THE DROWNED

Laini Taylor, Author, Jim Di Bartolo, Illustrator
Laini Taylor, Author, Jim Di Bartolo, Illustrator . Image $9.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-58240-379-3
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As a first effort, this horror adventure is promising but awkward. Set in early 19th-century France, the story follows Theophile Finistere, a young man who comes to his senses after several years in a Paris madhouse. Upon escaping, he retrieves some odd artifacts and returns to his home on the seacoast. However, he finds his village deserted except for some very weird women, including his sister—whom he suddenly recalls seeing drowned by his father and a mob of priests. Now the dead girl and a new flock of murderous priests are rivals and are fighting to get a mystic token that Theophile possesses. The tale's unfamiliar setting and the uncanny events work together intriguingly. Unfortunately, the b&w wash artwork is distracting, unconvincing in anatomy and perspective. For example, it's probably unbelievable that the hero could defeat three priest-assassins simultaneously in hand-to-hand combat, but readers should want to believe it while the fight's going on. Similarly, the art doesn't sufficiently utilize atmosphere. Bringing Satan into the family parlor most likely was a mistake, but lighting the scene brightly to show off Satan's grotesque anatomy actually makes him more commonplace and much less dreadful. At the end, Theophile and a newly acquired kid sidekick ride off to fight the devil and save lost souls. These worthwhile errands may fuel better stories in the future. (Sept.)

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