Saturday, October 24, 2009

Apothecarius Argentum, vol. 3

The story: Princess Primula's 17th birthday is quickly approaching and, with her father's ill health, it's been decided that she will make her debut and meet princes from neighboring kingdoms. However, it goes awry when some uninvited guests crash the ball, effectively ending the party. But, one of the crashers, Prince Lorca of Navara, has a surprise -- he's there to ask for the hand of Primula. And while Lorca seems like a sweet, young man, he's actually hiding a secret agenda, along with a strange illness that's also affecting many of the people of Navara. Can Argent the Silver Apothecary cure Lorca?

Reaction: This volume had lots of laughs initially, but got fairly serious quickly. While Lorca seems innocent and young at first, Soda notices something peculiar about him -- that he's much like the king, hiding his tough interior with an overly doting relationship with his daughter. The one thing that kind of creeped me out was the focus on insects and bugs. Since he was kept indoors as a sick child, his only friends were the insects that got into his room. Because of that and the overuse of pesticides in Navara, there's a fascination of sorts with bugs.

Deep thoughts: The cause of the disease that Lorca suffers from, as well as the people of Navara, is an endemic one related to the use of pesticides. Perhaps the most well known book regarding pesticide use in the United States is Silent Spring, which came out in the 1960s. The book, written by Rachel Carson, helped launch the environmental movement. The title refers to the lack of noise because of all the birds killed by the widespread use of DDT. Because of the book, DDT use was banned in 1972.

Artwork: The art is much the same as it appeared in the first two volumes. However, I particularly liked the scenes involving Primula's debutante ball; there was a fairytale feel to it. From the scenes of the castle's exterior to Primula's ballgown, there were lots of regal details. Also, midway through the volume, there was a diagram showing the effects of the various antidotes used in the volume. It was reminiscent of an old English botanical drawing in style, although it's placement is unexpected and breaks up the chapter.

The verdict: Highly recommended. I'm still loving Apothecarius Argentum, especially since this volume ended on quite the cliffhanger. While this book was more comedic than the prior two and less about political intrigue, I continue to love this unique tale. Apothecarius Argentum is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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