Propaganda wanders into The Lost Colony
by Grady Klein
First Second Books
I came to Lost Colony late and completely failed to pick up books one and two before picking up this third volume. This was a very stupid thing to do, as Lost Colony is not really a book that can really be taken as a single volume. Storylines continue across books, and , rather annoyingly, the story in volume 3 directly continues into volume 4. Add to my confusion the fact that this is no simple book, despite the rather twee looking cover above. It’s far more complicated and detailed than it seems and is not really a book you can really jump into with no preparation. There’s a handy guide to the characters at the front of the book and a quick recap, but it’s nowhere near enough to prepare you for the story to come. I’m genuinely not entirely sure how much I liked it. This is not some mediocre “it was okay but…” sort of thing, more a confusion as to my response. One the one hand it was intriguing and brilliantly done, on the other there just wasn’t enough of it to really make any kind of judgement of it. I really need to get hold of not just volumes 1 and 2, but the not yet published volume 4 to decide properly.
In Volume 3 we’re presented with the complicated tale of young Birdy, brought to a mysterious island by her father as he tries to rebuild his life and fortune. The island in question is the real star of the series I think. A lost place, providing sanctuary and mystery to it’s disparate and often desperate inhabitants. The beauty and majesty of the island surrounding merely puts the dark and base motivations of it’s inhabitants into bold relief.
Birdy’s father is a dull, witless man, who believes that calling himself governor of the island actually implies ownership. One feels he will be proven very wrong very soon. Birdy’s mother is a shrill, sad, lifeless woman, who has never cared for Birdy’s father, and particularly hates him for tearing her away from her life on the mainland. The appearance of an old love, the particularly repulsive Minister Buck Swagger, will merely add to her disdain for her husband and their island life. Birdy’s own life has recently been turned upside down by the killing of her grandfather at the hands of her trusted nanny. But the events in volume 3 are to show Birdy that so many of her childish truths are lies and she’ll have to start making her own mind up about all of the strange goings on in the lost Colony. For a start she’ll have to confront the truth regarding her beloved Grandfather; as his vicious and racist past is discovered throughout the book. And all of the time, the cast of characters around her plot and scheme and manoeuvre their way toward as yet unknown goals. But goals that somehow involve Birdy in a role far beyond merely being the governor’s daughter.
(Birdy finding solace on the island and being followed by those strange rock sprite creatures. From Lost Colony Book 3 by Grady Klein. Published First Second.)
And then, on top of this drama, we have the fantasy elements of the story. The very existence of this unlikely island is a mystery in itself, and we’re led to believe that there is some magic or other at play. The island is populated by strange rock creatures, seemingly innocent at first but gradually becoming more and more threatening and somehow tied to Birdy’s role in the tale.
Grady Klein rather sucker punches you with Lost Colony. You open the pages expecting something interestingly strange yet gentle and are instead plunged headlong into a bizarre world of magical creatures, human emotions at their most base and ugly and complex adult situations such as adultery and racism. It’s a fairy tale in setting, but a complex social tale in execution.
The Lost Colony doesn’t seem fixed in a timeperiod, but the place is definitely some version of America and the cultural cues; pioneer mentality, escaped and fugitive slaves place it sometime circa the mid to late 19th Century if I’m not mistaken. And within the pages, Klein is certainly willing to address the darkness of the times, with no character coming out of the book unblemished. Even our youthful, innocent Birdy shows herself to be a rather petty, mean spirited and nasty child in her dealings with her only real friend, the ex-slave child Louis.
(Birdy may seem our fairy-tale heroine, but she’s as complicated and as human as the rest of the cast. Above; panels from Lost Colony Book 3 by Grady Klein. Published First Second.)
The artwork is a simple yet effective thing. A very thick line and hard colour fill for his characters sits atop some gorgeous full colour backgrounds. And as you might expect from this story of a fairy-tale island, the colours are wonderful with lush greens everywhere. And then there’s Klein’s use of pink. It’s everywhere in the book. Whether it’s a stylistic touch denoting a dream or past memory, or the obnoxious, perfumed smell of the equally overbearing minister competing for Birdy’s mother’s affections or even the effect the strange rock creatures seem to have on certain inhabitants, there’s pink all over. It’s jarring, having this vivid, dreamlike pink cut across these beautiful candy coloured pages, but it certainly allows Klein to put his point across.
(Beautiful art from Lost Colony Book 3 by Grady Klein, including those pink flashbacks.)
And jarring probably works to describe Lost Colony as a book as well. The effect of reading it is jarring. There’s uncertainty on every page as Birdy and the inhabitants continually find themselves forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew. All of which leads me to the conclusion that perhaps this volume isn’t the best to be starting with then. Even after finishing it and re-reading it, I still couldn’t really tell you whether I liked it or not. I certainly felt intrigued enough to get the other volumes. Klein is obviously working hard to develop an interesting and complex set of characters, motivations and events. I’ll definitely be picking up the other two volumes as soon as I can, and will be getting volume 4 when it gets a release. Then maybe I’ll be able to work out whether it’s really as good as I think it might be.
Richard Bruton hasn’t set up home on a lost island but he has enjoyed the music of Island Records over the years.