I loved this book so much that it made me want to kick myself for not reading it sooner.
Queen of the Sea is magnificent, an epic historical drama told in an incredibly artful way. I spent a few days reading it because I wanted to savor the plot and revelations, and the ending left me with goosebumps.
This tale of historical fiction revolves around 11-year-old Margaret, who has spent her entire life growing up in an island convent off the coast of Albion (an analogue for England). As we learn more about her and her world, we come to learn that she is living in a fictionalized version of Tudor England, complete with royal intrigue, coups, and retribution aimed at political enemies.
However, none of that seems particularly important in the day-to-day routines of these isolated women who spend their days praying, sewing, and preparing food. You would think it would be boring to observe all of this minutiae, learning about how these nuns pass their days, use specific hand motions when they are to be silent, and sew intricate designs into their fabrics, but it's all presented in utterly compelling ways that contribute to a fully-realized world.
Part of what I admired most about this book was how much care and attention was spent depicting the island and its inhabitants. But what really kicks the book into a different level is how it also layers in an intricate plot about how the power struggles in the royal court reverberate across the realm and end up making an impact on life on the island. Margaret begins to notice more and more, and she starts asking questions. The answers are not always very reassuring. The nuns are not quite who she thought they were, and when she starts learning who she might be, her world really starts going topsy-turvy.
The artwork, plotting, colors, and informational text all coalesced into an organic whole that I did not want to stop reading. The characters are so vibrant, and the artwork just brings everything to life. Historical fiction is not usually high on my list of reading preferences, but this book is exceptionally well-done. It's a masterpiece, and I feel it would be popular with a wide array of readers, both young and old.
This book's author Dylan Meconis impressively did all the artwork, coloring, and lettering here. She has been a comics creator for a good while now, producing an eclectic set of webcomics/graphic novels, including Bite Me! (The French Revolution with vampires involved), Family Man (18th century university life and werewolves), Outfoxed (about a laundress and a magical fox), and The Long Con (a post-apocalyptic tale set at a comic con). She also drew a graphic biography of psychologist Harry Harlow called Wire Mothers. She speaks at length about her work on Queen of the Sea in this interview.
All the reviews I have read of this book have been glowing. Elizabeth Bird called it "Impossible to forget, undeniable in its delights." Kirkus Reviews ended their starred write-up, "With its compelling, complex characters and intrigue-laden plot, this will have readers hoping it’s only the first of many adventures for Meconis’ savvy heroine." In another starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, "The island world is richly developed, both in its physical particulars and its close-knit community (fascinating digressions into topics such as convent time, hand gestures used at table, and chess and embroidery flesh out daily life), and Margaret proves herself an endearing heroine with a strong voice full of humor and wonder."