Let me start by saying that Tidesong is absolutely delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was sad when it got over. As the blurb says, this book is perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli. Being one myself, I could not wait to read it. Having said that, this book really works for anyone who has a love for whimsical and feel-good stories.
Tidesong is a graphic novel by Wendy Xu. The story revolves around Sophie, a young witch who comes from a family of magical beings. They are historically bound by magic to powerful water dragons. At the beginning of the book, Sophie is sent to live with her Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan to prepare for an audition to the Royal Magic Academy. Sophie is eager and ambitious, impatient to get started with practical magic and perform spells like her cousin and great-aunt.
In her impatience, she accidentally gets bonded to a young water dragon named Lir. Now Lir is stuck on land in his human form and without his memories. Sophie must work with him in order to bring his memories back and allow him to transform again. She is faced with a decision to make as helping him means that she must compromise on her studies for the Academy.
Tidesong is a beautiful story about friendships and finding where you belong. Sophie is utterly charming. She is smart, sensitive, and determined to prove herself. Her desire to understand her magical self and to find her place in this new world is relatable, in a sense. I certainly related to her frustration about her own inexperience and her need to make her family proud.
For a pretty short book, all the characters are beautifully fleshed out. You understand Sophie’s motivations immediately with just one or two thought bubbles. The other characters are very well-written too. Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan have very different approaches to Sophie’s magical education. Great-Aunt Lan is intimidating and insists that she do chores around the house to learn discipline, while Cousin Sage gives in to Sophie’s wishes once in a while and shows her how to do practical magic.
The art of the book is reminiscent of Studio Ghibli. The lines and colors are simple but beautiful. From the farm on which Great-Aunt Lan and Cousin Sage live to the majestic underwater spaces of the water-dragons, every setting manages to reel you in and feel like you are immersed in the world of the book. The magic spells performed are illustrated in a way that you could almost imagine them being part of the world around you. At the end of the book, there is an Author’s Note where Wendy Xu talks about drawing the various small creatures and plants you see in the book and her inspiration from New England’s incredible biodiversity. These illustrations definitely make the book what it is.
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The story of Tidesong is powerful in its simplicity. In a short space, the author both builds a whole magical world to lose yourself in and outlines the beauty of friendships and family in an entirely charming way. (Yes the word charming has appeared twice in this review, please make of that what you will!)
I definitely recommend this book if you would like a foray into a magical world – one that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
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