Russian folklore is not a theme that has appeared in my reading pile much in the past, if at all, but with the first volume of Nobrow’s Gamayun Tales that was about to change.
The titular Gamayun is our narrator for these three intertwined stories from writer/artist Alexander Utkin, and the mythical world of monsters, men & animals hinted at by the cover quickly grabs your attention. The first of those stories, The King of Birds, sees a feud between a mouse and a sparrow over a golden apple spark a civil war. That sees a human merchant dragged into the middle of things as he plays his part in keeping the fight going and although that’s an unwitting decision for him to make, the fall out promises to shape everyone’s lives.
That leads us firmly into the second story – The Water Spirit – where the growing effects of that initial war sees the merchant’s life take an increasingly magical turn as he finds himself drawn into a testing time at the hands of another powerful creature. Those two alone would be enough for one man to take on-board but the effects stretch further into his family and the story of Tyna of the Lake closes out this first volume with a race against time as a young boy must escape a watery world back to the parents who miss him dearly.
The trio of tales allows Alexander to show-off a mythical world that bridges fantasy & reality in the best possible way, although that’s only telling part of the success here. The intricacies of the world itself & the way they interconnect are effortless in their execution and every page turn brings with it a surprise and another part of the puzzle. The story is crucial to keeping the momentum going in this and the pacing has a brilliant flow to it and that’s all emblazoned with an art style that seems to hold the weight of the history behind these tales. The colouring in particular, has an aged feel to it which helps punctuate the feeling of an age-old tale being told in a new-age way and the whole blend of plot, pacing & style makes this an intoxicating read.
Fantastical stories, precise pacing & stunning artwork are a glorious mix for Alexander to juggle across one story let alone three but the fact that these all fit together as well as they do makes sure that Russian folklore could well be my new favourite folklore. Roll on volume two.
You can head over to the Nobrow website to get hold of this and their other titles – you can also keep tabs of what else they have on the go over on the Facebook & Twitter pages, including the second volume of Gamayun Tales due in August this year.