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The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin

Review

The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin

written by Holly Black, illustrated by Ted Naifeh

Rue Silver’s life is about to be turned upside down. Already, her mother has disappeared after having a loud argument with her father. Even worse, she’s now beginning to see things --- frightening things, like people with horns and wings that no one else notices. What’s worse, the things she sees are looking back at her.

Matters quickly get worse from there. Police are already curious about her mother’s disappearance, but when one of her father’s college students is found murdered after visiting his office, they arrest him. Armed with a determination to uncover the truth, Rue begins investigating the case on her own. What she finds brings her deeper into a fantasy world she knows precious little about, a world she’s a part of whether she likes it or not: the dark and dangerous realm of the faeries. Sometimes known as “the fair folk,” they have some very sinister plans afoot. Rue gets a taste of those plans when she meets the grandfather she never knew. He wants her to come live with him, but Rue is rightfully afraid.

Holly Black has proven she knows her way around this territory, most notably in The Spiderwick Chronicles, but also in the faerie-themed books TITHE, VALIANT and IRONSIDE. This is her first time writing about the faerie world in graphic novel form, though, and for this foray in the medium, she has been paired with a perfect partner in the form of artist Ted Naifeh, himself no stranger to the otherworldly. His Courtney Crumrin series is a top-notch mixture of fantasy and spine-tingling fiction. Here, he nicely gives his artwork a solidly human perspective shaded with dark overtones. He evokes fear and wonder at the same time, and the flow of his panels has a cinematic quality that pair gracefully with Black’s lean prose.

As an introduction to this new series, KIN kicks things off with a bang. It nicely sets the stage for a portentous battle between evil forces and the good people who will try to stop them. The murder mystery at the heart of this story is perhaps too quickly and easily dispatched, but it clears the way for the far more interesting storyline of Rue’s self-discovery. Rue is refreshingly unique, a bright character (it’s nice to see a teenage protagonist who doesn’t have to speak with razor-sharp wit all the time) with a genuine curiosity about life. She’s smart and determined without being affected, a nice touch.

The Good Neighbors shows great promise as a series. It targets an audience 12 and older with a story that effortlessly glides between thriller and mystery. Equally impressive is its fine pacing; it’s a book to savor at leisure and the plot doesn’t feel the need to rush. Still, that kind of pacing can have a dark side, as evidenced by the publishing schedule for future books in the series. The second and third installments are projected to be published in 2009 and 2010, respectively, a long wait for readers anxious to find out what will become of the enchanting Rue Silver.

Reviewed by John Hogan on October 1, 2008

The Good Neighbors, Book One: Kin
written by Holly Black, illustrated by Ted Naifeh

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2008
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Graphix
  • ISBN-10: 0439855624
  • ISBN-13: 9780439855624