miskha-and-the-sea-devilThe true star of Mishka and the Sea Devil is author and illustrator Xenia Pamfil’s quick change act: each chapter of the nine that make up the book is illustrated in a different style, creating an entirely new atmosphere for each section of the story. Mishka is a fast-paced adventure with a tinge of magical mystery, so the rapid-fire artistic changes coupled with protagonists who never stop moving, meeting new people, and exploring new parts of their island will make it an irresistible treat for younger readers.

Mishka is a fisherman out on her boat one day when a storm boils up and a huge red-feathered whale-like fish, the Devil of the Sea, capsizes the vessel. She falls down to the bottom of the sea and wakes up on an island, her memories gone. On her first night she shelters in the ruins of another wrecked ship and witnesses shadowy figures patrolling the shore. When she goes exploring she finds some native people with whom she has a communication problem and a cat with an eyepatch, who becomes a companion. A fierce girl who claims to be the ghost of a dead admiral finds Mishka taking a nap, and soon the quest is set. As it turns out, the Admiral was also attacked by the Devil of the Sea, but survived because she was already a ghost. Her account opens up Mishka’s memories, and she realizes that part of her is still with the Sea Devil and has to be retrieved.

By this point, Pamfil has gone through three different styles: two manga-influenced, with aggressively cute character designs, and one with a more Euro-comic flavor. Throughout the rest of the book she samples the house style of Adventure Time, an angular and gothic expressionist style which features both a soft and misty sepia tone, a detailed and dusky-colored indie style, and more. It would be hard not to admire her flexible, creative mind as it churns out more and more wholly realized sets.

By the fourth chapter, the women are confronted by the inhabitants of the island, who luckily do know how to speak English. They have extra information about the quest, in a striking coincidence. So Mishka, the Admiral, and Captain Furball are joined by a tribesman, Awaweko, who suffers from an unfortunate case of Sidekick Dialect—he mostly refers to himself in the third person.

This, coupled with Pamfil’s habit of leaning heavily on explication and exclamation in her characters’ dialogue, might tire older teen and adult readers. Moreover, Mishka’s is a journey with a goal solved by coincidental meetings, with complications to the plot that, when discovered and unraveled in a single chapter, end up not being that complex. For that reason, Mishka and the Sea Devil is best suited to elementary age readers who can revel in the dazzle of characters whose environments and aspects change from page to page, and a story that stays light, fun, and on its set path to a satisfying resolution for all involved.

Mishka and the Sea Devil
by Xenia Pamfil
ISBN: 9781632290700
Action Lab Entertainment, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: age 8-12

  • Tessa Barber

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

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