Thursday, January 8, 2015

Spera by Josh Tierney

When two princesses from neighbouring kingdoms learn that they are to be murdered, they escape together. Lono is a girly girl and Pira is a tomboy; they are best friends. They are accompanied and protected by an elemental fire creature, Yonder. He shapeshifts between the form of a large dog, and a portly man with a red beard. The three of them face one monster after another.

Spera is a graphic novel for all ages, written by Canadian Josh Tierney. The three main characters are great, yet what I love best is that each of the chapters is illustrated by a different artist. In volume one, these are Kyla Vanderklugt, Hwei, Emily Carroll (also the creator of Into the Woods), and Olivier Pichard. Then, there are five shorter scenes at the end, again by different artists: Jordyn Bochon, Cecile Brun, Luke Pearson, Leela Wagner and Matt Marblo. Each comics style is quite different, so it's like a series of re-imaginings of one classic fairytale.

Depending on the artist, Yonder's dog form goes from something like an orange husky (Vanderklugt), to a red sheepdog (Hwei), to a flaming schipperke (Carroll), to more wolf-like (Pichard), to a brown labrador (Brun), to a foxy thing that looks like a campfire when he's curled up (Pearson)... and so on. Multiple interpretations of Yonder's human form, and of the two princesses, are just as varied. It's fresh and exciting to have such a variety of gorgeous art within one episodic tale.

The series is published by Archaia and there are two more volumes so far. In them, I hope to find additional adventures with Chobo the Warrior Cat, a character introduced near the end of volume one. Also, Lono has started to defend herself when necessary, rather than relying on Pira and Yonder, and I look forward to seeing even more of that development.

Fantasy fans from Grade 4 to adult will enjoy these adventures in the land of Spera.

Readalikes: Bone (Jeff Smith); Castle Waiting (Linda Medley); Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon Hale, Nathan Hale & Dean Hale); Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (Tony Cliff); and William and the Lost Spirit (Gwen de Bonneval & Matthieu Bonhomme).

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