Michael Moorcock’s The Swords of Heaven, The Flowers of Hell – UK Edition


By Howard V. Chaykin & Michael Moorcock (Star Books)
ISBN: 0-35230681-5

Presented as a Heavy Metal Presents… production this slim and scintillating fantasy thriller was one of the most successful early graphic novels, but has since slipped into seeming obscurity. Created Marvel-style (plot/art and then script) it teamed two of the medium’s most outspoken and popular creators on a project that still has a phenomenal amount of punch.

Michael Moorcock began his career as a comics writer and editor at age 15, on such strips as Tarzan, Dogfight Dixon, Jet Ace Logan, Captain Condor, Olac the Gladiator and many, many other British stalwarts before making the jump to prose fiction, where he single-handedly revitalised the genre with the creation of Elric and the high-concept of the Eternal Champion.

This very adult fantasy thriller is a part of that extended cycle of sagas (and if you’re a fan this tale immediately follows the novels The Eternal Champion and Phoenix in Obsidian) but if it’s all new to you everything you need to enjoy the epic is précised within the tale itself.

Urlik Skarsol, known as John Daker, is an aspect of the tragic fate-tossed Eternal Champion. Unlike most he is always aware of his true nature so when he incarnates on a new world he already knows it is another place of conflict and jeopardy.

Here he is Lord Clen of Clen Gar, a knight of the Dream Marches and wielder of a terrible soul-drinking black sword. His land is a buffer zone between the acid-scorched wastes of Hell and the lush highlands of Heaven, and for centuries his people have guarded the decadent body-warping elite above them from the desperate wild-men of the burned wildernesses.

A final confrontation is drawing inevitably closer, and death is in the air, but Clen holds one final awesome secret. The floating acid-spewing beasts known as Angels are not what they seem and their final fate will determine whether this world thrives or dies in blood and flame…

This is a classic romp from two masters of the form, painted with all verve and dash of Chaykin in his prime, and a treat fantasists and followers of exotic, erotic fantasy will simply adore.

© 1979 Howard V. Chaykin & Michael Moorcock.  All Rights Reserved.

Voyages – Adventures in Fantasy


By Alex Toth, Rick Geary, Charles Vess, Trina Robbins & others (Nautilus Dreams)
ISBN: 0-913161-00-4

For comics purists and especially fans of comic art few books can match the impact and content of this delightful one-off from the early 1980s. I know nothing about its genesis or editor Howard Feltman, but at the dawn of creator owned-publishing, he managed to compile a truly staggering pool of talent for a (regrettably) single engagement that still resonates with power and charm today.

Behind the Frank Brunner cover and Terry Austin frontispiece, these crisp black and white pages contain firstly two incredible tales of Alex Toth’s Bravo For Adventure; an origin and a truly magnificent, surreal design masterpiece, wherein a blow to the head sends the dashing aviator to the furthest reaches of reality.

Toth was the undisputed god of minimalist line and his breathtaking mastery of dark and light is given full rein in these incomparable yarns. Hard on his heels is ‘Murder in the Garage’, an impressive early crime confession from Rick Geary, whose Treasury of Victorian Murder and Treasury of XXth Century Murder graphic procedurals are a constant source of delight to readers of true crime tales and cartoon aficionados everywhere.

Stardust star Charles Vess follows with the first of two brief vignettes, ‘Sugar in the Morning’ and Howard Chaykin provided an eerie psycho-thriller entitled ‘No Rest for the Weary…’ painted in glorious, psychedelic colour in a special glossy insert, after which Toren Smith and Lela Dowling contributed a whimsical and decidedly different ‘Cheshire Cat’ tale.

Barb Hawkins Karl interviewed P. Craig Russell with a liberal sprinkling of beautiful pencil studies and a stirring fantasy illustration in pen and ink, Trina Robbins brilliantly pastiched the Maltese Falcon in ‘Queenie Hart and the Andromedan Grzblch’ and John Jay Muth traded his signature watercolours for tone and pencil in the pensive picture poem ‘The Ghost’.

This enchanting collection concludes with Vess’ quirky ‘Blimp Tales’ and a Dowling unicorn endpiece. The tremendous outpouring of superlative art and stories that came from the rise of independent publishers in the 1980s seldom reached the qualitative peak of Voyages and this book is still readily available at incredibly modest prices. No true art lover or collector can afford to be without it.

