He makes his way home to the haunted Breton coast of France, where he follows the tatters of his memory back to the ungodly event he witnessed as a child, an event that destroyed his family and cast an unholy pall on his entire town.
A pawn in the grip of a loved one he has long believed dead, Theophile becomes entangled in not one story of supernatural vengeance, but two.
A village of drowned witches beneath the ocean’s waves, a secret and deadly cabal of priests, a ritual of murder by baptism, a furious attendance of crows and a treasure locked in a sacred reliquary.
Welcome to The Drowned.
When asked about the story of The Drowned in a Comic Readers interview, Laini Taylor said: “The Drowned is a mysterious tale in which two separate supernatural revenge tales intertwine. Because it is a story in which events unfold… and unfold… and unfold… to tell much of what “it’s about” would spoil the carefully orchestrated pacing of revelations in the book.”
And that is definitely true, so I’m not going to say much else about the story aside from what the synopsis above – taken from the book itself – reveals, and that it took some very interesting turns that kept me engaged.
Laini Taylor, the author of the YA Dreamdark series, conveys so much atmosphere with her carefully chosen words and imagery. That was the very first thing I noticed about this graphic novel. As the synopsis suggests, we first meet Theophile in the asylum; he’s wrapped in a straitjacket, contemplating his mind, and his lack of total control over it. I suppose there are many ways this internal monologue could have gone, but under Laini Taylor’s hand it sounds something like this…
My memory is like an apothecary chest…
…And I am not the apothecary.
What I mean is, I’m not the one responsible for locking and unlocking all those tiny drawers where my memories lay wrapped in brittle tissue. And though I sometimes sense the presence and mercurial will of an apothecary, now opening this drawer, now that, I cannot fathom who it is whose fingers work those locks inside my mind.
Some drawers are rarely locked. The woman with the birds, a church ablaze, the shining sickle of moon I could swear I drew down from the sky and put into my pocket. But the key, golden and rare, it is different. It is revealed to me but seldom…
The illustrations, all black and white, also expertly conveyed the mood and tone of the story. And when I say expertly, I mean that some of the expressions on the characters faces gave me the chills, amped up a sense of foreboding, like they knew something awful the reader didn’t. And the fight scenes…I liked those. The panels were laid out nicely, showing the flow of movement well, and it was violence without gore.
This graphic novel was hard to get my hands on, and it’s now temporarily out of stock on Amazon and the like, but I’m glad I found it. If you want, you can check out the first five pages of The Drowned here. This was a great start to the RIP IV challenge.