Monday, November 2, 2009

Apothecarius Argentum, vol. 4

The story: Princess Primula and Prince Lorca set off to Navara to help heal its people of their endemic disease and to bring peace to their neighboring nations. When they arrive, the two young royals find the king ill and a mysterious woman at his side. To top it all off, they're imprisoned under suspicion of kidnapping the crown prince's missing son, which occurred at the same time Lorca disappeared. While political strife is afoot in Navara, Primula and Argent struggle with their growing feelings for one another. Just what will become of these two kingdoms?

Reaction: The plot thickens in this volume, with spies discovered and traitors exposed. There's also the emotional growth in the relationship between Primula and Argent, as well as the skyrocket-like character growth for Lorca. While I wasn't a fan of Lorca when he was first introduced, I like him much more by volume's end. Of course, I was a little miffed that there was so little Soda in this one!

Deep thoughts: Lorca, bug lover that he is, mentions that cochineal beetles, when crushed, provide the basis for an amazing red dye for textiles and cloth. Carmine, another name for the bug-derived dye, is used in a wide variety of products, from yogurt to lipstick. So, next time you pick up red, processed foods or other products, you might want to check for carmine or cochineal, or you'll get more than you bargained for!

Artwork: The art in this volume is a little more developed from the first three with new characters and a new location. Out of all the scenes, I liked the one between the mysterious woman serving the king of Navara and Prince Daniel. There's just a perfect moment of recognition that captures the emotions involved. While it seems like an effortless capture of the nuances of facial expressions, it shows just how difficult it is to recreate moments like that. This scene is also set in a tropical greenhouse of sorts, giving it an even more mysterious feel.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This story just gets better and better with each volume. While there's romance, there's also the political strife between Beazol and its neighbors. It's a nice balance, along with the science and adept artwork. And while I'm a sucker for romance, I find myself just as invested in the story of Beazol as I am in the romance between Primula and Argent. Apothecarius Argentum is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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