Fifteen-year-old Tabby Simon is in a depressing rut. Her father died seven years ago in a mysterious accident. His death was attributed to mist emitted by the strange tree he was studying, but Tabby doesn’t buy that. So now, she spends all her free time studying the tree herself, in secret. But it’s going nowhere . . . until the day a handsome boy with glowing blue eyes shows up, and everything changes.
Tabby is pulled through a portal and finds herself on another planet. Rema is a beautiful world, full of alien architecture and sweeping vistas. It is also dangerous. The geists, people with supernatural powers, are feared and shunned – and some of them are plotting against the government. The Keepers, meanwhile, travel between worlds and protect the realm. The blue-eyed boy, Philip, is a Keeper who is also, secretly and unhappily, a geist. He promises to get Tabby home, but that proves difficult—maybe even impossible. Meanwhile, Tabby and Philip are beginning to grow attached to each other. Would either of them even want her to leave Rema?
And that’s before Tabby meets a strange being who knew her father. A being who knows what really happened to him—and who wants something from Tabby.
It’s easy to feel for Tabby: she’s an intensely lonely kid who misses her dad, doesn’t get along well with her mom, and seems to have no friends. This ends up being convenient, as she is not terribly upset by the prospect of being stuck in Rema, unable to return to Earth. Philip, too, is lonely. He has no family and is isolated by his dangerous secrets. The book drops hints of a tragic backstory, too. Tabby finds Philip handsome and kind, and he finds her sympathetic and easy to talk to. Throw in a lot of blushing and one very emotional hug, and an Earthling-Reman romance is born.
The romance is not the only plotline likely to be expanded in future books. There is the mystery of what happened to Tabby’s father, and also the geist rebel who suggests that Tabby can expect a visit from one of the Reman gods. Lots of reasons to keep reading the series!
The world of Rema, in which most of this book takes place, is lush and imaginative. Its history, religion, laws, and social structure are introduced in this book, but it feels as if we have seen only the tip of the iceberg. The visuals underscore the alien feel of the world: not only is it full of whimsical architecture and art, but it is often seen from above, as citizens of this city can fly.
The characters have a manga-influenced look – some more than others – but they are simpler and more realistically-proportioned than many manga characters. They fit well with the backgrounds, having a similar level of detail and smooth, organic feel.
Many graphic novel readers will be familiar with the Amulet books by Amy Kim Kibuishi’s husband, Kazu Kibuishi. The series have some things in common; fatherless young protagonists who find themselves in bizarre, richly-illustrated fantasy worlds in which they have important destinies. Fans of Amulet may enjoy this series, too, especially if they like a little light romance with their otherworldly adventures.
The Rema Chronicles: Realm of the Blue Mist Vol. 1
By Amy Kim Kibuishi
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)