The Secret of the Ravens

HarperCollins/Clarion. Nov. 2023. 272p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780358629443; pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780358650119.
Gr 4-8–Twins Elliot and Liza want what everyone else does: the security of home and health. But that is a farfetched dream for those without parents, living in a kingdom that doesn’t care. With raven quests promising them wealth and magic at their disposal, they are prompted to take greater and greater risks until Liza gets hurt. With newfound help from a well-intentioned guard apprentice named Seb, Elliot races to gather the ingredients required by the raven’s mage master. Like many fantasy graphic novels, this Filipino-inspired volume provides a safe window through which to critically analyze humanity. Specifically, Cacao paints an empathetic view of poverty through the twins' experiences. Readers can easily see how their status is not due to “laziness” but from misfortune and the failures of state and society to adequately assist its citizens. The thematic drivers of prejudice and inequality regularly push the adventure along by making the characters susceptible to manipulation and by pressuring them to try extreme solutions. While the topic is heavy, the popular middle grade–style illustrations and supportive characters infuse the tone with resilience and hope.
VERDICT For those who enjoy adventures such as The Nameless City or NewsPrints, this is another illuminating graphic novel that wraps its social issues around the lives of heart-capturing characters.

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