Nearly one year ago today, Thom Pico and Karensac’s Aster and the Accidental Magic, a magical YA graphic novel that is so sweet and addictive it might as well be called candy. Random House Graphic has released the second volume of a planned trilogy today, which features our main character Aster navigating some harsh climate and an even harsher talking goat — er, sorry, he insists he’s a ram. Collecting three stories, Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic takes us through the winter and into the summer.
This book opens with the main story set in winter and featuring a confident Aster in her surroundings and the magic amongst her area. Along with her talking dog, a talking mini-fox, and the Chestnut Knights, Aster is armed to the teeth with a colorful collection of creative creatures. The book opens with a talking ram who wants to bring revolution to the valley and that involves taking out the humans. Some time has passed since the last volume and Aster is even better on her own thanks to new friends at school, as well as her magical friends. Taking up nearly half the book, this story utilizes the sheep uprising to maximize the drama while developing a narrative around Aster’s brother. He’s back from school, but Aster’s life is so busy with magic and keeping the sheep from taking over she can’t spend a single second with her.
Pico and Karensac are doing a good job developing the family characters around Aster — you see as much with her dad and the Chestnut Knights, and it’s interesting to see Aster ignore her brother when his absence in the first volume rocked her world so hard. In effect, the character has grown and developed over time. The various characters woven into the narrative allow the narrative to build too and by the book’s end, there are even more characters to interact with Aster. The creators have done well to integrate characters naturally so that their introduction is earned and well-timed.
There are good stories within the book, including the fun mini-story at the middle of this book about the Chestnut Knights. Like any good fairy tale, we get an interesting look at the evil ram in the first story and how they came to be in the position they’re in. It’s a quick two pages, but Karensac draws it in a simpler graphic design style that changes things up nicely.
The art throughout the book continues to draw so many things well. From making the ram mad and obviously the bad guy but not too scary, to maximizing sound effects and word balloons. There’s a vibrancy to this world that’s a touch away from endearing animated series, but still maintaining the charm of comic book storytelling. The second story, titled “The End of Everything (and what happens next)” features many creatures of all shapes and sizes. The design of them is cute but also captures necessary elements, be it fun and fancy-free or domineering and controlling. The setting is also always prominent in a scene and Karensac captures the scale, height, and distance well that creates a strong sense of space. When that space is nearly destroyed later in the book (spoilers!) Karensac frames characters well to capture the vastness of space and the void.
It’s recommended you read Aster and the Accidental Magic first, especially since the third story uses many characters from the first volume. This volume could be read on its own, each story is technically self-contained, but the weight of the drama would be lost as well as Aster’s development. In fact, this book relies on the reader knowing the past volume in some places, which can make certain characters a bit of a mystery unless you’ve reread the last volume.
Random House Graphic has a surefire YA hit on their hands here, and it’s one that will likely be adapted to another format since it’s so deliciously cute and original. This is enjoyable storytelling that builds in a rewarding way. Considering the cliffhanger of Aster and the Mixed-Up Magic, many will be dying for the next volume.
For more on this series read our interview with the creators.
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