All art and stories © 1983 the respective creators/copyright holders. All Rights Reserved.

Elric at the End of Time


By Michael Moorcock, illustrated by Rodney Matthews (Paper Tiger)
ISBN: 1-85028 032-0

He doesn’t demonstrate it often enough but Michael Moorcock has a wicked, absurdist sense of humour. One occasion of this is marvelously captured and reinterpreted in this deliciously odd collaboration with fantasy illustrator and heavy metal/prog-rock art icon Rodney Matthews. The prose book this tale is taken from collects short stories of the doom-drenched last-Emperor of a dead race, with the titles tale deviating ever so slightly from the breast-beating norm…

Elric is a tragic incarnation of the Eternal Champion, reincarnated in every time, place and alternate dimension. His life is blood and tragedy, exacerbated by his dependence on a soul-drinking black sword and his sworn allegiance to the chimerical Lords of Chaos. But what happens when he is lost in a place where time has ended?

Misplaced from his proper situation he finds himself in the indulgent, entropic, oh-so-bored company of the Dancers at the End of Time where an effete and omnipotent group of beings are desperately trying to keep themselves amused until the inevitable finally happens.

Elric believes he’s been shanghaied to the realms of ultimate chaos – a belief his hosts are delighted to encourage – and only the duty-bound Una Persson, Top Agent of Time Central, cares about returning the lost Melnibonéan to his point of origin before all reality unravels…

This novella is a mock heroic, surreal delight, that revels in lancing its own pretensions, expanded to fill this lush 120 page album by the incredible, unique art work of Matthews who eschews sequential narrative for a panoramic series of (21) lavishly painted plates, spreads and vignettes and a further 11 illustrations ranging from cameos to spreads in eerie black and white.

Controversial among fans who either love or hate it, this is still a terrific read, outré and startling, and one that fantasy and illustration fans should see. Well worth the effort needed to track it down.
© 1987 Dragon’s World Ltd. Text © 1981 Michael Moorcock. Illustrations © 1981 Rodney Matthews. All Rights Reserved.

The Squirrel Machine


By Hans Rickheit (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN:  978-1-60699-301-9

¡Perfect Present Alert!  For him or her – if they’re “Of Age”

Hans Rickheit was born in 1973 and has been producing skilfully crafted art in many different arenas since the early 1990s, beginning with self-published mini-comics and graduating to full-sized, full-length epics as well as dabbling in film, music, gallery works and even performance art. A Xeric award beneficiary, he came to broader attention in 2001 with the controversial graphic novel Chloe, and has since spread himself wide contributing to numerous anthologies and periodicals.

He has been called obscurantist, and indeed in all his beautifully rendered and realised concoctions meaning is layered and open to wide interpretation. His preferred oeuvre is the imagery and milieu of Victorian/Edwardian Americana which provided such rich fantasist pickings for Poe, Lovecraft and Derleth, and his meticulously clear line is a perfect counterpoint to the cloud of mystery and cosmic confusion engendered by the protagonists of his latest book The Squirrel Machine.

The brothers Edmund and William Torpor live in a secluded 19th century New England town but have never been part of the community. Raised alone by their artist mother they are quite different from other kids, and Edmund especially is obsessed with arcane engineering and assembling musical instruments from utterly inappropriate components.  Fantastic dream-like journeys and progressions mark their isolated existence, which is far more in tune with a greater metaphysical cosmos, but as puberty gradually moves them to an awareness of base human sexuality they find the outside world impacting theirs in ways that can only end in tragedy and horror…

Moreover, just where did the plans for the Squirrel Machine come from…?

Visually reminiscent of the works of Rick Geary, this is also a uniquely surreal and mannered design, a highly charged and subtly disturbing delusion that will chill and upset and possibly even outrage many readers but it is also compelling, seductive and hard to forget. As long as you’re an adult and braced for the unexpected, expect this to be one of the best books you’ll read this decade.

© 2009 Fantagraphics Books. Contents © 2009 Hans Rickheit. All Rights Reserved.

Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné: The Weird of the White Wolf


Adapted by Roy Thomas, Michael T. Gilbert, P. Craig Russell, George Freeman & various (First Publishing)
ISBN: 0-915419-87-4

Elric is a landmark of the Sword and Sorcery genre: the ruler of the pre-human civilisation of the Melnibonéans, a race of cruel, arrogant Sorcerers: Dissolute creatures in a slow, decadent decline after millennia of dominance over the Earth. An albino, he is physically weak and of a brooding philosophical temperament, caring for nothing save his beautiful cousin Cymoril, whom he killed whilst battling her loathsome usurping brother Prince Yrrkoon.

