Haru: Book 1: Spring by Joe Latham is a fantasy story with the fantasy elements of adventure. There is a ghost mother, a cursed artifact, and magical and magical-like situations. We also have a coming of age aspect with the bullying Haru faces at school. Then there is the character The Dark. It is creepy AF. But also, due to the way Latham has created it, it can be seductive, or at least is (pick one or all that fit), beautiful, romantic, dark, scary, creepy, charismatic. I would say it is best for ages strong 10 and up, but as an adult reader I see the beauty of the world, but it is dark, so sensitive readers might not be the best audience. I am not sure if it could be done in a group reading, but it would be an interesting book to read with a child. It is a graphic novel, and since I read it via an online reader copy, I am not sure of the dimensions, so that could make it hard as a read-aloud, but I would be willing to try with the right child. Or I would do this as an “Adult/Child” reading group (even if it is just the two of you). The artwork tells the story as much as the minimal text. They are both busy and simple, without ever being simplistic. The colors are earthy and used with shadow and light to set tones and moods. There is a section I understand why it happens, but not sure of the why characters were there. What are they pushing forward other than they were the theme of birds, and Haru and their friend Yama needed someone to “push” their story along.
The overall feeling is that our two main characters are taking their own cleverly created odyssey into the underworld and back as they learn to mature, grow up, and come of age. And though the theme is classic and is a familiar theme in most books, this time we have a more modern take as well. Two main parts are first, Haru is non-binary. It is never said they are “they” but we never hear Goose, Haru’s younger sibling, say “my brother/sister needs help” when they go off on their own journey. Nor someone saying any gender towards them. However, this might be just to move things along and allow anyone to see themselves in the heroes of the story (though Yama is female). The second part is how this world is a mirror of the human world, but something has happened to humanity. This is shown in the beginning of things, in the prologue. This is where some of the more dark, but amazing imagery comes into play. Not to spoil things, but the hand we see is extremely important and frankly, a bit disturbing.
I can keep saying things about the book, but I would be telling it to you. The setup does not easily allow a quick or easy summary without spilling the beans. You can say that it is a “buddy book with a darker side” but that still does not tell you everything. The magic elements are realistic and the realistic elements magical. This first volume is due mid-March 2024 and volume two late October 2024 and I’m already craving the rest of the series, so Joe Latham, if you are reading, please send reader copies my way!