Rise of the Halfling King: Tales of the Feathered Serpent

Cinco Puntos. Sept. 2020. 64p. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781947627376.
Gr 4-8–In this tale drawn from Mesoamerican myth, Sayam, a stouthearted halfling, deposes a tyrant. Uxmal, a Yucatán city, thrived for a century before King Kinich Kak Ek brought it under his yoke. When the king’s sorcerer, Zaatan Ik, warns him that a man not born of woman will seize his throne, the heedless Kinich begins expanding his empire and brutalizing subjugated peoples. Eventually, Zaatan Ik unleashes an underworld serpent on a city that won’t surrender, precipitating the king’s downfall. Years earlier, fairy-like aluxes presented Almah, a witch in nearby Kabah, with a drum that would proclaim Uxmal’s rightful king—and she’s been raising Sayam, an alux-human hybrid, since he hatched from an egg. As the drum sounds, a worthy ruler rises. In an afterword, David Bowles likens graphic novels to the predominantly visual hieroglyphics Mesoamericans employed in their written records. The first installment in a 10-volume series converting his Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky to a graphic format, this book reads the way that a folk tale is traditionally heard: It’s fast, vivid, and action-laden. Since archetypes require little elaboration, readers freed from the burden of intricate characterization can instead attend to the story’s cultural context and perennial themes. Charlene Bowles melds the stylizations of historical codices and scrolls with livelier, rounded linework typical of modern comics to create an engaging accompaniment to the concise text. Characters are all Indigenous Mayans.
VERDICT An obvious buy for those that already have plenty of titles featuring Greco-Roman and Norse deities.

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