Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the chosen one is destined to save the land from the evil bad something or other. Spirited away from home in the dead of night, he or she is taken off somewhere by the grizzled veteran to be raised and trained as a warrior, only to eventually face the big bad and fulfill destiny and prophecy.
Sound familiar? I could name a dozen books with some sort of spin on that fantasy trope.
Now, what happens when the chosen one comes back? That’s an interesting story. I’ve seen it a couple of times. But never quite the way Joshua Williamson (Author), Andrei Bressan (Illustrator), and Adriano Lucas (Illustrator) have done it in Birthright Volume 1: Homecoming.
Mikey Rhodes went missing on his birthday. He was out with his father, Aaron, playing catch in the park while his mom, Wendy, and older brother, Brennan, prepared a surprise party back home. When his dad threw the ball over Mikey’s head and into the woods, Mikey vanished. Events played out like a bad network TV movie. The police started investigating. The press, too. As time went on and no evidence could be found, suspicion fell on the parents. Their marriage fell apart. Aaron took to drinking. Brennan stayed with him, took care of him. But he wasn’t doing much better himself.
Then, a year later, the police show up again. They bring the family together again. A stranger was found in the same area where Mikey had disappeared. They had reason to suspect the grown man of being…something. Involved? He was huge; tall and muscular and loaded down with weapons and talking a crazy story about being taken to a fantastic world as a child because he was the “chosen one.” destined to kill the God King Lore, and free the people of Terrenos.
He tells them his name is Mikey, and he’s come home on a mission, and hopes to see his family again.
Talk about a twist! And all of that happens in the first few pages.
This is a great take on a classic tale. The modern day setting intermixed with flashbacks of the time Mikey spent in the alternate world makes for a very compelling story. He’s drawn like a massive barbarian, bringing to mind Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones. The family drama adds an extra thread and elevates the story quite well. The loss of a child is never easy, but imagine that child returning, fully-grown and so very different from what you knew or remember.
Really, you have three stories intertwined here: Mikey’s journey from child to warrior, his family trying to navigate the waves left in the wake of his disappearance, and what happens when he returns.
If you’re looking for epic fantasy in a modern setting, Birthright is for you.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.