Book Review: Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu and illustrated by Teny Issakhanian – A Faultlessly Fun and Magical Middle-Grade Graphic Novel


Zuli is extraordinary–she just doesn’t realize it yet. Raised by mystical bird spirits in the branches of the Great Tree, she’s never ventured beyond this safe haven. She’s never had to. Until now.

When a sinister force threatens the life-giving magic of the tree, Zuli, along with her guardian owl, Frowly, must get to the root of it. So begins an adventure bigger than anything Zuli could’ve ever imagined–one that will bring her, along with some newfound friends, face-to-face with an ancient dragon, the so-called Witch-Queen, and most surprisingly of all: her true identity.

This captivating middle grade graphic novel, the first of a series, is perfect for fans of the Amulet books and the Wings of Fire series.

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Looking to be swept away to a magical world with goblins, dragons, griffins, and magnificent fantastical beings? Wingbearer by Marjorie M. Liu and illustrated by Teny Issakhanian is a promise of a dazzling fantasy adventure with a compelling quest and mystery that will keep you turning the page. The story follows young Zuli, a young dark-skinned girl raised by avian guardian spirits in the Great Tree where the souls of birds go to rest before their journey into their next lives. When a mysterious force threatens the Great Tree, Zuli, along her guardian owl Frowly, leaves and sets off an adventure where she will make unexpected friends, meet powerful magical beings, and confront her true identity.

Wingbearer inspires a sense of wonder and adventure. Issakhanian’s illustrations bring to life a vivid and realised world, the details in the art illuminating boundless magic and mysteries unknown. Readers will be swept away from the very first page, intrigued by Zuli’s enchanting home in the Great Tree and intrigued even more to discover that the world beyond everything she ever knew is, in contrast, cold, sad, and devoid of life. For readers who are looking for something thematic, Wingbearer has an unexpected yet welcome leaning towards philosophy, spirituality, and nature, and Zuli’s contrasting perspective on nature compared to other characters will definitely inspire discussion.

Indeed, Wingbearer is a compelling fantasy adventure, but it is also a profound story about identity, belonging, and doing what is right. Zuli is a fantastic protagonist and I enjoyed following her journey from her perspective. Her upbringing with the mystical birds and her perspectives of life, death, and the nature of things empower her clear sight of what is right and good, furthermore unclouded by the prejudices and implications of wars past. Yet, when Zuli steadily discovers that her quest is also tied to her true identity, everything that she has ever known will be called into question – and the twist in the story will surprise and excite.

Ultimately, Wingbearer is a faultlessly fun adventure and I had a great time reading it. In fact, Wingbearer made me nostalgic for the visual stories that I read as a kid; the kind of stories with vast new worlds or memorable characters that made me not only want to dive right into the world but also be like the characters embarking on a brave adventure and experiencing wondrous things beyond my imagination. In saying this, I am confident that Wingbearer will one day be the story that young readers today will be nostalgic about in the future and a story that will inspire future dreamers, storytellers, and adventurers.

Is this book for you?

Premise in a sentence: A girl embarks on a quest to uncover where the souls of birds have gone, setting her on an adventure where she will have to confront her true identity.

Perfect for: Readers who enjoy graphic novels; readers who enjoy simpler fantasy adventure stories; readers looking to be immersed in a new magical world.

Think twice if: Readers looking for a complex fantasy.

Genre: middle grade graphic novel, fantasy adventure

Find this book on:
Goodreads | Bookshop | Indiebound | Amazon

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