by Kate Brown
DFC Library / David Fickling Books / Random House
“They tell a prophecy of our homelands being crushed by a falling sky. That fate has been a shadow over our people ever since. The end has begun . . . in my lifetime.”
The Spider Moon is the third in the releases from The DFC library and it’s a lovely book, part gentle eco tale and part European adventure in the manner of Tintin – young people adventuring out into the world of adults, that sort of thing. Yet the artwork is very much in the vein of Euro-Manga, with all the stylistic effects of Manga combined with beautiful, detailed pages of almost pastel toned colours.
It tells the story of a faraway place, a beautiful idyllic world, sea lapping against the shore, picture perfect skyline, where young girls used to dive for pearls. But the homelands are under threat, and the stars are falling, just as the prophesy foretold. The old ways have changed, and they’re now diving for spinefish that can be turned into oil, oil that’s going to be needed to power the giant floating isle that’s meant to take the people away from the coming disaster. How it’s going to do this is never revealed, but everyone in the book believes it will be their salvation.
We follow the events of this world with Bekka, a young girl whose diving test and the mysterious events way beneath the waves point her out as a very special young girl very early on. She’s certainly key to much of the adventures that follow as she travels to rescue her mom from the bird-folk who want to know why the oil hasn’t been getting through. Her journey takes her to the royal palace where she gets herself involved in all manner of strange goings on, meets a young prince ill at ease with his role, and discovers that not everyone in the Royal Palace has the best intentions for the people of this world. This is definitely her story, albeit one we’re only beginning to experience.
(The floating Isle, hanging over Bekka’s world – is it really the salvation they all believe? From The Spider Moon by Kate Brown, published by the DFC Library)
It’s a delightful story, with feisty, interesting characters all told in a wonderfully colourful and gentle style. Molly enjoyed it a lot and we had quite a chat about the story when she finished it – she was particularly taken with the sense of impending doom and how they were going to resolve it. She thought Bekka was “a great character for girls to enjoy, really cheeky and fearless, so not scared of anything!” and pointed out that it was a “great adventure book with lots of interesting things going on, I really liked all of the questions it made me ask – what will the end of the world be like, who are the bad men at the royal palace and I really want to know more about Bekka and her special diving skill.”
This should certainly please Kate Brown, who has said about The Spider Moon that:
“In creating The Spider Moon, I wanted to make something that I would have liked to have read when I was younger. Being strongly influenced by the style of story-telling in cartoons and comics from my childhood, I set out to make something that had the chance to be enjoyed by young girls in particular, as, growing up, I found very few other girls who liked comics, and there were precious few titles around that catered to girls.“
And Kate Brown has succeeded in that – this is very much a comic that should be enjoyed by all, but young girls will particularly enjoy the delightful adventures of Bekka. It’s got a much wider appeal than that of course, just hearing a little about it and seeing some of those particularly sumptuous pages will show you that.
(Bekka’s dive, far deeper than she was meant to go, and what mystery will she find there? Buy the book, it’s right over the page. From The Spider Moon by Kate Brown, published by the DFC Library)
But sadly, there’s a major problem with The Spider Moon – it’s merely an introduction to the story of Bekka and her fascinating world. Because it’s a very fast, open book we’re just getting going, just getting into the whole story when it finishes. I found myself wondering where it was going, only to realise a few pages further on that it wasn’t going anywhere but Book 2.
And this is a major flaw. The whole point of the DFC Library (at least it seemed to me) was to give the comic experience to those unwilling to read comics, or possibly unaware of their existence, via self contained works of graphic fiction, in beautifully designed and executed hardback Euro-BD style album. So why the hell go and ruin it with a story that, no matter how good you might think it is, still effectively prematurely ends on a small cliffhanger, with Bekka in peril at the hands of someone who definitely isn’t on the side of good. And there it is: “To Be Continued“.
From all of the information I’ve seen, The DFC Library is by no means a long term guaranteed project, with only 7 books announced so far, they’re obviously going to be looking to numbers to decide where to go next. Which is why giving us Spider Moon Volume 1 and ending it without even some sort of small conclusion that was self contained and satisfying within itself is a real let down. I think it’s a mistake and a very annoying one.
However, I know Kate Brown’s got more Spider Moon tales, as they featured throughout the run of the DFC Comic. I’m just hoping that she gets a second book to show them off, because it’s too good to be left hanging like this. Molly and I want to see Volume 2. But sadly we have no idea when, or even if, we shall.
The Spider Moon is released as the last volume in this first wave of DFC Library books on 29th April 2010.