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The Steel Prince by V. E. Schwab

The Steel Prince by V. E. Schwab
4.5
Book Name: Shades of Magic Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (Shades of Magic Graphic Novels #1-4)
Author: V. E. Schwab
Publisher(s): Titan Comics
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Comic Book / Fantasy
Release Date: March 5, 2019 (US) March 15, 2019 (UK)

Well, fellow adventurers, she’s done it again. V. E. Schwab delivers another amazing story with her Shades of Magic expansion comic book entitled: The Steel Prince. Published in March 2019 from Titan Comics, The Steel Prince is an adult fantasy comic book that explores the backstory of a secondary character in the Shades of Magic trilogy, Kell’s father, none other than King Maxim Maresh.

While the story focuses on a younger Prince Maxim, there are other characters from Shades of Magic in this comic, too. We get a taste of Tieren Serense, who was Head Priest at the London Sanctuary in the original trilogy and who continues that role in this story, and Isra, a mere royal guard but who you may recall as being the head of Rhy Maresh’s guard.

The story takes place outside of Red London, a welcomed change from the trilogy, in a coastal town called Verose, where pirates and thieves rein and the city guard has a lot on their hands. Maxim, as much as he tries not to, sticks out like a sore thumb during the events that transpire. (Most folk immediately recognize him as the Crown Prince of Arnes.)

Make sure you take a deep breath before reading this because the story hits the ground running and never really lets up. From the reason Maxim is sent to Verose is to the fight with a local bloodthirsty pirate. The tension is high and Maxim goes to great lengths to prove himself. I really enjoyed the action, as it kept the plot moving and kept me guessing what would happen next. Arisa, the pirate queen, was a new and fascinating character who especially propelled the story forward. I enjoyed how intertwined the characters became in such a short amount of time, too, and how believable those connections felt.

The magic in the story was interesting, as we all knew it would be. We got some really pretty looks at the elemental magics—water and wind, fire and earth—as well as Maxim’s unique fighting style as he bends steel to his will. But what I really enjoyed was the in-depth look at a forbidden magic: bone. Basically, it’s where the magician can control a person’s bones and, as you might guess, the results aren’t pretty.

Obviously, I can’t talk about a comic without going into the illustrations and while the story is great, here is where the book really shines. Artist Andrea Olimpieri and colorist Enrica Eren Angiolini really bring the story to life. The super-bright pops of color when showcasing the various magics, the unique spin on the bone magic where it highlights the literal bones of the characters, and the interesting angles on the characters make for a good visual story. I loved how intense the fight scenes were in the middle of the comic and how the elemental magic seemed to jump off the page.

I must also say that it was really fun to revisit old characters, especially ones lost by the end of Shade of Magic. Getting to know a bit more of where Isra started really rounded out her character for me, and I hope to see more of her in the upcoming comics. Seeing Maxim as a young, reckless prince trying his best to be what his people needs is so like Rhy’s journey, and even though Kell isn’t of their bloodline, I can see where he got his headstrong personality and drive to do good. I can also tell how Maxim would grow to become their father—and the king we knew from the Shades of Magic trilogy—just by the way he acts in The Steel Prince.

It’s not all magic and flowers, though, as with every story there are some negative aspects to be found, too. While the illustrations were on point most of the time, I found the beginning of the comic a tad too dark. Yes, the story starts out at night so it makes sense that the coloring would be dark, but the memories of the characters are set in shadows, the introduction of a pretty pinnacle character happens at night and inside a dark bar, and even the training scenes aren’t very well lit. To be honest, this color pallet threw me! At first glance, I didn’t like that I couldn’t see the characters very well, and the action and memories being set in shadows annoyed me. But on a second read, the color pallet grew on me and I began to appreciate the blasts of color from the magic even more. It made the magical aspects of this world all the more powerful.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this comic to anyone who enjoyed the Shades of Magic trilogy and wanted to be back in that world once again. (Honestly, even if you haven’t read Shades of Magic, I think you’d find this a fun read!) I think V. E. Schwab’s writing really shines in her novels—that’s where I originally fell in love with her style, characters, and world—but I’m glad she branched out into comics, and I’m interested in seeing where this story will go. I give it a nine out of ten stars!

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