Review of Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

anderson_yvainYvain: The Knight of the Lion
by M. T. Anderson; illus. by Andrea Offermann
Middle School, High School    Candlewick    134 pp.
3/17    978-0-7636-5939-4    $19.99    g

The storyline of this graphic novel retelling of a twelfth-century epic poem is straightforward enough: after slaying Sir Esclados, Sir Yvain, a young knight-errant from King Arthur’s court, falls madly in love with and marries the lady Laudine, Esclados’s widow. Shortly after their marriage, Yvain fails to keep a promise, and Laudine denounces him. Yvain determines to become worthy of her forgiveness by defending others, not for glory, but out of compassion. The story ends with an overjoyed Yvain reuniting with Laudine: a classic closure where true love triumphs. And yet, Anderson and Offermann offer something very different from a traditional chivalric tale here, putting as much emphasis on Laudine’s sorrow as on Yvain’s adventures. This retelling is a tempestuous counter-story that challenges perceived notions of love by eliciting darker emotions of doubt, confusion, and even rage in examining women’s roles in relationships and society. The writer and artist both effectively capture Laudine’s indignation, resignation, and ultimate fate. Readers cannot help but empathize upon observing her constant sorrowful expressions juxtaposed with those of Yvain’s jubilation — both skillfully depicted by Offermann. Anderson’s spare, matter-of-fact narration, set against Offerman’s muted earth tones, detailed small panels, sweeping spreads, and swirling, turbulent motifs, further ensures that readers’ hearts are as tormented as Laudine’s.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School Librarian at The Dalton School in New York City. She is fully bilingual in Mandarin and English.

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