talli: daughter of the moon

The art is the first thing I notice when I pick up a graphic novel. I know this isn’t groundbreaking, but stay with me. If the art appeals, I am sold on reading the story. I have a particular weakness for detailed linework and innovative use of perspectives, and Sourya’s young adult graphic novel Talli: Daughter of the Moon, translated by François Vigneault, has these in spades. Ergo, I was interested immediately in its classic adventure story, set in a fantastical medieval past.

 

Talli is a Summoner: a nearly extinct people, hunted by those who fear their mysterious powers. As a baby, she was adopted by Lord Koska, and all was well for many years... But one day, their castle is sacked by Koska's rival, Lord Ulric. Talli escapes in the chaos and darkness with the help of the noble (some might say
too noble) knight Sir Alan.

With Ulric's forces hot on her heels, Talli and Alan keep one step ahead, gathering a motley crew of companions and protectors that includes the lethargic-but-incredible swordsman Lélo. Ulric's Captain Nina pursues them doggedly, but she is unaware of the secret of Talli's blood: the secret of the Summoners!


Title character Talli (or Lady Talli to you, commoner!) is a girl with mysterious antecedents, distinctive hair and jewelry (think Sailor Moon, but medieval), and a history of being locked up in her adoptive father’s castle for her own good. When other nobles sniff out her powers (?!), she must flee before they capture her. On the way, she amasses a crew made up of a loyal-but-dim knight, an oddball merchant with an uncanny nose for treasures, and a young boy with excellent sword skills. Will they be able to evade the special brigade? Will Lady Talli’s past and powers be revealed? Read to find out!

 

As with the first in any series, there is a lot of exposition in this volume, though it is broken up by fight scenes as various people discover that Talli is on the run and try to capture her for profit. Talli herself doesn’t know her past or the extent of her powers, and doesn’t say or do a lot (aka doesn’t have agency) for the first three quarters of the volume. I realize that this is the first in a series, but it doesn’t quite coalesce until the final few pages. Talli’s band are in a rush to make it to asylum in a foreign land, and they respond more to the fight others bring to them than anything else.

 

Unfortunately, the dialogue does not flow easily in parts, and it seems as though some humor is lost (in translation? unclear) as well. There’s also a creepy bit about Summoner powers manifesting during menstruation that feels gender essentialist and like a throwback to fantasy stories from 30-40 years ago. To be clear, I don’t think menstruation is creepy, but I am wary of how it will be treated in the narrative, since it is tied to Summoner magic. Menstruation = calling monsters into being? Seems like a bad formula! But what do I know.

 

Let’s get back to positives, aka the art! Sourya’s illustrations are exquisite: black linework on white pages in pen and ink, with lots of heavy lines, fine cross-hatching, and finer details around the characters' faces. The art was penciled digitally, and hand-inked on paper, which the artist demonstrates in a mini "The Making of Talli" comic in the backmatter. There are a wide variety of perspectives (many aerial views), and several panels focus not only on the characters, but a sense of the land and landscape that feels video game-inspired. It is truly beautiful, and I am just as much a fan of the art as I was at the start!

 

In all, Talli: Daughter of the Moon is an adventure story with some promise. Volume 1 lags in parts, but fans of sword fights, daring escapes, and a video game-crossed-with-manga aesthetic will love it.

 

Recommended for: fans of historical fantasy graphic novels and manga, and anyone who likes to play video or computer games set in medieval Europe or a quasi-medieval setting.

 

Talli: Daughter of the Moon will be available from Oni Press on October 18, 2022.

 

Fine print: I received an ARC of this title for review consideration from the publisher. I did not receive any compensation for this post.

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