Representation: Characters of Colour
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Civil war rages in the Empire of Parsa, and famine has struck. As the seasons refuse to turn, Princess Sera receives a vision from the deity Mitra telling her to find the Royal Stars and restore them to the heavens. Despite her kingdom and her troops' need of her command, Sera embarks on a quest to find the fallen stars—now trapped on earth—and save her people from dearth and death.
So this is my first comic/graphic novel review for Wyrd & Wonder, and – look, listen. Listen. I have only one thing to say about this book.
I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!!
I don’t read comics or graphic novels very often – I’m picky as hell – but this was an unmitigated delight from start to finish. The art is stunning, and the ‘camera angles’ of the panels are flawless, always focusing on just the right thing, zooming in on details to build tension or reveal sneaky bits of comedy, and panning out to showcase the breathtaking otherworldly realms Sera and her companions travel through.
The mythology and worldbuilding is just incredible. Drawing on Persian mythology but giving it a unique spin was enough to get me excited, because I just don’t see anyone exploring Persian mythology that often. But Tsuei has crafted a completely new mythology around the stars of the zodiac (although it did take me an embarrassingly long time to realise that’s what the royal stars are, the stars of the classical Western zodiac!), one that’s hinted at with tantalising subtlety throughout the first volume, mostly revealed through the interactions of the stars themselves – they’re all in on the backstory, of course, so bits and pieces are revealed in their conversations with each other. But not enough to give away the whole story to the reader – not yet.
It’s enough to have you turning the pages as fast as you can go.
The stars (and their enemies) aren’t the only magical beings around – I was incredibly delighted and excited when the cast briefly meets with the council of the dead, which is made up of underworld gods from multiple pantheons – I recognised Isis and Osiris, Hades and Persephone, Hel (of the Vikings), and someone that might have been Ereshkigal (Sumer). And that’s just…so freaking cool to me! Without even getting started on the peris and daevas! Or the explanation/lecture Sera receives about how gods are created – by the dreams of humans, and even those of rocks and animals…
I mean, come on. That’s just brilliant! I’m more in love with the worldbuilding than any other aspect of this series, to be honest – even though the rest of it is plenty awesome.
Sera herself is a wonderful character, a proper bad-ass who’s not that impressed at being conscripted into the affairs of divinities. I really appreciated how she felt, and acted, like a real person, with the raised eyebrows and the incredulity and the moments of ridiculousness amidst all the adventure. I loved the character designs of all the stars, too – taking a few minutes to just stare at particular panels that showcase them. So much work must have gone into making the scorpion’s human form reminiscent of an actual scorpion, without making her creepy instead of differently-beautiful (I am in love with how her long braid mimics a scorpion tail!)
I absolutely want more – I want to know what happens next, and I want to know what’s happened to the royal stars to get them into their current predicament. I want to explore more of Sera’s incredible world. When can I get my hands on volume two???