BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: The Legend of Bold Riley

Title: The Legend of Bold Riley

Publisher: Northwest Press

Creator: Leia Weathington

Contributors: Leia Weathington, Marco Aidala, Vanessa Gillings, Kelly McClellan, Konstantin Pogorelov and Jason Thompson

ISBN: 978-0-9845940-5-4

Price: $29.99 US

Once upon a time, in the far eastern kingdom of Prakkalore, lived Princess Rilavashana SanParite. The youngest child of gentle King Shyrmana and wise Queen Penchabii, Rilavashana excels at swordplay, diplomacy, the sciences, and mathematics; but her favorite subject is history. It is her history tutor, a red-headed, freckled man from the distant west, who nicknames her Riley. His tales of exotic lands and daring exploits feed her restless soul until finally, in her sixteenth year, her parents grant her permission to abdicate her claim to the throne and do as her heart dictates; they ask only that she act with all the honor due the name SanParite. And so Bold Riley sets out into the world in search of adventure ....

I first heard about the comic Bold Riley maybe ten years ago. I picked up a small, xeroxed advance copy of one of the chapters at a comic convention. I loved it, and kept an eye out for the full graphic novel. It took a while, but it was worth the wait. Bold Riley is filled with excitement, derring-do, monsters, blue-skinned gods, giant birds, and tragic love. 

Riley herself lives up to her name: she is, indeed, bold. She is also compassionate and honorable. She has barely left the capital of Prakkalore before she meets an old goatherd. He begs her to watch over his flock so he can rush home to see his sick son. Riley readily agrees -- only to find herself still watching the goats late that nigh when they are targeted by hungry, monstrous Morishaksa. In later adventures, she keeps her word to help a grief-stricken wife find her missing husband, saves a kingdom from a malevolent spirit, rids an ancient temple of a monster infestation, trades witty banter with Galliroh the Glorious Bird of the Rains, and does everything in her power to save her dying love, Ghemuen.

I love the world Weathington has created. The cultures and lands are loosely based on real world civilizations: Prakkalore is obviously India, Ang-War is ancient Cambodia, Conchenn is Maya. While we would define Riley as lesbian, no such terminology exists in her world; her sexuality simply is. At the same time, ability and social position are not based on gender: Riley has as much claim to throne as her two older brothers; Conchenn is ruled by a Queen; markets are filled with equal numbers of men and women. Nor is spirituality separated out from culture. It is woven into it, with Gods and spirits embedded in the land and hearts and minds of the people: Riley makes an offering to Hariivarma the Blue God before she leaves Prakkalore, only to meet Him later on the road; the silly-looking Galliroh is both the Bird of the Rains and the ancient patron God of Ang-war; the patron God of Quifen is the Golden Trumpet Tree, the roots of which offer health and healing.

My only real complaint about Bold Riley concerns the number of typographical errors. The names of characters and lands are spelled differently throughout the story (is it Quifen, Qeifen or Qei Fen?). The book needed one more thorough edit.

Ultimately, I loved reading about the adventures of Bold Riley -- and I hope to read many more in the future.

Highly recommended to fans of Artesia, Athena Voltaire, The Three Thieves, and Cursed Pirate Girl.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.

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