After Elric destroyed his own love and race he wandered the world a broken dissolute wreck. In a series of short prose stories, a number of which (The Dreaming City, While the Gods Laugh and The Singing Citadel) were included with a framing tale The Dream of Earl Aubec into the novel Elric: Weird of the White Wolf, the albino forged his tragic legend across the young planet.

This stellar graphic adaptation adapts not only the novel but also gatherers many of the disparate previous adaptations (partially or in full) in a logical chronological sequence, which originally saw the light of day as a five issue miniseries from the much missed innovators First Comics.

The Dream of Earl Aubec by Thomas, Gilbert and Freeman (with spectacular support from letterer Ken Bruzenak) sees the greatest champion of his world fight his way to the very edge of reality searching for glory and approval from his queen Eloarde of Klant. Where solid ground meets raw unformed chaos-stuff he finds a castle and is seduced by the incredible creature Myshella, the Dark Lady, who shows him visions of the future in the raw Chaos and particularly the travails of a tragic Emperor, Elric.

The first vision is an abridged version of Thomas and Russell’s ‘The Dreaming City’ taken from 1982 Marvel Graphic Novel which is followed by the pair’s superb adaptation of ‘While the Gods Laugh’ which first appeared in the fantasy anthology magazine Epic Illustrated (#14, 1984) wherein the doomed hero searches for the Dead God’s Book, a magical grimoire that promises to answer any wish or desire, picking up the first of many disposable paramours in Shaarilla of the Dancing Mist, as well as his truest friend and aide, Moonglum.

Interspersed with the continuing drama of Aubec and Myshella the collection then moves into an all-new interpretation of ‘The Singing Citadel’ with Thomas and Gilbert co- adapting the saga for the hugely underrated George Freeman to illustrate and colour. Elric and Moonglum take ship and are attacked by the pirates of Pan Tang, before being drawn into the scheme of Queen Yishana who needs a better magician than her own lover Theleb K’aarna to investigate an incursion of melodic chaos into her kingdom.

The invader turns out to be the malevolent Jester of the Lords of Chaos, intent on establishing his own domain without the interference of his superiors…

This is a phenomenal tale of heroism and insanity and the art and colour here fully capture the drama and madness of the original. Gilbert and Freeman are every bit the imaginative, illustrative equals of the magnificent Russell and this book is one of the most impressive graphic fantasies ever produced, and desperately in need of re-release.

Michael Moorcock’s irresistible blend of brooding Faustian tragedy and all-out action is never better displayed than in his stories of Elric, and Roy Thomas’ adaptations were a high watermark in the annals of illustrated fantasy. Every home and castle should have one…

© 1990 First Comics, Inc. and Star*Reach Productions. Adapted from the original stories by Michael Moorcock, © 1967, 1970, 1977. All Rights Reserved.

Madame Xanadu volume 1: Disenchanted


By Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (Vertigo)
ISBN13:  978-1-84856-288-2

Matt Wagner further blurs the boundaries between “straight” DC comics and the mature, independent Vertigo imprint – which actually drives continuity mavens raving bonkers – with this superbly fetching and compulsive yarn that manages the cunning legerdemain of telling a stand-alone tale for newcomers which also acts a clever piece of historical in-filling for readers steeped in the arcane lore of the magical aspects of DC universe.

Collecting the first ten issues of the lovely, thoughtful monthly comic, Disenchanted finally provides an origin for one of the most mysterious characters in the company’s pantheon, and makes her a crucial lynchpin in the development of a number of the company’s biggest stars.

Madame Xanadu debuted in Doorway to Nightmare, one of the last of DC’s 1970’s mystery stable (February 1978) and a rare deviation from the standard anthology format. She was a tarot reader who became peripherally involved in supernatural adventures of her clients, and was designed by Michael William Kaluta and Joe Orlando. The title ended after only five issues although four further tales appeared in The Unexpected, and one final solo adventure was released as DC’s second “Direct Sales only” title (in the early 1980s comics shops had become common enough that they could support titles that simply couldn’t find an audience on the sale-or-return newsstands).

After lurking in the musty and magical corners of the DCU for decades she finally got another shot at the limelight and to be honest it’s been worth the wait.

