Nils: The Tree of Life by Jérôme Hamon
Publication: February 11th, 2020
Publisher: Magnetic Press
Source: Review copy from NetGalley – Thank You
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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.
After an extremely detailed synopsis like that I’m not sure what’s left to say. The only part of the story the synopsis doesn’t delve into is the ending and the outcome of Nil’s journey – and I’m not going to spoil that, so I’ll talk about how the story made me feel.
The darker cover art with the wolves and tree in the background drew me in when I saw it in the Diamonds email catalog. It made me want to know more and head to Netgalley so I could read the graphic novel.
The dark and rather ominous art keeps up for a large part of the story. I found the art to be deeply emotive. The story, although on some other world in some other time, really captures the way the wealthy and the greedy are striping this world bare for their own gain, with no care as to the irreversible damage they are doing.
The highlight of the story for me was the forest dwelling tribe ruled by women of color, who were living in harmony with nature – I wish they could have had a larger part in saving the day. But Nil’s goes off trying to try save nature and put right what the damage the ruling old white asshats of CYAN have brought upon the world. All this hit home for me living in a country which is run by a bunch a useless greedy men, who refuse to seek guidance from the traditional owners of the land even as it all burns to the ground around them – that’s Strailya for ya mate! Maybe I’m putting too much of my own feelings into this read. But as I read this book, my state of NSW, and most of the east coast, was burning to the ground.
I wasn’t keen on the books ending. It didn’t give me the closure and hope I was needing/hoping for, but again maybe I’m putting too much of my own feelings into it.
I’m not sure what else I can say. This was a read I’ve struggled for over a week, closer to two, to write a review for. The art was beautiful though and I think would be best appreciated in printed form rather than an eComic.