01/08/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: Arcana Comics. 140 page graphic novel/pdf. Price: $19.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-927424-52-0).
check out website: www.arcanacomics.com
'The Praetorian' was written by Ryan Foley with art by Robert Gill, colours were by Aikau and letters by Shawn DePasquale and the editor was Amanda Hendrix. At 140 pages, it is a decent size for a graphic novel although it is divided into six chapters. Presumably, this is a collection of published comics because each chapter starts with a brief résumé of what has happened in the previous chapter. By chapter three, this becomes a bit of an irritation as my memory may not be what it was but I can still recall what I have just read. Another minor point is that it is not until page 103 that the word 'Praetorian' appears and it is not used again until page 127 which is also the last time it appears. Why they chose 'The Praetorian' as the title is beyond me, as it has no real significance on the story. Anyway, small gripes aside this is a nicely packaged graphic novel.
With a name like Valoriss Bladesong, you just know that the heroine is destined to be good with a sword and so it proves to be. Unfortunately for Bladesong, she is captured by slavers after being exiled from her home country and delivered to the slave markets of the island kingdom of Desperian. After a little altercation at the slave auction, Bladesong finds herself conscripted into the ranks of the gladiators and so the story begins.
The island kingdom of Desperian used to be a tropical paradise, until it was invaded over a hundred years ago by a massive army lead by Zoranthar. After conquering the previous rulers, Zoranthar employed his wizards to transform the island into a wasteland with the cities providing the only source of water. Each city is ruled by a regent, who possesses a magic amulet giving them magical powers, and terrible monsters roam the land between the cities. The subjugated populations only entertainment is the gladiatorial games. Zoranthar has used his magical powers to extend his life-span and intends on ruling Desperian forever.
After some initial training, Bladesong excels at the gladiatorial games, defeating all who dare challenge her. This success brings her to the attention of the local regent and, ultimately, Zoranthar himself. In between hacking people to death with swords, Bladesong forms a romantic attachment to Flynn Sandborne, one of her fellow gladiators. There is also a local rebellion brewing which attempts to enlist the help of Bladesong and overthrow Zoranthar. With more and more success in the gladiatorial arena, Bladesong's appearance before Zoranthar becomes inevitable.
In many ways this is a standard fantasy story. Wizards - check. People with swords - check. Despot rulers - check. Terrifying creatures - check. Hero down on their luck -check. It does keep your attention and moves along at a fair pace providing an enjoyable read. The novels biggest weakness is that it is rather predictable. There are very few surprises and no plot twists. The artwork and presentation are good but don't break any new ground. While an enjoyable read, it is, as I said, a standard fantasy graphic novel and $19.95 may be pricing it a bit high.
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