Mooncakes begins with autumnal tones, coinciding nicely with the weather during the month of its release. The story surrounds Nova Huang, a powerful witch with hearing loss, and her close friend a genderqueer werewolf called Tam who has just returned to town, as well as a whole host of interesting characters including Nova’s grandmothers. Many of the characters are LGBTQA+ although identity takes a backseat as a theme within the narrative. The overall theme appears to stem from growing up – in true coming-of-age fashion.
Tam and Nova spend the majority of the book researching wolf magic, so that they can defeat a demon discovered fairly early on. The scenes surrounding the research are achingly familiar with the story featuring numerous threads that all tie together by the conclusion. Each character has a role to play within the narrative – adults aren’t just tossed aside throughout, which often happens in stories surrounding young adults. Nova’s grandmothers, for example, are seen doing their own investigating around what’s happening and act as guides for Tam and Nova. This creates a sense of cohesion between the plot and the characters.
Perspective and composition are used to their full advantage by artist Wendy Xu, creating tonal shifts within scenes helping to focus in on character emotion in every moment which passes, whether this is for humour or to increase the drama of a particular moment. This is especially prevalent in some of the scenes featuring fighting and magic. Curved panel borders are often used for flashback scenes or images – allowing the reader to differentiate between timelines.
Colour appears to be a large focus throughout, each colour used adds to a sense of mysticism and magic, making the world it’s set in burst with a sense of wonderment. Rim-lighting is used frequently during scenes which involve magic, emphasising its vibrancy in this world. The coloured border gutters help each scene exude a particular atmosphere, adding to the overall tone of each scene and also allow dialogue to stand out from images when it overlaps the border.
The cultural aspects of the world are shown clearly throughout and can be easily understood, as the story’s world functions fairly closely to our own, allowing it to be accessible to people unused to the fantasy genre, as well as creating room for further character development. Overall, Mooncakes is a sweet fantasy story, exploring relationships and growing up with the struggles that come with that; its colouring and art giving the book a rich, almost fairy-tale, feeling.
Suzanne Walker (W), Wendy Xu (A), Joamette Gil (L) • Lion Forge, $14.99
Review by Holly Raidl