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March 7, 2012

Bento Bako Lite: The Earl and the Fairy volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: The Earl and the Fairy
Author: Ayuko (original story by Mizue Tani)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shueisha, March 6, 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy, romance

In the nineteenth century, no one believes in fantastical stories about fairies anymore. Only people like Lydia Carlton, a fairy doctor who can see and talk to fairies, still believe in and interact with them. Everyone in her quiet English town thinks she’s crazy, claiming to see invisible creatures and talking to her pet cat, Nico (who is a type of fairy creature). One day she receives a letter from her father, a professor of history, who wants her to come visit him in London. There are tales swirling of a dangerous thief in the area, but since she owns nothing of value, Lydia is confident she won’t be in any danger. When she arrives at her ship, she is met by a man named Huxley, claiming to be an acquaintance of her father’s sent to escort her. In her stateroom, she hears a noise coming from the closet, but when she goes to inspect it, she is grabbed from behind by a dirty and abused looking man who claims to be Huxley’s prisoner. The mysterious man convinces Lydia that they are both in danger and need to escape before the ship leaves port. She finds herself on another ship with another stranger, though the mystery man wastes little time in revealing himself to be Edgar Ashenbert, Earl Ibrazel. Without explanation, Edgar sends his servant Ermine to dress Lydia for a sudden dinner with the Marquess and Marchioness Eugen of Denmark. At the dinner, Edgar easily cooks up a lie about Lydia’s presence, making her increasingly uneasy about how trustworthy he may be. Then one of the nobles at the table spills the beans by inquiring if Edgar is truly the descendent of the famous Blue Knight, as he claims to be. The Blue Knight is said to have come from the fairy realm in order to assist Edward I centuries ago. Lydia, unable to comprehend how these people can believe the Blue Knight exists but not fairies themselves, tries to defend their existence, but Edgar swoops in to save the conversation and save Lydia from humiliation. After dinner, Lydia confronts Edgar, who not only can’t see fairies himself, but doesn’t believe they really exist. Even so, he doesn’t doubt Lydia’s sanity, and pleads for her help in locating the legendary Treasure Sword that proves the lineage of the Blue Knight. The sword was hidden by one of his ancestors three hundred years prior, and is now lost. The Treasure Sword is adorned with a large jewel, the Star Sapphire, which is being sought by people like Huxley. Since he can’t find it himself, he needs Lydia to help him solve the riddles that lead to its location. Lydia manages to pin down a starting point, so Edgar sets sail for an island off the coast of Ireland. From Ermine, Lydia manages to learn a bit more about Edgar, but she doesn’t have any time to reflect because their ship is boarded by a naval patrol searching for the aforementioned thief and a woman he has apparently abducted. Strangely, the thief’s description matches Edgar’s appearance, rousing Lydia’s suspicions once again, as well as Nico’s when he overhears the patrolmen mention a tattoo on the criminal’s tongue. Lydia grows more confused by the hour, and begins to doubt whether Edgar and his servants are the Blue Knight returned, or just murderers and thieves. Things take a dangerous turn when Huxley and his men intercept their journey and try to kidnap Lydia. Raven and Ermine begin a bloody beat down of the men threatening their master, while Edgar and Lydia make a run for it. Unfortunately, Huxley catches up with them, and Lydia hears some secrets she would much rather not know. Edgar tells her a story of slavery, poverty, life in the streets, torture, and death – the story of his past. The legend of the Blue Knight is his way out. Lydia’s kind heart overcomes the aura of danger around Edgar, and she agrees to help him in his quest.

Fairies, knights, noblemen, loyal servants, talking cats…. There’s plenty in The Earl and the Fairy for the discerning fangirl to enjoy. And many a fanboy, as well. I’m going to say that if you like series like Black Butler or Pandora Hearts, you should at least give Earl and Fairy a look. The artwork is quite nice (not as good as say, Pandora Hearts, but more detailed than Dawn of the Arcana). The style fits the story’s fantasy setting very well. Facial expressions could definitely use some work, because the emotions aren’t always 100% clear. The whole book as a soft, almost ethereal look to it; sort of refined, but also wispy, and a little dark. This is not a light and fluffy fairytale. Edgar’s story of his past is quite dark, and Raven always has a dangerous glint in his eyes, ready to kill at the smallest threat to his master’s safety. Of course, Edgar is also a master liar, so there’s no way to tell if he’s telling the truth or playing on Lydia’s sympathies. Poor Lydia has gotten herself into a huge mess of trouble. She’s gone from a quiet, if lonely, country life, to having strange men abduct her (sometimes at knife or gun point). Dangerous men who think nothing of killing are after her, and all she has to protect her are a lying fake nobleman and his two servants, one of whom would likely kill her if she put Edgar in any danger. At least there’s Nico, who looks after her the best his cat form will allow, though about all he can do is overhear information to pass along to her. Which is no small thing, really, and Lydia trusts him, but she also has a tendency to trust easily and be entirely too kind and sympathetic, which has already gotten her into serious trouble. Thankfully, though, she’s not a wallflower. She may be a little naive, but she also stands up for herself, and she’s not about to let herself be manipulated by a bunch of strange men. Of course, she would have to realize she was being manipulated first, and unfortunately Edgar is a master of such tactics. She’s a good girl, so one hopes she isn’t destroyed by Edgar’s quest for…well, whatever it is he actually wants. If he’s not the real Blue Knight, then what does he hope to do with the Treasure Sword? And will Lydia allow an impostor to attain it? To be perfectly honest, this first volume doesn’t pack the punch it really should to pull readers in, but Black Butler had a similar beginning. This first volume lays the groundwork for more interesting things to come.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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