title: witchy
writer/artist: ariel slamet ries
genre: fantasy
target audience: young adult
publisher: lion forge
content warnings: parental death, mild transphobia and misgendering (challenged)
my rating: highly recommended

i received an earc of this from the publisher, via edelweiss. this does not influence my thoughts or opinions.

witchy is an online webcomic by ariel slamet ries that has been picked up by lion forge, with the first volume out in comic shops on september 4th of this year. it is set in a fictional asian inspired world, where magic is everywhere and your power as a witch is generally determined by the length of your hair. the main character is nyneve, whose father was killed by the government when she was a child. despite having really long hair, and being the daughter of two powerful witches, her own magic is very weak. she is torn between her desire to keep herself safe by not drawing attention to herself, and her hatred for the people complicit in her father’s death, and now she is about to go through the mandatory drafting for the witch guard.

going into witchy i didn’t really know what it was going to be about. i knew it was a fantasy graphic novel about witches, and that hair was a significant part of the world, but not really anything beyond that. thinking back, i don’t really know what my expectations were, aside from thinking it was middle grade. now that i’ve read it, i’d say it’s young adult. it deals with some heavy topics at times, some with more weight than others, and the characters are in their late teens.

i loved the world witchy is set in. it’s called hyalin, and is, according to the official website“a melting pot of Asian and Oceanic cultures” with not a single white person. we get to see some very different environments throughout the story, giving the land some depth and showing us how different it can look depending on where you are. i found the magic system very interesting, with how it’s tied to hair length but still being somewhat unpredictable and different from person to person. hyalin is a land being ruled by secrets and corruption, and witchy is very much about what that can do to a person. 

there are a whole bunch of effortless queer moments just sprinkled throughout the story, which was not something i’d expected because i hadn’t seen anyone mention it, but it made my day. my favourite one was when a character took off a mask she’d been wearing, and nyneve looked like she was about to spit her food out because said character was so beautiful. there is also a trans woman in the main cast of characters. i found it slightly uncomfortable that we find out she is trans when everyone is sent to see a medimage of their gender, she at first isn’t let in to see a female one. i love her dearly, though, and it is quickly resolved and she isn’t sent to a male one. another little thing that made the world feel more… i don’t know if inclusive is the right word? safe? is the fact that all characters seem to use they/them pronouns when talking about people whose pronouns they don’t know yet.

all in all i really enjoyed this first volume of witchy. it is very much an unfinished story, and feels a lot like just the beginning of something huge. like i said at the beginning, this is originally a webcomic. it’s still ongoing, and i really hope lion forge continues to work with ries to print the rest of it. if you’re on the lookout for a quick and diverse graphic novel full of magic, i’d highly recommend you pre-order this one.

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