Yvain: the Knight of the Lion by M.T. Anderson, based on the epic by Chrétien de Troyes. Illustrated by Andrea Offerman. Candlewick, 2017.
I enjoy a good medieval story, and M.T. Anderson always impresses with the sheer range of his writing, from the wacky middle-grade series that starts with Whales on Stilts to the darker, futuristic YA novel Feed. Here, he and artist Andrea Offerman adapt a genuine Arthurian romance into a graphic novel. In the story, there is a pool with a bowl on a stone that causes storms. This is defended by a knight whose side we’re somehow not on. When he slays another knight, our hero Sir Yvain sets out to avenge him, only to fall for the original bad knight’s widow, Lady Laudine. Not unreasonably, Lady Laudine isn’t too interested in marrying her husband’s killer, but her maid, Lunette, does like Yvain and helps him convince Lady Laudine to marry him. There are also lots of side adventures where Yvain and sometimes Gawain fight to save the day, sometimes more justified than others.
The illustrations are well-researched, somehow looking medieval with a modern energy. When the characters tell stories, they’re shown in tapestry-style illustrations. Interesting notes from both the author and the illustrator comment on the hard work women do to be able to follow their own wills even a little in a society where they’re not supposed to have their own desires (Lunette only tries to keep Yvain close, not win him for herself.) The men are thoughtlessly selfish, but the women are likely to exact revenge at some point. The women’s clothes of the period, especially, seem designed to show off noblewomen’s lack of need to do anything, as they require one hand to hold the mantle in place at all times. This is a fascinating peek into the legends of another time that my son and I both enjoyed, with plenty of action and gore to keep things interesting.