In the final days of Camelot the fairy Nimue, mistress of the Sacred Grove and sister to the Lady of the Lake and haughty Morgana, is disturbed by the growing chaos in the land. The puissant clairvoyant is unexpectedly visited by a stranger who urges her to act on her visions but she is proud and reluctant, and drives him away.

Meanwhile her lover Merlin is making dire preparations for inevitable battle and lets his loving mask slip. His dalliance with her is clearly only a pretence to obtain her secrets of immortality…

As Camelot falls and the land burns Merlin summons a demon from Hell to protect him and leaves it loose after the castle falls.  The stranger returns and urges Nimue to beware Merlin’s intentions, but although she is wary of the wizard she will not believe him capable of harming her.

She learns otherwise almost too late, binding Merlin in a magical snare, but the wizard’s revenge is terrible as with his last vestige of power he destroys her enchanted nature: with her potions she will still know magic but never again be magical…

Hundreds of years later she is seer for mighty Kublai Khan when the stranger appears again, guide to the expedition bringing Marco Polo to his heady destiny. Once again the stranger’s warnings are unwelcome but true and her perfect life and innocent friends suffer because she will not listen. She departs aware that the stranger believes he serves a purpose more important than innocent lives but when she confronts him he vanishes, as always, like a phantom…

In France she advises Marie Antoinette, both before and after she is dragged to the Bastille, and begs the ubiquitous stranger to save the tragic queen to no avail. When she finally returns to England she hunts Jack the Ripper, unable to fathom how the stranger can believe any cause more important than stopping this monster, and the story ends in 1930s New York in the fleeting moments before Supermen burst onto the world stage, finally discovering the strangers mission, and learning how her ancient antics shaped it…

Despite a huge coterie of magical guest-stars from Zatarra to Death of the Endless and the close tires to key moments of DC history, this is a delightful, glorious, romantic, scary stand-alone tragedy that any older fantasy fan and newcomer to comics could easily read… and really should.

© 2008, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

Requiem Vampire Knight Tome 2: Dracula and The Vampires Ball


By Pat Mills & Ledroit (Panini Books UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-438-6

The second double compilation of Pat Mills and Olivier Ledroit’s darkly spectacular masterpiece of nihilistic anti-heroism intensifies the decadent horrors with the next two translated volumes that created such a storm when first released in France. Dracula and The Vampire Ball resumes the tale of Heinrich Augsburg, a Nazi soldier doomed to unlive his life as a vampire warrior in a macabre inverse world of evil, which began in Requiem Vampire Knight Tome 1: Resurrection and Danse Macabre.

Resurrection is a brooding, blood-drenched world of eternal strife and warfare: a grim, fantastic mirror of Earth with the seas and land-masses reversed, where time runs backwards, populated by all the worst sinners of Earth reincarnated as monsters of myth – a realm where the ranked dead expiate or exacerbate the sins of their former lives.

This tome further explores the deeds that brought Heinrich (now called Requiem) to the very apex of the hell-world’s hierarchy as a full knight at the court of Dracula, trapped in a spiral of bloodletting, debauchery and intrigue. His position is not secure. Not only has he earned the enmity of the treacherous faction of elite Nosferatu led by Lady Claudia Demona, Lord Mortis and Baron Samedi, but it appears that he may be a returned soul…

Long before Augsberg died on a frozen battlefield, killed by a Russian he was trying to rape, the Templar Heinrich Barbarossa had committed such atrocities in the name of Christianity that he was guaranteed a place in Dracula’s inner circle when he inevitably reached Resurrection. But soon this new Vampire Knight Thurim committed an unpardonable crime and was excised from the court and Resurrection itself.

But now Requiem, already plagued by memories of his doomed affair with the Jewess Rebecca, is the subject of dangerous talk. Far too many vampires are remarking how similar to the disgraced Thurim the newcomer seems…

And what’s worse for him is that as the interminable battles (incredibly realised by the epic mastery of Ledroit) with such foes as the Gods of Limbo, the arcane order of Archaeologists, Lamias, Werewolves, Ghouls and others, Requiem discovers that Rebecca too is on Resurrection and the only way she can find peace is to “expire” the one responsible for her being there…

Blending decadent, opulent, Machiavellian dalliance with the wildest dreams – and grim, black wit – of a new De Sade, the tensions of the palace even outstrip the constant eye-popping action on myriad battlefields, so this book ends far too quickly on yet another cliffhanger when Rebecca is first captured by the Vampires only to escape with the still besotted and now wildly off-reservation Requiem. And their headlong flight has catapulted the doomed ex-lovers straight into the mouth of a cosmic dragon storm…

Supplemented by a gallery of the artist’s series paintings this astonishing, captivating work for the Goth within is an adult fantasy fan’s darkest dream come true. More please and soon…

© 2000, 2001, 2009 Nickel, Mills, Ledroit. All rights Reserved.

