All fenced up

An awk­ward teenager dis­cov­ers that she is dif­fer­ent – in more ways than ex­pected.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - Foiled SHAUN A. NO­ORDIN Foiled

An awk­ward teenager dis­cov­ers that she is dif­fer­ent – in more ways than ex­pected.

Writer: Jane Yolen Artist: Mike Caval­laro Pub­lisher: First Sec­ond (160 pages)

IT IS dif­fi­cult to write a re­view of Foiled with­out giv­ing away cer­tain fun­da­men­tal spoil­ers. It’ll be like writ­ing about Star Trek with­out touch­ing upon the fact it takes place in space. So, we’ll split the re­view into two, with the un­avoid­able se­crets re­vealed later.

Foiled is a story about fenc­ing (as you might have guessed from the ti­tle), grow­ing up and fit­ting in as a typ­i­cal teenager in New York. It’s told from the per­spec­tive of Aliera Carstairs, a down-to-earth girl who’s also a bit of a loner.

While Aliera’s so­cially awk­ward in school, it’s a dif­fer­ent story when she has her fenc­ing foil in hand – she’s con­fi­dent, ag­gres­sive and in con­trol. She’s taught that in fenc­ing, as in life, she has to pro­tect her heart.

How­ever, this phi­los­o­phy is put to the test when she gains the at­ten­tion of Avery Cas­tle, the pop­u­lar new kid in school. Aliera learns for the first time how it feels to be at­tracted to a boy, but whether Avery is re­ally the charm­ing prince he ap­pears to be is a dif­fer­ent thing al­to­gether.

In Foiled, the pro­lific author Jane Yolen cre­ates an en­chant­ing com­ing-of-age story. Aliera is a very be­liev­able and well-grounded char­ac­ter, and many read­ers can re­late to her ado­les­cent strug­gles.

Mike Caval­laro’s monochro­matic art­work com­ple­ments the nar­ra­tive beau­ti­fully. De­spite re­strict­ing him­self to a pre­dom­i­nantly grey­ish pal­ette, he man­ages to make Aliera’s “mun­dane” life in New York look fresh and in­ter­est­ing.

All in all, Foiled is a well-writ­ten tale of adoles­ence and grow­ing up, star­ring a very like­able pro­tag­o­nist. Al­though in­tended for younger read­ers, we wouldn’t be sur­prised if the young at heart also pick up a copy.

That cov­ers the spoiler-free part of the re­view. Those who like their sur­prises, thank you for your time. Ev­ery­one else, hang around for a bit. Okay, are they gone? Right. Foiled isn’t just about fenc­ing or grow­ing up or fit­ting in as a typ­i­cal teenager in New York. It’s also about a girl learn­ing that her place in this world might be some­where mag­i­cal.

Yes, Foiled fea­tures faeries, dragons and other crea­tures of fan­tasy. If you didn’t pick up the ex­tremely sub­tle clues at the be­gin­ning of the book, the in­tro­duc­tion of magic

to­wards the lat­ter half of the book might seem some­what abrupt.

Nonethe­less, Aliera’s mat­ter-of-fact ap­proach to the biz­zare turn of events, as well as the first half of the book’s ground­ing in the “nor­mal” world, makes the sud­den genre switch from school drama to fan­tasy quite be­liev­able, if not very com­pelling to read. Caval­laro’s se­lec­tive use of colours in the pre­dom­i­nantly monochro­matic comic is some­thing that de­serves praise. As only mag­i­cal things are coloured, the con­trast be­tween the bright hues and the greys mir­rors the stark dif­fer­ences be­tween the mun­dane world and the fan­tas­tic.

If Foiled was the only book star­ring Aliera, we would have been on the fence with this re­view. It would have been as if Harry Pot­ter ended just af­ter he learned about Hogswarts. “By the way Harry, you’re ac­tu­ally a wizard. Just FYI. The End.”

For­tu­nately, Yolen prom­ises on her web­site that Foiled is the “first of two” graphic nov­els, so we’re look­ing for­ward to Aliera’s fur­ther ad­ven­tures. And dare we say, there’d bet­ter be an­other one – the first book reads like a very promis­ing in­tro­duc­tion to a mag­i­cal world star­ring a very like­able pro­tag­o­nist. If the story was left hang­ing like that, then heck, we’d be in­spired to take up arms too. n Jane Yolen’s is avail­able at Ki­noku­niya, KLCC. Browse (first­sec­ond­books.com/foiled/foiled.html).

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