There’s nothing remarkable about Erdemoglu Selim, other than his flowery language. He’s happy enough as a lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps and enjoys making tea and having peaceful conversations with friends. Then Delilah Dirk comes swashbuckling into his life. A quick list of her accomplishments (as told to the disbelieving Agha) sounds like a fairy tale, and even Selim doesn’t believe it until he finds himself in the middle of her prison escape. Daring, exuberant, and adventurous, she’s his complete opposite and he is utterly bewildered at being caught up in her plans. After some hair-raising adventures that include flying, pirates, hoards of treasure, and and way too many explosions, Selim is relieved to settle down in a quiet village. But is that really what he wants from life? Or will he risk it all to rejoin Delilah and be her partner in adventure?
The artwork is both classic and fresh, with an appealing emphasis on action and humor. It also showcases beautifully drawn backgrounds and settings, bringing the Mediterranean world of the 1800s to life. Cliff gives each character a personality and distinctiveness, even if it’s just in shape and size, that keeps the many background characters from disappearing into the scenery. Selim, at first appearing as simply another soldier, gradually takes on a personality and life of his own, although he retains the same uniform throughout the story. His increasing facial expressions, from bug-eyed terror to thoughtful reflection, add to his character’s development until he becomes a suitable partner for the intriguing Delilah. Delilah is most often drawn in action, leaping from rooftops, crossing swords, and hightailing it out of towns just ahead of the outraged townsfolk, but she has her moments of reflection as well, usually ending with an innocent look or particularly outrageous grimace. Her costume, while indecent for the time, is nowhere near as revealing as most contemporary female adventurers and has a strong Greek influence, showing her heritage. She has a distinctive, hawk-nosed face and a plenitude of bushy brown hair.
This story is pure adventure; even the brief moments of reflection quickly give way to another exciting crisis or the appearance of a new set of villains (or outraged innocents). There’s no hint of romance between Selim and Delilah, just a growing friendship and spirit of adventure. Delilah leaves behind her share of bodies, but there’s an insouciance to the violence that marks it all as just a fantasy adventure, with no real consequences. As Delilah says, “Look at all the dead people! I’m very deadly!” While some middle grade kids may enjoy this, teens and adults will be the ideal audience for this lighthearted adventure and will look forward to another installment of the adventures of Delilah Dirk.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
by Tony Cliff
First Second, 2013