Reading Pile: Long John Silver Book 1: Lady Vivian Hastings
I had no idea how badly I needed a sequel to Treasure Island but damn if this wasn't the most engaging follow-up to that story that I never asked for. Taking place about 20 years after the events of Treasure Island, this first chapter in Cinebook's Long John Silver series sets up an intriguing cast of characters and a truly atmospheric world with beautiful artwork.
The book starts off with the desperate expedition of a Lord Hastings as he relentlessly pursues the lost city of Guinan-Capac and all of its riches. This sets off a chain of events that has us following his wife Lady Vivian Hastings as she manipulates her way into the expedition. It's an interesting start as Long John Silver doesn't really appear until the midpoint of the story, offering us a lot of sub-plot and character development.
Vivian is an interesting character who has adopted a sexually free lifestyle in the absence of her husband and has thus become a social outcast. She's suddenly confronted with the order from her brother-in-law that she will enter a convent as he sells all of her family's belongings and land to further fund her loveless husband's expeditions. Having enough of being treated as property she hatches a scheme to join the expedition, and with the help of Dr. Livesey from the original novel she's introduced to Long John Silver so as to further her plot to foil her husband.
Every character is guilty of some sort of nefarious scheming so we have a cast of anti-heroes all plotting against each other to further their goals. It's well balanced as they're all generally fleshed out, their own charms and past experiences reinforcing their motivations and allowing some level of sympathy to be felt towards their actions. Lady Hastings is generally a spoiled heiress who lies, cheats, and betrays her way through situations, but she's also one of the most engaging characters who you feel bad for as she's been backed into a pretty nasty corner by society and her husband. Likewise, Silver himself is a rogue and a scoundrel, but he's also a really likable cook who hates slavers.
A huge part of my enjoyment of this first chapter is the utterly beautiful art by Mathieu Lauffray. His linework, facial emoting, deep attention to detail with the scenery and clothing, and the strong compositional flow of his storytelling instantly pull you into the work. The coloring is really exceptional as well, the muted tones offering a nice compliment to the grimy world building that makes everything feel just a bit more cold and oppressive.
I do have to say though that I think I would have also liked the book if it was released in plain black and white. While doing some hunting for more of his artwork I across some of Lauffray's pencils for the book and striping away the colors really makes you appreciate his craftsmanship. Plus the B&W work gives me some 70's comic magazine vibes and feels stylistically comparable at times to such greats as Esteban Maroto, Nestor Redondo, or Alfredo Alcala.
This is the first in a four book series, and at $13.95 you're getting a great deal. Cinebooks seem thin for the price and this first chapter clocks in at 56 pages, but they're dense reading and the larger 8.68x11.46 format allows you more space to appreciate the artwork. As a former retailer I have to say Cinebooks were a bit of a nightmare to store on shelves as they are so thin they are easily visually lost next to regular sized releases, but as a reader they do take up less room so that's a plus.
If you're specifically in the mood for a pirate story then this is definitely something you should check out, but if you're also just in the mood for a historical crime fiction with a lot of interesting characters then I also would say you should like this series. Otherwise, seriously just get it for the gorgeous artwork.