Emma Crewe doesn’t care for books, but has the power to literally be lost in one.
When Emma lands in another world following a library fire, she discovers she’s a Namesake — one with the power to open portals to other worlds via the power of their name: strange, fantasy, and fairy-tale lands we know thanks to literature, cinema, and folks tales. The rules of Namesakes are quite clear – Alices always go to Wonderland. Wendys always go to Neverland. However, Emma finds herself in Oz, where she is expected to act as the latest in a long line of Dorothies. She instead unveils a magical conspiracy plot that’s more than 100 years in the making.
While Emma is stumbling down the Yellow Brick Road, her younger sister Elaine discovers she’s a Writer — one gifted with the power to make stories come to life. Will Elaine be her sister’s key back home?
Quick disclaimer : I bought the first, printed volume of this webcomic at TCAF in may last year. Last week, I read this book, and then I immediately rushed online and binge-read a huge chunk of what came next. So while I’m going to try and only review the content of the first book here, keep in mind that I am speaking with knowledge of the awesome things that come after it.
I picked up Namesake partly because I love the work of the artist (who has contributed to a few comic anthologies I am particularly fond of, including the Valor anthologies) and partly because I am a huge fan of re-imagined fairy tales. (Before anyone rushes to ask me to review their novels: NON-GRIMDARK re-imagined fairy tales. Thank you very much.)
While I have never been much of a fan of the wizard of Oz, and I haven’t read/seen Wicked, I love the concept of a ~not that evil~ wicked witch of the west. And BOY does that book deliver. At TCAF, when I bought the book, I flipped through it at random and asked the artist to sketch me Warrick next to her autograph, and I am not regretting that decision in the least. I have a new favourite character everyone, and he is absolutely worth the several evenings I spent binge-reading the webcomic to find out what happens to him. Not only does the story get better and better, but the art also gets better and better so Warrick gets even cuter as time goes on. Perfect.
But this book isn’t about Warrick, so enough about my weird crush. This book is about Emma, and the world of namesakes. Namesakes, as explained in the blurb of the book, are people who sometimes randomly get transported to other worlds to live out fairytales, according to their names. Simple, right?
But that simple premise quickly gets derailed. Emma isn’t a Dorothy, the organization over-seeing the namesakes have no idea who or what she is, and terrible shadow monsters are spreading confusion and terror into the fairy tale world… This first book does a very good job of setting up it’s mysteries fast, and making us want to read on to figure out just what the heck is going on. With a big cast of characters that are all incredibly charming and an art style that gets more and more beautiful as the series goes on, Namesake is a great webcomic for fans of portal fantasies, and complicated world-building. It also does a terrific job at working with both the historical elements around how and why the original fairy tales were written, and the « canon » of each of those stories.
In conclusion, I have to go back to reading the webcomic now, Warrick is the best, and I’m considering how much buying all of the volumes of the printed comic is going to break my bank.
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