David Fickling Books continue to present us with the best tales from the page sof The Phoenix with this new collection, The Mystery Of The Crooked Imp: Tales Of Fayt. Writer Conrad Mason has penned several Tales Of Fayt novels but this story gets the graphic novel treatment thanks to the illustrative talents of David Wyatt, although you don’t need to have read the other books to appreciate this tale (although you may well be tempted once you’re done). Like many a Phoenix story, the emphasis is on quality, so you get a strong adventure tale in a solidly rendered and lovingly drawn environment.
The heroes of the piece are the Demon Watch, a group of unofficial policemen (if not vigilantes) who protect the coastal town of Port Fayt from scallywags and villains. The suggestion is that the island that Port Fayt is situated on sits as a gateway between our more ordinary world and the magical lands to the east, so you get a mix of creatures from trolls to fairies intermingling with humans, and all attempting to go about their daily lives in this oddball melting pot. The Demon Watch itself is made up of an elderly elf, a wizard, a human-ogre hybrid, a couple of trolls and a courageous human girl, Tabs, who, while not actually old enough to be a watch member, certainly is in our eyes through her deeds.
The story sees the hijacking of a stagecoach by fairies and the abduction of a baby. The parents don’t seem overly concerned and when the coach driver is later murdered he manages to utter the involvement of the Crooked Imp before he slips away. The Demon Watch are intent on solving this mystery which leads them to a dangerous crew housed in an old playhouse, although their odorous leader may well be the puppet of some greater mastermind. However, it’s Tabs, who demonstrates some fine detective work and tenacity, that gives the Watch the break they need.
This undoubtedly owes a nod of recognition to Terry Pratchett’s own Ankh Morpork Watch with it’s cast of multi-cultural policemen, but it’s by no means a carbon copy. Conrad Mason’s characters, motivations, and the setting itself, tread their own path, making for an excellent blend of crime thriller and magical fantasy that should please any child (and I dare say a few adults) that picks it up.
We’re rather fortunate to have The Phoenix in the UK as it plugs a rather large hole in creative, quality comic storytelling that other countries seem to be well catered for. This is another worthy addition to the growing collections from those pages and they all deserve the attention of a wider readership. Give them your support – get your copy now.
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