The Ring of Seven Worlds (by Gualdoni, Clima, Piana, and Turotti) is a meaty Steampunk graphic novel sent to me by Sloth Comics when I was looking for reading for my daughter… and it’s very hard to review without spoilers.
It delivers a Steampunk (or is it Valve Punk?) setting with a Studi Ghibli feel in which Seven Worlds connect through a now sealed gate — the ring of the title — and of course the gate unseals and there’s an invasion that kicks off a rollicking adventure for two teenagers: a girl air-acrobat and a highborn boy.
And of course there are air pirates and zeppelin-on-zeppelin fleet action.
Meanwhile, in the background we have threads for clearly delineated power politics, gritty insurgency, and, ultimately… ah well, no spoilers.
Unlike some graphic novels, it does have a proper plot that makes a breathtaking kind of sense and takes you on a real journey. But again; no spoilers!
[Click the images to enlarge.]
The setting is very much itself: genuinely exoticism not appropriated from real-world cultures. Even so, it’s easy to relate to and resonates with all sorts of SF&F goodness… Tatooine, Clark Ashton Smith, Firefly, Studio Ghibli, Flash Gordon, perhaps even Tintin, and certainly modern Dr Who.
It’s also beautifully drawn.
The art style is pleasing on the eye, but it also brings clarity to what could have been an overwhelmingly busy setting. I was initially confused between minor characters, though that’s probably because I’m just not used to this kind of graphic style.
My kids certainly had no problem.
It certainly ticked the strong female lead box!
My daughter – 8 – loved the idea of a kickass airborne acrobat and didn’t mind that the male lead turned out to… have a bit more destiny.
I certainly loved this book.
Is it appropriate for kids?
Apart from perhaps just a little, “Oh look nubile athletic girl!” and a pair of leggy psycho-chicks (trope!) who belonged in the kind of Anime they don’t put on TV, there was nothing sexist or overly sexualised about it. There was violence, and the violence had consequences, but nothing graphic. I had no problem sharing the book with my kids.
The plot was clear enough for the Adventure-Time-loving eight-year-old to follow, and sophisticated enough for the Expanse-reading twelve-year-old to enjoy.
M Harold Page is the Scottish 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.”)