Earlier this year, Random House Graphic published their first YA graphic novel, The Runaway Princess, and it blew me away. The sense of imagination, the style of art, the look and feel of the book in my hands all added up to one of my favorite reading experiences so far this year. That got me even more excited for their latest book, Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico and Karensac. This fantasy adventure follows a young girl bored to tears after her parents move to a small mountain town. Little does she know there is real magic in the area and soon she’s on an adventure that will change reality, involve magic of all the seasons, and more.
This book is a delight, running 224 pages that span two stories, splitting the book down the middle. It opens with Aster clinging to video games she plays with her brother, but when he’s off to college she’s all alone and so bored it hurts. Soon her dad is asking her to go outside and play and she’s verifiably whisked into an adventure involving a magical god and befriended by an old dog shepherd, all the while attempting to stop wild bird-monsters from destroying her house and the town nearby. The latter detail gives you an idea that this series takes place in a slightly different world where monsters exist and magic is very real. Writer Thom Pico drops us into this world and quickly we learn its secrets and get an idea of its imaginative nature. By the end of the first story it’s quite clear there’s a unique nature to this world, and at its core, there is a strong and spunky little girl who is smart and wants to do the right thing.
The magic really starts to get fun when the second story kicks off as it builds on the first story and ties into it quite well. Again, Pico adds in interesting twists, turns, and colorful characters to enjoy along the way, further making it a delightfully fun adventure. More than once I considered whether they should adapt this into a cartoon since it does feel so unique in its approach. Younger readers will enjoy the bright, vibrant art and colorful characters — without a doubt, Aster is a good role model for kiddos to latch onto. I also found the vocabulary great in this book and I could see younger readers looking up the wonderful words used furthering their own vocabulary.
The art by Karensac is delightful, with various monsters and beautiful environments rendered. There’s a stark contrast and clean look that makes everything pop nicely, too. The layout design is clean and easy to follow, and I found the reading experience addictive as I wanted to see what Karensac would come up with next. There are no scary monsters in this either, with most looking like wild animals minding their business, or otherwise cute in some way.
If I had any reservations it’s that the story does take a bit to get going. It still looks wonderful, but it takes its time to establish a few things. Once this book ends you’ll be dying to read the follow up which they hint at on the final page. The story builds on itself, getting more imaginative, magical and filled with wonderment to the point where you’ll be bursting for more.