I am almost positive this was not author Éric Corbeyran’s intention, but I can’t help comparing aspects of his graphic novel Natty–illustrated by the wonderful Melvil–to Disney’s Aladdin. And, guaranteed, this is probably why I loved it so much. Of course, I won’t say that the entire story follows the plot-line of Aladdin, but there are definitely parallels that can be drawn. Coupled with gorgeous artwork and an incredibly unique take on these ideas and I’m basically in love. Natty is such a beautiful and majestic tale.
Annoyingly, this book is only available for purchase on Amazon Kindle, however it is available for free on Kindle Unlimited and so is its sequel — thus there goes my afternoon!
Natty begins with the crown princess of Orchidhal, a sunny land of flowers and beautiful gardens, as she laments over her loneliness. Though she longs for more companionship than her delightfully expressive cowpanion, Gaai, she isn’t altogether pleased when her parents prepare an unwanted wedding. Suddenly she is forced to choose between two brutish suitors for a marriage she does not want. Then, as our lovely heroine stands up for her independence and refuses the hands of both men, an archaic law dictates she must now forfeit her life to make up for the slight.
Rather than be put to death for her refusal, Natty escapes from the palace and into the lower, dark realms of her kingdom. Though alive, she now must face some uncomfortable truths about the disease that has withered away the poor of their world. She soon meets those who have been deemed Untouchables, shriveling in the darkness. As a result, it quickly becomes clear that she will have to do whatever she can to return home and change the law, least she wither away herself.
Some of the most superb world-building
Now, the general set up for this world seems to inspired by a caste system in India. I’ll be completely honest, I don’t know much about caste systems. This is rather unfortunate as I feel I’m thoroughly missing out on a very nuanced and intricate commentary as a result. From what I can ascertain, it’s set up incredibly well. Not only that, but it also plays into the darker themes of the story. Those of the lower caste, shrouded in darkness have been denied a basic necessity for life. And that denial has resulted in their diseased forms.
Natty, privileged as she is, has never experienced this. At least, not until she’s had to hide herself away in the lower realm. Suddenly, with the help of a new friend (who saves her in a very similar way to Aladdin and Jasmine), Natty is able to see the horrors that have been inflicted on her people. Whether she will do something about it is likely something we’ll find out in book two.
The book ends in a place I would consider about 30% of the film. This leaves us, yes, with a cliffhanger.
Characters and artwork
…are basically amazing?
There’s Natty, naturally, who is utterly fantastic. She’s definitely a bit naive and a bit selfish, but has so much potential to learn and grow. There’s Sami, our Aladdin foil, who is definitely involved in seedier things to survive. And of course, I’ll never forget Gaai, the loveable cowpanion of Natty’s who is just about the most amazing creature I’ve ever come across.
Other characters, brilliant though they are, kind of take a backseat. They really exist more as part of the world than as individuals. I’m honestly okay with this. Considering this story is likely to be more about Natty’s growth than anything, it fits. I honestly don’t think I’d have it any other way.
As for the artwork, well, it’s gorgeous. I love the juxtaposition of the sunlit flower gardens of Orchidhal to the shadowed realm below. You can feel the change as you read. With that feeling comes a sense of urgency. Though moments are lighthearted, every second is draped in the danger. You see, each second Natty spends in the realm below is a second more she has to wither away.
I honestly am a huge fan of this story. I’ve yet to read the second installment, but I recently picked up a Kindle Unlimited subscription for the sole purpose of doing so. I look forward to finding out what happens next!
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.