Like all the young woodland creatures, Tad idolizes the Star Knights, ancient heroes created when animals were given the magic of the stars and took on human forms. But Tad is a frog, and frogs, salamanders, and other “mud dwellers” were once the enemies of the Star Knights. Even now, mud dwellers are hated and feared by the other forest animals. Only his mysterious new friend seems to believe that Tad could someday be a Star Knight.
But then the stars fall, as they did in ancient times, and Tad manages to get one. It turns him into . . . well, maybe not a powerful hero, but at least he isn’t a frog anymore! And he has a mission: help the Star King, who has fallen to earth, return to his proper place in space. It won’t be an easy quest: the original Star Knights have been corrupted into scary Fallen Fauna, and Tad can’t seem to discover his Star Knight special ability to fight them. Plus, he’s terrified of anyone finding out that he’s a lowly frog. On the upside, for a space monarch, the Star King is surprisingly, well, down-to-earth. And friendly. And maybe just a little familiar… ?
Star Knights is a magical story about accepting and believing in yourself and your friends. Tad is young and lonely, with big dreams but no support, except from his new friend, a fellow mud dweller who doesn’t even seem to have a name. When Tad gets the opportunity of a lifetime, he is happy to throw away his froggy former identity. But as he discovers, the story of the Star Knights and their mud dweller enemies is more complicated than he ever knew. Maybe he hasn’t been fair to himself or to other mud dwellers, including his mysterious friend.
Kay Davault, who some readers will know from her popular webcomic Oddity Woods, has created a colorful, soft-edged world of glowy magic and fanciful costumes and architecture. The cute, cuddly characters are reminiscent of chibi-style manga. It’s especially fun to see the animal influences in the human forms of the Star Knights: their hair and outfits imitate fur, feathers, wings, tails, or other elements of their original bodies. The menacing Fallen Fauna have very different designs, taking the shape of enormous animals made out of darkness scattered with red stars. Every character is distinctive and recognizable even after changing forms.
There are some combat scenes, but no one is seriously hurt, though one of the creepier Fallen Fauna makes a solid attempt to eat the Star King. While danger is lurking for much of the book, the tone is generally adventurous rather than scary. Protagonist Tad feels young, and between that and the appealingly roly-poly style of the art, the story is very kid-friendly. Hand it to readers who like gentle fantasy and animal stories.
By Kay Davault
Penguin Random House RH Graphic, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)