Rounding off a tale begun in NewsPrints (2017), budding journalist Blue continues to search for her robotic friend, Crow, as the long war between Goswing and Grimmaea comes to a head.
Just 17 and blind, but determined not to appear weak, Corazana Lina, newly crowned queen of Goswing, lays a fresh claim to mines needed to fuel her rapidly growing fleet of flying warships. But as Grimmaea is building an air force of its own and the mines’ range is also home to a cluster of active volcanoes, widespread disaster looms…and, ultimately, strikes. Meanwhile Blue, caught between opposing armies and monarchs, weathers a rapid succession of dramatic encounters and narrow squeaks as she brings her quest to a successful conclusion at last. Exaggerated facial expressions occasionally give the figures in Xu’s bordered panels an artificially stylized, manga-esque look, but the action is easy to follow, and sharply rendered background details add depth and detail to the steampunk-ish setting. The author weaves a strong anti-war message through her tale, casting righteous shade on the evil, which both sides here practice, of recruiting children for military service and playing up the importance of an independent press. Though a bit unwieldy, her populous cast features several characters with mixed ancestry (including Blue), a trans character, and one that is constructed but human in all the ways that count.
An action-oriented closer, conventionally tidy at the end but distinctive for its richly imagined world. (Graphic science fiction. 11-13)