Review Blog

Jun 08 2018

The King of Birds by Alexander Utkin

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Translated by Lada Morozova. Gamayun Tales 1. Nobrow, 2018. ISBN 9781910620380
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: War, Loyalty, Magic, Folk tales, Russia. Based on Russian folk tales and vividly illustrated in a graphic novel form this beautifully designed book is engaging on many levels. We are introduced to Gamayun, the all-knowing narrator, a human faced bird who warns us the stories might be scary. The first story involves a tree, in the garden of a warrior princess, which produced magic golden apples. Apples are stolen and a pursuit ensues but that is another story. An apple is dropped and found by a mouse who keeps it for himself. His friend, a sparrow finds out and complains to the King of Animals about the greedy mouse. The Lion King (and there is a remarkable resemblance!) dismisses the sparrow who goes and complains to the King of the Birds (a very scary Imperial Eagle) about his treatment. Soon the two kingdoms are at war and after three brutal days of fighting the birds win. The next episodes involve the eagle being restored to strength by a merchant, who, when bitten by a snake can understand birds and animals. Later the recovered eagle turns into the blue skinned brother of a strange, Queen of the Cooper Realm who they visit on her island. Then they go to island of the Silver Realm, whose Queen is another sister and finally the youngest sister's island, the Golden Realm. The merchant is rewarded with a golden chest which he is forbidden to open until he reaches his home. But that is another story. There is a lot of unjustified violence and testing of loyalty, not a sanitised fairytale, more like some of the original Brothers Grimm and Aesop's Fables. The powerful leaders don"t seem to have many redeeming qualities and the merchant is happy to follow instructions in exchange for a reward. Some of the characters look a bit "Disney" but that is where the similarity ends. Recommended for lovers of graphic storytelling of any age, plus it will be a good primary school library book which will stand many readings.
Sue Speck

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