Rose is a classic fantasy tale about a girl trying to restore balance to a broken world. We are introduced to a world where magical Guardians once ruled peacefully over a beautiful and thriving place. These Guardians were born magical protectors and had the ability to connect with companions, Khats, that helped them maintain the peace and prosperity of their world. At some point, the Guardians are targeted by evil forces until they all but disappear and now an evil Queen rules with intimidation and fear. Enter Rose who is born with the gift of magical abilities. She has been hidden for a good while until she starts experimenting with her power and attracts the attention of the queen. Of course Rose’s world is destroyed in the Queen’s hunt to find and destroy her, forcing Rose to grow up fast. She has to find and connect to her Khat and survive in order to become the Guardian her world needs.
I am so intrigued. I grew up reading and loving the fantasy genre but there was a big deficit in stories with a strong female lead taking on the metaphorical heroes journey. Finch takes the classic heroes journey and puts a fresh face on it. Even the evil antagonist is a Queen! The Queen isn’t just eye candy either, she is a complicated, independent woman who wields formidable power and is the most interesting character so far. Guara has strong work, perfect for the fantasy genre. He pays a lot of attention to detail and lighting and uses a lot of color so that the world depicted is just beautiful. The words and pictures combine into what easily feels like a labor of love in honor of the classical fantasy genre.
Wayward #1 introduces the reader to protagonist Rori Lane, a teenager in transit. Her father is Irish and her mother is Japanese. She has just finished school in Ireland and is leaving her home there with her estranged father to live with her mother in Japan, a place she has never been. Not only is Rori struggling to come of age in the midst of a broken home with the normal teenage angst, but she’s just found herself in a culture that straddles the urban life in Tokyo with the mystical underworld of Japan’s more monstrous creatures. Forced to interact with this supernatural underworld Rori discovers there is more to her, as well as the world around her, than meets the eye.
Wayward is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer walking in a Haruki Murkami story with a Hayao Miyazaki vibe. I like it. I am a sucker for Japanese myth and fairy tales. I also like a good girl-comes-of-age-kicking-ass story. These two loves of mine are brought together nicely in Wayward. Rori is instantly relatable and by the time she meets Ayane and the Kappa, the reader is invested in who Rori is and where she is going. Solid start.
The art is great for this kind of story. It too does some straddling, partly Western naturalism with a definite manga pop. Rori herself stands out easily in the colorful bustling of Tokyo. It is also worth noticing how the the book starts at the beginning of the day and ends at night. The lighting subtly shifting as you read is a nice touch. There is something magical about day transitioning to night if one chooses to pay attention. It’s all about the details.
Do you enjoy girls coming of age while supernaturally kicking monster ass? Do you have a soft spot for Japanese mysticism? Do you like manga eye candy? What about lots of cats? Come on, when was the last time Image disappointed you? Get Wayward on your pull now.