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SCALES and SCOUNDRELS, BOOK 1: Where Dragons Wander – An enthralling fantasy epic

Scales and Scoundrels book one

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Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander Graphic Novel Review

Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander sees the audacious Luvander join callow Prince Aki and his fellowship as they journey to Dalden Laria, The Hall of Dreaming Treasures. Scales and Scoundrels is a graphic novel written by Sebastian Girner with art by Galaad and lettering by Jeff Powel

It’s hard to make an honest living in a land brimming with magic and mystery, and treasure hunter Luvander is tired of being a penniless adventurer. Ever in search of gold and glory, she sets off for a fabled dungeon “the Dragon’s Maw”, an ancient labyrinth, at the bottom of which slumber endless wealth…or certain doom!

Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander is published by TKO.

SCALES and SCOUNDRELS, BOOK 1: Where Dragons Wander - An enthralling fantasy epic 1

Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander – Story

There’s just a touch of Guardian’s of the Galaxy about Scales and Scoundrels. Luvander is a chancer with a mysterious past out to make a quick buck. After being chased out of town, she stumbles across a party of treasure hunters. Much like the MCU space opera Scales and Scoundrels, strength is the characters and how they play off each other. Luvander is cocky and graceless.

Despite her claims to be only in it for the money is haunted by strange dreams. Prince Aki has a big heart but possesses none of the guile someone of his rank requires and refuses to heed warnings. Koro is Aki’s tightly wound bodyguard. She is a skilled warrior, has a cunning mind and a ruthless streak to boot; she cares deeply for Aki yet also frustrated by his naivety and recklessness. Rounding out the party is dwarven explorer Dorma, who is both upbeat and curious.

Girner creates the same sort of alchemy that made GotG such a joy to watch. Reading these characters exchange jibes and quirky observations as they careen from one dangerous encounter to another is delightful. Girner’s ear for dialogue is first-rate. The actions scenes in Scales and Scoundrels work so well because you’re invested in the characters. You don’t want the inevitable bad things that do ending up happening, happen to them. 

The excellent character writing goes beyond the protagonists. All the characters in the book are really well written, even the bit-part players. 

Girner also cleverly frames the expedition as Aki’s right of passage. A journey of self-discovery and a chance to prove himself. It is highly satisfying seeing how all the character in the group develop as they drive further into the depths of the Dragon’s Maw. The Dragon’s Maw is a suitably hair-raising setting, a mysterious and ancient place full of dangers and wonders. 

The only slight gripe I have with the world-building is that it’s slightly too DnD. In other hands, these cliches might have hamstrung the tale, yet Girner introduces enough inventive elements that make it feel fresh and vibrant. 

Despite this clearly being Lu’s story, everyone has a chance to shine. The masterful plotting gives everyone genuinely affecting moments. 

Without spoiling the plot too much, there are greater forces at work that don’t want our party to succeed, the most prominent of which is the seemingly unstoppable bounty hunter, Kellion, an imposing adversary. 

Where Dragons Wander does a great job of establishing the world that the story takes place in and leaving enough breadcrumbs of intrigue that leave tantalising hints about what Lu’s future adventures might be about. 

Scales and Scoundrels, BOOK 1: Where Dragons Wander – Art

Galaad art is bright and lively. The art direction is highly appealing. The character designs mix both traditional western medieval fantasy motifs with some African/Arab inspired gear for Aki and Kori.  Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander is a funny book. While much of this is down to Girner’s script, it also due to the masterful way that Galaad draws faces. From absurd slapstick gags to subtler one-liners, Galaad nails the timing of humorous moments every time. 

Galaad demonstrates considerable finesse when depicting emotions or emotional moments. I can’t remember who said it, but the best actors are the ones that can hint at the emotions their characters are trying to hide. That’s what Galaad does here, especially with Koro and Aki’s relationship. 

I love the way the book is coloured. The linework is fairly clean, so much of the depth and texture of images hinges on the colouring. 

The action scenes, for the most part, are well choreographed and are easy to follow. My favourite of these is the escape scenes from the fishmen. Unfortunately, there are a few missteps. Some of the acrobatics sequence with Luvander leaping over enemies lacked dynamic energy or a sense of directional impact. Also, there is a sequence with giant monsters that I had to read two or three times to understand what had happened.

These are very minor moments that only stood out because the rest of the book is so excellently illustrated. Overall I think it is one of the best looking graphic novels I have read this year. 

Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander- Conclusion

Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Where Dragons Wander is damn good fun. It is full of memorable characters, great action and has a supremely entertaining plot. Girner has written an enthralling fantasy epic that is brought to life by Galaad’s enchanting art. It is storysmithing at its very best.

After finishing it, I was left with a warm glow and eager for more. I compared Scales and Scoundrels to Guardians of the Galaxy before, and I think it is an apt comparison. Both are colourful, full of wit and left me with a smile on my face. Highly recommended. 

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