An Atlantis-like city from Celtic legend is the setting of this mythical graphic novel fantasy re-imagining the classic Breton folktale of love, loss, and rebirth, revealing the secrets that lie beneath the surface..
Ys, city of wealth and wonder, has a history of dark secrets. Queen Malgven used magic to raise the great walls that keep Ys safe from the tumultuous sea. But after the queen's inexplicable death, her daughters drift apart. Rozenn, the heir to the throne, spends her time on the moors communing with wild animals, while Dahut, the youngest, enjoys the splendors of royal life and is eager to take part in palace intrigue.
Matthew Tobin Anderson (M. T. Anderson), (1968- ) is an author, primarily of picture books for children and novels for young adults. Anderson lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His picture books include Handel Who Knew What He Liked; Strange Mr. Satie; The Serpent Came to Gloucester; and Me, All Alone, at the End of the World. He has written such young adult books as Thirsty, Burger Wuss, Feed, The Game of Sunken Places, and Octavian Nothing. For middle grader readers, his novels include Whales on Stilts: M. T. Anderson's Thrilling Tales and its sequel, The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. -Wikipedia
‘We live by devouring those we love. How can we help it? They’re the ones within closest reach.’
Magic, sea monsters, seduction and betrayal, this book has it all. The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson and beautifully illustrated by Jo Rioux is a really delightful graphic adaptation updating a traditional Breton legend about a city, Ys, that sunk into the sea. Anderson draws upon various versions of the legend including popular ballads and operatic versions, combining elements and expanding upon characters and ideas to create a really well-rounded and nuanced retelling with dynamic characters and less-clear-cut moral implications. This thrilling graphic novel watches the collapse of a family kept wealthy through dark magic, plunder and murder while still making the two sisters quite empathetic and engaging. I suppose it should be said that if you are considering this for younger readers be advised that there is a good deal of graphic content as sex and beheadings are crucial to the plot. Delightfully dark and twisted, this magical legend is really brought to life through strong female leads and lush illustrations that make it perfect for anyone who loves a page-turning, menacing fairy tale.
Like a good cover song, the author/illustrator duo make this tale their own with plenty of their own hooks and signature touches, expanding an old tale into something exciting and new. I always consider it a success when a retelling can be accessible to those completely unfamiliar with a legend while providing a lot of fun and fresh perspectives to readers who have prior knowledge of the tale, and Daughters of Ys does just that. The plot plays out as one would expect, though the elements feel original and the way events occur have new twists to them. Told through gorgeous artwork that feels reminiscent of Nimona and Adventure Time with shoutouts to Anglo-Saxon imagery (there is also this dumpy sea monster that I absolutely adore specifically for how dumpy he looks), the novel is able to do a lot with a little. Faces are fairly flat and simple yet brilliantly expressive, landscapes feel lush and large, the art alone is worth the price of admission.
While the original tale tends to have a Christian morality to it, much of that is scrapped to let the more fantastical aspects and moral ambiguity come through. The story is less “don’t fuck with dark magic” and more a shrugging “maybe be more responsible about dark magic?”. While most traditional tales tend to have a single daughter, Dahut, who is half-fairy, half-human due to the union of her magical mother and royal father, this one brings in a second, older and therefore next in line to the throne sister, Rozenn (who appears in a French opera version of the legend). On the surface, Rozenn is the pure sister who communes with nature and hangs out with peasants while Dahut communes with dark forces, attends balls and...well, seduces young princes and throws their severed heads into some mysterious pit as payment to keep the supernatural wealth and might of the kingdom going. Through making them pretty dynamic characters--impressively so with such a short book--the morality becomes murky as Rozenn is seen as fairly naive and weak and Dahut is simply doing what needs to be done for the survival of the kingdom.
This becomes rather interesting, particularly in light of the events leading up to the ending. ‘Remember I was kind!’ Dahut insists after a pretty spectacular betrayal, though we soon see that, actually, she could have done much worse and because she didn’t a lot of people paid for it. It will surprise literally nobody that the original legend is fairly misogynist, framing Dahut as either evil or stupid and singlehandedly leading to the destruction of Ys whereas Anderson makes her empathetic in all her dark magic mystique. She is a character caught between a rock and a hard place, having to make difficult and immoral choices because her father, the actual king, is too wrapped up in vanity and extravagance to bother doing what needs to be done. Sure, she is kind of evil, but in a tormented way and preying on social-climbers who objectify women which, fine, murder is never okay, but like, her beheading some shitty princes with a magic mask after sleeping with them is admittedly entertaining. She feels badly, alright?
