In Dryad, twins Rana and Griffon discover a shared magical power, seek their place in the world, and connect to an older extinct magical race. Their parents Morgan and Yale ran away to a secluded and rustic fantasy town, Frostbrook, early in the twins’ life to afford them something close to normalcy, but they are hiding secrets of their own that can and will redefine the world as the twins know it.
Volume one includes a small-scale invasion on that tiny fantasy town, an escape to a big city, and magic both great and small. Volume two includes plenty of magic but dials back the physical confrontations in favor of drama involving family secrets and opposing schemes. To say more would spoil the big twist at the end of volume one, but I would recommend this to readers of Saga and Wiebe’s own Rat Queens.
Barcelo’s art flourishes in big nature spreads, alien environments, and in depicting magic. Thankfully, the script plays to these strengths repeatedly, treating the reader to pages filled with entwining trees and sparkly spells. Scenes of characters sitting or standing in a room talking are decent enough to do the job, but don’t flow as well as the action sequences. I was also impressed with the coloring from Francesco Segala; different areas have very different tones, so that it’s possible to tell the difference between Frostbrook and the large city of Silver Bay with a glance at the color palette.
The writing of this book is where I see the most similarities with Saga. The parents are ex-soldiers or mercenaries with a hardened persona beneath the loving surface. An early sequence involving a diaper change finds the same humor in parenting babies that Saga did as well. The dialog is easy to follow and at times quite moving, even if different characters’ motivations can get a bit confusing in volume two. The plot of the book evolves quickly, and the settings vary widely. For me, while I still enjoyed both volumes, I enjoyed the beginning of volume one the most and wish it had continued in the vein of “retired fantasy adventurers as parents,” but other readers may enjoy the plot twist more than I did.
Dryad‘s success lies in how well the twists and tonal shifts are received, which sets it apart from Saga and Rat Queens. I would recommend both of those books for your collection ahead of Dryad, but if those are already in your library this is a good addition to that shelf. The publisher marks these books for an adult audience and I would agree with that, as there is blood, swearing, and brief nudity.
Dryad Volumes One and Two
By Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Justin Barcelo
Oni Press, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)