Grace’s entire village is plagued by a fast-spreading infection of Dark-bark, an evilness that grows from dark magic of the worst kind. Infected people (and animals) slowly grow bark over their skin, sprout little trees, and eventually, can’t resist the urge to recede into the forest and follow the candles of the evil witch. In another town, Ava and Idris struggle to survive as they are kicked out of town after town for being spell-casters. While trying to find shelter for the night in the forest, Idris and Ava discover the dark bark infection, and Idris becomes infected. They race to find the source of the magic so they can reverse everything. Grace, meanwhile, is tired of waiting and watching everyone in her village leave as infected folk. They barely keep her mother from venturing into the forest, and that’s when she becomes completely fed up. She decides to take matters into her own hands and confront the witch in the forest, or possibly even find a spell that can stop all of this for good.
This story was beautifully original, and it kept me guessing all the way to the end. At first, the narrative felt a little jumpy, alternating between the two points of view, but it all paid off in the end when they wove together. This book would definitely benefit from a re-read, which is a difficult thing to do when writing graphic novels. My only criticism is how small the text was in the speech bubbles. It often pulled me out of the story as I struggled to read some of the text or had to bring the book really close to my face (and I swear I’m not blind!).
The illustrations are gorgeous. There were several well-placed splash pages that were a joy to look at and study in detail. White's coloring of the flowing clothing and the spell-casting brought the story to life. The illustrations of the magic are my favorite part of this story.
There are some scarier cursed animals and an evil-looking witch that might scare some of the younger audience, but otherwise, this is a magical almost-all-ages tale that would appeal to a wide variety of fantasy readers.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 5-12
Publisher: Cast Iron Books
Publication Date: January 1, 2021
ISBN: 9781838224141 (Hardcover)
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: Elementary School, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Fiction, Fantasy, Family, Magic
I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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