Fantastic Tales of Nothing

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Oct. 2020. 320p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062839480; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062839473.
Gr 5-8–A new middle grade adventure series looks to make something from Nothing. According to legend, regular humans and shape-shifting volkens lived in harmony until Lerina, the goddesses’ peacemaking gift to all, suddenly passed away. Ever since, Nothing has known only destruction and clashes. Now a tangle of misfits must come together to unmask ancient secrets and bring harmony to all. Nathan Cadwell, a brown-haired, light-skinned human with a gambling habit and an unlucky streak, meets up with Haven, a fierce, light-skinned, red-haired forestdweller, neither human nor volken, who’s searching for her family. Soon the two are pursued by two volken mercenaries, light-skinned, blond-haired lycanthrope warrior Bardou Griswold and dark-haired, brown-skinned avian shape-shifter Sina Crowe. As they will all learn, however, nothing in Nothing is quite as it seems. Green and Rodriguez’s unique visual style seems more akin to animated media than to comics or manga. They depict familiar fantasy settings (enchanted forest, seaside town) with a cinematic sensibility (think a tactile, immersive Studio Ghibli film), bringing their world to life with magnificent lighting and quality rather than sheer quantity of detail. Some readers might find the exposition a bit sluggish, but constant verbal jests, visual puns, and all manner of humorous allusions will keep them entertained. While Haven often speaks in “the ancient tongue”—surprise! it’s Esperanto!—the artificial language’s romance roots allow for playful interpretation (and easy online translation, if necessary).
VERDICT A new contender for Kazu Kibuishi and Ethan M. Aldridge die-hards (with a higher page count to boot).

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