Goodreads: The Flower of the Witch
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: September 29, 2020
At the age of ten, Tami left his village on journey to become a man. He has been told that he needs to retrieve the flowers of the witch on the mountain to achieve his quest and return home. But, on his way, he inadvertently angers the spirits, causing them to renew their fighting with a northern village. Now he must decide: will he complete his quest or defend the villagers?
The Flower of the Witch is a reflective re-imagining of the classic quest story that asks what it really means to grow up. Tami left his village over a year ago, at the age of ten, to go on a journey to become a man. Unfortunately, no one told him what that would entail. He has been fighting monsters and saving princesses, but he still does not think he has fulfilled his quest. Now, he has been told that retrieving the flowers from the witch on the mountain will earn him the honor he needs to return home. But, when he angers the spirits, he must decide what is more important: retrieving the flowers or protecting the people he has endangered. Enrico Orlandi offers a provocative look at what it really means to grow up, and what kind of qualities we value in society.
The classic journey to “become a man” often seems to hinge on some sort of bravery, as exemplified through fighting. The message is that maturity–and masculinity–are defined through physical strength and aggression. Tami has clearly grown up in a culture where this is the norm, as evidenced by his attempts to achieve manhood by fighting monsters and saving damsels in distress. However, over time, Tami reluctantly has to conclude that he has not yet achieved manhood–and he has no idea how to do so. Left without any guidance from a society that seems not to value Tami in and of himself, he is left to wander the wilderness, nearly dying, because he is not considered “worthy” enough to return home.
Tami’s story encourages readers to rethink the classic quest narrative and the values it assumes. Why is physical strength equated with masculinity? Why must boys “prove” themselves to be considered men? What does it actually mean to grow up? And what kind of values should we be instilling in our children? Additionally, why is there such a hurry to grow up at all? Tami himself has to answer these questions and determine what kind of man he would one day like to be.
The beautiful artwork adds to the magic of the story, taking readers on journey to the north where demons still guard the roads and spirits affect the everyday lives of the people. Spirits and witches come alive through the distinctive illustrations, as does the frozen landscape where Tami must learn to survive. Readers who enjoy fantasy comics will find themselves drawn into this one.
The Flower of the Witch is an original twist on the classic coming-of-age story, as well as the fantasy quest. It encourages readers to identify the assumptions they may hold about what it means to “be a man” or to grow up. However, while the message is thought-provoking, it never overtakes the compelling storyline of which it is a part. Tami’s journey will enchant anyone who enjoys a good fantasy quest.