Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu, illustrations by Teny Issakhanian
Publisher: Quill Tree Books/Harper Collins
Number of pages: 208
Publishing: March 1st, 2022
Source: Netgalley and Publisher via SparkPress
Opening Line: "I don't know how it began. That's the truth, I promise."
Zuli has lived with the guardians of the Great Tree since she was orphaned at a young age. The Great Tree is guarded by mystical bird spirits (which remind me of a phoenix of light). When a bird dies it reappears on the Great Tree as a leaf and the guardians watch and care for it, ensuring it is reborn as a new bird. However lately the leaves have been dying as the bird's souls have stopped returning to the Great Tree. Sure, something is behind it, the guardians sent out Little Red first, but when he doesn't return, Zuli is then sent out to investigate with her owl companion, Frowly. Having been raised among the branches of the Great Tree, Zuli has never ventured beyond her safe home, she's never even saw anyone who looks like herself before. Zuli is however a very determined girl and so she seeks to find answers for what is happening to the bird's souls and to protect the Great Tree from whatever is stealing its magic.
Wingbearer is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel. Oh, so gorgeous, and defiantly not to be missed. Issakhanian has a way with the facial expressions of the characters that are so on point, and when added with the humorous narrations between Zuli and Orien and Frowly, it makes for a wonderful story. The colors of each of the illustrations were an amazing blend of these bright pinks and yellows paired with the dazzling changes of landscapes, moving from the greens of the forest to the browns of the runes of the new world that Zuli ventures into. I just love how she builds this immersive world for the characters to quest through. The contrast of Zuli's safe haven to the runes that she finds beyond are stark and help to illustrate the importance of treading lightly in the environment. Some of the panels even remind me of a magical Disney movie scene, which would be lovely if this could become a movie. All these beautiful details, like when she ends up in a cave and the way the light plays off the dark cavern, just love it! And the story, such a wonderful fantasy adventure, lots of action and a wonderful mix of characters. I really loved Frowly, probably because I love owls, but also because I'm picturing him as Archimedes from the Sword in the Stone. I'd pair this with the Amulet series.
I hope you'll also check out these panels at the artists website, Teny Issakhanian
**A huge thank you to Sparkpress and the publisher for my E-ARC **