When humans wanted to settle the Island to build a grand City, they had to negotiate with the Kurbs—creatures of darkness who possess the Island. Each year, the humans must perform a ritual to acknowledge and pay respect to the Kurbs and their Power. The ritual begins on June 21st when the Kurbs hide their Power somewhere within the City. The humans have until noon on December 21st to find the Power and restore it to its rightful place. Should the humans fail, the Kurbs will forfeit their contract with the humans, freeze the City, and take the Island back. This year, thanks to the evil Mr. Underton, the City has never been closer to failing to complete the ritual. It is up to Sarah and Carlos, two 11-year-old children, to ensure their City survives to the next year.
Avi creates interesting lore in City of Light, City of Dark and blends both traditional exposition and comic book storytelling with mixed results. At times, the writing feels ethereal, as if Avi is simply the medium for revealing ancient truths. But at other times, the writing comes clunking down with too much telling, not enough showing. Still, the adventures of Sarah and Carlos as they strive to save both their cities and their families keep the interest levels high and the pages turning.
Floca’s black and white line drawings are simple, with the vast majority of panels feeling a little like a comic strip. Floca’s talent really shines when he wants to draw your attention to a specific moment between two characters or to show the beauty of a cityscape. Here Floca uses straight line shading and bold white spaces to add drama and atmosphere to these moments.
The folklore Avi creates in City of Light, City of Dark can be enjoyed by a wide audience, but the text size and spacing as well as the age and experiences of the protagonists plant it firmly in the upper elementary to middle school range.
Fans of the Percy Jackson series and other mythological based stories may find Avi’s spin on the season myth particularly interesting. Also, children and teens who are used to fending for themselves and/or taking care of their parents will certainly relate to Sarah and Carlos.
City of Light, City of Dark
Art by Brian Floca
Graphix, Scholastic, 2013