An empire split into uneasy factions, flying arrows and clashing swords, tangled cases of impersonation and mistaken identity—it’s not Game of Thrones but rather young adult graphic novel A Sparrow’s Roar by C. R. Chua and Paolo Chikiamco. While this action-packed tale of identity and power takes a while to find its feet, the story is appropriate for young adult or even middle grade audiences, and is overall a decent effort by the new author-illustrator team.
When Per of Esterpike’s sister, the lauded warrior Elena, is slain in battle, Per decides to impersonate her in an attempt to seek aid from Esterpike’s sister-kingdoms. Once the Empire of Mariae, the current state Unity is composed of these four sister-kingdoms, Esterpike, Ethern, Strakton, and Cambria. While the four kingdoms largely exist in harmony, an ancient talisman formed by four fragments—one fragment held by the Great General of each kingdom—promises to unlock access to equally ancient weapons of untold power. The prospect of such power causes Fahris and Ferris, two brothers descended from an ancient Cambrian family, to attack their sister kingdoms and, with Elena gone, Per finds herself the one person who can perhaps defeat them.
Tackling such a plot—with roiling battle scenes and the confusion of characters who are impersonating one another—proves a little too much for the new author-illustrator team. The illustrations are attractively-colored and paced with a great, made-for-tv sense of timing. The text is alternately funny and epic. But the character development, exposition, and transitions are all insufficient to fully plug readers into the tale: it wasn’t till nearly halfway through the book that the story begins to cohere into something with shape and momentum, resulting in a first half spent flipping back to earlier pages to ensure that one hadn’t missed something. Despite being the protagonist, Per is underdeveloped, reading mostly as a hapless and mischievous youngster struggling with her place in Elena’s shadow. Unfortunately, these oversights might be enough to lose A Sparrow’s Roar many readers who would otherwise find appealing the epic plot full of powerful women and devious men in shining armor.
A Sparrow’s Roar is an ambitious adventure story with some flaws in plotting, pacing, and characterization. While not essential for all collections, this book is nonetheless one to recommend to determined tween and teen readers with a passion for knights, battles, and epic tales if your library already has it on hand.
A Sparrow’s Roar
By C.R. Chua, Paolo Chikiamco
Art by C.R. Chua
Boom! Box, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: grades 7-9