Classic fantasy adventure tales usually involve a band of heroes setting out on a sometimes noble, sometimes self-serving quest. Scales and Soundrels definitely follows this template yet adds some interesting elements along the way. The series title tells the reader a lot about what this series is about and where it is going.
We are introduced to a young woman named Luvander (Lu) who is incredibly strong and appears to have some magical abilities. She likes treasure and gets into trouble frequently for cheating and stealing. While getting out of one jam, she stumbles upon another and saves Prince Aki and his band as they are attacked by roaming thieves. Before long, he has convinced her to join him in his quest for the “Dragon’s Maw,” an ancient treasure. The prince must complete a quest showing courage and bravery before he can assume the throne of the Scarlet Sands Empire, and looking for the treasure of the “Dragon’s Maw” fits the ticket. Along with him is his “Shadow,” Koro, who must protect him no matter what and the dwarf, Dorma Ironweed, who starts out as comic relief but ends up on a quest of her own.
Many adventures ensue and we slowly learn more about each character. That all the main characters are women or people of color or both, sets this series apart from the standard fantasy tale. This fact might make a genre-savvy fantasy reader examine each character’s motivation a bit closer. Actions that we’ve seen a white male character make time and time again look different due to the diverse characters and setting. What is Luvander’s secret? Why does Aki seem to be shirking his duties with his carefree attitude about his quest? Why is Koro so suspicious of Lu, to the point of being deceptive? The villains are enigmatic and full of their own secrets as well. By the time I reached the cliffhanger at the end, I was eager to get my hands on volume 2.
The artwork by Galaad is reminiscent of Jeff Smith’s Bone and anime films like Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The lines are clean and the cartoony style sends the message that this story is for most ages. The color palette is mostly muted browns and orange, but they still pop off the page and add vibrancy to the story. Galaad also brings some interesting perspectives to his panels. When Lu kicks an adversary, her foot seems gigantic as is stretches across the page and it pulls the reader into the story.
Image does not have many all ages books, so they promote this story as a tale for “everyone.” I’d say anyone eight and up could enjoy the story so far. However, there is violence, including a scene where a hero stabs a villian in the eye, so it might not be for absolutely everyone. Despite that, Scales and Scoundrels is a solid purchase for any juvenile graphic novel collection and most upper elementary libraries. It would go nicely with Bone and other fantasy graphic novels.
Scales and Scoundrels, vol. 1: Into the Dragon’s Maw
by Sebastian Girner
Art by Galaad
Publisher Age Rating: All ages