- The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith
Smith, Niki The Deep & Dark Blue; written and illus. by Niki Smith. Little, 2020 [256p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-316-48598-2 $24.99 Paper ed. ISBN 978-0-316-48601-9 $12.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-316-48602-6 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 6-10
In this graphic novel, identical twins Grayson and Hawke lead a charmed life in their grandfather's noble manor until their grandfather and his heir, cousin Reyden, are assassinated by their other cousin, Mirelle, and they must flee to avoid being murdered in the coup. The twins disguise themselves as girls and become initiates in the Communion of Blue, hoping the holy order can keep them safe. When they hear that Mirelle is due to be crowned as Lord in a matter of days. Hawke is more than eager to break out of the convent and expose Mirelle as a fraud, but his twin is less ready to leave their new home. Living with the Communion has brought about a profound revelation: she actually is Grayce, not Grayson, and the thought of returning to her old life where she is expected to be a boy is heartbreaking. This story offers a refreshing spin on the crossdressing-for-noble-reasons trope, with Grayce's discovery of her true gender transforming the twins' escape plan into something greater than a convenient plot device. Smith's art allows the reader to slowly discover Grayce's comfort with feminine attire and the responsibilities of her new life in the Sisterhood. This is especially prevalent when played off Hawke's fidgetiness and inability to assimilate into his role. Subtle differences in the twins' character design can make readers unsure of which twin is which, especially in the early pages of the book, but Smith's quick pacing and world building make this a page-turner for lovers of adventure and magic.