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Estranged

Estranged (Vol. 2): The Changeling King

After the events of Estranged Volume 1, Ed and Cinder are both back in their rightful places. The changeling formerly known as Edmund Carter has now ascended the throne as Cinder. The human Edmund is back in the World Above with his human family. Though they are both back where they belong, they are each struggling to assimilate. Cinder is facing big problems as the magic in the World Below is fading unexpectedly. It’s revealed that the royal family needs to do a secret ritual at the Root of All Magic periodically, and it’s about that time again. Cinder invites the Carters to come down from the World Above to help him with his journey. Of course, Ed and Alexis know all about the World Below, and are excited to be going back, but their parents aren’t so sure. Can the Carters stick together through all the perils and unknowns?

There’s a bit of a time skip that happens between the first and second volumes. It’s not specified how much (unless I missed it when skimming again), but I’d say it’s within a few months, less than a year at least. There is enough time for Ed and Cinder to settle down in their new homes, but not enough for them to grow fully confident in their newfound roles. The main themes of this series, continuing from the first volume, are of identity, family, and finding one’s place.

The dynamic between the Carter family is very sweet. Sure, it’s true that Alexis, Ed, and Cinder bicker as siblings will, but they stand true to each other. Though their parents may not totally understand everything that’s going on, they love all their children very much, and accept and support them no matter what. This is a family that’s proven throughout the course of the story to stay together through thick and thin out of love and respect for one another.

My favorite thing about this series continues to be the art. The darkly whimsical feel is carried over from the first volume. I can’t get enough of the orderly chaotic lineart and muted watercolors. The ending seemed to be open for another adventure; I sorely hope this series is continued so I can continue gobbling it up 😉

-Kathleen

Aldridge, Ethan M. Estranged (Vol. 2): The Changeling King. 2019.

Estranged

Not everyone knows there’s a world below this one, where the fae and other fantastical creatures reside. Edmund knows, and so does his changeling, only known as the Childe. Edmund was born fae, but swapped for the Childe, so they have each grown up in the other’s world. When the queen’s evil sister Hawthorne claims the fae throne for herself, the Childe and his wax golem, Whick, escape to the world above to find Edmund. He is the crown prince and the only other person with a claim to the throne. Edmund is reluctant to leave the only life and family he has ever known, even for his birthright. Now that the Childe has found is human family – he’s not so quick to give it up, either. Can the two boys work together to save both worlds – worlds that neither of them feel they’re really a part of?

Wow. I was astonished this is a middle-grade graphic novel. It dives deep into mature issues such as identity and family. There’s a much weightier substance to the story than I was expecting, and certainly more than what’s standard for the target audience. Mr. Aldridge has no qualms about asking the hard questions of his audience, and writes them in in a way that his audience will be able to understand. In case it gets too rough, the graphic novel is laid out in chapters so they can take a break and come back to it later. If any of the target audience is like me and was too absorbed to do anything but devour it in one go, however, chapter breaks won’t be needed 😉

As a fantasy story, the art is darkly whimsical. It’s sketchy and cluttered, to convey a lot of information, but doesn’t come off as messy. Instead it gives more of an “organized chaos” vibe. Thin watercolor washes are built up in layers to also bring a sense of reality to the story.

I was shocked that this dark, weighty fantasy story was a middle-grade novel, and trust me… you will be, too.

– Kathleen

Aldridge, Ethan M. Estranged. 2018.

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