Evony, Princess of Destireth, was orphaned as an infant by a witch attack on her kingdom. Since then, she’s lived in the kingdom of Gallea with the king and queen and their children, Ammon and Nissa. She has the unique ability of being able to sense witch familiars. After a deadly encounter when a familiar follows his parents home from a hunting trip, Ammon wants to show them that they must fight the threat, not simply hide behind the kingdom’s magical barrier. He and Evony begin to sneak out of the castle at night to hunt and kill familiars. They are caught one night out, not by the king and queen, but by the witch Aradia. She rips out Ammon’s heart. Slowly, he will start to become a familiar. When Nissa is kidnapped and spirited to the Witchlands, Evony can no longer sit idly by. She follows her adopted siblings into the witch’s realm, not knowing how far she will really have to go to get them back.

At it’s core, this is a story about finding the humanity in yourself and in others. It might be difficult to see and hold onto, but the risk is always worth the reward. However, in the same vein, what was supposed to be the big plot twist about Evony’s true heritage was very predictable for me – target audiences may still be surprised. The end was well set up for a sequel, so I anticipate more of this theme going forward.

At the same time, the creators don’t pull punches with the action. While not overly violent, there are scenes of battles and bloodshed. The figures are drawn lean and quick, emphasizing constant movement. Evony is obviously no stranger to weapons and wields twin sickles, which is honestly the coolest thing ever. Though Evony and Nissa are both princesses, they are wonderfully resourceful and cunning. Nissa was plotting her escape from the witch’s lair even before Evony came to her rescue!

It felt to me like there were a lot of Russian influences in this book. The way the figures were drawn and dressed reminded me of medieval Russian illustrations or tapestries. The backgrounds also evoked older Disney films for me (Hyperion Disney was the publisher for this one – happy accident?). Each area of this world had a different color palette. Gallea’s palace and grounds were warm yellows and greens. All scenes with the witch Aradia were deep, dark reds and blues that were nearly black. The Witchlands themselves were cold, sterile whites and gray-blues. Not only was this a nice visual cue to differentiate places, it emphasized how many layers there are to this world.

Overall, I enjoyed this graphic novel for the lovely Russian-inspired illustrations and butt-kicking princesses. Older middle-grade and YA readers will love the creepy witch atmosphere and action. Looking forward to more 😉

– Kathleen

De Vito, Angela, and Leigh Dragoon. Heartless Prince. 2021.