Vermonia: Quest for the Silver Tiger by Studio YOYO

At the centre of the universe, at the beginning and end of all creation, sits the planet of Vermonia, ruled by Queen Fransinella. All worlds including the fragile Blue Star, orbit around her, following pathways of the net between galaxies, wherein the Turtle Realm also lies.

Queen Frasinella’s reign of harmony is ending in civil war due to the betrayal of the commander of her army, General Uro. Hungry for personal power, he seeks the Queen’s sacred Bolirium, fighting his own twin brother, the Lord Boros to obtain it.

As the final battle rages and Lord Boros suffers defeat at the hands of his brother, Queen Frasinella gathers her four most trusted ministers. She uses her magic to transform them, then bids them to flee in order to safeguard the wisdom of her world and to work for its rebirth.

As her final sovereign act, Queen Frasinella summons from deep within her the four Veras of her Spirit; these four will be reborn on a distant planet as four warriors who will one day restore her reign of harmony

So begins Vermonia: Quest for the Silver Tiger a new manga title by Studio YoYo, published in the UK by Walker Books. It is the first in a series, for all ages and illustrated in the shonen style. Nevertheless Vermonia will have a broad appeal amongst girls as well as boys.

The heroes of this tale are four friends (Mel, Doug, Kim and Naomi), who after falling out at their skating hangout each have an identical dream about a boy being strangled by snakes and pleading for help. The next day Mel is kidnapped by Gazso an agent of the evil General Uro. The group leave earth with the aid of the magical Satorin, a Squelp (the obligatory cute manga mascot), and waste no time in trying to track Mel down to free her, and also, they learn, the planet of Vermonia.

I was thrilled (and surprised) to receive a copy of this book in the post. I had been shown some early proofs of Vermonia when I visited Walker Books late last year. From a purely aesthetic point of view the book is beautiful, published in the traditional Japanese style to be read from right to left, Walker Books has also followed the Japanese habit of giving it a dust jacket and a semi-rigid cover. The contents do not disappoint either, the artwork by artist Saki Uchida who was discovered by Akihuro Miyata, the editor and publisher who nurtured the talent of the extraordinary Haruki Murakami, is stunning. The story is gripping and provides a perfect set up to the future volumes that will follow. The only downside is that the book ends on a cliff-hanger and I want to know what happens next but volume two is still a few months away.

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