Berona’s War is an odd beast. It’s about two warring factions, the Ele-Alta and the Cropones, who look like cute cartoony creatures but for their vicious battles. Each artist created one of the factions and did all the artwork and writing for its team: Coffey created the Ele-Alta, who look a bit like short, stumpy dogs; Labbé created the Cropones, who are … um … fuzzy things with big eyes and no noses. It looks like they had a lot of fun trying to out-do each other with crazy weaponry made from wood and stone, bigger-than-life characters and various beasts used by the two sides.
The book is presented as a field guide: the background looks like a worn, lined notebook and there are scraps of paper with sketches “taped” or “paper-clipped” into the book. The font is made to look like handwriting and there are lots of hand-written notes and arrows drawn in as well. The book doesn’t tell a traditional narrative, but instead presents the various creatures and weaponry as entries in the guide in an ever-escalating fashion. At the beginning are archers and re-purposed hunting tools, but by the end the soldiers have developed chemical warfare and spring-loaded splinter cannons.
Of course, what makes the book so fun is that the characters are so darn cute. All of their gadgets and gizmos are made, Gilligan’s Island-style, out of wood and stone and bamboo poles, and it’s the odd juxtapositions that are really entertaining. The biggest thing that bothered me about Berona’s War was the grammatical errors: there are quite a few misspellings that could have been easily avoided by running a spell-check, and even though it’s written as a field guide I don’t think that’s a good excuse for sentence fragments and misplaced commas.
One note: the book is rated as “all ages” and I’m not sure that a book with so much violence is really appropriate for younger kids. If your kid is already playing Halo and Left for Dead, then this is nothing to worry about. But the cover could be misleading for somebody who thinks it’s just about cute creatures playing war—while there’s not a lot of gore, there are a warriors who have been impaled or shot through with arrows.
It’s obvious that Coffey and Labbé had a lot of fun creating Berona’s War. At the end, they show how many of their character drawings were inspired by the stances of their old plastic Army men, and the book is really an extension of playing war. I’d love to see a more traditional narrative involving the characters and weaponry featured in the Field Guide, but for now it’s a fine introduction to this bizarre little world.
Note: this review was originally written for GeekDad.
Fed to jonathan's brain | February 23, 2011 | Comments (0)