In July 2012, I reviewed the complex and intriguing start to a literary graphic novel series: The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. I have no explanation for why I waited eighteenth months before reading volume 2. It's a shame because the premise is unique and the story is a genre-bending mix that has something for everyone.
In a nutshell, Tom Taylor's father, the world-famous author of the Tommy Taylor wizard books (kind of like Harry Potter), has disappeared. Although Tom has spent years living under the shadow of his namesake (some reviewers have said the inspiration is A. A. Milne's son, Christopher) and wants desperately to be treated as person separate from his father's fictional character, he also wants to find his dad.
This review doesn't spoil volume 2 but assumes you've read volume 1.
- What happens? In Inside Man, Tom Taylor is transported to France, where he is imprisoned while awaiting his trial for the murder of six people (see the end of volume 1). Besides trying to avoid his enemies and hoping to be proven innocent of murder, Tom wants to resume searching for his missing father, abetted by Savoy (you'll find out who he is in the book) and Elizabeth Hexam, whom we've already met. In the midst of chaos, Tom discovers something startling about himself.
- Thoughts on the plot. The story is not told in a linear fashion, and the plot backs up in time a couple of times to catch us up with the present so we understand what brought each character to the moment of action. Carey pulls this off well, and I was easily able to follow along. As with the first volume, Inside Man weaves real life with fantasy/magic, literary references, and historical events. I don't think the book is difficult to understand, but the complexity of the plot invites you to pause, so you can try to unravel the ultimate mysteries of the main story arc: who exactly is Tom Taylor and what happened to his father?
- Comment on reviewing. I realize you may be scratching your head, wondering what the Unwritten books are all about. That's because it's almost impossible to review these books without spoiling them completely.
- Notes on the artwork. I like the muted colors and the expressive drawings, and I'm especially impressed with the way Gross's illustrations reflect the different aspects of Tom's adventures. For example, the style changes when the action moves from Tom's present-day situation to scenes that portray historical events. The pages that represent blog posts, a Twitter stream, newspapers, and a Web search have immediately recognizable looks and help create another layer to the novel. The scan is from Tom's introduction to prison and was picked to avoid spoilers (click to enlarge).
- Recommendations. Although Unwritten is not a particularly deep series (at least not so far), it requires some attention, so don't pick these graphic novels expecting a quick, light read. I recommend them for people who like books with interwoven layers, stories within stories, and stories about stories; mystery fans; and maybe even fans of Harry Potter. I'm hooked and have promised myself not to wait forever before picking up volume 3.
Source: Bought (see review policy)
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