Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
NetGalley Rating: 3 stars
I’ve been a fan of Dahm’s work for many years now and count Rice Boy as one of my favorite books/graphic novels ever, so I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of his latest work.
I didn’t know it was a middle grade book at first, and while it didn’t bug me that it was, it definitely meant that the surrealness of Dahm’s usual works was toned down. Where the surreal illustrations and pop-surreal color schemes dominant Dahm’s webcomics, the surreal architecture wasn’t there (aside from some Kay Sage inspired architecture on the White Island) and the color palettes were more muted. The color-washing of the background/sky boxes though were still inherently symbolic and thematic with the worlds, which was nice. The artwork overall is also lovely in its own right, don’t get me wrong! It’s just not the style I was expecting.
The story itself was definitely on par with the standard questing tropes that Dahm’s other works focus on, but with more of a purpose and moral this time. Sora has been “cursed” by the Monster and quests to go find it and learn why it singled her out. Along the way she falls in with a small group of misfits who are also seeking the Monster for their own reasons, and Sora visits islands she never knew existed before (I liked the pseudo-elemental themes of these).
While the moral of the story is two-fold, in my reading–Sora faces her fear/the unknown and returns wiser for doing so, while also learning that people can view fear/the unknown in different ways (fearing it, worshipping it, denying it, fighting it, accepting it)–the ending definitely was lackluster and anti-climactic. I can’t really even spoil the ending, as it really just came to a head and then immediately cut to our crew members returning to their home islands. These bits did show that each character had taken their own lessons from their journey, but it still didn’t explain the overarching reason why the Monster existed in the first place, what it was, or why Sora was singled out.
It definitely felt more like the first book in a series (a la Amulet), setting up worlds and characters for further exploration; however, I haven’t seen anything mentioned about this being a series.
It was a great read, and considering the target audience, has some great themes to it. However, the ending just fell too flat for me to enjoy it, and I was expecting the heavily surreal style that makes Dahm’s other works so awesome.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy to review!