It’s almost time for the Midsummer Festival on Teacup Island, and the goblins that dwell below its surface are hard at work preparing for that special day full of fun, frivolity, and firefly wishes. The preparation is cut short, however, when violent earthquakes threaten the stability of their underground home, ending any hopes of the festival going on as planned. As the goblins say, the Earth Queen must be furious to send such quakes.
Angered at the festival’s cancellation, Pella, a brash young goblin, sets off into the dreaded Enchanted Forest to find the Earth Queen’s tower and give her a good telling off. It is up to Bix, her worrywart older sister, to venture into the forest and bring her back in one piece. Fearsome creatures and new allies await them inside, but will they be able to do the impossible and return from the Enchanted Forest?
In her debut author/illustrator comic, Robin Robinson weaves a compelling, adventurous tale set in a lushly drawn world. Robinson’s character designs, with Bix and Pella’s muted blue coloring, naturally stand out among the rich green palette of the forest, making them the focal point of any scene. As I read, I was often reminded of the Hildafolk series and how this comic captures a similar natural environment, one that is wondrously inviting, yet fraught with danger. The beasts that lurk within the forest also add a good amount of intrigue to the setting, their designs simple but effective, my favorites being the intimidating Stalking and Starry Herons and the Facedeer (which bears a slight and silly resemblance to the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke, though that may be a projection due to my Studio Ghibli-obsessed brain).
Though the writing appears somewhat standard for your average fantastical adventure, the relationships between the characters are what make this story truly shine. The comic showcases the sibling dynamic so genuinely through both sisters’ point of view: Bix’s exasperation at her little sister’s antics conflicts with an unwavering devotion to protect her, while Pella’s feelings of being stifled coexist with her awareness of the efforts and sacrifices made on her behalf. Even Bix’s new friendship with Cici, a friendly and excitable tree troll who acts as her guide through the forest, proves to be especially heartwarming as they grow closer over the course of the comic. The characters’ personalities mesh so well with each other, in turn creating a perfect balance of character traits that each reader can find someone to latch onto.
The publisher’s recommended age range of 8-12 is apt for this title, as the demographic is sure to relate to Bix’s experience of treading into a new situation and being at a complete loss of how to handle it, as the “what-ifs” start piling up and the journey ahead looks too daunting to face. Being an anxious thinker myself, I was able to relate to her frustration at having to relearn things in order to adjust to an unfamiliar surrounding and fear of all the unknowns ahead. As younger readers go through this comic, they will witness an example of how to handle the onslaught of their own worries and realize that perhaps the uncertainties ahead are not as intimidating as they seem.
Additional content that follows the story, such as a map of the island setting, a bestiary, and a look at the different inhabitants of the island adds to the stunning and intriguing world that Robinson has created. Overall, I heartily recommend this comic to any library’s juvenile comic collection, especially ones that have a high circulation of lighthearted fantasy and adventure-based stories.
No One Returns From the Enchanted Forest
By Robin Robinson
First Second, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: Ages 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)