The Earl and the Fairy (Volume 1)
Ayuko, based on the novels by Mizue Tani
The Earl and the Fairy was a story originally published as a series of light novels in Japan, by Mizue Tani. It has since been adapted to manga by Ayuko, who breathes new life into the world of fairies and mystery with some really nice illustration work and a nicely-paced story. I feel like Ayuko really gets the story and gives the characters time to breathe, drawing out scenes so readers can take things in, and arranging panels clearly and thoughtfully. The story follows the young "fairy doctor" Lydia, who is one of the few people alive able to see and interact with fairies. Most people think her strange, but her gifts have attracted the attention of two men, both hoping to enlist her help in tracking down a sword. At first she is kidnapped by a man with a gang of henchmen, but is soon rescued and hired by Edgar, who wishes to find the sword so that he can authenticate his birthright, as a descendant of the Blue Knight Earl, who has lands both in the physical world, as well as the fairy realm. Ayuko lets events play out without giving away too much. There's quite a bit of deception going on, and you kind of don't really know as a reader which of the two men after Lydia is the one she should be trusting, at least for a time. Ayuko unfortunately doesn't excel at battle scenes, which are difficult to follow here, and doesn't take as much advantage of the Victorian England setting as I would have liked, but really, I got so caught up in the breathtaking events that that was more of an afterthought. Mizue Tani created a really rich premise here, with exciting elements that seem both classic and fresh. Ayuko does a lovely job translating the story to manga in one of the more exciting manga debuts I've read so far this year.