This fantasy adventure is arranged in four chapters and a selection of short stories, all illustrated by a variety of artists. The reader is plunged immediately into the middle of the story; we see a lonely princess, surrounding by arguing adults, then the action segues to an adventurer named Pira and a magical dog made of fire. Pira and the fire dog, Yonder, rescue the Princess Lono, before Pira’s mother can kill her as she has killed Lona’s father. The three begin a journey to Spera. Kyla Vanderklugt’s art in the first chapter has a strong fantasy flavor with fairly bold outlines and lots of lines and strong facial expressions.
The second chapter continues the three friends’ journey to Spera. They defeat a monster, Lono conquers her fear and climbs a mountain and they make a shocking discovery in the caves they must pass through to reach Spera. Hwei’s art in this section has a more delicate, ethereal air. Lono looks older and less like the little girl she appeared to be in the first chapter. Pira is clearly a woman and the soft, swirling colors and shadows emphasize the philosophical comments they trade as well as the darker turn their journey is taking.
In the third chapter, illustrated by Emily Carroll, brighter colors and more sharply defined pictures take the reader a little deeper into the background of the story. We learn a little about Yonder’s nature as a spirit being, the sword Pira carries, and the characters of the three friends. They have apparently made their way through the rest of the caves and appear to be sheltering what turns out to be a shrine where they meet a strange and extremely creepy boy. They flee and come to a village where Lono and Pira interact with normal villagers for the first time in their lives.
Olivier Prichard’s art in the fourth chapter takes a completely new direction from the comic style of Carroll and Vanderklugt and Hwei’s softer tones. His art is more realistic with dull tones and looser lines, turning Lono into a snub-nosed girl with an unattractively lumpy and sulky face while Pira looks much more boyish, with badly cut hair. Their heights have also changed and they’re almost the same size, Pira having lost at least six inches! Part of the final chapter is taken up with Lono’s adjustment to the poor life in the village, compared to the luxuries of the castle and their interactions with their temporary landlady, Sana, who suddenly seems to know them very well despite their brief acquaintance. After departing, they meet the creepy boy again who turns out to be some kind of magical construct created by Pira’s mother. It is destroyed in a nasty battle and Lono is wounded, which turns out to be useful as Pira must complete a magical blood transfusion to complete cut herself off from her mother’s evil magic.
The final collection of short stories details various adventures of Lono and Pira. The art and text vary wildly in styles and theme: “Rubies,” illustrated by Jordyn Bochon has heavily stylized art with thick lines and convoluted, snake-like movement as Pira fights a monster to imbue her sword with magic so she can protect Lono. “Chobo Warrior Tabby,” illustrated by Cecile Brun, has muted colors and rounded lines and Yonder is drawn as an ordinary brown dog. It’s a cute and silly short about a fat warrior cat. “Ahuizotl,” illustrated by Luke Pearson, is drawn in faded greens and browns and the very distinctive art style is a complete contrast to the other stories, showing a strong cartoon style. Lono and Pira have an argument and Lono saves the day – not that anybody notices. In “Dust,” illustrated by Leela Wagner, heavily lined illustrations and adult-looking characters have an adventure with ghosts in an abandoned castle. In the final short, “Blood,” illustrated by Matt Marblo, the characters are drawn with elongated lines and oddly round heads and eyes. They tackle some blood demons while trying to give Lono more experience in adventuring.
The book includes additional art in a character gallery and bios of the author and illustrators.
This title isn’t going to please fans of linear stories or those looking for a straightforward fantasy adventure. The reader never really figures out what’s going on; why is Pira’s mother trying to take over the other kingdoms? How did Lono and Pira become friends? Where did Yonder come from? What happened to all the other people in the kingdoms the princesses fled from? What’s going to happen to the characters later on? Exactly how old are they anyways?
However, readers who like to sample lots of different styles and stories will enjoy this fantastical journey. Some of the fighting scenes are intense and bloody and the disconnected plots will confuse a younger reader. I’d recommend this collection to fans of the Flight anthologies and to older teens and adults.
Spera, vol. 1
by Josh Tierney
Art by Kyla Vanderklugt, Hwei, Emily Carroll, Olivier Pichard, Jordyn Bochon, Cecile Brun, Luke Pearson, Leela Wagner, Matt Marblo
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages