Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom is an exciting new fantasy story for readers of all ages who love magical creatures, noble quests, and fighting for what’s right. Originally created and funded on Kickstarter, this new graphic novel from Dark Horse brings together the first five issues of the series.
Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom transports readers to a fantasy world where amazing magical creatures called Keepers coexist alongside humans. These Keepers can take many forms, but all of them form a strong, lasting bond with one particular human and become their friends and protectors for life. However, in the kingdom of Griff the king has outlawed Keepers, blaming them for the recent death of his daughter. Not only that, but all Keepers have been ordered to be put to death, and any of their companions who try to resist are to arrested.
It’s in this world that we encounter three teenage travellers, Mac, Ava, and Ping; along with the two Keepers, Renzo and Luna. The three of them are searching for clues to the whereabouts of Mac’s father, an explorer who disappeared years before. Whilst searching for clues as to the next stage of their search the three friends come into contact with Griff, and enter into a fight for their lives, and the lives of their Keepers.
Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom has been described as being perfect for fans of Pokemon, Digimon, Game of Thrones, Avatar The Last Airbender, and other fantasy worlds. And as someone who has been a fan of most of the franchises named in the Kickstarter, I honestly do see the attraction, as this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
The first thing that will draw people in with this book is the Keepers. The creatures that inhabit the world that Curtis Clow and Jo Mi-Gyeong have created are wonderfully designed. The Keepers, and other ‘regular’ kinds of fantasy animals that you encounter throughout the book, look amazing. Each of the Keepers has something of a unique design, and many of them take elements from existing animals and put a fantasy twist on them. For example, Renzo, Mac’s Keeper, is a large blue and white wolf with sabre-tooth fangs. Ava’s keeper is kind of reminiscent of griffin, though uses some other animals in a similar configuration. The front part of the body is a sleek panther-like cat, with the back feet of a large bird, and huge wings on her back. Oh, and she has big horns too.
Every Keeper that you encounter across the course of the book does something a little different with the design, and you can see why the series’ description mentions Pokemon and Digimon, as some of these creatures wouldn’t look out of place in those worlds. The artwork, provided by series co-creator Jo Mi-Gyeong, looks fantastic too, and really brings the creatures to life, whether it’s a huge, fierce Keeper fighting soldiers, or some cute little bunny creature hanging out in the background.
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But the book is more than just the fantastic animals that call it home, as there are some great human characters and a compelling story here too. The trio of teens that we follow across the book have a mixture of personalities that work well together, and we see more than once in the story that when they’re alone they kind of struggle, and it’s only when they’re all together that they really come out on top. The three of them make a great found family; and family is a key component of this story.
It seems like everything is driven by family. Mac is looking for his lost father, the King has turned into a tyrant through grief for his deceased daughter, and those with Keepers are fighting to protect them because they’re more than just animals, they’re family. These themes are everywhere in the book, and I expect that they will continue on to become an important part of the story as the series continues on.
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One thing that readers should be aware of going into the book, especially as I think it’s a book that a lot of younger readers will want to pick up and check out, is there are some scenes with disturbing content throughout. The first time we see the King he executes his own Keeper in front of the kingdom, and we see him behead the beautiful animal. The first time we meet the teens a group of bandits are trying to rape the girls. There are scenes where Keeper companions are executed, and children are hung and killed. The book doesn’t really pull any punches, and whilst it doesn’t revel in the violent imagery it doesn’t shy away from it either. And whilst this content could disturb or upset some readers it does help to get you drawn into the story and invested, as you quickly understand the stakes and don’t want terrible things to happen to our heroes.
Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom collects together the first five issues of the series, but the story doesn’t end here. The book sets up this world and these characters and gets you invested really quickly, and I think that most who read this will come away waiting eagerly for the next volume to come. If you’re a fan of fantasy stories, amazing creatures, and great stories Beastland: Keepers of the Kingdom is not a book you want to miss out on.
Beastlands: Keepers of the Kingdom is out now from Dark Horse.