On the surface, this three-part story from French duo de Bonneval (Last Days of an Immortal) and Bonhomme seems like the usual fantasy fare. William de Sonnac, a fair-haired and willful boy, runs away from home in search of his recently deceased father, who he believes is still alive. Along the way, William befriends a brawny knight and a clever goat, and is given his first taste of the often-unforgiving world, where good does not necessarily always best evil. As William searches for the mysterious “far-off lands” where his father may yet live, he meets corrupt kings, ruthless bandits, monsters, and other medieval regulars. But the tale is hardly predictable, and instead it subverts some classic fantasy tropes as it slyly broaches such concepts as atheism, violence, and the unconscious. There’s more to the book than meets the eye, and multiple readings reveal even more subtext. What does meet the eye, though, is quite nice, thanks to Bonhomme’s impeccable linework and breakdowns, as well as clean, if traditional, layouts. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
- Toni Jourdan
Enter young William's world of the Middle Ages. We meet William in the Far-Off Lands. His sister Helise, is missing, his father is dead and his mother is about to marry Brifaut, a Senechal not to be trusted. William sets out on a journey to find his sister who speaks ill of their mother and hears the voice of their father urging them on, even though he is dead and buried. It is dangerous times for a young boy alone. Brigands run wild, terrorizing the land. His Aunt Ysane enlists a troubadour named Counterpane and an unlikely knight of Brabant to help him on a journey of discovery, mystery, and magic. The Land of Truth offers mythical creatures straight from a dream. A faithful goat protects William and we are introduced to Boldface, the lady plant, a gryphon, and the Blemmyes, who are a dog-faced people. Are they real or imagined in William's mind? Is he safer at home or does the deception surrounding him seep from his journey into his motherland? In artwork reminiscent of Prince Valiant comics, a journey is begun bringing colorfully to life history and mythology in a tale of a young man's voyage to come to grips with his father's unexpected death. The author offer's up questions for the reader regarding categories of character and ranking. What part does religion play in William's wanderings? Does gender alter a person's perspective? There is a strong storyline, with incredibly descriptive illustrations; a play of dark and light from both angles, words and pictures. I would especially recommend this to young teenage boys. The ending comes about a bit too quickly and it left me wondering if there is a sequel in the works. This is a story that comes to life picture by picture and should be enjoyed morsel by morsel. Reviewer: Toni Jourdan
Gwen de Bonneval has illustrated a number of award-winning graphic novels in his native France, including L'Espirit Perdu (an official selection of the Angoulême International Comics Festival) and La Vierge Froide et Autres Racontars (winner of the Prix Essentiels at Angoulême in 2010). Matthieu Bonhomme has been crazy about drawing from young age. A graduate in Applied Arts, he began his illustration career in newspaper advertisements. His work has appeared in magazines and several long-running comic series.