A young girl leaves a note for her sleeping parents: “Mom and Dad, I know I have a brother, even if I can’t remember his name.” Thus begins Anya’s adventure over the wall, into an empty city ruled by demons who eat the minds of humans and leave only their bones behind. Every year, at the “Coming-of-Age,” young boys get sent into the city, but not all come back. Those who don’t are soon forgotten by their families, but Anya is determined not to let this happen. Armed only with a wooden totem, to which her brother confided his memories to guard against this day, Anya meets up with a curious and not unfriendly demon who helps her find her brother. But escaping the city is not as easy as Anya had hoped: a giant, powerful demon—this one definitely unfriendly—pursues them. The friendly demon, against his better judgment, helps them escape to the wall and Anya rewards him by giving him one of the most powerful things he could ask for: his own name.
The review copy read is in black and white, but even without the final touch of purple ink, the high-contrast, stylized art in the ARC is bold and beautifully clear, and the narrative of the many wordless panels is easy to follow. Anya’s journey through the jungle to the labyrinthine city is filled with Aztec-like imagery, evoking a place of ancient legends and magic. Though most pages are a standard multi-paneled layout, they never feel over crowded, and the few full page spreads add a nice level of drama, as when Anya arrives at the city wall or when the evil demon discovers her presence.
The importance of memories and knowledge of names as a form of power gives Over the Wall a folktale flavor that will appeal to fantasy and adventure lovers alike. The slightly melancholy tone makes this best for readers fourth grade and up, but this will have large appeal to fans who like their adventures in the dark veins of Amulet and Coraline. Though the themes are merely touched on rather than fully explored, the underlying emotions are clear, and Anya is a brave and likable heroine who doesn’t let her own fears stop her from going after what she’s searching for. This fairly short volume may leave readers feeling disappointed that there isn’t more to her story, but the ending leaves open the possibility of further volumes.