Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #141: Ralph Azham, Vol. 1 by Lewis Trondheim

It's not easy being the Chosen One -- all that pressure to save the world! And how much worse it must be to be a failed candidate for Chosen One, to be not quite good or special enough to even try to save the world. You'd end up the pariah of your village, hanging around the edges of things with a smart mouth and a useless power -- able to tell how many children someone has, instantly and perfectly -- just waiting for something to happen or the Horde to finally arrive and slaughter everyone.

You'd be Ralph Azham, in fact. He's the hero of Ralph Azham, Vol. 1: "Why Would You Lie To Someone You Love?", the first in a fantasy adventure series by the prolific French cartoonist Lewis (Dungeon, Small Nothings, the most untranslated Lapinot series, several shorter series for young readers) Trondheim. Ralph, still a young and puckish man, is left in his small village after his sojourn to the Oracle ended with his hair and duck-beak turned blue but no stronger sign of his special nature -- or, at least, that's how he remembers it. That village is more full of secrets than Ralph even suspects -- and, with his power, he knows a lot of secrets others would prefer to be kept quiet.

Ralph is somewhat annoying, but he's also clearly the butt of all of the jokes and complaints of his village: the designated scapegoat, the one who was supposed to save everybody but became a jester instead. His power brings him nothing but pain, particularly since he doesn't seem to know when to keep his mouth shut.

But, again, there are a lot secrets Ralph doesn't know, and he won't be the only young person in his village with blue hair before this story is done. And that threatening Horde will arrive; they always do, in a fantasy story. Even more, this is clearly the beginning of a longer series, so it's an origin rather than the full story: this is where Ralph came from, and subsequent volumes will follow him as we see him go wherever he's fated to be. Perhaps he will be the Chosen One, after all.

Trondheim is constitutionally unable to make his fantasy stuffy or portentous: his people are always squabbling, complaining, working at cross-purposes and whining, just like those of us in the real world. Ralph Azham may eventually tell an epic story, but I wouldn't bet that way -- I suspect it's heading in the same general direction Dungeon did, looking closely at cliches and tearing them to shreds while still telling a great story about true characters and the irrevocable choices they make. Book two comes out this fall; I can't wait to see it.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

No comments:

Post a Comment