Also the whole wealthy family has power through shady dealings, plunder and murder but throws the young daughter under the bus to wash their hands of it feels very relevant right now. I’m not condoning anyone here, but I enjoyed this book and Dahut is really well done. Also her ending fits with some of the original tales and is kind of cool. Plus the way things come crashing down doesn’t necessarily redeem her but shows how complex the situation was. It seems like an abrupt intrusion into the story, so be it, but it is in keeping with the traditional tale. There is a bit of a King Lear element going on with the King as well towards the end that is well done and gives Rozenn a chance to really shine. The daughter that strove to be good her whole life has been overlooked because she hasn’t been profitable, which is a really great jab at our modern condition. Her final scene is great too, and one of the biggest strengths of this book is having two strong female leads from very opposing ideologies.
Overall, this is a really fun retelling and will get under your skin in a good way. There are lots of neat little side stories going on too, such as the holy man who catches the same fish every day, eats half, and the other half regrows into a living fish for him to continuously catch ad infinitum. It’s just a really fun way to engage with old stories in a way that feels modern despite the traditional setting. I wish it had been longer but it does quite well with it’s short space and manages to be a YA style narrative that works for adults as well. Exciting, twisted and gorgeously illustrated, The Daughters of Ys was a joy to spend an evening with (and I still kept my head!)
Painting by Évariste-Vital Luminais of Dahut being thrown into the sea by the King (1884)
Jo Rioux's illustrations are wonderful. M.T. Anderson's writing...not so much. The Daughters of Ys is your basic fantasy story that follows two magical sisters, daughters of the king and queen of a generic fantasy land. Their magical mother dies, the two sisters fight, skip forward a few years and one is all things good (prancing in the countryside) while the other one is all things bad (vain, a 'flirt'). There is no world-building, the relationship between the sisters is undeveloped, most of the dialogues are choppy and stilted. The story would have benefitted from focusing more on the girl's childhood rather than flashing forward to them as young adults. The plot as such is predictable. The inclusion of 'beheadings' seemed an attempt at darkness...but I didn't find the storyline to be all that atmospheric. The random bad guy at the end made little sense.
With way more sex and violence than I usually associate with First Second books, this one is definitely aimed at the YA or adult market. And yet it is a sort of simple fairy tale about sibling rivalry between princess sisters and the lengths to which one of them is willing to go to protect their kingdom.
It's fascinating for quite awhile until its fizzle of an ending. But I was unaware until the end matter, that this is based on a folktale from the Brittany region of France that I had never heard of, so the ending is probably excused by those roots. Folktales and the French often fail to stick the landing.
An old story Celtic story retold as a graphic novel. I had high hopes for this retelling and sadly it wasn’t quite as I hoped. The art is mediocre and didn’t capture my attention. I can’t figure out why the sea monster looks like the main character in Where the Wild Things Are. The girls faces are shaped very asymmetrically and just don’t do it for me. The colours are nice and overall the look and feel is good but the actual art details felt off.
The story was very good but as it’s a legend that isn’t really the authors creativity at play so much as it already exists in story format. I do like that they acknowledged each of the girls fairly equally throughout; and that the promiscuous one is certainly shown to have questionable morals. However amoungst all that; I think there is more complexity that this story needed. It’s clearly not as simple as one is right and the honourable, where the other sister is less so. Stories of this nature, meant for older teens, should really address why the one sister chose as she did. Although this is a legend and so I suppose excusable for being so black and white.
Note: This is definitely a teen or older graphic novel. It has multiple references to people having sex or shown in bed. And of course the story itself is about the promiscuity of one of the daughters.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Since I was a kid, I have been fascinating with the french legend of Ys, one of our finest ancient tale. This retelling explores the character of Dahut, the princess held responsible for the fall of the great city. The author blends perfectly multiple religious and folkloric references. The artwork is stunning and expressive, reminiscent of traditional styles. The end is intense, sad and poetic. This version makes it clear that Dahut is the real victim, and by the end, she is freed. Her elder sister (an addition of the author, probably inspired by the opera) will have to take her responsabilities. The author cleverly avoids the usual distinction between the good sister and the bad one. The result is less a tale about the shallowness of materialism vs faith, than a tale about the place of women in the medieval world. The two sisters seem at first to personify opposite aspects of feminity, power and nature. But by the end, sweet Rozenn is holding the axe and the crown, while sulfurous Dahut is finally at peace under the deep blanket of the sea.
This scene in which the king throws his daughter in the sea!
Adapted from an old French folktale, Daughters of Ys is a tale of dark magic, murder, seduction, beheadings, and more murder. Yes, this is a little more adult than most First Second fare. Ys is a wealthy nation state of fantastic buildings and magic. But all that magic comes at a dark price. The art is eccentric but works well for a Grimm style fairytale.
Like many folk tales I’ve read, there is a lot of violence and betrayal happening. And terrible, supernatural bargains that come due. I thought that, enjoyable as it was, the ending felt somewhat truncated and glossed over. And dissatisfying.
