Book Review: Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia is a dreamy, jeweled treat of a graphic novel. It provides two stories interwoven throughout the book, alternately sad, romantic, momentous and light-hearted. The storyline does not strictly follow the video game series on which it is rather loosely based, but captures the flavor of that world filled with princes, adventure, and sand dunes.

It would be a mistake to dismiss this as another comic rip-off marketing scheme. Don’t think of this as a video-game adaptation, regardless of how much you may have loved the 1989 video game. This is a work of art unto itself.

First Second Books once again shows off their high production quality here. The pages are thick and glossy, with brilliant color. The softcover is attractive and sturdy with glittery gold foil detail; First Second produces the best-bound paperbacks I’ve seen. The endpaper is decorated with a lovely map. The more books I see from this publisher, the more I purchase, as much for the production quality as for their unusual art and narratives.

The script, developed by original the game developer Jordan Mechner and written by A. B. Sina, is lyrical and surprisingly funny by turns. At times, the shift between stories is difficult to detect—but this is part of the point. The dialog in a few scenes sounded a bit modern for the setting, but in its defense, the characters that spoke in this style were the ones I connected with most.

The art is simple and expressive, and is best displayed in the many sequences that are completely wordless. These read like poetry, and nontraditional panel shapes are used to great effect. LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland create memorable characters, and even produce a flicker of empathy for the villains. I love the loose, fluid feel of the line; it’s balanced with strong color that evokes various moods with alternating cool and warm palettes.

The violence is fittingly graphic and a few well-placed moments of horror give the story serious resonance. My favorite sequences were those that told portions of the backstory in a flat style that recalls medieval Persian illuminated manuscripts. These scenes conveyed the feeling of an ancient legend, while lending authenticity to the setting.

My only complaint is that the narrative runs a fine line between poetically ambiguous and frustratingly vague. The story feels pleasantly dreamlike, but on the last page I feel slightly dissatisfied, as if nothing has actually happened. The plot is circular rather than traditionally resolved… but in the end this is a good thing, as it encourages me to immediately pick it up for another reading.

If you’re looking for a fairy tale that has gravity enough for an adult, I highly recommend this novel. And do yourself a favor and buy a copy, because it’s a tale you’ll be returning to sooner than you think.

Note to parents: There are scenes with violence, including numerous beheadings, and some suggested nudity. Most of this is tamer in execution than I’ve seen in most graphic novels today, but the context of the action—killing infants, beheading women and the elderly, cutting out tongues and eyes—is such that it may be disturbing for young ones. No profanity here, but I’d still say this merits a PG-13 rating.

FGI Blogging & Fall Classes

Rather than re-post my recent FGI blog posts here, I've simply including a link to the feed.

In other news, I'm reading two comics, graciously donated to me by First Second Books. I'm reading Drawing Words, Writing Pictures, a textbook on creating comics, and Prince of Persia (based on the awesome old video game). I'll be posting my thoughts when I finish them--I plan on reviewing one of them here, but will likely submit the second review for publication. So far, I am enjoying them both quite a bit--as usual for First Second, the text and art are fantastic, and the printing quality is stellar.

My posts will again be haphazard this season, as I'm thick into another semester of full-time school plus full-time work (after this spring's also-full-time load, I will have completed my PhD's residency requirement, and perhaps be able to take it a little slower). I have to say, though, that despite the incredible amount of work this is taking, I'm enjoying all three classes--even, to my surprise, my required statistics course. Granted, I don't enjoy all the homework, but thus far the instructor's recorded lectures are doing a great job of illuminating the dull textbook.

My "Finance in Higher Education" course is heavy on the required reading, but it's such fascinating and practical information that I appreciate it. But by far my favorite class is "Essentials of Academic Publishing." For one, it's hard not to enjoy a class where your professor mentions publishing as welcome "bling" on your CV. For two, who wouldn't appreciate a course where your final project is 1) of your choosing, and 2) something that you'll be able to use professionally, since it involves getting something academic published? For three, I just love writing, and being able to read about it, write about it, and discuss it with others is great. The class is forcing me to make time for writing--huzzah!

Now, if only I had classes that forced me to make time for exercise, healthy cooking, and cleaning house... hmmm.


FGI Blogger of the Month

That's right, I'm pleased and honored to report that I'll be guest blogging at FGI this month!

I'll probably be redirecting some posts to that content for September, but will resume regular content here in October.

Hmmm... I expected to be newsier than this, but I'm just back from vacation and my head's buried in my statistics textbook, and the brain cells really have nothing more to give at this point. Ah well, try again tomorrow, eh?