Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday Revue January 16th: Root And Branch

And Now For Your Viewing Pleasure!

The Beautiful 'Root And Branch'!

To begin reading 'Root And Branch', take your classic sword and sorcery tale. Turn it inside out. Now look at it from the other direction. Look at it through the outsider's eyes. That's what 'Root And Branch' asks you to do. It asks you to look at the world through the eyes of the elves.
'Root And Branch' is a gentle and well paced tale of cultural interaction, politicking, environmental stewardship and diplomacy masquerading as a fantasy, and it is beautiful. The tale is told here, and is the creation of Pink Pitcher. It is the tale of Ariana, a Greenwalker (humans call them elves) who left home on a great journey, and finds that both she and the humans she meets along the way have an awful lot to learn.

The Rating

A beautiful message conveyed in a beautiful package. This is one I want on my bookshelf.

The Raves

If you've read much Sword and Sorcery, you know that it's not always all that well thought through. Everybody speaks the same language for some reason, for instance, and nobody ever tells you how these big medieval cities deal with the sewer systems...because apparently that's too boring. Root and Branch spoke to my inner history buff by exploring all the issues lesser fantasies skip. There's explorations of how difficult it is to cross a language barrier for instance, and the mistrust and mutual disrespect that almost unconsciously creep in when neither party can understand what the other's trying to say.  There's discussion of what happens when you aren't careful about your sanitation in a new settlement situation, and what happens when you cut down all the trees that were providing soil stability. There are cultural differences: often hilarious...sometimes painful. And all of it's shown with wit, charm, and so much gentle good humor that you don't realize you're actually learning things. Add to that good, solid research of period clothing, attitudes, and even songs, and you've got fantasy at its finest.
The art has the soft, lively watercolor approach of book illustrations, reminiscent of the styles of 'The Rabbi's Cat', 'Aya: Life In Yop City' and some of my favorite children's stories. This work shares with the ones I've named a deceptive simplicity that is underpinned by great skill, especially in posing and expression. 
The color scheme of the story accentuates the message; the world of humans is brown and grey, a sick world. The world of the forest is vibrantly green. But the storytelling, though it sometimes harks back to Fern Gulley, never beats you over the head with anybody's message. It simply tells you, in no-nonsense terms, that this is what happens when you don't pay attention to the life of the world around you. The art does the real talking.

The Razzes

I got to say it, I love 'Root And Branch.' But I don't always love the font choices. The human speech is, in particular, a bit tricky to read sometimes. And as a fellow comic creator, I'll say the thing all comic creators realize about ten minutes after we finish drawing the page to the lovely creator: you might want to double check where you put your speech bubbles on pages, sometimes they get a little jumbled. Right-left, top-bottom is the rule. And while you're in post-production, I might hit the 'sharpen' button once in a while, some pages have a very slightly blurred quality about the lines that, at a guess, I'd say comes of a scanner misbehaving. But if I'm picking at nits like these, it's because I don't have anything else to pick  and as a reviewer, I have to find something!

The Revue

Read. It. And as a side note, if you love 'Root And Branch' as much as I did, it's got a kickstarter for its first print run going right now. Give it a look right here.

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