The Story: The second test has begun. Contenders for the new chief find themselves divided against their will and flung into a dangerous game. While the struggle for power continues, Io and Nemas battle with their own identities…. but when allies are turned against one another, who can be trusted.
Geis, pronounced gesh, is a Gaelic word for a taboo or a curse. When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. You might be prohibited from trampling mushrooms, for example, or from sitting down on the stairs. If you ignore or break a geis the consequences are dire.
But a geis is always broken.
As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set…
The Review: Frankly, I’m bewildered why everyone isn’t falling over themselves to talk about this series. Volume 1 (Geis: A Matter of Life and Death) came out last year and is a beautiful telling of the journey of competitors trying to to reach a castle, battling to become a chief and rule the kingdom. It was a competition set by magician politicians. A mystery box was opened and we rushed to see how it would unfold. (You can read my review here).
Volume Two takes place almost entirely within the walls of the city/ castle, the plot a game of wit and manipulation. At its heart, it is magical folklore tale with some of the most beautiful visuals you will find. It is also not a short read. 120 pages are packed with multiple panels and for a ‘Game Without Rules’ the art has a claustrophobic, nightmarish quality where unexpected and violent things happen that have a twisted logic to them.
It is a gorgeous riddle that keeps you searching and theorising the solution.
Volume Two also sees the various roles of the players fleshed out. They are never purely the scientist or the magician, or the heroine or the soldier of the wizard. Alexis Deacon subverts the classical folklore and fantasy roles beyond the ordinary. The race for the crown and, often, just the race to survive have the contestants change and develop before the eyes of the reader. Deacon adds a huge range of character and emotion to the players beyond what you often see elsewhere in a fantasy story.
Like all good fairy tales, Geis mixes the fantastical with the cruel. You genuinely have no idea as to who will survive at every turn of the page. It also speaks to the class system in a (small ‘p’) political style. The rich are not just idiots but do display the pomposity of their positions and those below stairs are more practical. Meanwhile, above and out of reach are the meddling magicians who watch and wait and prod and survey the chaos they have created. Clever stuff indeed.
“The will that shapes the world.”
Geis is, of course, broad politics laid out on a folklore stage. It plays about with role and destiny and the games those in power often play. Isn’t all power play and manipulation the art of guiding us through a narrow line of food and famine, life and death, power and weakness?
This is a jigsaw for the reader to push in to place, one that I enjoyed watching fall apart and then again gain direction, time and again over and over, achieved with panache – and a bag full of darkness.
The art is outstanding, to say the least. It has a pastel feel to much of the backdrops, with a great sense of colour and depth as you move through the halls, stairways, libraries, throne rooms and corridors of this maze of a city. Deacon packs many panels to a page – and then opens the world up with some extraordinary splash pages. He has a sense of the urgent in the movement and a great sense of light and darkness. The light through windows and the shadows of the interiors are used to great effect throughout.
I won’t spoil the cut and thrust of the story (insert smiley face here for the slower people who didn’t see what a hint that was) but this is a volume that really packs some story punch. It is done with some excellent story beats and is in no way a quick read. I highly recommend you taking your time on it and read it slowly and in chunks to get the full impact.
“It’s blood and poison out there.“
This is the second in the proposed three volume series and will be released from NoBrow Press on the 30th September 2017. You can pre order your copy direct from the publisher here.
This is a simply glorious series. I relished every single panel on every page in a way you don’t generally with other comics. Seriously! You need this on your shelf. And at a recommended price point of £15.99 0r $18.95 for a hardback it is hard to argue.
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Alexis Deacon is an London-based illustrator. His children’s book, Slow Loris, was listed by Time magazine as one of the hundred best children’s books, ever. He has twice been shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and is a two time recipient of The New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award. In 2008, he was chosen by Booktrust as one of the ten best new illustrators of the preceding decade.
In 2014 The River won the Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize.
Many thanks for reading.