Carnal – Pride of the Lions
by John Connell
Sea Lion Books
$13.57 (hardcover) | $5.98 (ebook)
Format: graphic novel
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review
The first graphic novel in the Carnal series, Pride of the Lions takes place on the continent of New Africa and focuses on three main species of humanistic animals. After the Great War decades earlier between the hyenas and the lions, the victorious and once united lion prides now lay scattered across the land, torn by civil unrest over territory disputes and food shortages. The hyena clans that survived the war were forced deep into the Earth and now live in a massive underground city under the control of a terrible witch. The buffalo race is indifferent to most other species and have walled themselves off from the rest of the kingdoms. Humans have lost their hold on the African territories long ago and live as a simple, nomadic species. The first book opens with Long Eyes, an old sapphire-eyed lion who is determined to save the lion kingdom and rescue his warrior son, Oron, who has gone missing. Long Eyes believes Oron is the key to uniting the prides. A young lioness tracker named Omi is sent out with the protection of two lion brothers to locate the missing warrior, but what they find is something that may unravel the very foundation of life for all species.
When I think of lions in fantasy fiction, one of the first things that comes to mind for me (and others) is Aslan, the great lion from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. But if you’re thinking “lions in a graphic novel” and are having images of Disney’s The Lion King, this book couldn’t be more different. The lions and hyenas are anthropomorphic characters here (and humanoid), and they’re locked in a war. But unlike the hyenas in The Lion King, the ones in Carnal are definitely not funny, and they’re involved in violent and bloody ongoing altercations with the different prides of lions. The central pride is led by Long Eyes, who is worried not only about his own pride but also uniting the others, which is something he has tried to do many times, but hasn’t succeeded. He thinks his son, Oron, can do what he can’t, but when Oron goes missing, and Long Eyes is forced to send other lions after him, he worries that he may never see his son again and that the prides will always be in a sort of limbo.
One of the lions he sends is a lioness, Omi, and because she’s not originally from his pride, the other lionesses don’t much care for her, not to mention they think Oron wants to choose Omi as his mate. Regardless, she’s the best tracker Lion Eyes knows, so she sets off with other lions to find Oron. What they find is more than they bargained for. As this is series 1, presumably the story will continue in future volumes, as the story ends on a shocking cliffhanger, and things could go so many ways.
Although the illustrations are beautiful and vibrant, I was expecting more of a conventional comic book format with speech bubbles and for the book to be fully illustrated, but it’s like more of an illustrated novelette–the main story is like regular text you’d find in a book, interspersed with some illustrations, which, again, although they look spectacular, make this book not a graphic novel but rather an illustrated novelette of sorts.
Also, if you’re reading this on an e-reader, you might have some difficulty getting everything to fit on one page, depending on your device. Perhaps the viewing experience would be maximized on an iPad or other tablet, but for e-readers, there were definitely some issues with the way the file looked, which impacted my reading experience.
Nevertheless, it’s a good story and it will keep you turning the pages, making you want to find out what happens to Oron and the prides.