This was intensely sinister. It's my fault for not looking more carefully into this graphic novel before checking it out from the library. The cover art gave me Over the Garden Wall vibes and I briefly skimmed the synopsis, so my expectations were completely wrong. I wasn't at all prepared for such a dark story, and so my reading experience ending up being really uncomfortable. I don't think this is a bad graphic novel by any means, but I was so wholly unprepared to read it that I just did not enjoy it at all.
I thought the art was beautiful and I did find the story intriguing but I think the sisters, Rozenn and Dahut, lacked any real characterization beyond Goodness/purity/love and evil/sorceress/sexually impure. I'm sure this black and white characterization of the sisters comes from the mythology the story is based on, but I just found that it didn't really work for a story in this era.
A re-told fairytale from early Britain. Like many fairytales, the characters are somewhat one dimensional- there is an ailing and worthless king who married a fairy woman who died young, and now has two daughters. The older rejects the extravagant life of the city of Ys to live simply in the country side, befriending hermits and fishermen. The younger studies her mother's books of spells and takes on the terrible contract needed to fuel Ys's magic- which involves seducing and murdering men. But what happens when a payment is missed, and the bill collector comes? For me the art hit harder than the story here, but oh is the art wonderful. Done in a mix of traditional and digital media, the characters are expressive, the ocean rough and lively, the landscapes beautiful, the moody lighting of the corridors and towers of Ys exquisite. I want to see more by this illustrator!
Oh, my. That wasn't what I was expecting. That is dark and cold and beautifully drawn. While the art has nothing in common, the story feels closer to Emily Carroll than anything else I can bring to mind. There are some disturbing images that are never going to leave my brain.
This isn't a story I was previously familiar with. Maybe the Arthur legend isn't Celtic, and I can't be bothered to look, but for the first time I feel like I get it. Now I'm wondering what other cultural dark treasures I've been missing out on.
Previously I only once before encountered the work of Jo Rioux. I liked The Golden Twine quite a bit, but this was more of an, "oh I have got to get my hands on more by her right away" sort of reaction.
MT Anderson is CONSTANTLY doing shit where I read the description and I'm like "well who wants to read that" and then I read it anyway because it's MT Anderson and then I'm like "ok me I guess" but I do think this would be a hard sell to most...teens? Like I feel like the target audience here is...people who are already fans of MT Anderson, or people who are fans of Breton mythology, I guess??
Anyway once you get here, it's gorgeous and sharp, but just...............who is this for? I do not know.
I loved the first line: "Your mother came from another world." I was immediately hooked. The concept was amazing, and I always adore the two sister's trope. I love dark folktales, and with the relationship between the sisters, I was expecting some glittering hope in between the depressing plot. But the execution was disappointing. Basically, everyone in this book was a terrible human except for Rozenn. I could definitely sympathize with Dahut, because hello flawed character, but there was no softness in her to empathize with completely. Beautiful art, but just a bit disappointed.
First, it must be said that the art is stunning. The illustrator did a fantastic job with creating a visual world for this story. The art style fits the story perfectly! It seemed a little disjointed at times, but I really love the dark turn it took. It really picked up and things got interesting a little before the halfway point! And then everything just got worse and worse. Very emotional story. I’m not familiar with the original Breton folktale, but I enjoyed this one enough to read one of the versions the author listed at the end of the graphic novel.
Thanks to First Second Books for the ARC! I'll definitely be buying a physical copy of this one when it comes out.
I was able to get an ARC of The Daughters of Ys from Yallfest and let me tell y'all, this graphic novel is beautiful and heartbreaking. I'm hoping that there ends up being a sequel or companian graphic novel because I need more!
The story itself was incredibly haunting. I fell like I was falling down a rabbithole as I was reading. The pacing and the tale of the two sisters, each with a different path, was incredibly well done. Chilling, really. It was darker and more adult than I was expecting, but still loved the journey.
Durante años, la reina Malgven erigió y mantuvo las grandes murallas que mantenían la ciudad a salvo del mar, pero tras su inexplicable muerte, sus hijas, antaño tan unidas, toman caminos diferentes: mientras que Rozenn, la heredera, pasa tiempo en el exterior, rodeada de animales silvestres, Dahut ha pasado a ocuparse de las intrigas palaciegas. Sin embargo, algo logra separarlas por completo, lo que sella el destino de todos, y es que la ciudad de Ys esconde oscuros secretos.
Al parecer, Las hijas de Ys está basado en un antiguo cuento popular bretón, y eso se nota, no porque conociera el original, sino porque mantiene ese aire cruel, original y sorprendente de los cuentos, y además he de decir que, si bien el tipo de ilustración no es de mis favoritos, ese estilo oscuro y tenebroso le viene como anillo al dedo a esta historia.
