Well, the very first thing I have to say about Sparrowhawk by Delilah S. Dawson–illustrated by Matias Basla and Rebecca Nalty–is wow, was that dark. I was really excited to read this rather brilliant-looking graphic novel from the very first moment I saw it, intrigued by what was described as a “teen Victorian fairy fight club” and eager to see what adventures would befall this illegitimate daughter of a naval captain whose never quite fit in with her father’s very white, upper class family as she is pulled into the fairy realm by a voraciously conquer-minded queen. Artemisia would have to fight her way through the realms of the fairies in order to get back to her home and the ones who matter most to her, but with the way that this world she’s been pulled into works, she may come out losing herself and all she holds dear along the way.
I was blown away by this story and by the artwork. Every second reading left me at the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what would happen next and cringing at each horrible thing that happened. Artemisia’s fairy guide through the world was fascinating and terrifying all at once. I found it hilarious that he told her precisely how to tell if a creature within the world was evil, by looking at its eyes, and yet she still trusted him more than just about anyone else she came across. It was a brilliant and mind-altering story and the transformation of the main character, a very cautionary tale, was all at once marvelous and horrifying.
The conclusion was very much emotionally thrilling and dejecting, leaving you to watch in horror as the process through which you saw Artemisia go through, a sort of development backward begins anew. And I think that’s the most fascinating piece of it all, really. I felt emotionally attacked at multiple points in the novel, despairing over unchangeable situations as both the story and the character delved even further into the darkness she was ultimately surrounded by, misguided by one faerie companion and given genuine good advice from another. I was little prepared for the way this tale would end, despite having seen it coming. Somehow the author managed to entrap me in this world, deepening my attachment bit by bit as the abyss of darkness opened up beneath and swallowed the story whole.
It’s like those tales where you know the worst is yet to come, that it will come, and that the horrible truths of the story will repeat themselves time and time again with another as we are all innocent and naive enough to fall into such traps and there are plenty of us to go around. And in the end, I loved every second of it, which is thoroughly surprising since I am not typically one to enjoy a dark and depressing story such as this one. Yet something about Artemisia and Crispin and Warren that completely captivated me. And I believe it will captivate a great many of you, too.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.