Review of The Daughters of Ys

The Daughters of Ys
by M. T. Anderson; illus. by Jo Rioux
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    208 pp.    g
8/20    978-1-62672-878-3    $24.99
e-book ed.  978-1-25079-036-1    $11.99

In graphic novel form, Anderson (Yvain, rev. 3/17; The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, rev. 9/18) and Rioux (The Golden Twine) tell the traditional Breton story of the enchanted underwater city of Ys. Sisters Rozenn and Dahut mourn their faerie mother, whose magic has fed their father’s lust for wealth and created the famous undersea city. Now motherless, Rozenn pursues her love of the natural world and lives in the wild, while Dahut takes up her maternal heritage of magic, sustaining her father and his riches through shipwrecks and murder. When Dahut notices Rozenn’s affection for a fisherman, she tests his loyalty and, inadvertently, her own, with disastrous consequences for the city of Ys. Rioux’s graphics stress the magical effects and action elements of the folktale, with a shadowy, subdued palette and abundant, inventive sound effects. Both transport us to a world that seems beyond language itself, a dangerous confluence of nature’s forces. At the same time, Anderson’s dialogue contemporizes events, allowing the tale’s psychological underpinnings to show through the weird, otherworldly drama. “What are we going to do without Mom?” mourns Dahut as the story begins. Final panels locate the story near Brittany’s perilous shore of Finisterre.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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