Requiem Vampire Knight Tome 1: Resurrection and Danse Macabre


By Pat Mills & Ledroit (Panini Books UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-437-9

As is so often the case Europe is the last and most beneficial arena for the arts and untrammelled creativity, and none more so than comics and sequential narrative. For some reason the Continent cherishes the best of the world’s past as well as nurturing the fresh and new, without too much concern for historical bugbears of political correctness, gaffes and contemporary censoriousness – which is why so many British and American strip creators produce their best work there.

Perhaps it’s simply because they revere not revile popular arts as much as classical ones….

Requiem Vampire Knight is an impressive example of self-publishing done right, and happily with commensurate rewards. For years writer Pat Mills wanted to break into the European market and in 2000 he did so by setting up Nickel Editions with publisher Jacques Collin (whose Zenda Editions produced some of the nicest looking albums of the 1980s) and artist Olivier Ledroit who illustrated the first four books of the incredibly popular Chroniques de la Lune Noire (Black Moon Chronicles) for Zenda before the series transferred to Dargaud. Mills and Ledroit were already old comrades having previously worked on the impressive Sha.

Mills is well known to readers of this blog (see for example Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing and his incontestable masterpiece Charley’s War) but perhaps Ledroit is not so familiar. After studying Applied Arts he began his career as an illustrator for games magazines and broke into Bandes Dessinee (that’s comics to thee and me) in 1989 with the aforementioned Black Moon Chronicles, written by François Marcela Froideval.

Specialising in fantasy art Ledroit drew Thomas Mosdi’s Xoco (1994) before teaming with Pat Mills on the acerbic, futurist thriller Sha, set in an ultra-religious fascistic USA (1996-1999). His lush painterly style was adapted to fairytales in 2003 with L’Univers Féerique d’Olivier Ledroit, and he is credited as one of the founding fathers of the darkly baroque fantasy sub-genre BD Gothique.

From a financially shaky start Requiem Vampire Knight quickly proved that quality will always find an audience, and Nickel swiftly expanded whilst continuing the excessively adult adventures of deceased warrior Heinrich Augsburg. The series is released as annual albums, and has been serialized in Germany as Requiem Der Vampirritter, and in Heavy Metal in America (beginning in Volume 27 #1, March 2003).

Now Panini have brought this evocative series to Britain in superb oversized, A4 format, double-editions presenting two albums per volume beginning with Resurrection and Danse Macabre.

Heinrich is a German officer killed on the Eastern Front in 1944. As he died all he could think of was his guilt over a doomed affair with the Jewess Rebecca whom he chose not to save when the Gestapo came for her…

He awakens confused, with few memories intact, on the incredible blood-drenched world of Resurrection: a grim, fantastic mirror of Earth with the seas and land-masses reversed, populated by all the monsters of myth and where time runs backwards. In this Hell of constant warfare the sins committed on Earth determine your rank and form. Since Heinrich has been reborn as a Vampire, top of the slaughterers’ heap, his Earthly transgressions must have been truly unforgivable…

Soon he is sent for training and orientation, joining the Vampires Court of Dracula, where all the worst monsters of history rule, becoming embroiled in the eternal warfare and perpetual intrigues. But as time passes and he gets younger, he remembers more of his Earthly life and realises that he has been on Resurrection before… Moreover he has earned the particular enmity of a faction of utterly decadent elite Nosferatu ruled by the sadistic Lady Claudia Demona, Lord Mortis and Baron Samedi…

For any fan of Mills’ work there nothing truly new here to be shocked by, but the liberating license to explore his favourite themes guided only by his own conscience and creative integrity has resulted in a complex, intensely compelling mystery of revenge and regret on the most uncompromising of worlds where there is literally no justice and no good deed ever goes unpunished. Blending cosmic warfare with cynically sardonic deadpan humour, wrapped in the ludicrously OTT trappings of sadomasochistic fetishism, this is a truly epic saga of Gothic hopelessness perfect for the post-punk, post-revisionary, lavishly anti-reductionist fantasy fan. But it’s probably best if you don’t show your gran or the vicar…

