The Battle of the Bards

Knopf. (Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo: Bk. 3). Apr. 2021. 256p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780399556197; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9780399556203.
Gr 7 Up–The Felmog are moving to spread the Gloom across the land, and it seems as though the heroic Order of the Ember might not be able to defeat them. Meanwhile, jovial Rickety Stitch, a skeleton with few memories of his past life yet who longs to learn his true identity, is joining his friends in a theater romp. The Battle of the Bards promises fame, glory, and even a golden lute to the winning performance troupe, and Rickety and his gelatinous buddy, Goo, are the stars in an unlikely entry. Just one problem: Rickety is a bard, not an actor! And when the Felmog unleash their fiendish plot, it’s up to Rickety to help the Order of the Ember save the day. Though this tale references previous titles in the series, it can easily be read by newcomers. The vibrant artwork brings to life the medieval fantasy world and infuses Rickety with a charisma and energy reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas’s Jack Skellington. The writing deserves similar aplomb: Characters deploy casually self-aware humor, as though their lives are as mundane as our own. This is a wordier narrative that explores character motivations, leading to a richer conclusion. Younger readers, or those expecting a breezier tale from the lighthearted illustrations, may be disappointed, but older readers and fans of the first two stories will appreciate this fully realized narrative. Though the protagonists are nonhuman, Rickety’s world is diverse, with several characters of color.
VERDICT A solid purchase for libraries where graphic novels are popular, but for collections already familiar with Rickety, this one is a must.

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