Thursday, April 5, 2018

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter

First off, let me say that I am a sucker for books like this. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of my favorite shows ever, and I love the turn-of-the-century England, steampunk-style, monster hunter vibe displayed in these pages. Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is a fun, action-packed, and sometimes creepy graphic novel. The title character is an orphaned teenager who lives with two servants. The first is Napoleon White, a butler/chauffeur, and the second is his wife Mrs. White, a governess. Together they look after Scarlett and Ravenwood, her family's estate, which is in a state of disrepair since her parents' death. She came into monster hunting as the family business, but she does not just hunt monsters because it is her calling or there's some mystical need, she does it to earn the reward money needed to keep ahead of their creditors.
One obstacle that Scarlett faces is that she is legally too young to hunt monsters, and the local "Watch" is onto her. The second is Count Stankovic, a rival monster hunter who has a special desire to not only foil Scarlett but ruin her life. As there are frequent monster attacks in this version of London, the two adversaries come into frequent contact. And when Scarlett tracks some monsters to their source and sees the Count involved, she begins to feel that he is not only hunting monsters but summoning them as well.

I felt that this book had a great amount of action and intrigue. I can't say that it is the most original or complex plot I have ever read, but it is a fun, well crafted piece of genre fiction. I got sucked into reading the whole thing in one sitting, even though I told myself I was only going to read the opening vignette. It's ghoulishly delightful, and if you like books with gruesome monsters and steampunk weaponry, this one will be right up your alley. Also, I should add that this book has a clear ending, though it leaves the door open for a sequel. I hope that it sells well so we get one.

This book was a collaboration between writer Marcus Sedgwick and artist Thomas Taylor. Sedgwick has written several novels and won the Printz Award for his book Midwinterblood. Taylor is an accomplished children's book author and is most famous for being the first illustrator of the Harry Potter series. I very much like the tone and style of the art here, which I find to resemble an amalgamation of those of Joann Sfar and Richard Sala. It's appropriately creepy, muted, and ominous, perfect for a tale such as this. Both creators speak about their work on Scarlett Hart in this interview.

The reviews I have read about this book have been fairly positive. Kirkus Reviews summed up that it would be "fun for a spooky night, anchored by likable characters and a zippy story." Publisher Weekly wrote, "Taylor’s energetic artwork captures the time and place through the use of metallic grays and browns, while integrating an array of gothic and steampunk motifs." Elizabeth Bush was less taken with the plot and wrote that "this debut graphic novel series chugs along with little more than a workmanlike, repetitious plot of monster appearance/confrontation action scene/Hart-vs.-Stankovic rivalry."

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter was published by First Second, and they offer a preview and more here.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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