They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the cover is half of what sold me on this book. The evocative reds and whites and the confident pose of the protagonist stood out against the plethora of books I had to pick from. The other half was that catchy title. How could I not be interested in “The Steel Prince?” I’ll mention now that I’m not familiar with the Shades of Magic novels set in the same universe that came out a few years ago, so this book had to sell itself entirely on its own merits for me.
The book follows Prince Maxim Maresh after his exile to a local port town by his father. Maxim had angered his father due to his fascination with the alternate realities that comprise the Shades of Magic universe. Now, Maxim must reform the local guard and fight off a pirate threat to prove to his father he is a worthy successor.
If one were to take just the plot points of this story, then it’d look like a standard young adult fantasy novel, but what really sets the story apart is its flavor. The world feels fleshed out and fully realized while characters look and act distinct, thanks in major part to their magical abilities.
Magic makes up a huge portion of this story. Different schools and styles of magic exist and are employed by just about everyone. The Pirate Queen and primary threat of the story, for instance, wields the ability to manipulate a person’s skeletal structure, and Maxim commands metal. This means action segments are always full of energy as you wait eagerly to see how a character’s powers will fair against their opponent.
The art can be a bit of a double-edged sword for these otherwise exciting fight scenes, though. The use of color in this comic is phenomenal. Each type of magic has its own distinct coloring, and characters stand out with dark shadows mixed with vibrant reds, whites, and golds. On top of that, the character designs are beautiful, especially when armor comes into play; however, I found fight scenes a little hard to follow. Some of this has to do with the heavy black shadows on character’s bodies set against dark locations, but I also find the fight scenes feel a little jumpy. Panels don’t feel like they flow together correctly in some of the more action-packed scenes, and it’s just noticeable enough to bug an otherwise glorious visual style.
Shades of Magic Volume 1: The Steel Prince shows a lot of promise and has certainly piqued my interest in the Shades of Magic novels. Its few issues could easily be cleaned up in later volumes. I’d say this is worth picking up, especially if you’re looking for a fantasy comic that does just enough differently to set itself apart from its competition. Keep an eye on this series, because I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve hammered out the kinks by the second or third volume.
Creative Team: V. E. Schwab (Writer), Andrea Olimpieri (Artist)
Publisher: Titan Comics
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