Audience: 8-12 years
Reviewer’s Name: Sarah Bihn (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
Reminiscent of Studio Ghibli animations, this graphic novel introduces readers to a young witch named Sophie who travels to train under the guidance of her great aunt and cousin. While her magic is troublesome at times, Sophie is determined to prove to her family that she is powerful enough to be accepted into the Royal Magic Academy. Except instead of learning spells like she thought she would be, Sophie’s auntie Lan has her doing chores all day long and berates her for each little mistake. Finally, Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. Taking her cousin’s spellbook, Sophie tries an advanced spell that quickly leads to trouble as her magic entangles with that of a young dragon’s. Lir, trapped on land and without his memories, seems to be everything Sophie is not–good at magic and well-liked by auntie Lan. Yet even as Sophie is rude to Lir out of misplaced jealousy, Lir offers her friendship, and the two grow close. With the uncertainty of just how their magic became tangled, it is up to Lir and Sophie to find a solution to their problem, and return Lir back to his family.
Xu effortlessly creates a world where witches and dragons work together to keep the balance of the ocean at peace, and protect the islands inhabited by humans. The graphic novel opens with a short overview of Sophie’s family history, and flows easily into Sophie’s own story. Sophie is a relatable character with a voice of doubt in the back of her mind that constantly gives commentary on what she feels others think about her. A commentary that is echoed by her auntie Lan as an old dislike between Lan and Sophie’s grandmother colors the older woman’s opinions of Sophie. While Lan comes to respect Sophie and apologize for her previous actions it is a rocky and long road to get there. Overall, Xu creates a world based on friendship and forgiveness with three-dimensional characters who are not afraid to apologize when they realize they have made mistakes.