A strange curse seems to have settled over Bridgetown. If the misfortune of dead crops and housepets wasn’t enough to prove it, a fearsome dragon terrorizing townsfolk from the skies certainly adds more fuel to the fire. Fortunately, the braggadocious knight Sir Kelton arrives on the scene, vowing to vanquish the reptilian menace while leaving behind his bookish squire for his own safety. And yet, Squire notices something off about town, as stories about the dragon’s destruction constantly conflict and bright yellow eyes appear to follow him from the dark. Secrets and mysteries pile on the longer Sir Kelton is away, until it all falls to Squire to save the day. Can this bookworm truly be a match for the dragon or will he find himself burned in the process?
Scott Chantler’s Squire & Knight is a story that sides with the clever and inquisitive folk that are more comfortable asking questions than impulsively rushing into danger. Chantler establishes this dichotomy immediately, setting up Sir Kelton’s brash, arrogant man-of-action disposition against Squire’s more reflective, soft spoken, and analytical demeanor. It’s an odd couple pairing that is familiar, yet still adds a good dose of comedy to their shared scenes. I have been enjoying the uptick in comics having characters use nonviolent means to solve a problem, whether that is through their intellect, ability to delegate and negotiate, or exceptional critical thinking. To my and certainly other brainiacs’ delight, this story is no different. Though Sir Kelton is quick to cast off Squire’s knowledge, claiming that books have no place in slaying dragons, it is ultimately Squire’s investigations and deductions that fare better than the traditional hack and slash nature of knights. While having the basis of a typical quest narrative, Chantler subverts the expected as rationality strikes truer than any blade.
The author cites T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone as a major influence for the graphic novel, which is definitely apparent from the character types and designs, bringing to mind those of the Disney adaptation. There are qualities of Sir Kay and Wart in the titular characters, though the story develops them in a way that makes them completely their own. Squire may be shy and reserved, though he is also curious, courageous, and clever. Sir Kelton, well, he’s your standard knight of valor looking for glory and fame, but that only makes it all the more hilarious when he gets in way over his head with the dragon. Even the dragon brings a lot of sharp wit to the story, his dry humor a great addition to the comedic elements of the story. Also, he looks really cool, and really that’s all what anyone wants out of a comic with a dragon in it.
There is a nostalgic charm about Chantler’s style, from its thick outlines to the use of muted oranges, yellows, grays, and blacks, the colors contributing a distinct medieval aesthetic. Orange is especially prominent, being perhaps the brightest and most lively hue, especially in contrast to the comic’s opaque blacks, which make nighttime scenes a little more ominous, not knowing what could be hiding in the dark. The presence of a lantern becomes even more precious, illuminating the shadows with a comforting, reassuring light. Along with color playing a large role in establishing mood and tone, Chantler utilizes a diverse array of paneling techniques to convey elements such as the passage of time and energy of the scene. Slower, reflective moments have consistent paneling, whereas more action or plot based scenes use panels of varying size and layout, keeping the pace moving and instantly grabbing the attention of the reader. In turn, each page manages to be captivating and atmospheric, as we are thrust alongside Squire to a place where things aren’t as they seem, especially when everyone is telling a different story.
Squire & Knight is the start of a series that is bound to become a favorite of young fantasy readers with a love for simple, but fun quests, cunning heroes, and a touch of mystery to their adventures. Lovable characters, a great sense of humor, and an engaging art style make this title appeal to a broad age range, though the publisher has given a recommended age range of readers 8-12. Given the accessibility of the story with its dynamic layout, as well as its lighter tone, this would be the most ideal audience for this title. Librarians and educators looking to acquire humorous fantasy graphic novels that play with the typical messages of the genre should consider purchasing this title.
Squire & Knight
By Scott Chantler
Macmillan First Second, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Canadian