Sennen is Shanti Rai’s first full graphic novel, but you’d not know that from the ambition, the treatment of weighty themes such as belief systems, obligation and the viability of food production, nor from the decorative art. Furthermore, there’s a surprising narrative complexity in what’s both a literal and metaphorical journey.

Sennen has come of age in what appears to be an idyllic community, but she’s tired of adherence to what she sees as fawning religious beliefs, and this is beginning to cause problems between her and her closest friend who’s more accepting. Unfortunately for Sennen her rebellious attitude has shocking and tragic consequences. That, though, is just the beginning of her experiences, which take some surprising turns, not least that Sennen is right about the religious observance and her people have been living a lie.

Rai’s artistic approach is two-dimensional and brightly coloured, very illustrative in fact, and eye-catching from the start. It’s not a style that adapts well to people, though, so emotional moments don’t always have the desired impact. However, it’s more with the storytelling that Rai’s relative inexperience shows through, as some slow and some clumsy moments occur, and the ending is logical, but feels more like the prompt for a continuation than a conclusion.

However, there shouldn’t be an expectation of perfection for anyone’s first fully formed creative outpouring and Rai is several steps ahead with a story that surprises and engages, has a real feeling for character and constructs a world that leaves readers wanting to know more.