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Domovoi Paperback – June 18, 2013
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While Domovoi is an odd but clever tale of the supernatural, it's also Jennie's coming-of-age story. Granted, she is coming-of-age as someone whose immediate problems are not those of a typical young woman, but her struggle with her destiny, her struggle to choose her own path, has a universal dimension. It is a story of loss and sacrifice and courage that happens to be informed by some pretty cool supernatural characters. It is told with an economy of language; the art often carries the plot.
Despite its deceptive simplicity, the art manages to be quite expressive, often suggesting more than it actually shows. It captures a sense of motion as panel after panel depicts Jennie making her way through beautiful landscapes. The art complements the story perfectly. The total package is an impressive display of graphic storytelling.
Setting the story in the old town of Stockholm gives the story a classic fairytale feel, but touches of the modern world poke out around the edges in unexpected ways. Also, if all cats were like Bulka, the adorable and wise talking cat, I might actually like cats. Jennie is a smart, capable heroine who is in over her head, but willing to do whatever it takes to solve the problem. The hitmen provide some unexpected humor, when they are not trying to kill Jennie, and the story has some good twists and turns before it's all done.
The art is stunning. The panels don't feel crowded, but there is an amazing array of details and textures. This is an artist who knows how to use space. The color palette is subdued and tends to darken subtly as the story moves along. There are a limited number of colors used on each page, but they are used to great effect as colors highlight brighten, but never overwhelm. John Arcudi's introduction to the book is glowing of the talent here and I couldn't agree more. It all feels so well planned and deliberate, and I highly recommend it.
Our young Heroine, Jennie, has a legacy of supernatural dealings. When her grandmother dies, she sets upon a journey to confront a sorcerer who wants returned magic stolen from him by her relative. Along the journey she is joined by her talking cat and a house spirit - and she'll make friends of enemies as she goes.
Jennie is a grounded character making the best of impossible situations. She's very likeable in her pragmatism in that magical world. And for once, we have a female character not mooning after a cute boy (I fear if this had been written by anyone else, the cat would have turned into a hunky teen). The magical creatures are both fascinating and mystical, and the path she takes fascinating.
Really, the lure of this book is the artwork. The illustrator knows how to place and work with positive and negative space in a masterful way that brings out the whimsy, danger, supernatural, horror, and comedy perfectly. And though the characters may lack some depth or motivation, really, it added to the mystery of the story for me.
The book is necessarily short but made up for by the beautiful artwork. I wish the ending was a bit more drawn out (it feels abrupt) but otherwise I enjoyed this book, especially the Russian fairytales (Rusalka, anyone?).
Received as an ARC from the publisher.
***I received this book in return for an honest review***