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Estranged s/c


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Ethan M. Aldridge

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

"Oh, oh man. This is just too adorable."

Alexis is being embraced by both her young brothers, out of their depth, but determined to triumph. It is not a development which will be easily won, not least because, until earlier today, she only knew she had one. And he's been a bit of a brat.

"Don't take your pubescent moods swings out on me."

Now there's an ace line for any older sisters or brothers to strike back with.

And Edmund isn't even her real brother. Unfortunately she didn't know that. Perhaps the publisher can explain?

"Edmund and the Childe were swapped at birth. Now Edmund lives in secret as a changeling in the World Above, his fae powers hidden from his unsuspecting parents and his older sister, Alexis. The Childe lives among the fae in the World Below, where being a human makes him a curiosity at the royal palace. But when the cruel sorceress Hawthorne seizes the throne, the Childe and Edmund must unite on a dangerous quest to save both worlds, even if they're not sure which world they belong to."

We begin down below in the Fae court, a decadent society of preening self-aggrandizement, stifling in its haughty, dismissive sneering mockery which extends from the royal mother to her son.

"Where is it anyway? Fetch the Childe! ... There it is, everyone! I present our Childe, a proud knight of the realm!"
*courtly applause*
"You needed me, mother?"
"Did you hear that? It called her "mother"! How precious!"

They are all too aware that the Childe is human, is other, and treat him like a monkey that's learned to talk. It's a spectacular realm whose courtyard ceilings are lit with crystal and glass, but there is no sky.

Above ground, however, the first page of chapter two comes as a breath of fresh air, the lines and colour crisply contrasting with what was really rather fetid down there. And the chapter breaks themselves are exquisitely designed, tree roots crawling round grey metal drain pipes.

The family above have no idea that Edmund isn't theirs - that he isn't even human - something which Edmund is desperate to keep a secret, for he treasures all that he has and is terrified of losing it. But he's experiencing growth spurts and mood swings and, with them, the emergence of pyrokinetic powers he finds impossible to control. So when Childe emerges from down below after his adoptive parents' throne has been challenged, taken and usurped, desperate to find his "twin" and persuade the Changeling to join them in defying the sorceress, Edmund, to say the least is conflicted.

There's a huge heart and tenderness here (the tears are well done), along with some breathtaking art and very fine finery and so much that minded me of Mark Oakley (THIEVES AND KINGS, 3 volumes of STARDROP). In a graphic novel filled with wonders, Aldridge is clever in keeping the greatest spectacles for later. For example, however intriguing the land of the Fae seems to begin with, it is only upon their return that the artist really lets rip with full-page spectacle.

It's then that the conflict - already begun up above, endangering Edmund's family - really begins.

For there be dragons.

Some of the later more confrontational dialogue / posturing struck me as a touch forced, but there are plenty of ideas I haven't seen elsewhere, like a city arranged as a set of shelves and the Childe's guardian Whick, a wax-candle Golem who's rendered inert whenever his flame is snuffed out. His hair cascades down in clotted, molten-wax dreads. Superb use of androgyny too.

Young Adults and Adults alike will be staring at the detail for hours.

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