwhile, sea monsters have begun destroying ships along the coast of Cyprus. Sobek, the god of crocodiles, warns Auset of this development and of an “aura of change” that follows the children. It turns out that war is brewing between Greece, Minoa, and other nations—including Kemet. In this richly illustrated collection, author Godoy (Cosmic Girls, 2019) and artist Lenormand (Mori’s Family Adventures: Rio de Janeiro, 2018) focus on aspects of early African and Middle Eastern history. Three adventure sequences are separated by informative sections that helpfully explain the mythology behind the characters and Godoy’s and Lenormand’s major changes; the Annunaki deities of ancient Sumer, for example, are from the planet Nibiru in this version of the tale. The sleek designs throughout offer a smooth reading experience that brings to mind Japanese manga. The characters have realistically varying skin tones; Seth has vitilligo, rendered with accuracy. The adventure will continue in a forthcoming installment.

A sure bet for young readers who may be cultivating interests in ancient history.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9994734-8-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Black Sands Entertainment

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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