Readers of The Lost Art

Kingdom of the Wicked

March 4th, 2009

Kingdom of the Wicked

Author: Ian Edginton

Artist: D’Israeli

Reviewer: Alex

Everything is going well for Christopher Grahame: he’s a hugely successful children’s author with a happy family, a new book in the works, and Hollywood queuing up to adapt his stories into films. However, his contented existence is spoiled when he is stricken with
recurring headaches and blackouts.

He experienced these mystery symptoms once before, as a child. That time, whilst recuperating, he dreamt up Castrovalva, a magical fantasy land populated with a menagerie of bizarre friendly creatures, where he imagined all kinds of stories and adventures. Chris’s illness not only makes him think back to that time in his childhood – he actually finds himself transported to Castrovalva during his blackouts. However, what
had once been a happy place is now a war-torn hellhole, scarred by the encroaching forces of ‘the Great Dictator’, an evil new presence in what had originally been Chris’s personal idyll. As Chris tries to keep his sanity, he finds himself drawn into exploring Castrovalva, trying to unravel how and why it reached such a dire state.

It’s a good setup, and although the motif of revisiting childhood fantasy worlds with adult eyes has been used before, it still feels novel and intriguing. Long-standing collaborators Edginton and D’Israeli manage to create three distinct worlds. First, the rounded believability of the real world, giving us a sympathetic protagonist in an interesting
perilous situation. Second, Castrovalva, which in it’s own way is also believable, as a mashed up combination of a spectrum of classic fantasy concepts filtered through a seven-year-old’s imagination. Thirdly, the horrifyingly altered Castrovalva, the innocence and mirth of the original world warped into a desolate wasteland of bloodshed and

D’Israeli’s art is integral to the success of these three tones. The balance between detail and angular stylisation in his line work is effective, but it’s the excellent use of colour which really draws you in, creating mundane reality, bright guileless exuberance and disturbing terror, all very evocatively.

The way the story moves smoothly through the different settings allows it to pull the reader into Chris’s fractured mental state. It’s a fascinating journey and although the book briefly touches on themes of the consequences of war and the unstoppable passage of time, its main function is to be pure engrossing fiction – and it succeeds very well.

Your ultimate opinion of the book may depend to some extent on how you view the plot twist which reveals what’s going on. It’s not something you’re likely to guess in advance; some may find it a little too bizarre, but I found it worked quite naturally within the story, and sent the tale on to a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, this is an intelligent and entertaining genre-bending grown-up fantasy adventure, definitely worth a read.


Hardcover: 120 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics,U.S. (Dec 2004)
Language: English
ISBN: 1593071876

(First published 03/01/2007.)

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