Page 45 Review by Stephen
How refreshing: a book of brotherly love!
From Sarah Burgess, the creator of those three delectable volumes of THE SUMMER OF BLAKE SINCLAIR, comes something equally affectionate but radically different in form and content: it's bursting with full-colour washes for there's magic in the air.
Deryn adores his older brother Seren. He'd follow him anywhere. And Seren does like to explore, scouring the countryside in order to collect botanical samples to study. Today they were only intending to collect firewood for their family home in the village, but on one they discover radiant magic crystals growing like fungi from the bark. Seren breaks them off.
"Mum and Dad will flip out if they see this stuff."
According to their parents, magic is not to be messed with and, according to legend, there's magic everywhere in the big, wide world except in the village. It happened like this: magic and humans were once one and the same, but over time humans found a way to consume magic, turning it into language. They ate it all until there was none left save for a vast, untouchable Angel in the sky. Nonetheless the humans couldn't resist trying to reach up and bite pieces off and in retaliation the many-eyed Angel bore down on the planet and swallowed it whole before restoring its magic. Everywhere, that is, except for in the village.
At least, that's what Seren says - their parents tell it somewhat differently, making the Angel seem awful: a bogey monster to keep kids safely at home. Sure enough when Deryn lets slip what they'd been up to there is an almighty row with Seren bearing the brunt, accused of squandering his skills and endangering his younger brother.
There's a tremendous two-in-one panel just before Seren sits alone on the rooftop, as Seren strides upstairs past a cowering Deryn who is wracked with guilt that he'd let his brother down and got him into trouble, sweating with terror that there might now be a rift. There isn't, of course. Deryn makes sure of that by following Seren up to sit side by side overlooking the village and the forest beyond.
"I feel so alone."
Deryn thinks about that.
"I know Mum and Dad don't understand, but I understand. I - I don't care if the forest is dangerous. I just want to see what's out there. We can't be scared forever. We shouldn't be trapped here forever. You're not alone."
It's an endearing moment of fraternal affection and reconciliation broken beautifully by Seren wrestling his arm round Deryn's neck and pulling roughly him back into his chest.
"Go to bed, dufus!"
It's an echo of my favourite page on which the brothers tussle and tumble in the forest between comicbook gutters of sinuous wood which cocoon their struggling forms so tightly that you get a very real sense of their exertions, locked in mock-combat, against each other. How clever is that?
I love the brothers' physicality and the consistency of their relative statures. I like the rosy cheeks of youth and Deryn's hunched shoulders as he tentatively tries to coax his mother's side of the Angel's story out of her.
Ah yes, the Angel, drawn like a dragon. Surely it doesn't exist. The story's some sort of extended metaphor, right? A legend, a fable, a cautionary tale... Don't bite bits off: magic needs to be whole.
Aaaaaaaand we're done. It's your turn to read the rest next!