Wika is an intriguing addition to the cannon of modern fantasy. It’s entrenched in the old, using the traditional fairy royals Oberon and Titania as main characters, while also bringing in the standard clichéd rosta of humanoid fantasy races, such as technologically advanced dwarves, horrible trolls and cheeky gnomes.
However, it’s also got a one foot in the present, following the exploits of a sassy young fairy, coming of age, discovering her hidden powers and secret history, and eventually leading an army of goodies against a seemingly unstoppable foe. Whisk in some steampunk chic (top hats, odd machines, Victorian pallor) and you’ve got a smorgasbord of fantasy nonsense that’s either going to have you jumping for joy or wondering why they didn’t stop at fairies.
In all honesty, I could take or leave the story. There are some twists and turns that might keep you guessing, but they’re generally resolved in unsatisfactory ways. You know where this thing is heading from the start. It’s not a terrible adventure and, if you like run-of-the-mill fantasy, you might still get a kick out of it.
The art, however, is something else. Every page of Wika is crammed with detail, from the illuminated panel borders to the flora, fauna and architecture of that litters every page. I haven’t seen anything quite like it. It’s beautifully illustrated, colourful, even more over the top than the writing, but so far gone that it’s mesmerising.
It’s not without its faults, though. There’s a sexy fairy thing rolling through the piece, which might have tickled my thirteen-year-old self but left me angling the book away from the eyeline of spouse and children, not so much for their own protection but for fear they might mock me. It’s a shame, because Olivier Ledroit’s art is otherwise sublime.
I certainly don’t wholeheartedly recommend this book, then, but neither can I write it off. I don’t think the story will do much for anyone other than the staunchest fantasy fan, looking to devour anything and everything the genre can provide. If your interest lies in fantasy art, however, there’s a wealth of enjoyment to be had from Wika. It doesn’t gel together as a whole but the art is nothing short of a masterclass, whether the content works for you or not.