Graphic Novel · Modern Fantasy · Review

Eartha by Cathy Malkasian | Graphic Novel Review

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

Pub. Date: 2017

Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel

Pages: 256

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars

Eartha, by Cathy Malkasian, is a bulky book about a large woman who lives in a fjord, where dreams from the city come to live. She and her fellow townspeople care for these dreams until they dissolve. But the dreams have mostly stopped coming to the fjord, making the people of the fjord cutoff from knowledge of what is going on in the city. After one particularly scary dream appears to Eartha, she is sent to the city to fetch a MacGuffin and discovers why dreams aren’t coming to the fjord anymore. It’s a beautifully illustrated story, but the story and characters aren’t great. But it is a quick read.

The leading lady is Eartha. She’s a kind-hearted person who tends to carry tired or drunk people to a place where they can regain their dignity. However, she is called a “moron” by the city folk she encounters. She’s a quiet force of good in a foreign land where everyone believes the fake news they consume and where they don’t sleep and give up everything to know it. Consequently, when she tries to change some things, she becomes a threat to the bouncers in charge, and they constantly clash with her. Eartha doesn’t particularly change or grow as a character, and neither do any of the other characters.

There is a lot to unpack with this graphic novel because Malkasian incorporated too many ideas into one story. The book comments on capitalism, fake news, estranged families, addiction, budding dictators (or people who would like to be), grief, and the difference between reality and dreams. Very little was lingered on enough to make a strong impact on the story. All of the themes fought with each other and were barely cohesive. It needs editing or more time to linger on a few of the ideas.

The world building is most interesting where dreams are concerned. I love the concept of dreams in this world. Dreams appear in the fjord that Eartha lives in as these purple beings with light shooting up from the crowns of their heads. The dreams come to their little fjord to live out the dream, dissolve and then have their shadows swept up the residents of the fjord.

Eartha by Cathy Malkasian, dissolving dreams
Page 38: Eartha watches a dream dissolve.

The rest of the world-building is alright if not totally believable. My first is that the dreams are interesting, but the effort the author went to to explain how dreams behave when they appear and how they dissolve is not believable in that Eartha shouldn’t need it explained as a person who grew up in the fjord. It’s much more for the reader than for the character, but the “narrator” treats it as if Eartha needed it explained to her. This might have worked better by bringing the end of the story to the front and then working up to it. However, I like that there are talking animals in this story and crazy people who have tried to become dictators of their weird societies. 

Speaking of crazy, scary people, several of the characters are perverted. Just look at the back cover for a hint, but that is hardly the end of it. The Bouncers are celibate perverts who often feel up women’s breasts to make disgusting decisions about what to do with them. Like others have said on Goodreads, I could have done without the dream of chicken breasts.

Eartha by Cathy Malkasian, back cover, bouncers

On top of the perversion, the last chapter of the book tries to make the story circular. It’s alright, but it didn’t help my growing dislike of how many ideas were already there. It’s a little too much for me.

To comment on the artwork, it is beautiful. I believe it’s done in colored pencil or something like it. I like the soft, rounded drawings that show the whimsy of the fjord’s dreams and people. It also shows good detail.

I am not a fan of this book. I think it’s great for the artwork, the concept of dreams, and the way knowledge can be used to control people. But there are so many ideas in it and very little character development for me to really recommend it as a must read. 

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3 thoughts on “Eartha by Cathy Malkasian | Graphic Novel Review

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