Saturday, November 11, 2023

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Atana and the Firebird

Zhou, Vivian. Atana and the Firebird (Atana Duology #1 )
November 7, 2023 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Atana is a mermaid who has been abandoned by her people on an island after a prophecy that wasn't explained to her. She loves books, but is very lonely. When a firebird, Ren, falls to Earth, the two become fast friends. After talking, they decide to take off and see the world, not realizing that evil forces would be after them for their magic. Atana knows not to let many people in on the fact that she is a mermaid, but some of the people they meet, including a witch on the Wandering Islands, can tell right away. The two get an invitation to visit the Witch Queen's palace, and this goes well at the start. They even meet a young guard in training, Cosmos, and revel in being among people in a new location. The Witch Queen gives them a lot of information, especially when they are targeted. When the firebirds left Earth, it caused problems in the cycle of magic. Instead of coming back to Earth, magic is now leaking into space, so that firebirds can come in contact with it. They haven't lived on Earth for generations, but Ren doesn't know why. She only knows that being on Earth makes her think of her aunt, who has passed away. When the Witch Queen turns out to have an agenda of her own, Atana gives up her attempt to return to her people (prophecy of no) in order to save her friend Ren. 
Strengths: There aren't as many fantasy graphic novels as there are realistic ones, and this is a fresh take that seems inspired by folklore of some kind. Atana is struggling with her secret, and angry about what the prophecy has caused her to miss. There's a nice gray area with the Witch Queen (is she good, or is she evil?) as well as some LGBTQIA+ representation; she had been in a relationship with Ren's aunt. Cosmos and her sister are interesting characters. This leaves us on a cliffhanger, so it will be interesting to see what the next book brings. 
Weaknesses: Why does the magic in fantasy novels always have to be broken? I know this gives more scope for dramatic tension, but if I am in a world with magic, I just want it to be more fun. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Ostertag's The Girl From the SeaAldridge's Estrangedor Davault's Misfit Mansion

Hale, Shannon, Hale, Dean and Fulmore, Asiah. 
Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld
First published November 9, 2021
Public library copy

Amethyst is a princess who is always trying to pull pranks with her younger brother Quartz, but when some of their magic goes badly awry, Amethyst is sent to Earth for a week as punishment, since her magic wouldn't work there. She is with Citrina, who poses as her mother, and has to go to human school, but when something goes wrong, the two are stuck on Earth for three years. Going by Amy, the princess makes friends and settles in, all but forgetting her former life until Topaz appears and takes her and her friend Autum back to Gemworld. Amy's parents and brother are missing, the kingdom is being ravaged by Flaw and its flawlings, and only Amy can save them. Will Amy be able to readjust to her world, find her familyl, and set things right?
Strengths: There are not as many fantasy adventure graphic novels, so this would be a good one to go along with Aldridge's Estranged or Liu's Wingbearer. Readers who enjoy manga will be drawn to Amy's big eyes and fun wardrobe. This seems a bit like a Sleeping Beauty type story, if Sleeping Beauty returned to the castle as a superhero to save everyone. 
Weaknesses: While Amethyst learns and grows, her actions at the beginning of the book certainly warrant her exile. While I know that the story is meant to concentrate on her return, I felt like I was missing a lot of the backstory. Like Primer by Muro, Krajewski, and Lusky, I wasn't sure if this was an original story or based on a comic. (It's based on the 1980s comics, and there's a decade old film.)
What I really think: Hale's Squirrel Girl novel has been gathering dust on my shelves; my students must not read many comic books, because I rarely have students ask for books involving comic book characters. Even the Hale's Princess of the Amazons, which I enjoyed and thought would have huge appeal, doesn't seem to circulate. If superhero books ARE popular in your school, this is a definite must-purchase. For whatever reason, they are just not something that has done well with my students, like books about pirates or creepy carnivals. 

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