I’ve been putting off discussing this installment of Finder because of its power. All of Carla Speed McNeil’s graphic novels are astoundingly wonderful, but Talisman in particular hits on a very meaningful subject. Let me quote from its back cover:
Talisman is about a book. The book that’s never there when you wake up, no matter how hard you try to take it with you. The book you steal when you’re too young to understand it’s not the only copy in the world…. Talisman is about hunger and magic.
Every serious reader knows what it means to love a book. It’s a deep adoration, and it’s a tricky subject to tackle. Where others couldn’t have lived up to its needs, McNeil handles it beautifully.
Marcie is the youngest of Emma’s daughters, as previously seen in Sin-Eater. Once, when Jaeger returned to visit the family, he brought her the gift of a real, bound book — an unusual sight in their technology-driven society. He read to her and inspired her to learn to read on her own. (Like many kids, she thinks most of the people around her can’t read it right, the way she wants it read.)
Marcie needs her book to take her away from her insane, abusive father and a mother escaping into work. And then a tragedy occurs, and as a result, Marcie grows up to be a writer. She dreams about the library where every book exists. She feels alone, different from the others, and she struggles hard with not being able to get the words from her mind on the page in a way that she can share with others. I feel the same way when I try to describe the artistry on display here.
This volume alludes to a number of other imaginative classics: Alice in Wonderland and C.S. Lewis, of course, but also more recent books, like The Neverending Story and Masquerade. The copious author’s notes make these references clear, if the reader didn’t already recognize them.
McNeil’s world is perfect, thickly populated and thought-out in detail. Her characters’ expressions and attitudes demonstrate a deep knowledge of human behavior, and her art shows the reader just what they need to know. It rewards detailed study, even as you want to move quickly to find out what happens next. She’s created a work worthy to be ranked with those she praises and loves.
Any reader needs to experience this graphic novel. It’s the best exploration of the love of books and the struggle of writing and the need for imagination and the love/fear of creation that I’ve seen.