Como comentaba, se trata de una historia oscura, cruel, violenta, llena de fantasía, monstruos marinos, y una ambientación muy chula, para hablarnos de la vida, de la familia, la rivalidad entre las hermanas, en este caso, la responsabilidad y los límites a los que está dispuesta a llegar una de ellas para proteger su reino, pero ante todo, diría que, al menos para mí, es una historia sobre el sacrificio de las mujeres, que no se llega a ver agradecido jamás, sino solo cuando es útil. Muy dura, muy directa.
I took a while to think about this story. It’s based off of a Celtic tale and the art is beautiful. This was a good story but a part of me feels like the story could have been more. I wish Rozenn would have to told off the fisher boy and be the strong woman she is. Her dad should have learned from his mistakes and grown to respect and treasure her. I’m still not sure how I feel about the “death” of Dahut. It was just sad how I’m the end everyone abandoned her. Grief truly tore this family apart. This story is definitely worth a read but I’m not sure I’ll remember it for long.
Cuando empecé esta novela gráfica me dió muchas vibras a esas tragedias tipo Shakespeare y es que se trata del retelling de una leyenda bretona, un antiguo cuento popular del que hasta existen cuadros y diversas versiones a las que ahora se le suma una en tipo cómic.
En lo personal debo admitir que se me hizo bien perturbadora y turbia por los temas que trata: asesinatos, tratos del estilo de la magia negra, engaños y situaciones +16 / +18. Pero al mismo tiempo está llena de intriga y muy bien narrada, que con cautivantes ilustraciones me atrapó completamente y lo leí de una sentada.
Destaco totalmente la forma de rescatar un cuento popular y llevarlo a este formato tan didáctico y fácil de leer que permite acercar un elemento propio de una cultura a muchas personas.
Cuenta además con una nutrida bibliografía que podemos verificar al final de la novela gráfica.
Oscuros secretos, magia, mitología, monstruos, maldad y una enorme valentía, marcan este retelling en formato cómic que de seguro es un candidato ideal para salvar de un bloqueo lector.
This wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, or the illustrations I was wanting to see, but that didn't mean it wasn't a story worth reading. There was still a good amount I enjoyed in here, and a pretty creepy vibe that came from the character that entered the story closer to the end. It just didn't play out as well as I felt it could have.
As mentioned, the art, sadly, didn't do much to keep my attention, or make it feel like a more realistic setting. I wanted more from a palace on the sea, with all that was described. There were a few moments that flowed nicely with the illustrations shown, I can't say there weren't, but not as much as I knew there could be.
The story though, did keep me reading, even if certain sections left much to be desired. It was as if there was a split in storytelling when it came to this novel. There were times I was taken in by the things happening in front of me, then others that either felt forced, or left me wanting more of an explanation. If there is another volume, I hope there are at least some redeeming qualities (in most characters), including details.
***I received this copy from First Second, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***
I was actually really enjoying this story and the art style until there was nudity completely out of left field. The two sisters are talking in the garden about their recently deceased mother and then happen upon their (naked) father with two (naked) women.
This was absolutely lovely. A reimagining of a classic Breton tale set in a mythological Celtic city of Ys. I wasn’t familiar with the source material prior to reading this book, it was more of a random selection from the latest the library had to offer. In fact, there are some classifications of it being YA and at first it seemed like it might have been, but as the story progresses it get appropriately dark and complex for adult readers. Overall, this was more along the lines of a classic European/UnDisneyfied fairy tale, in a way suitable for most ages. The book tells a story of two very different sisters and their aging father in a kingdom by the sea, sustained by dark magic and sacrifice. The main themes here are of love and duty and desire, it’s really a pretty dark and sad story, which makes it all the more poignant and effective. The art took me a moment to get into, the juxtaposition of sort of primitive boxy people’s faces to the absolutely stunning near impressionist nature drawings. But after a while, the style seemed perfectly suited to a fairy tale, the art sort of straddling the line between simplicity and sophistication. The word count to art balance was perfect for a graphic novel, making this 200 page book an easy 60 minute read. I very much enjoyed this tale and its artistic presentation. And the shared reading experience. Lovely indeed. Recommended.
The story is straightforward enough (its simplicity works well to keep the myth feeling from the source material, imo, though I have to think more about how it's representing gender stereotypes, etc), but it's worth reading this just for the art alone!
Rioux's mix of traditional and digital elements creates a lot of texture and light and colour that is sometimes missing from graphic novels; this is very different from the art in Monstress, but I took time to go over the pages in a similar way.
Anyway, this was a great way to spend a couple hours! Recommended. (though note that this is YA+ - there are some implied sex scenes, some dark scenes, etc.)
What a beautiful book, the drawings were absolutely stunning and the story was captivating! The only negative thing I have to say is that there wasn’t enough, I would have loved to have more. I feel like I would’ve been more attached to it if it had been longer, but it was still worthy.
I really enjoyed it and would recommend for anyone who enjoy graphic novels.