Rachel Grosvenor needs to win official clan acceptance if she wants to help support her mixed-blood, fringe-dwelling family and safeguard her youngest sister’s future. So when her ring–and only official proof of clan eligibility–is stolen in a mugging, she goes on a desperate search for the one man she knows can find anything. But finding a nomadic outcast like Jaeger in the danger-ridden, multi-layered streets of Anvard turns out to be about as easy as finding the ring.
Once again, McNeil imbues her pages with her title character’s presence, regardless of his actual participation in the action. In this case, Jaeger’s influence and absence allow Rachel–always so susceptible to inertia–to finally act independently, pursue her goals, and speak her mind (or choose to keep it to herself, whichever best serves her purpose at the time). In a way, she becomes a Finder herself. As she searches for her mother’s errant sometimes-boyfriend, for her ring, and for her own identity, Rachel proves to be stronger than she thinks, and watching her come into her own in this crazy, mixed-up, complicated world is a treat.
Readers acquainted with the series won’t miss a beat with the jump-right-in attitude to Finder‘s continued world- and character-building and brave newcomers will gradually get the gist of most of it (with the helpful endnotes coming in handy on the next read-through). Following along on Rachel’s hunt, we see more of Anvard’s culturally rich (if economically disparate) avenues and alleys, ballrooms and bolt-holes, as well as the inner-workings of the pageantry–and conformity–obsessed Llaverac clan. We also bump into a few familiar faces and understand the ways in which previous chapters in the series have come back to affect the present.
The artwork here is as much a part of the narrative as the actual words. McNeil has so thoroughly constructed this imaginary world that visual cues act as their own kind of text. A Medawar clanswoman’s complex braids or an Ascian’s unfettered locks; the symbolic Finder pattern on a bathroom wall or sidewalk or well-worn park bench; Jaeger’s instantly recognizable jacket; and all those nearly identical yet individual faces fill out the background and actively propel the story forward in tandem with the dialogue and Rachel’s internal observations.
The images and text also work together to create the volume’s wonderfully thoughtful yet snarky tone. For example, the bathroom door symbols in a Llaverac theatre are the usual stylized figure in a triangular dress and a scribbled princess complete with frizzy hair, ball gown, and tiara–perfect for the venue’s traditionally flamboyant, gender-ambiguous patrons. And the tweaked pop culture references (a sign for “Ticket Monster” outside the theatre, “Exchequer Cab” on the bumper of a taxi) winkingly link the setting to our own.
In these ways and others, McNeil excels at tying her many character and story elements together and anchoring them in the same increasingly familiar universe, making her fictional world, its inhabitants and their issues and experiences all the more real to the invested, gratified reader. Her detailed endnotes further enlighten us as to her thought processes, helpfully remind us where we’ve seen names and faces and objects before, and add extra zing to the jokes.
Finder: Voice originally appeared as a webcomic (for which it won a 2009 Eisner) before being released as the series’ ninth trade paper edition (the first eight of which make up the contents of The Finder Library, volumes 1 and 2, for those concerned with continuity). As with previous installments in the series, the language, here-limited violence, suggestive themes, and female (? with the Llaveracs, you can never be sure) nudity gear the title toward older teens and adults.
by Carla Speed McNeil
Dark Horse, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 16