Book Review: Evermore by Isobelle Carmody and Daniel Reed

I’ve been a bit remiss in reviewing Carmody and Reed’s graphic novel, Evermore, as I have read it some time ago. Particularly because this book is a treasure.

I am not always an avid reader of fairy tale reboots for adults – probably because getting it right requires a great deal of skill by a writer, but if it is very well constructed, it is an absolute pleasure to read. This is the case with Evermore, and especially when it was wrapped in visual magic.

Evermore is a story written through the point of view of Princess Rose, a teenager confined to a keep by a ruthless King. The language is the English of the fairy tale, archaic in form. The clothing of the princess, and her limited companions are medieval in style, as is much of the architecture of the princess’ home. And yet, from the very beginning, there is the sense of a post apocalyptic setting, and modern technologies are glimpsed or referenced. This is a mysterious juxtaposition, sitting elegantly on the pages, but at the same time forming an uneasiness in the narrative.

Without providing spoilers, Rose discovers her heritage is more complex than she had thought and with her growing conspicuous womanhood, will be the object of suitors’ desires. She learns that it is unlikely she will be wed, but instead, suitors who will battle for her hand will all end in agonizing deaths. She needs to escape her nightmare world to where her mother had originated, across a desolate desert.

I simply can’t say much more about the plot. It would be unfair to you, the reader.

It is my understanding that Evermore was a story that was written before it transformed into a graphic novel. And while there are a scattering of pages that contain reasonably long passages of text, compared to rich illustrations with quantities of text what readers are normally used to, it is not a downside to the work. The words are evocative, strong, and unmistakebly carries the protagonist’s voice.

Daniel Reed’s artistic skills do not expand Evermore’s story – it compliments it. Aside from extraordinary quality of art in terms of rendered characters and depiction of the world settings, it is also fresh and artistic in terms of the way Carmody’s words are woven among the frames. Colour and tone choice is generally dark and tending toward monochrome, adding to the atomosphere of bleakness of a post apocalyptic world, and depressed by tyranny. The words are typed with a derelict typewriter, which has forced the protagonist to add the ‘f’s by hand, as the f/F key is missing – the reader can’t miss it, but instead of being a distraction, it anchors the reader deep into this world. Reed loves to skew images and text in odd, quirky angles, again adding to the uneasiness of Rose’s predicament.

Evermore isn’t a standard sized graphic novel; it is a sizeable 135 pages long. It is a fairy tale but it is fresh and atmospheric, and has a unique backdrop. The story is original, with a fantasy style, but ultimately driving into a science fiction conclusion. We don’t have a helpless princess being rescued by a prince – instead we have a girl growing into a woman, and with the aid of the sacrifice of caring friends and drawing from her mother’s strength of character, a heroine who withstands the greatest of tests, without the need to resort to violence. We have tragedy and palpable evil depicted, but at the same time we have triumph of love and devotion. The conclusion isn’t a classical fairytale ending, as Carmody realistically depicts the price that sacrifice and suffering must reap. And yet the story’s ending is still a fairy tale.

It boggles my mind that Evermore hasn’t been shortlisted in the Aurealis Awards as I am sure it will linger longer in the minds of its readers than the majority of graphic novels produced in Australia in 2015. I’m still scratching my head.

This piece of art deserves 5 stars out of 5.