Yvain: The Knight of the Lion Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-07-22 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"While the illustrations are beautiful, I simply could not get behind this story. I know it's based on epic poetry from a different time, but the glorification of violence and what is essentially trial by murder just made me ill. I think this is a case of something that works in one medium not working in another. When you have to look at the protaginist take up a ridiculous duel, cleave his sword into the other guys skull, and then claim to have fallen in love with his widdow all in a few short pages, well, it's just not plausible. So nope." said.

"I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is a very short graphic novel by M.T. Anderson. I enjoyed his book Feed and I've had the Octavian Nothing books sitting on my shelf for a shockingly long time waiting to be read so I thought a graphic novel by him would be interesting.

Be forewarned that this book follows the classic legend so if you're going into this expecting to actually get M.T. won't. I wasn't in love with the illustrations but they were well done and the three different sections were nice to keep the story moving. I'm not quite sure what was up with the women in the story but it was...different. My favorite part was Yvain fighting the various creatures although the drawings and story seemed inconsistent at some points even there.

I would say this book should be for high school or up because it gets pretty gruesome at times.
" said.

"The good: It had a really classic feel to it....well, mostly because it's based in classic lore. I could totally see this as one of those classic 70's/80's animated films from the studio that did Flight of Dragons or The Last Unicorn. Yvain has so much chivalry he doesn't know what to do with it, so he has to go kill giants, free slaves, solve domestic disputes and pick up a lion as a pet along the way.

The bad: Honestly the drawing & text placement felt a little amateur, which makes sense considering this is the author's first stab at a graphic novel. It was good in some places and definitely not horrible throughout...just nothing near as pretty as something like 'Afar' or well, anything by Tsutomu Nihei. I also felt like the women were in this weird placement of not being able to fight their own battles or for their own interests (which were all in all just kinda petty...why does the Queen need tricked into taking Yvain back? If she's so anger and hate-filled, why does he bother? And the crazy sister? I dunno.)

..../shrug, Arthurian legend, what can you do?
" said.

"2.5 stars - a solid "meh". It's so cool to see graphic novels taking old stories and giving them rich, vibrant retellings through beautiful art. I like interpretations of Arthurian legends. However, I think this one falls pretty flat.

Offermann's illustrations give us some lovely and intense moments when she is able to forego the stick straight panels that populate most of the story. Reading page after page of block panels with little variation makes my eyes wander and I found most of the story hard to focus on. (Of course, it's also possible that this particularly odd story is just... hard to focus on.)

But man, when she abandons the panels, everything pops and creates a lovely line and feels so dynamic. It's too bad those moments only punctuate the story instead of drive it. When Yvain becomes wild in the woods, fights the dragon, when he is gusted around by the wind, there's real visual interest and intensity. I would love to read "The Midnight Zoo", just to get a better idea of what she can do.
" said.

"While a thoroughly engaging story, this legend's treatment of women had me twitchy. The author's note went a long way to explaining why. While women feature prominently in this tale, they can only wield power through men. One is adept in sorcery, but she can't use that power to save herself, only to manipulate the people around her. Another holds a powerful kingdom, but is unable to defend it... without a man. There is little talk of love beyond the feeling of obligation or loyalty to someone who has once done you a good turn. And the redeeming element is supposed to be the visible hatred that this woman feels she can express, that flies in the face of gender expectations. But that's all she can do - wring her hands and feel the hate well up in her heart.

So hurray for knights and adventures, for questing and mental breakdowns that lead to bettering oneself. And hurray for not completely ignoring women. The legends of King Arthur have an unbreakable hold on my imagination, and in that sense, this graphic novel was stunning and beautiful, and everything I hoped it would be. But this time, the portrayal of female characters left a bad taste in my mouth.
" said.

"I am of too minds on this graphic novel. I think the visuals are quite nice, though a bit more graphic than the source material it pulls from. I also like that it kept the awkward ending between Laudine and Yvain.

It also kept most of the plot from the original, but left out a few things like the magic rings given to Yvain by Lunette and Laundine, and the salve that actually is the reason for Yvain to come to his senses--not the lion--which gives him his first quest to save a maiden from a Duke besieging her castle. The salve scene is quite funny.

I also feel that the relationship between Yvain and the lion is clearer in Chretien's work. And Gawain is actually Lunette's favorite Arthurian knight, yet she spurns him in the non-dialogued graphics of this adaptation.

I also wish M. T. Anderson was more familiar with Chretien's Lancelot. Gawain and Lancelot BOTH go to save Guenevere. This is the reason Gawain can neither help Lunette at her trial or his kinspeople with the ogre, allowing Yvain to take up the quests. But Gawain is finally back to court when the two sisters come into play.
" said.

"The artwork in this book is stunning, and it's worth reading for the visuals alone. I appreciate that M. T. Anderson chose a more obscure Arthurian legend to retell, and I think he did a great job considering the source material. However, the source material about Yvain is pretty wretched. Yvain himself is not a likable character, and doesn't seem to grown or learn at all from his mistakes. It's nearly impossible to sympathize with him, and even though he acts like a fool, everything works out well for him in the end. It was also painful reading about the women in this story, who had very little agency and were ultimately just pawns for Yvain to use as he wanted. I understand that medieval England wasn't exactly a bastion of enlightened gender equality, but it still grates reading something like this. I appreciate that Anderson addresses the role of women in this story in his author's note and I can see what he was trying to do here, but the story was grating on a visceral level for me.

In spite of my annoyance, I think it's still worth picking up, both for the artwork and because it is such a short read. It could be fun to look at with a book club, because I think it has the ability to spark some interesting conversations.
" said.

"*I won an ARC of this book via a raffle at Rochester Teen Book Fest
**Find reviews and more bookish fun at Ryann the Reader.

The short version: This was a fun, easy read. If you're looking to break into graphic novels or Arthurian Tales for the first time, this is a great place to start.

The long version: M.T. Anderson's graphic novel tells the story of Sir Yvain, the cousin of the more well-known knight, Sir Gawain. My own knowledge of Arthurian tales is pretty limited; I've seen a few movies, read a few novels, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have read Tolkien's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Even with my Arthurian newbie status, this novel has everything I would expect from such a story: curses, quests, fights to the death, and love lost, betrayed, and regained.

One thing I wasn't expecting, but was pleased to see, was that the women were given a bit more autonomy than I'm used to seeing in such stories. Most of the catalysts and resolutions are set in motion by women, though the tasks themselves are usually completed by men.

Even with their extra autonomy, though, I don't think the women necessarily get happy endings. For example, the very end: (view spoiler)" said.

August 2017 New Book:

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