Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy—the best magic school in the realm—even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.
Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.
Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t—beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?
Inspired by East Aisan Culture, Tidesong is a graphic novel with Studio Ghibli undertones, following Sophie, a young witch who struggles with both her magic and making friends. Sent to live with her cousin and great aunt, Sophie is given more chores than magic lessons. She attempts to perform magic on her own, but becomes entangled in a world of underwater magic, shapeshifting and dragons. As Sophie attempts to improve her magic skills, she also challenges expectations from family and friends.
The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, depicting a cosy seaside town with a vibrant, striking colour palette. Sophie is a headstrong 12 year old girl who struggles with anxiety, and this is visualised throughout the story in separate thought bubbles. The story feels somewhat familiar and comfortable, but has a complex magical plot which is foreshadowed by a section of mythology at the start of the novel. Due to the target audience being younger readers aged 9-12, the mythology could be a little confusing and hard to follow, and requires a considerable amount of backstory for a short story presented in a graphic novel format.
In such a brief space, the story manages to weave together a heartwarming relationship between Sophie and her newfound family and friends, including Lir, a shapeshifting water dragon who is trapped on land due to Sophie’s backfiring magic. The character development can sometimes feel a little rushed, with the balance difficult to strike in such few words. Sophie herself struggles with anxiety and this is reflected in the way she is treated by her parents. The separate thought bubbles to show her anxious thoughts were striking and relatable to the reader.
Tidesong will be perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli, with a beautiful, whimsical and magical feeling similar to Kiki’s Delivery Service. Although aimed at a young audience, the book could be suitable and enjoyable for all ages. The font is legible and created from the author’s own handwriting. The story was heartwarming with a beautiful moral about friendship, family and self-acceptance.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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