Review by Ian Keogh
Miranda is considered a witch, living in a future where a plague has decimated the UK. More correctly she has natural talents as a healer in a polarised society where a corporation gets to decide who lives in the protected walled environments, a position that has to be earned via tests of loyalty. Others have different abilities. When he first meets Miranda, Thomas Mackie and his talking dog Dex are witch hunters who’ve strived to join the elite for five years, but he’s a fundamentally decent sort who’s not been told the truth.
A dystopian future is hardly a new idea, but everything is in the interpretation, and Gary Chudleigh’s mixture of witchcraft and technology presents a viable twist in a generally lighthearted action thriller. For all his front, Mackie could be seen as more desperate than the people he’s hunting, while Miranda radiates good intentions along with her healing abilities, which she’s been cultivating to the point where she can now cure entire villages at a time.
The art may prove off-putting for a younger audience. Tanya Roberts draws a strangely genderless lead character, and applies a colour scheme prioritising dark blue, brown and green, with gloomy, unattractive pages the result. These aren’t helped by her relying on faces and figures to tell the story wherever possible, and not expanding into something more spectacular when it’s greatly needed. A burning city is shown in abstracts and microcosm, and it diminishes the threat. Because the basic talent is present, all of that doesn’t combine fatally, but Plagued doesn’t look as good as it might.
Despite the Miranda Chronicles subtitle, by the end of this opening volume it’s apparent Chudleigh intends the spotlight to be as much on Mackie and Dex as Miranda, and they’re equally appealing, if more conflicted. While published in Scotland, the use of Scottish phrases to ingratiate with the local community may be at the cost of a wider audience puzzled by terms such as “braw” and “hen”, but work past that and the intended young audience will be carried away by the adventure. There’s considerable promise to Plagued, and Miranda, Mackie and Dex return in volume 2.