“This is brilliant...” says “The Girl,” 12, one of my son’s friends.
She reads it until we prise it away from her so she can dash off to her recorder lesson.
The next week, we all go for coffee and she dives back in.
She still rates it as brilliant, and thinks it compares well to the Goth Girl series.
“Morgenstern”, my steampunk-loving daughter, 8, is also mesmerised.
She reads it twice and compares it to Adventure Time, her favourite cartoon, and also pronounces it, “Brilliant!”
Oddly, both girls complain about the cover: it’s way more childish than the content, which — by the way — includes a character using the expletive “bloody” (in circumstances where that would seem appropriate), a reference to a tight-trousered buffoon as having “big balls” (mocking his fashion rather than referencing his… other qualities), and has a villain call Penny a “harlot” because she is unchaperoned (a good reminder that despite the pretty dresses and all the Oh-Mr-Darcy-ing, it was not actually female-friendly).
When my turn came — if we’re doing pseudonyms, you can call me “Zornhau” — I was also rapt.
This graphic novel is great fun and has a rollicking plot. Think “Pride and Prejudice meets The Labyrinth as envisaged by HP Lovecraft“.
Penny Blackfeather is a bookish young lady who lives in Vanilla, a provincial English town.
Her mother is determined to marry her off to the pompous Mr Poggleswede (he of the big balls). Urged on by the not-entirely-competent and compulsively narrating ghost of her pirate grandfather, Penny, however, plans a life of High Adventure.
There is, of course, a roguish semi-love interest in the form of a mysterious adventurer who refuses to believe in magic, even when tentacled demons knock him around and the sword-wielding Penny must rescue him.
Oh, and yes, there are witches and tentacled demons, and a trip to a fairyland that’s more Arkham than Celtic twilight, and all rendered in wonderfully vigorous artwork.
So I concur with the girls.
M Harold Page is the sword-wielding author of works such as Swords vs Tanks (Charles Stross: “Holy ****!”). For his take on writing, read Storyteller Tools: Outline from vision to finished novel without losing the magic. (Ken MacLeod: “…very useful in getting from ideas etc to plot and story.” Hannu Rajaniemi: “…find myself to coming back to [this] book in the early stages.”)