I have been debating on reading Adora and the Distance for sometime now. The cover made it look like it was a typical “Girl of color is our hero” and “Down with the patriarchy and non-representation!” novel. Well, this book by Marc Bernardin is proof one should not judge a book by its cover. Oh, yes, it is a young nine-year-old girl of color who is a hero, off on adventures, but if you look closer, it is more than that.
At first, I was just getting Lord of the Ring vibes. The hero (Adora) goes off on an adventure with her bodyguard, her servant and a few others who have magic, swordsmanship, cleverness, are jolly and boisterous. Then there were some Wizard of Oz vibes; you could see who was the lion and Dorothy at least, but the adventures is what really brought that out. At the end you really get those feelings as Adora realizes there is a place she must be, and cannot stay in the world we have found her in. She must find The Distance (the darkness that is coming for her).
The twist ending was not seen by this reader. The writing was lending itself to become a sequel. As, after all, we had gone through the majority of the graphic novel and had not had a really big climatic ending/battle (there were adventures, but not The Big One with The Distance).. But despite all that, this is a beautifully and familiar story that you have never really read before. With the interesting reveals, you have a book that hopefully is not a one-of, yet, I am also not completely sure I want to know what happens after the book closes. (If you read, you’ll probably see what I mean).
And of course, I cannot end this review without talking about the illustrations of traditional fantasy imagery, with light and dark colors, shadows used to set the tone. Ariela Kristantina and Bryan Valenza painted a world that was crowded, busy, showing some of the ugly while there is still beauty. The characters are a bit stereotypical (there are an Arabic character, a Gaelic/Roman, a young, handsome mage), but it is easily forgiven as they work.
An afterwards by the author ties all things together with their inspiration for the story.