Page 45 Review by Stephen
Ah, best beloveds, now sit yourselves down!
I see you've returned to learn what became of the humble merchant who found and rescued a wounded eagle, then nursed it back to health. It transpired that this mighty raptor was none other than the King of the Birds, a blue-skinned being with three regal sisters, one of whom rewarded her brother's saviour with her most prized possession, a heavy, gleaming gold chest.
Having soaked up the spectacle of three stunning palaces, our lowly merchant now wends his way home, for he has been gone from the wife whom he loves with all his heart for almost a year, and he is desperate to see her once more. Alas, even as he draws near - to within but a few days' walk of his house - the foulest of weather descends: snow, icy rain and hailstones as big as his fist. And he does have two very big fists.
With nowhere to shelter, he opens the treasure chest, perhaps seeking to snuggle up inside, even though the King of the Birds commanded that it be left locked until the merchant was safely home. But that's the thing with any such strictures: they're begging to be broken, aren't they?
Well, wonders of wonders, my best beloveds, for the merchant will not have to snuggle!
Instead the casket transforms itself into a vast, golden palace. Structured for maximum strength, it's a little bit Soviet, but with windows that shimmer with banded ocean-blue, sea green and salmon pink, as if aspects of another dimension. Indeed, it proves even bigger on the inside than on the outside, and surprisingly homely, with a feast laid out and candles all welcomingly lit. Wine is poured as if by an invisible servant and, after dessert plucked from a bowl of fruit, a candlestick hovers then shows the traveller to bed. A four-poster bed! And, oh, what a glorious view!
The winter weather has blown over to reveal the most tranquil of lakes, a crescent moon's reflection streaming over the still, midnight blue waters. The merchant does not recall a lake in this region, but no matter. He bites into the rosy-red apple he'd saved for later and pfft - there's a worm wriggling inside - so he tosses the apple out of the window and PLOP into the water below.
"A foolish mistake," notes our narrator.
And so it seems, for there's something slumbering in the shadowy depths, about to be woken, and about to take umbrage at our merchant's distinct lack of manners and complete disregard for Local Authority Planning Permission. (Article 11 Notice, if you don't own all the site).
Still, one lucky fish gets a free worm-supper.
GAMAYUN TAKES VOL 1: THE KING OF THE BIRDS began with an apple at its core too. They're so often the seed of a story. Ask Eve!
I urge you to get a gander at that, for it dealt with the premise and artwork in depth, whereas I am on holiday - can you tell?
We are far from done in this second instalment, for even more potential tales are opened up with promises to be told, and there are more oaths exchanged with the alarming repercussions. Top tip: never shake hands on an agreement without knowing what you're agreeing to; never make a deal without knowing its details. If you've been away from home for nearly a year, there's quite a good chance that there have been changes. Hopefully the bed linen, for one.
If you relished David B's HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, then I recommend this wholeheartedly, with only the caveat that David B delivered an entire epic, each of whose threads, however digressive, was woven together to form a complete tapestry. Here we conclude with an even more intriguing, whiplash, OMG cliff-hanger than book one!
It's equally luxurious, though. The treasure-chest transmogrification aside, I spent an entire hour staring at a single image of the lake when revisited at first light, marvelling at the flatness of its waters. They're the flattest thing in the world, are lakes - liquid does find its own level - and it's a very clever artist who can render such a sheer surface in perfect contrast to the vertical thrust of that which emerges from, in front or behind it.
I also liked the different visual treatments of what we are witnessing and what we are listening to. Golden-tressed Gamayun appears in occasional asides, either addressing us directly or commenting on what she has just watched replayed herself, glancing in the panels' direction. Gamayun is all sleek and smooth; what we watch has a certain rugged texture to it.
"I wish I could help you somehow, poor boy," mourns the invisible golden palace's inhabitant.
Says Gamayun, "Oh, darling, you will".
Finally, like HASIB & THE QUEEN OF SERPENTS, this mythological excursion also offers broken-promise offenders the opportunity of redemption - second chances, if you will - although there appears to be a far greater price to be paid.
"Nine years has passed joyfully, but even the longest day must have an end."
Oh dear. The holiday's over. I'm being sent back to boarding school, aren't I?
Nice Nirvana reference on page 46.