A Sparrow's Roar is a YA medieval fantasy/adventure graphic novel that sits in the middle ground between the dark intrigue of Game of Thrones and the sweet sisterly love story of Frozen. Originally published as four black and white comics in the Philippines in 2015, BOOM! Studios has now collected the series for international release. For the first time, this story is available in full color.
While A Sparrow's Roar makes for a very quick read, it is also a relatively complicated one. Co-writers C.R. Chua and Paolo Chikiamco do a solid job establishing the particulars of their fantasy world's political situation, presenting four distinct nations divided up within an empire and the conflict that ensues as a result of this transition. They also find a compelling personal story to home in on amidst the greater war story, with Per both mourning the death of her sister Elena and impersonating her by stepping up to fill her armor as a knight.
What can be a bit harder to follow is the story's non-linear passage of time. The first chapter doesn't provide any concrete markers of when different scenes are taking place, though alternating between black and white page backgrounds at least distinguishes the different scenes enough to allow the reader to piece the chunks together. The later chapters are clearer in delineating when flashbacks are taking place, though you still need to pay attention to the timeline.
The art can best be described as inconsistent. To at least some degree, this inconsistency appears to be intentional. Characters will look different from panel to panel, with manga-esque comedic facial expressions and occasional flourishes of more minimalist design. There's some appeal to the looseness, particularly in the varying weights of the linework (a feature that is even more striking in the original black and white publications), but it's also not going to be to all tastes.
These subtle variations mean things can quickly go from looking great to looking kind of off. Obviously this is all in the eye of the beholder, so your mileage may vary. Also, there's the visual issue that the two sisters look almost identical. This makes perfect sense for the impersonation plot, but can make the story harder to follow.
Young readers interested in intense sword-fighting action will get their fill. Battles are frequent, and while the book avoids particularly graphic content, it doesn't hold back on presenting the cost of the fight. These aren't dumbed-down, good-versus-evil battles either; the antagonists have understandable motivations and their own tragic dignity.
A Sparrow's Roar has a problem all too common among stand-alone graphic novels in that the story ultimately feels constrained by its page count. For all of the well-realized worldbuilding and compelling story elements, it feels like the narrative doesn't get enough time to really make the emotional impact it wants to make. Ultimately, it's down to seeing how kids, particularly action-loving girls, respond to the book. If it catches on in spite of its flaws, it seems like the sort of book that a sequel would absolutely improve.
A Sparrow's Roar is on sale now.