The King of Birds

This collection of linked stories, in comic strip form, modelled on traditional Russian folklore has some beautiful artwork. Rich colours are everywhere and there are some very dramatic visual compositions that maintain engagement. There is evocative and effective use of comic strip grammar in laying out pages to increase drama, emphasise key points, and shift the pace of the narratives. The sequences where a human protagonist visits the three different realms of the sisters of the king of birds are powerfully realised.

The stories are linked by a narrator who appears throughout, the fabulous blue and gold Gamayun, a magical human-faced bird from Slavic mythology who describes themselves as a storyteller and addresses the reader directly, breaking the fourth wall and drawing the reader in.

The first story, ‘The Quarrel’, tells of a golden apple that bestows youth and might on those who eat it. The narrative is, like the others, marked by the unpredictability of folk tale. A human stealing some of the apples drops one, a mouse eats it and their friend the sparrow, feeling cheated, flies to seek justice from the king of the animals. Refused, the sparrow flies on to the king of the birds and tells them that the king of animals refused to punish the mouse, starting a war which the animals lose. From here the other stories develop, all linked, but not exactly chapters. Fascinating and, to me, unfamiliar stories, but they follow the familiar narrative patterns of folklore, including trials, challenges and rewards.

Book Cover - The King of Birds
Publication Date
February 2018