Review by Frank Plowright
So far we’ve been introduced to a distinctively striped tiger, actually a transformed Queen, being led through the countryside by Rook, a former member of her guard. The Queen’s absence places her world in a precarious position, stoking already present tensions between two lands, while returning to her people in her new form isn’t an option for the Queen. The quest, therefore is to have the Queen transformed back to her true state. So far the precise meaning of the title remains unexplained beyond a place mentioned in song where the recently dead can be contacted.
Almost two years separated what was issued as Isola Chapter One, and the five subsequent chapters of this volume, yet the slow story pace is maintained. It’s a fine line to straddle, because after waiting readers might expect things to move faster. That’s mitigated greatly by co-plotter Karl Kerschl’s delicate art, pages packed with a love of nature, be that beautiful views, lush forests, or the gently loping tiger. All benefit greatly from the thoughtful colour applied by Msassyk.
So far only Rook has known the Queen’s true state, but Kerschl and his collaborator Brenden Fletcher change that early, and in the midst of a meandering journey, where to begin with it seems every chapter is an individual story. These are reflective and engaging, and the eventual realisation is that they connect. Fletcher and Kerschl are good at dropping oblique hints as to what might be solutions for Rook and the Queen, but never spelling them out, in effect placing readers in the same position as the characters, never quite sure what has relevance or what something might be. Perhaps connected is the introduction of what to all intents and purposes is a witch, using potions to deceive while her intentions are malign.
Buy into the slow pace and appreciate the art, then Isola has much to recommended it, but if you prefer your fantasy more energetic then it’s probably not for you. We look forward to Chapter Three at some stage.