Mike Cavallaro (illus.). First Second. 2010. 160p. ISBN 9781596432796. pap. $15.99. F
Far more skilled than her classmate fencers, teen loner Aliera Carstairs relies on her special jeweled fencing foil, bought by her mother at a yard sale. Knocked off equilibrium when the cute boy she admires asks her for a date, she waits for him in Grand Central Station where she sees fantasy creatures when she puts on the fencing mask. Suddenly a magical adventure erupts, and her date with Avery Castle unmasks quite unexpected roles for her and Avery. Black and green wash evoke Aliera's color-blindness, with color appearing when she sees the fantasy creatures. Look for Aliera's engaging adventure to continue in Curses, Foiled Again.
In this graphic novel, top-notch fencer Aliera learns that her "too good-looking to be true" lab partner isn't human--then discovers she herself is the world's "Defender." Aliera is colorblind, and when she dons her fencing mask, vibrant colors explode on the page. The juxtaposition of reality and fantasy is compelling, as is Aliera's strong voice.
Detailed, cinematic artwork and realistic dialogue bring the story to life. The introduction of magical elements into Aliera’s quotidian world of high school and fencing practice is surprising and thought-provoking. The concurrent shift in Mike Cavallaro’s art from a monochromatic to a full-color palette effectively emphasizes this change. Readers will sympathize with Aliera’s excitement about her budding relationship with Avery but will also note the subtle menace he brings to the story. Aliera is a positive character to whom readers will relate. She works hard to balance her school work, athletic ambitions, and social and family life.
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