Our pal Kit reviews comics for us! This is one of those times.
Warning: minor spoilers.
“You are very brave, we dedicate ourselves to your cause.” – Captain of the Squirrels
A new fortnight, a new indie review. Again, this is one of the titles that caught my attention at the True Believers Comic Festival. Although this one isn’t a traditional comic as such, and more a choose your own adventure book (with fantastic illustrations!). And that is exactly why it stood out to me, amidst the dark and gritty horror or flashy bad-ass comics Secret Gardens (written by Lizzie Boyle, Art by Conor Boyle, production and lettering by Jim Campbell and published by Disconnected Press) presented something fresh and different.
There are four main stories within the book, each in line with a different season, however even when you’re into one these it can go a variety of different ways. Each page is split up into numbered sections, early on you make a choice which branches off into the main stories, and each branch splits again and again. I can’t imagine how much work this might have taken, you do have to flick back and forth through the pages but it adds to the sense of adventure (and cuts down on any cheating by reading ahead!).
As I said before there’s very charming and detailed art to back up the plots. They aren’t on every page, but when you turn to one of the images it adds a lot to the immersion to the story. It’s a case of something being used sparingly but adding a huge amount.
The stories are very much light, fun adventures. Don’t go into this expecting anything dark and gritty, or death waiting to jump out at you around every corner. I’d love to see something like this done for a mature audience when this is the case. It’s a book that could easily be gone through with kids, or if you’re an adult like me and fancy something light and fun it’s a good bet too.
I’ve done two of the stories so far, one meeting a girl called Alice and one where I helped save a bunch of animals. I preferred the animal one, though I had just read an excellent Squirrel Girl comic and having my own squad of squirrels to back me up in this was fantastic.
As for downsides, sometimes the choices you make feel either a little pointless, although the majority of them felt interesting and like they’d change things, but occasionally one or two feel like they’re just there for the sake of it. But these choices are definitely in the minority.
This was fun, if you want something light and enjoy choose your own adventure games/books then definitely check this out. It’s also worth noting that Lowther Castle, where all of these are set, is a real place in the Lake District which I need to check out sometime! You can pick up Secret Gardens here, or in the gift shop at Lowther Castle.
Final Score – 8 Ancient Tree Songs out of 10!