Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life Graphic Novel Review
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life sees Luvander and the rest of the gang deal with the aftermath of their adventures in the Dragon’s Maw. Scales and Scoundrels is a graphic novel written by Sebastian Girner with art by Galaad and lettering by Jeff Powel.
Following a tense standoff with her elders, Luvander sets off to find a way to break the chains of her cursed fate.
Undeterred by danger, she travels to the frozen northern wastes of the Spine of Winter, to a reclusive monastery whose monks guard a secret entrance to the Dragon Dream, the shared plane of consciousness of all Urden, living or long passed.
What she finds there will set her on a journey beyond where any mortals and few dragons have tread, to uncover an ancient secret from the darkest corners of history. Continuing the epic journey of the cursed dragon princess and her fellow scoundrels in a world bent on undoing itself.
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life is published by TKO. ARC of Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life, courtesy of TKO.
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life Story
CAUTION: HEAVY SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 AHEAD.
Sequels are tricky. Repeating a winning formula is difficult. Scales and Scoundrels Book 1 was a triumph, so The Festival of Life has big boots to fill. Much of the early part of the book sees the fellowship coming to terms with the aftermath of what happened in the Dragon’s Maw. Dorma travels home to tell her parents about her brother’s death and finds her poverty-stricken town on the brink of financial collapse.
Lu goes in search of answers of how to break her curse at a monastery with a vast library only to find herself confronted by one of the council members that banished her and with dragon killing bounty hunter hot on her heels.
In the Wandering City of the Scarlett Sands, Aki and Koro are readying themselves for Festival of Life, a once a year coming together of the disparate tribes that make up Aki’s kingdom. Koro is still unsettled by the revelations shown to her in the Dragon’s Maw. Aki, meanwhile, is full of excitement at being ceremonially becoming an adult and taking on formal duties. This means both are oblivious to the hazards that await them.
What The Festival of Life does really well is that it gives characters dilemmas rather than problems. They have tricky choices with seemingly no easy options. For Dorma, it’s choosing to stay home in an increasingly dead-end town to comfort her grieving parents or follow her desire to see the world and break their hearts all over again.
For Koro, it is dealing with the increasing disillusionment of her caste. To be subservient even to someone you care for is not easy, and the lack of agency makes her unsure of her place. Is she worthy of the role set out for her by birth? For Lu breaking the curse might mean depriving the tribes of Scarlet Sands of something they need and deepening the estrangement she has with her family.
While Where Dragon’s Wonder was an Indiana Jones-style adventure story, The Festival of Life operates more like a spy drama/who-done-it. All the humour and character drama that made Book 1 such a joy to read is back. Once again, the dialogue delightful. I especially enjoyed the way Lu and Koro exchanged one-liners. There are some nice twists and red herrings that arise as the story moves forward.
The most satisfying part of reading Scales and Scoundrels Books 1 and 2, back to back, was seeing how the characters had developed and changed. Lu, from the early pages in Book 1, would have reacted very differently to how she behaves towards the end of Book 2. Festival of Life does a superb job of revealing more about the world of Scales and Scoundrels. The geopolitical machinations and magical lore of the world are explained and hint towards future problems Aki and Lu will face.
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life Art
Galaad once again produces classy art that, at its best, is mesmeric. Without wanting to rehash my review of Book 1 too much, the pages here are bright and lively. The action scenes are dynamic and one of my criticisms of Lu occasionally looking static in some panels is not something I noticed here. There are some elaborate double-page spreads that deserve to be savoured. The sequences in the realm of the Dragon’s Dream and some of the action sequences towards the end of the book are of special note.
I felt some of the art direction was slightly conservative. The outfits of the various tribes that make up the nation of the Scarlet Sands were a bit generic. Africa and Arabia have a wealth of cultures that Galaad could have taken inspiration from. To my eye, that opportunity was not taken. They all look a bit generic.
That said, as a storyteller, Galaad is doing some genuinely great work here. Aside from being gorgeous, there are panels that really nail the emotional moments in a way that should be applauded.
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life Conclusion
Scales and Scoundrels Book 2: The Festival of Life is just about the perfect sequel. There is a sense of confidence in what it is doing. The same humour and action that made Book 1 such a joy to read are present in Book 2 but with characters that have grown and changed. With the mystery at the heart of the story and the political intrigue, which hints at wider ramifications resulting from what happens in the book, I found Book 2 utterly absorbing.
Perhaps the most significant achievement Scales and Scoundrels: The Festival of Life achieves is that it opens up the wider world of Scales and Scoundrels. It will be fascinating to see what challenges it will throw at Lu and the crew. If you have not jumped aboard the Scales and Scoundrels train yet, do so now because it is going to some fantastic places.
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