Images © Jane Yolen & Rebecca Guay.
It must be a coincidence of scheduling that two original hardcovers containing the fine painted work of Rebecca Guay have been released so close together. This one is dated September 2011, so it probably came out before A FLIGHT OF ANGELS from Vertigo/DC, but not by much.
Jane Yolen is a highly respected name in fantasy literature, both for children and adults, and the script for this book is adapted by her from a short story she wrote. Add comics writer to Ms. Yolen’s accomplishments, the adaptation reads smoothly, avoiding novice comics writer mistakes like trying to tell too much in captions and showboating with clever wordsmithing. There are some lengthy captions in the beginning to set up the world and situation of the story, beautifully lettered by Clem Robins, but then it settles into real comics easily, and Yolen’s dialogue and thought balloons are perfect for the art and the story.
Yes, it is a dragon story with a real dragon, set in a world and time when dragons have been extinct for centuries, so no one is expecting there to be one lurking around the small island of the tale, newly hatched but growing quickly, and soon snatching livestock and then people. The story centers on a family of the island. The father is an herbalist, and his daughter Tansy is following him in that trade. Two other daughters have their own ideas. The characters come to life quickly and convincingly, and when one of them has an disastrous meeting with the dragon the town finally realizes its peril. They decide to send out a task force to find a dragon slayer. When Lancot arrives, he turns out to be something of a fake, but before long he’s fallen for Tansy, and he and that resourceful girl end up working together to face the dangerous beast.
Guay’s art is charming, full of earth tones and glowing with warm light. There’s some small variations of style, from almost colored linework to more fully developed painting, but these are small shifts that do nothing to detract from the storytelling as a whole, and the entire book is a delight to look at. Characters are full of life and emotion, action sequences are strong and exciting, the dragon is shown in bits first, gradually revealing himself as the story progresses, a great way to build suspense. The lettering by Clem Robins is also excellent, in styles I’ve not seen from him before, and his work adds to the reading enjoyment.