It can be tough moving to a new area and not knowing anyone. That’s the fate of Gregory and his family as his father takes up a new job as physician at a church college somewhere on the beautiful French coast. And it’s not long until this difficulty is compounded upon meeting the local bully boys who have him scarpering for his survival up a ladder and onto the imposing Medieval church ramparts that he immediately adopts as his new playground.
Thanks to a magical religious artefact he miraculously finds under the floorboards of his new bedroom, he is transported through time and back to 17th Century France into an amazing world where the aforementioned church’s gargoyles are alive and well.
But, if the sight of living, speaking magical gargoyles isn’t enough, the fact that he has a family waiting for him in this era is even more gobsmacking to the young lad as he wanders wide-eyed through the crowded streets of this quaint, picturesque small city. He takes all of these dramatic spin balls in his stride however, and before long he’s entertaining pesky elves with tales of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just to keep them all in one place long enough for them all to be accounted for, and picking up magical spells from hearing others use them. He’s certainly a quick learner, as well as a child not fazed by the adventure he finds himself embroiled in. The ideal hero for this all-ages read and following in the tradition of equally unfazed take-it-as-it-comes European spawned heroes such as Asterix, Tintin and Valerian.
But, as in all stories, there must be a villain. And here in 17th century France that villain comes in the shape of a shadowy ‘Master’ whom, we learn, Gregory’s auntie of the era, Auntie Aglaea works for. It would seem magic runs deep in Gregory’s ancestry. And, it’s not just Gregory and his auntie who do weird magic.
Along the way Gregory, and the readers, are schooled in this bygone world and informed of its history–involving dark magic, of course, and the forces of good uniting to defeat it–that establishes how magic left this world. Almost. Seems Gregory may well be their last great hope.
As this spellbinding fantasy, written by D-P Filippi, unfolds, the scale expands too, with Gregory briefly returning to his own time to offer eagle-eyed young readers with clues and characters that may not be all they seem and adventures under water and at sea. There are also travels even further into the past, thanks to Edna, a mentor of sorts to a developing Gregory. It’s a romping good adventure with an ever-growing cast, including his cousin Edna, who is no stranger to the supernatural herself. In including her (and other female characters), it means this is a book that both boys and girls should enjoy. Although, the crush Gregory seems to have for his cousin is somewhat disturbing. That, and the fact that Edna’s mum is the aforementioned Auntie who works in league with the shadowy Master.
In omitting strong outlines to proceedings and allowing the layered colours to shine and give weight to charters and settings, the artwork by J.Etienne for the first half, and then Silvio Camboni, reminds me of those better 1950’s cartoons like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. There are the slightest of touches of Peyo (The Smurfs) about the design of Gregory and the landscape in which this adventure plays out is somewhat fairy tale-like; charming and cozy with a storybook architecture about it all. As for the assorted gargoyles, fairy folk and other monsters, they’re beautifully designed even when supposedly menacing; such as The Glutton, all pink and fuzzy. This is a book for kids, after all. And, I imagine if your rugrat reads this, they will fall in love with many of these creatures.
This is a joyous read and another home run for this growing kids’ line from Humanoids. Certainly, they are not necessarily a publisher you would associate with such fare. (Though they announced their kids’ line this week, it turns out.) But, they’re certainly delivering the good, and as part one of a planned trilogy, I am more than interested in where Gregory, his cousin Edna and the gargoyles wind up next. And I’m not even the intended demographic. A great read for kids of all ages and a fun fantasy world to fall into.
Gregory And The Gargoyles Book 1 is out now from Humanoids Kids.