by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland

Review by Travis Johnson

Dungeons, swordfighting, unjust imprisonment, evil viziers, love interests in towers, spectacular jumping ability: these are the things that Templar and Jordan Mechner’s groundbreaking 1989 computer game Prince of Persia have in common. However, if you were unaware of Mechner’s subsequent work in various mediums, you might be forgiven for finding it hard to believe that this is the work of someone who achieved their initial fame as a game programmer.

Only with Mechner’s second foray into the world of graphic novels, and first as writer, he shows a real flair for the genre (no doubt with some credit going to his husband-and-wife team of illustrators, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland). Mechner has left behind the magical orientalism of Prince of Persia and created a work of historical fiction set in medieval France. The sudden arrest and persecution of the Knights Templar forms the backdrop to an adventure story in which a handful of lucky knights escape and go on what becomes a swashbuckling hunt for hidden treasure. Yet the torture and show trials that the Templars are subjected to is not mere window dressing, but deftly woven into the narrative.

As the author explains in a note, he was struck 20th century parallels of “the first modern political show trial” worthy of “Stalin and McCarthy.” But despite the weighty background and page count over 400, the plot never misses a beat, aided by the cinematic illustrations. It’s a page-turner, easily read in a day. Probably one of the few graphic “novels” worthy of the name!

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About the reviewer: Travis works at the circulation desks at TPL & takes great care of our plants!