Reviewed by Liza Granville

The press release for God's Acre: Book One - The Ravens & the Rhyme was intriguing. The work, produced in a limited edition of 300 hand-numbered books promising a new genre of storytelling, combining--and I quote--'the mature narrative of modern graphic novels with the non-sequential artistry of the coffee table books in the storybook format of children's literature'.

Having a strong interest in experimental work of all kinds, I approached the book with some eagerness. That was in early September. Giving poor reviews is not a pleasure. Since then, I have reread the book several times, wondering if I missed something. After all, the blurb assures me that 'there is much more to this book than meets the eye'. It suggests that it could be a book for children, but that the layers of subtle meaning and complexity are bound to be appreciated by its intended audience of adults. Well, not this one.

Put bluntly, this is a very mildly macabre story about two children who twice venture into a graveyard; on their second visit they are in pursuit of a telepathically communicating rat. Oh, dear. The children's parents are mysteriously absent so they live with an eccentric grandmother who is determined to keep the youngsters away from civilisation, from the (sic) towns people. There is, we are told, a story within a story here, and this is underlined by using the illustrations of a separate artist. It relates to a gravestone, is relayed to the children by the creepy Cephus and concerns a man who befriended ravens, killed himself, and had his eyes pecked out. He turns into a raven. Still searching for hidden meaning, I considered Odin associations. None there, I feel.

The artwork is OK. The cover is pleasant enough, if a little twee. The main characters look like papier-māché puppets. Nothing sumptuous or breathtaking though. Maybe coffee table book means something different in the States.

Whatever is intended here, it has misfired. The book is simply poorly written. The story is boring and derivative. In places it is didactic. The dialogue is simply dreadful. Everyone has the same voice. The children use adult vocabulary and concepts. Adding a bit of baby talk and lisping does not make it any more appropriate. And it needs savage editing. Every utterance is followed by variants of he said /she said. There is a childish map at the back of the book though. And I believe other books in this series are planned.

God's Acre: The Ravens & the Rhyme. Pb, 96pp, $20. Published by Omnibucket.

Website: - www.omnibucket.com

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