Review by Frank Plowright
When Gregory moved with his parents to a new town, he didn’t expect to be able to travel back to the 17th century, befriend the stone gargoyles perched on the local cathedral and be tutored in magic. Who would expect that? Great as is sounds, there are problems, not least that he has two sets of parents, those in the present day annoyed by his absences, which rapidly becomes a problem in the 17th century as well, where his sister is due to be married.
Gregory’s overall purpose is to make decisive interventions to enable magical creatures in the 17th century to escape Earth for a magical dimension. This is sometimes achieved by travelling further back into the past enabling their transformation into protective gargoyles. There are forces arrayed against this, not least his his Aunt. She’s forbidding in the present day, but a mystical dabbler in the past, and the gargoyles consider her daughter Edna is also a danger, yet she seems so very pleasant and is learning about magic alongside Gregory. But why doesn’t she appear to exist in the present day?
If this sounds quite complicated, it is, and D.P. Filipi ensures other inventive complications, such as Gregory ageing a few years when he’s in Edna’s presence, but not always. It all takes some keeping straight, which may be off-putting for younger children, but they’ll be caught in the headlong rush of events as Gregory’s never more than a few pages from becoming embroiled in another adventure as he learns new magical skills. There are people to steer him, as another idea introduced is that of magic as a concept with an overall guiding intelligence.
This headlong rush is drawn by Silvio Camboni in an incredibly lively style, and the cartooning defines the cast wonderfully. Gregory is slightly gawky and awkward in both his young and slightly older versions, and the assorted mystical creatures faced have a dangerous quality without being terrifying. The series is given a unique look by having the traditional black character and object outlines rendered in colours instead. The result is page after page looking more like flattened computer animation. It’s extremely effective and appealing. There’s no credit for the lettering, but that also plays an important part, denoting the spells used by Gregory and others as forms of symbols and squiggles.
Book 2 is the middle volume of a trilogy, but there’s no plot sag even if very little has been resolved. It provides a full dose of excitement, and whets the appetite for the finale in Book 3.