The ruler of a kingdom of one and a runaway princess join forces in this agreeable sword-and-sorcery graphic novel.
Zora, in tattered skirt, furry boots and winged headband, is on an unauthorized mission of peace to the far-off Peryton clan, but when she gets to their mountain she finds only Broxo, in mail shirt, fur cape and earrings. Broxo is alone—and has been for years—but for Migo, a horned, catlike behemoth. The two young teens don't exactly hit it off, but Broxo takes pity on the lost princess, and besides, he seems happy for the company. The blasted landscape is also home to Ulith, an inscrutable, sometimes helpful witch; Gloth, a maned, wolflike monster; and the creepers, terrifying zombielike things that have a closer relationship to Broxo than he realizes. Giallongo's glossy panels are dominated by swampy grays, browns and greens, shifting in palette and clarity subtly to signify scene changes and flashbacks. Zora and Broxo have considerable chemistry, often-acerbic banter giving way to more intimate, heartfelt exchanges. Their adventures are well-paced, balancing humor with terror and continually ratcheting up the stakes toward a bloody, mythic climax. The story borrows freely from familiar fantasy and adventure tropes, but it is far from derivative, delivering both action and emotional depth with assurance.
By the end, both characters and readers have had a workout; the latter will hope for more. (Graphic fantasy. 10 & up)