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‘Birthright Volume 3:’ TPB Review

Bringing a sword to a gunfight.

Mikey, resident of Earth who has been trapped in the alternate dimension of Terranos for the last decade, has made a right mess of his family.  Though things were already a bit thrashed when he disappeared into the Narnia-like world, his reappearance and the literal demons chasing him have caused massive damage to them and the world at large, hitting the world with a power unknown to it.  In this whirlwind of relations and mythically powerful beings, Mikey’s family tries to bring together what was sundered so long ago.  Having evaded capture so far, the authorities and Mikey’s Terranossi (sp?) family try to ally with his Earth one to bring an end to the long journey that everyone has undergone.

What I love the most about Joshua Williamson’s story is the cacophony of viewpoints he’s juggling.  With so many characters acting in opposition to one another, we’re left without a real control group, I feel that the lines of good vs. evil may not be as clear as everyone in the story seems to think it is. Yes, the Nevermind looks and acts pretty spectacularly evil, but it feels a bit like a smoke screen with so many other factors introduced in this third volume.  There’s definitely a large piece of the puzzle that we’re missing even with the ability to see multiple paths of the story.  The fact that we only have Mikey’s recollection of events in Terranos makes me suspect that the “good” path may not be all sunshine and kittens.  Part of this may be because Williamson has made him so damn likeable that it’s kind of hard not to root for him.  There’s a big part of Brennan’s optimism helping that feeling as well, so it’s not hard to see why the story is so engaging with a lot of imperfect, but earnest, characters all trying to do what’s right from their narrow field of view.  The big shocker at the finale is one that everyone should see coming between the foreshadowing and the title itself, but it still pulls off as a big surprise because of the subtlety of those clues.

Andrei Bressan makes beautiful places that I want to visit.  Even though they’re scarred by war and look exceptionally dangerous, I want to go and play in this fantasy world he’s created.  I’ll give away a bit with this, but the splash page where dragons are riding ogre-looking dudes may be one of my favorite images I’ve seen of late. It’s such a fun reversal of the typical fantasy world and makes me think that my idea of a big grey bit between the good/evil conflict throughout the book.  Bressan excels in action sequences, but I think his best skill is the play of light.  When stuff glows in this world (as most magic tends to), it affects the objects around it beautifully.  It’s a keen eye for something we might otherwise take for granted, but it lends the supernatural elements another layer of amazing and really sells this otherworld we’re presented with.

This book keeps getting stronger with each trade, and I’m excited to see if the big twist I feel is in the offing ever comes to fruition.  Mostly, I always find myself wanting more of this awesome story when I get to the last page, and the next
bit seems too far away.  This is quality fantasy of the first degree. Fans of Tolkein and Martin will find so much to love here.

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