Review of Queen of the Sea

Queen of the Sea
by Dylan Meconis; illus. by the author
Middle School    Walker U.S./Candlewick    396 pp.
5/19    978-1-5362-0498-8    $24.99

In a graphic novel loosely inspired by sixteenth-century British history “during the reigns of King Henry VIII and his daughters, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I,” young Margaret has lived on the Island in a convent of nuns since she was a baby. At almost twelve (and nearly one hundred pages into the story), Margaret discovers an unhappy secret about her beloved Island and her own status there: she is in fact a prisoner. Soon after, the Island receives Lady Eleanor, the queen of Albion (modeled after Elizabeth I), who has been deposed by her older half-sister Catherine. Distrustful of everyone else on the Island, Eleanor enlists Margaret as a companion, but this relationship eventually leads to another startling revelation, this time about Margaret’s parentage. When a mysterious ship washes ashore, its sole survivor alters the course of Margaret’s and Eleanor’s futures as they escape the Island together, in an open-ended conclusion. Sympathetic protagonist Margaret’s first-person narration occasionally pauses to enlighten modern young readers about religious practices, politics, and conventions of the period, such as convent holy hours, saints, and the rules of chess. These sections are often accompanied by spot art resembling images in illuminated manuscripts, whereas the rest of Meconis’s angular, detailed drawings depict characters realistically. Throughout, the mixed-media illustrations in an earthy palette are a dynamic mix of panel sizes and shapes that—along with the speech-bubble dialogue—reflect the emotions, intrigue, and actions of the complex characters, to great cinematic effect.

From the September/October 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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