By | Friday, April 06, 2007 Leave a Comment
My lunch hour(ish) reading today was M. Alice LeGrow's first volume of Bizenghast. I bought it mostly on the strength of the LeGrow's linework; I find it rather elegant and somewhat reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsely. I've also been on something of a steampunk kick lately, and the gothic flavor of the art is (for me, at least) currently appealing.

I didn't know what to expect with the story going into it, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by it. Young Dinah, whose doctor is worried about her fits and convulsions, finds some quiet and rest on secret excursions with her friend Victor. The two accidentally stumble upon a graveyard and are conscripted into returning on a nightly basis to help the trapped spirits on their way.

I really like the set-up here. It's a pretty flexible concept and allows the author to flex her abilities in different ways in different stories. Some adventures are going to be scarier than others; some problems are going to be solved more intellectually, while others are going to be physical and/or emotive ones; some stories can focus on the protagonists and others can focus on the spirits... There's a wealth of possibilities there, and this first volume already shows that LeGrow plans to explore many of them.

The book has a dream-like quality, not unlike Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz but with a gothic twist. At the same time, though, it hasn't lost the romanticism of those originals, too, in the way that American McGee's Alice or Frank Beddor's Looking Glass Wars do. (Not to disparage either of those works, mind you! There's a lot of good in both of them; they just don't carry the romanticism of the originals.)

I'm finding it difficult to put into words the good things about the story. Not that there aren't plenty, just that it's hard to articulate them coherently. There's lots to take in and process, and most of it is quite attractive, and what isn't particularly attractive is still ornately intriguing. Both in the art and in the story.

If you're looking for something different, and simply well done, Bizenghast is worth a peek. It might not be your cup of tea, but it has uniqueness that you ought to at least be personally and directly aware of.
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