Goodreads: Nils: The Tree of Life
Publish date: 11 February 2020
Publisher: Magnetic Press/Diamond Book Distributors
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
A dystopic Nordic fantasy world, where spirits of light are the key to life, but seemingly have abandoned the world. Young Nils and his father set out to discover why the ground has grown infertile, heading north where the drought seems worse to find the cause. Far along the way, they find signs of fresh and vibrant life, caretaken by these little light spirits. But before they know it, a large metal creature arrives and attacks the creatures, apparently hunting and gathering them.
From out of the woods, a woman attacks the creature, bringing it to its knees… apparently the plant was bait for the spirits, which in turn were bait for the metal creature, which serves the high-tech Cyan Nation. This huntress, named Alba, takes Nils and his father into their tribe, where the battle between the shamanistic people and the Cyan Nation is paramount, a battle over the protection vs exploitation of the light spirits power…
Meanwhile, three goddesses watch these events, lamenting the fact that man had abandoned all belief in their power long ago. They watch but do not intervene, despite the fact that the spirits are being harvested en masse by the Cyan Nation, wreaking ruin on the world outside their city. Realizing that this conflict will in one way or another change the very fabric of this world, they slowly begin to intervene…
As they continue their travels, Nils has a dream (seeded by one of the goddesses) about the World Tree, Yggdrasil, which is being consumed by a metal plague. He knows he must now find and save the tree, and in the process, save the world. But the high council of the Cyan Nation would have otherwise…
Having been separated in their quest, Nils’s father finds himself a guest of the Cyan Prince, where he learns that they do indeed understand the power of the spirits, which they call Ethernum, serving as the power source for their technological advancement. More sinister than that, however, is the fact that they’ve used the Ethernum as a means of near-eternal longevity, having wiped out all competitors to their power and resource long ago. And now, they believe they have unlocked the secrets for using the Ethernum to revive the dead…
And for the goddesses, that is a step too far. They intervene, but in the process find one of themselves surprisingly captured by the Cyan royalty… and then killed. The remaining two goddesses are torn by this affront. One vows to wipe mankind off the planet for good, while the other goes to help Nils save the Life Tree.
High fantasy adventure combining science-fiction with pseudo-spiritual magic, posing dramatic examinations of man vs nature, life vs death, fact vs faith, and man’s desire to play god.
This was an interesting graphic novel that had a fascinating mix of Nordic mythology and fantasy elements that shared a story about a dying earth due to corruption, exploitation of resources, and the troubled Goddesses that are affected by the effects of human greed and technological advancement.
I enjoyed how Nils started but as more elements of the story were introduced I became confused with the direction it was going but also the erratic flow of scenes towards the middle and end. There were many scene jumps that made the climax feel disjointed and since there was a lot of action in these parts, it only left me feeling confused with everything that was going on. I did go back to re-read scenes in case I missed anything but I still didn’t get the clarity I was looking for. I had plenty of questions about the whole world and the characters in it — Nils, the goddesses, the Cyan nation and how it came to be, and Alba’s tribe of women hunters and how they survived. I wish that these elements were better explained so that we could have a better understanding of the story. There was also some romantic notions that were hinted at between one of the goddesses towards Nils which seemed unnecessary and didn’t make me feel more sympathetic towards her fight to save him and human kind. It honestly creeped me out a little bit lol…
That said, the artwork is simply stunning and it’s what made me want to continue reading despite not fully understanding what was going on in the storyline. The color palette was well chosen and really reflected the ‘cold tundra’/Nordic feel alongside dying nature and technologically advanced city vibes that the story presented. The details were wonderful and I loved the distinctive look of all the different characters. There were some illustrations, particularly to do with nature and the spirits, that really gave me Princess Mononoke / Miyazaki vibes and I loved it!
While Nils had an interesting and promising premise it unfortunately didn’t follow through for me. The artwork was beautiful and I’d love to see more graphic novels illustrated by this artist however, I wish that the storyline had been more clear and easy to follow/understand!
Thanks to NetGalley and Magnetic Press/Diamond Books Distributor for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This graphic novel is out 11 February 2020.
Have you read Nils: The Tree of Life or is it on your TBR?