The art is utterly astonishing. In places delightfully reminiscent of Philippe Druillet’s startlingly visual and deceptively vast panel-scapes from such lost masterpieces as Yragael: Urm (and there’s another one to chuck on the “must review soon” pile) as well the paradoxically nihilistic energy of such decadent Michael Moorcock civilisations as Granbretan or Melniboné, Ledroit has captured a truly unique scenario with his vibrant palette . Never has the horrific outer darkness been so colourfully captured and the sheer scope of the numerous monsters and spectacular battles is utterly eye-popping.

A grim and witty dream, this is a fabulously realized adult fantasy of blood and thunder that is enthralling and captivating: (Im)Pure Graphic Wonderment!

© 2000, 2001, 2009 Nickel, Mills, Ledroit. All rights Reserved.

Warlords – DC Graphic Novel #2


By Steve Skeates & Dave Wenzel (DC Comics)
ISBN: 0-930289-04-8

Being nothing but a bunch of banana-fingers with stubby thumbs and utterly immune to the specious allure of computer and video games, I can’t admit to much knowledge of the antecedents of this intriguing fantasy book. Still that means that I can dispassionately comment on the package as a read unswayed by its origins.

In the mid-1980s all the major comics companies were exploring the European concept of albums and graphic novels: enlarged and expanded narratives produced on better paper stock using more expensive printing techniques. Coincidentally, at this time DC had entered into a financial arrangement with video-gaming giant Atari resulting in such superb comics spin-offs as Atari Force (a comic still screaming out for a definitive collection) and Star Raiders.

Another Atari property that made the leap to the printed page was Warlords; at first glance one more Tolkienesque derivative comprised of fairies and elves, wizards and giants, with general blade-based mayhem aplenty. But on closer examination this colourful little epic has hidden charms: for a start it’s written for sly knowing laughs, isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and even the genre it owes its existence to.

The other big plus is the creative team. The sharp and witty script by the hugely underrated Steve Skeates is illustrated by fantasy master (and honorary Hobbit) David Wenzel and together they produced this impressive and engaging tale of an underachieving troll “Just Plain Dwayne” who reluctantly finds himself holding a magic amulet that everybody wants in the middle of an eternal cold war between the four Warlords who control the world.

Unfortunately now that the scurrilous Dwayne has the mystic bauble that war’s going to heat up pretty quickly…

It’s relatively easy to parody a genre, but to be funny within the internal logic of one is a master’s trick: so when I tell you Dwayne’s little quest is still ripe with climactic battles, fabulous beasts, glorious creatures, hair-raising tension and incredible action you know its something you just have to see.

Trust me, I’m a Scholar…
© 1983 Atari Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You


By Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black (Simon & Shuster UK)
ISBN: 978-1-41690-136-5

One of the most charming and readable children’s stories of recent vintage (the first volume was published in 2003 and I’ll get to them one day…) recounts the adventures of three American kids who stumble into a forgotten and dangerous world of unseen Fairy Magic. The adventures of the Grace children even emerged relatively unscathed from the transition to the big screen in a winning adaptation entitled The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Modern marketing being what it is, a lot of peripheral material has been generated to accompany the books and it’s one of these I want to bring to your attention. Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You is a fabulous confection, purporting to be the actual tome created by an inquisitive naturalist nearly a century ago, listing in magnificent taxonomical detail and gloriously illustrative manner all the unnatural and supernormal creatures that live beyond the range of normal human sight.

Although Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black are deliberately vague as to who does what to craft these tales the former is credited as illustrator, so I’m assuming the Manticore’s share of the superb paintings and drawings in this volume are his and the explanatory notes Ms Black’s – and frankly astonishing it all is.

Divided into Around the House and Yard, In Fields and Forests, In Lakes, Streams and the Sea, In the Hills and Mountains, In the Sky and Outside at Night this beautiful bestiary covers every invisible wonder from Banshees to Will-o’-the Wisps, Dragons to Unicorns and all European ethereals in between.

This is a book to inspire dreaming and creativity in kids of any age, produced with all the tricks and magic of 21st century printing and paper-technology. A true and total delight.
© 2005 Tony DiTerlizzi & Holly Black. All Rights Reserved.