“It’s the night of the annual Autumn Equinox Festival, when the town gathers to float paper lanterns down the river. Legend has it that after drifting out of sight, they’ll soar off to the Milky Way and turn into brilliant stars, but could that actually be true? This year, Ben and his classmates are determined to find out where those lanterns really go, and to ensure success in their mission, they’ve made a pact with two simple rules: No one turns for home. No one looks back.
The plan is to follow the river on their bikes for as long as it takes to learn the truth, but it isn’t long before the pact is broken by all except for Ben and (much to Ben’s disappointment) Nathaniel, the one kid who just doesn’t seem to fit in. Together, Nathaniel and Ben will travel farther than anyone has ever gone, down a winding road full of magic, wonder, and unexpected friendship*.
*And a talking bear.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
What a fun, magical adventure story! Ben and five friends set out on the day of the Autumn Equinox Festival after making a pact to follow the lanterns down the river. But as they get further from home, each boy makes an excuse to go back and soon only Ben and his friend Nathaniel are left.
As they continue following the river, they encounter a fisherbear who tells them a new version of the story of the equinox and the lanterns that they have never heard before. According to the bear, the lanterns are actually fish, and every year his ancestors have come here to catch them before the fish travel up the river and into the sky.
The boys and the bear soon become lost and encounter more mysterious characters including a mapmaker named Madame Majestic, and a cartographer, who both agree to help them on their journey home, but of course there are some strings attached. This part was a little long in my opinion and kind of distracting from the rest of the story. When Ben and Nathaniel are finally back on their journey home, they find out the secret of where the lanterns end up and what happens to them.
Since the story takes place at night, the pages are all illustrated in shades of blue like the cover. Something I noticed right off the bat was that the dialogue was not written in the standard all-caps style of most other graphic novels, but in a regular font, which made it easier to read. This may have been done because the target audience may be new to graphic novels, or the author just preferred this style. Either way, I appreciated the change from traditional graphic novel font styles.
Overall this was a fun adventure story and I would read future graphic novels by Ryan Andrews.