Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review - Zenobia

by Morten Dürr
illustrated by Lars Horneman
Date: 2018
Publisher: Triangle Square
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 98
Format: e-book
Source: library

A deeply moving and award-winning graphic novel about a young Syrian refugee.

Zenobia was once a great warrior queen of Syria whose reign reached from Egypt to Turkey. She was courageous. No one gave her orders. Once she even went to war against the emperor of Rome.

When things feel overwhelming for Amina, her mother reminds her to think of Zenobia and be strong. Amina is a Syrian girl caught up in a war that reaches her village. To escape the war she boards a small boat crammed with other refugees. The boat is rickety and the turbulent seas send Amina overboard. In the dark water Amina remembers playing hide and seek with her mother and making dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and the journey she had to undertake with her uncle to escape. And she thinks of the brave warrior Zenobia.

Zenobia is a heartbreaking and all-too-real story of one child's experience of war. Told with great sensitivity in few words and almost exclusively with pictures, Zenobia is a story for children and adults.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Wow. That was depressing. And not just because it's about a refugee fleeing a war-torn country after the loss of her parents. Even the idea of the girl's idol, the warrior queen Zenobia, eventually gets trampled, as we see the shipwreck with the same name lying at the bottom of the sea, a symbol for everything that's been lost. There's nothing uplifting here. There's no hint of hope. The whole message is just bleak.

War is hell, but some amazing things can happen when people triumph over adversity. None of that happens in this book. As a statement about what's going on in Syria, it's fine. It works. But as a middle-grade graphic novel, it's utterly depressing and seems rather pointless. What's the point of Amina remembering Zenobia if it doesn't do her any good? Futility features heavily in this depressing story of war.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 2.13 out of 5 ladybugs

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