Author: Miss Lasko-Gross
Publisher: Z2 Comics
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often reward aplenty!
For reasons which really rather escape me, I fell in love with Henni Hogarthe from the first few panels, where we find her chasing a dragonfly and excitedly calling her father over to share in her discoveries and excitement. Henni is a cat-person - not a cat lover, but a person who is a cat - or at least very cat-like! She lives on another world where religion is insane and cruelly dominant - not very different from Earth when you get right down to it.
The artwork in this graphic novel is simplistic, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. The coloring is also simple, but it’s perfect. The drawings are clean and focused, and overall the effect is really pleasing, very artistic, and they're another reason why I quickly warmed to this story.
Told in several episodes, the story hits us almost immediately with the injustice perpetrated upon a society where one small group of privileged individuals gets to dictate what reality is and how people should behave. Her first experience is her father being hauled away as a heretic, and her mother doesn't even shed a tear for this despicable unbeliever she has found in her home.
Henni's next revelation about religion is that the priesthood lies and is corrupt. No surprises there! Periodically, food has to be taken as to the church as an offering, and Henni discovers that these treats are nothing more than disguises to hide bribes which in turn sway the priesthood into acting favorably towards marriage proposals for those who submit sufficient cash. Even Henni's own mother sends bribes.
Henni is eventually kicked out of her village for trespassing on a holy site which has an unearned reputation, and she has to find a life elsewhere. Branded (quite literally) and with no possessions other than the fur on her back, she discovers that her new home is hardly an improvement. People think she's primitive because she wears no clothes. She ends up in trouble there, too, but she's smarter and more cunning now, and she talks her way out of a death sentence, getting herself banished from this village as well. Where will she end up? I’d really like to find out in the next volume because this one ends in a most stirring and intriguing way.
I loved this intelligent and engrossing story, and its fearlessness in exposing ignorance and bigotry championed as religion and faith. The main character is one which really spoke to me - again for reasons I can’t reliably articulate. I felt sorry for her, yes, but I also admired her resilience and persistence. It’s really nice to find stories with truly strong female character, and Henni is one if I ever saw one. Bring on volume two!