‘Eye of Newt:’ Advance Hardcover Review

I picked up Eye of Newt, because I was immediately in love with the artwork, and the subject matter and story seemed to hold a lot of promise to my Tolkien-fantasy-loving sensibilities.  I liked the idea of such a young protagonist.  The world-building promised a rich tableau of characters, creatures, and magical locations.

From the very first panels of the story, we indeed meet strange and fanciful creatures and travel to elaborately designed, magical places.  Michael Hague’s artwork has a dream-like quality with multi-layered panels, rich detail, and gorgeous colors.  Each scene is crafted with beautiful line detail, while keeping a delicate, hand-drawn quality.  The style has a throw-back feel, like an elaborate rock concert poster from the '60s.  The chapter head panels are particularly well done, and the post-story sketchbook succeeds in showing off Hague’s skill with pencils.

Eye of Newt’s main strength is in the variety and elaborate detail of the creatures and environments Hague has created.  We find the standard fantasy-world dragons, but each one is beautifully unique with a classic, serious feel that lends a nice darkness to the tone of the story.  Likewise, I was fascinated and horrified by new creations like “Dark Unicorns” and “Storm Mares.”  Hague’s imagination is a deep well of beautiful and ominous beings.

We travel to a myriad of locations, each with its own distinct personality: lush, green forests; barren wastelands; a remote desert oasis; underwater cities; and cities built on the bones of long passed civilizations.  The promise of each new destination kept me rapidly flipping pages, then poring over each a second and third time in order to take in all the wonderful detail they offered.

The story itself, however, seems oddly lacking in such development.  There is very little in the way of character background, relationship building, emotional interaction, or motivational development.  Likewise, the dialogue is impersonal, clunky, and seems to only serve the most basic plot movement. Transitions between plot points and action scenes are similarly awkward and underdeveloped.  There is a constant feeling of deus ex machina as obstacle after obstacle is cleared through the abrupt introduction of characters, newly discovered magical powers, or chance happenings.

I would love to see Hague start to take as much time in developing the inner workings of his characters as he does the visual aspects of the world he is creating.  I would like to hear their individual voices, not just a running commentary of the most basic actions they are performing.  His story will become something truly magical when their relationships become the force driving his readers to turn the page, along with the fascination we feel with the artwork.

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 December 2018 19:19

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