Review by Ian Keogh
During her introduction in Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things we saw the young Courtney eagerly adapting to the mystical world of her Uncle Aloysius, one of the foremost warlocks of his generation. The magical world is of far greater interest to her than the mundane reality of school lessons, except that magical world sometimes throws up a terrifying threat, one of them being Tommy Rawhead. He’s the most fearsome of all the hobgoblins, one seemingly impervious to all preventative magical incarnations, and when he’s on the prowl even the greatest adepts shudder. Where does the news of his reappearance leave Courtney? Pretty shaken actually.
That’s just the first of the threats Courtney faces, because as previously Ted Naifeh presents three individual stories in this collection that are drawn together in the final chapter, the loose connecting threads being the fate of a mystical creature and the involvement of other mystics. They have great respect for Aloysius, but he has nothing but contempt for their organisation, treating other masterful magical practitioners with utter disdain, seeing himself above their ignorance. They’re not quite the locals with flaming torches and pitchforks seen storming the castle in early horror films, but seemingly distant relations, and as such there’s a similar sort of relationship to that Professor Dumbledore has with the Ministry of Magic, preferring to keep them at a distance.
Naifeh’s art sometimes brings the jagged simplicity of Mike Mignola to mind, but in stark black and white with great use of shadows, and other times there are more decorative and detailed page layouts. These depict the abodes of magical practitioners, some scenery at night or a hall of mystical artefacts, each wonderfully designed and imaginative. He also includes some interesting effects such as a warping door showing an exit from Aloysius’ mansion.
The opening story is a wonderful example of the art of misdirection, best read knowing no more. It’s followed by an exploration of the way cats live and are organised, then by some heinous circumstances that arouse Courtney’s sympathy. The way it all ties together is tragic, but the final sequences display just how much Courtney has learned in a very short time. The same applies to Naifeh, who’s become a very good writer in a very short time, foreshadowing well and hiding his clues in plain sight. Night Things was good, but Coven of Mystics is better. Does the upward curve continue with Twilight Kingdom?
As is the case for the entire Courtney Crumrin series there’s also the option of a colour hardcover version.