Bone Orchard: Ten Thousand Black Feathers #1 ended with a dreamlike montage of deeply unsettling imagery and disembodied dialogue. Referencing the titular feathers as they visually cascade across the final six pages, the unseen narrator says to Trish, one of two childhood best friends, “There is no more sleeping. No more hiding. You run and run…but you always knew this is where you would end up. This is where they will fall.”
Sh*t is about to get real.
Ending the first installment on an emotional high point was great. This early in the series, however, it isn’t wise—or even possible—to sustain such a high level of tension page after page. At some point, the reader needs a break and the story needs a moment to breathe. If everything is fraught with high stakes, nothing is fraught with high stakes.
Shrewdly, seasoned creators Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino begin the second installment in a completely different time and place. Teen protagonists Trish and her best friend, Jackie, are traversing the desolate landscape of a post-apocalyptic fantasy world on horseback. After a moment, they stop. Something seems familiar. Have they somehow been here before? A single small black feather floats down from above, landing in Trish’s palm.
It’s a clever bit of world building and a compelling story within a story that both delivers some key exposition and underscores the swirling, atemporal nature of the universe—and fate—in which they’ve seemingly found themselves trapped. Notably, in the early scenes that are set in this presumably fictious world, Sorrentino and colorist Dave Stewart employ the same clean, well defined lines and pastel color palette they used in the first book’s flashback scenes.
Until they don’t.
As the story progresses and the tension rises, the artists’ unsettling and unstable cinéma verité horror aesthetic begins to intrude. As the girls grow up, things change. The thin line between past and present, reality and fiction blurs until the previously distinct worlds collide, merging to create a time and place that is neither wholly real nor wholly fictitious.
The core narrative of book two concentrates on the girls’ transition from children to teenagers. Unsurprisingly—like a legion of similar stories—the friends slowly but conspicuously begin drift apart. Whereas they’d previously vowed, “We ride. We fight. We never give up until we find him and kill him,” that powerful sense of unity and shared destiny has begun to fray.
Here, the storytelling stumbles a bit, or at least it doesn’t quite rise to same heights it’s hit before. The fantasy scenes are great, highlighted in particular by two meticulously drawn, exquisitely colored two-page spreads that are effectively complete scenes unto themselves. There’s also a brilliant reveal that is wonderfully crafted and creepy as hell.
Lemire’s dialogue, by contrast, relies a bit too heavily on well-worn coming-of-age tropes. There’s the obligatory high school party hosted by a cool older girl surrounded by throwaway lines like, “Come on! It’ll be fun,” “It’s like you don’t even care anymore,” and “There’s more to life, you know?” One teen is aging out of fantasy nerd culture, while the other remains immersed in the fictitious world they’ve created. It’s a well-established dynamic that many of us have lived through on one side or the other. With the recent avalanche of swords and sorcery and D&D-adjacent coming of age stories across all media, the bit could use some freshening up—especially within this context where everything else is top notch.
Familiar tropes aside, the Bone Orchard: Ten Thousand Black Feathers #2 succeeds on a high level and expertly accomplishes everything it sets out to do—with a brilliant and satisfying payoff at the end. It’s a clever blend of exposition and fantasy world building that positions the two protagonists as both tragic heroes in their own story and authors of their own fate.
Join the AIPT Patreon
Want to take our relationship to the next level? Become a patron today to gain access to exclusive perks, such as:
- ❌ Remove all ads on the website
- 💬 Join our Discord community, where we chat about the latest news and releases from everything we cover on AIPT
- 📗 Access to our monthly book club
- 📦 Get a physical trade paperback shipped to you every month
- 💥 And more!