The Forbidden Harbor

NBM. Sept. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9781681122328. $29.99. historical fiction
This graphic novel has an intriguing entry point—it’s 1807, when a confused (and cute!) young man named Abel is taken aboard a ship that’s just lost its captain. He travels home with the crew and is taken in by the missing captain’s daughters at their languishing local inn. Abel begins to piece together his identity from clues in their home, while also striking up a surprisingly literary friendship with the madam of a local bordello. The mystery unravels at just the right pace—to say Abel’s true nature comes as a shock would be a stretch, but the whole escapade feels like a fairy tale or a sea shanty in its reassuring magical realism. The good guys struggle and are rewarded, the bad guys get what’s coming to them, and a romantic worldview rules the day. The story’s greatest treat is how it makes a very specific genre broadly accessible—combining the literature and verse of a sailor’s life (think Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) with intricate, active imagery of majestic ships at sea.
VERDICT From the married creative team of writer Radice (Disney Fairies) and artist Turconi (“Agatha: Girl of Mystery” series) comes a tale that’s far from forbidding. Radice’s flowing prose and Turconi’s fanciful pen invite even the utterly uninitiated to delve into the delight of a sailor’s tale.

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