Novellas tend to fall into that awkward place in publishing where they aren’t long enough to sell on their own as a book, but they are too long to include a few in a collection with other stories. Ebook publishing has helped this situation immensely by making the publication of individual novellas and novella collections both feasible for the publisher and affordable for the reader. One route that publisher have taken in the past to help make novellas stand out on the bookstore shelves was to have them illustrated. This was a hit-or-miss enterprise, at best, but occasionally one saw successes. However, with the increase of digital releases, this is a direction with an ever-growing potential.
This is realized in Allwёn: Soul & Sword, written by Jesús B. Vilches, illustrated by Javier Charro, and translated from the Spanish by Pedro C. Camacho. It is almost unfair to categorize Allwёn as an illustrated novella, as the book is set up so brilliantly to feature small amounts of text, no more than a couple paragraphs, per page, intermixed with full page illustrations and dramatic formatting. Truly, Allwёn is almost in a format all its own, blurring the lines between comic and illustrated fiction.
Allwёn: Soul & Sword is the story of Allwn and his great love, Ӓriel. Half elf and half dwarf, Allwёn brings the traits of both to his role as a warrior. What helps his retain his soul and not become a berserk war machine is Ӓriel, an elven sorceress. However, events transpire to tear Ӓriel from Allwёn’s life, and turn him into a blood-mad warrior seeking his own death by instigating one slaughter after another. The story follows both plot lines, alternating back and forth and approaching the cataclysmic turning point of Allwёn’s life.
Part of the power of Allwёn: Soul & Sword is the non-linear story-telling. Readers know from the beginning that this will be a tragic love story. But the power of the storytelling keeps you deeply involved, so that you hope tragedy won’t occur even though you know it already has. One particular motif, Allwёn’s sword and its three parts symbolically mirroring the three parts of the story, is particularly well done.
But the true highlight of the story has to be is elegance in atmospherics. The mood is very deftly created and the world feels truly mystical, magical, and fantastic. The art and the words mesh together brilliantly, and they truly create a whole even greater than the sum of its parts.
For readers looking for a dream-like fantasy experience in a medium as unique as the story, then Allwёn: Soul & Sword is something you should pick up instantly. Not enough good can be said about this fascinating work.
For those interested, Allwёn: Soul & Sword is set in the world of Vilches’s epic fantasy series, La Flor de Jade, which begins with El Enviado. For my English-speaking readers, La Flor de Jade is unfortunately not available in English at this time, with the exception of Allwёn: Soul & Sword. Allwёn does stand on its own as a complete story, but it certainly makes this reader wish he had taken more than just one year of Spanish in college so that I could further explore this story.