Glister and the Faerie Host; Glister just keeps on getting better and better….
by Andi Watson
When I reviewed Glister The Haunted Teapot back in August I described it thus:
“Glister Butterworth is a strange magnet. Like it says right there: wherever she goes, strange things happen around her. In fact Glister’s life is pretty strange without anything happening to her. She lives with her dad, Mr Butterworth, in a dilapidated, draughty, ramshackle old home called Chilblain Hall that really does have a mind of it’s own, complete with rooms that come and go as they please, Trolls in the wishing wells, String Quartets in the salon and Questing Elves and Dwarves renting the dungeons at 10 gold pieces an hour“
Essentially Andi’s produced a catch all character he can hang wacky stories from in Glister. The first book was all about a teapot haunted by an author who then proceeds to get Glister to ghost-write his final, great, unfinished masterpiece. The second book sees the Butterworth’s house up and leave after taking offence at criticism from the Bonny Village competition, leaving Glister and her father left homeless and trying to convince the house that it needs to return home.
And I concluded that in Glister there was:
“…a freshness, an innocence and a sheer joy in Watson’s work here. All the better served by a slightly more relaxed and open style to his artwork that not only touches on Manga stylings but also the very traditionally English stylings of illustrated children’s books. Likewise Andi’s writing takes on a lightness of tone and touch very appropriate for both the subject matter and the readership. It’s perfect for it’s intended market of young girls. But it’s also something boys and girls of all ages will really enjoy. Even us old folks.”
But I’ve now read The Faerie Host and have decided that it’s so much more than this.
With the third volume of this wonderfully delightful series Watson shows how versatile and wonderful his work can be and why I’ve believed for a long time that he’s one of Britain’s premier cartoonists. It starts off as we’ve come to expect, with a fun bit of early Christmas spirit (Dad getting the decorations up at Halloween) throughout Chilblain Hall:
(Christmas comes early for Glister, but not in a good way. Page from Glister #3, art by Andi Watson)
But in the space of a few pages the cute and happy go lucky tale of Glister’s Christmas routine turns from fun whimsy to beautifully tragic and heartbreaking.
“Now there was one thing that Glister held precious above all other things. Her Hoody. It had been knitted for her by her mother. No matter how many times she washed it, it always smelt of her mum.
Whenever she put the cardigan on, it felt like being held close to her mother’s chest as a baby. The memory of warm skin against her cheek and her mother’s hair falling over her face engulfed her.”
“Glister knew why her father tried to make each Christmas more magical than the last. It was because he couldn’t give her the one present she truly wanted but would never ask for. She wanted her mum.”
And with that one line, the entire tone of the book changes, in that one heartbreaking moment, the happiness of Glister’s existence dissolves …
But salvation for Glister may be at hand; recent boundary changes means that Chilblain Hall is now bordered by the Faerie realms and that very night Glister’s mom comes back; a shadowy image in Glister’s dressing table mirror. It turns out that Glister’s mom is trapped in Faerie and needs Glister’s help to escape. So Glister embarks upon a dangerous quest across the faerie realms and battles the Faerie King for the life of her mother, but can she do it, can she really get her mom back? Or will she be left full of sadness and missing her mom more than ever? I’ll leave that to you to discover, but let’s just say that all the Butterworth’s are a resourceful lot, and Glister’s mother has a plan, although it may not all work out quite the way you imagine….
I had tears in my eyes by the end of this issue. It was just so lovely and perfectly done.
So Andi does it again, producing not just a wonderful piece of comics, but something that initially seemed lightweight and just a simple bit of fun and ends up something far more serious and thoughtful. He’s a master at this, taking a situation and wringing real human emotion out of it. And even here, in this lovingly wrought bit of lightweight fun he does it again, raising not just a smile but a tear from the reader as well. Truly, a young master of the art.
Glister: The Faerie Host is the best of the Glister series so far, taking all of the fun and quirky adventure of the first two volumes but injecting something wonderfully tragic and melancholic to truly make this volume something for everyone. It’s marketed as being for age 6 plus – I’m 39 now and it was perfect for me, just as it was perfect for Molly, aged 10. And when you finish it, when your child finishes it, I’d expect that you’ll be describing it as perfect as well.
Volume 4 in the Glister series; The Family Tree is out in March and I’m looking forward to it already.