Friday, April 14, 2017

Arc Review: Yvain: the knight of the lion by M.T. Anderson


Yvain: the knight of the lion by M.T. Anderson. Illustrated by Andrea Offerman. 144 p. Candlewick Press, March 14, 2017. 9780763659394. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Master storyteller M.T. Anderson makes his graphic novel debut with the story of Yvain, one of King Arthur's Knights. The story was originally a poem by Chr├ętien de Troyes as the author explains in his note at the end of the graphic novel.

A prelude introduces an unseen narrator, we see just hands, one gloved with a hooded hawk perched on it. The other unhoods the hawk, which then soars overhead. From this bird's eye view, we see a bloody trail following a horse carrying a knight slumped in a saddle. He is severely injured and returning to a castle seen in the distance.

The saga is told in three action-packed parts. Yvain leaves a feast at King Arthur's palace to avenge his cousin's beating at the hands of Sir Esclados. He mortally wounds the lord and follows his retreating horse to the castle where a maid, Lunette,  finds Yvain and hides him using magic to make him invisible. When Yvain sees the lord's widow, Laudine, he falls instantly in love with her and begs Lunette to find a way for him to meet her. The wily Lunette manages to convince her lady to meet Yvain and they quickly wed. He for love, she for the safety of her people. Unfortunately, when King Arthur and Sir Gawain come for a visit, Gawain goads Yvain into traipsing about the countryside jousting and competing in tournaments. When Yvain does not return within the prescribed time, Laudine renounces him. This repudiation sends Yvain spiraling into self-destructive despair.

In part two, after some time living as a wild man, Yvain happens upon a bloody battlefield where he sees a lion doing fierce battle with a deadly serpent. Yvain plucks a sword and shield from a corpse and joins the battle, eventually cleaving the serpent in half. The lion bows before him. He collects clothing and armaments from the dead and sets off on foot with his new best friend. Eventually, he rests by a stone hut and finds that Lunette is imprisoned in it and is to be executed the next morning. He vows to be her champion.

Phew! And there's still part three to come! The writing is spare yet compelling. The Medieval setting is vividly drawn by Andrea Offerman, who explains the details of her research and some of the symbolism she incorporated into some of the art. 

We've got something to please many types of readers here - knights, battles, magic, a little chivalry, quite a lot of bloodshed, a touch of romance, a number of quests, misunderstandings and a shrewd Machiavelian maid. Oh! And much magnificent art. The muted palette is evocative of Medieval manuscripts and tapestry. Give this to fans of graphic novels, fantasy, and King Arthur legends. 

I first read this book back in..., hold on, let me check. Whoa! Back in December! I set up a post for a review but each time I sat down to try and write about it, I found myself rereading and getting lost once again. I found something new on each reread and also found the storytelling compelling each time, if not more so. But I got stuck trying to synopsize the circuitous tale first getting bogged down in too much detail, then not enough. I'm still not sure I've got this review right but here it is. Read it. It's magnificent!


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