The third book in Alexander Utkin’s series of Slavic folktales, Tyna of The Lake: Gamayun Tales Book 3, feels more like a Studio Ghibli movie than a classic fairytale thanks to it’s mix of mischievous water spirits, lobster soldiers and aquatic magic.
Publisher: Nobrow Press
Writer: Alexander Utkin
Artist: Alexander Utkin
Price: £12.99 from nobrow.net
Our story follows the son of the merchant whose story was told in King of Birds and The Water Spirit. As part of the merchant’s punishment for angering the water spirit Vodyanov, his son is taken underwater aged 9 and this is what happens to him. The merchant’s son is tempted into this watery world by a spirit called Tyna, who is daughter of Vodyanov, and she takes the boy to her sub aquatic home. After a duel with the brilliantly named Sir Lobsterriffic, the merchant’s son ends up indentured to Vodynaov, but with Tyna responsible for him. Inevitably the two seek to escape the watery underworld and look to discover the truth about Tyna’s relationship to her father.
After the relative formality of Books 1 and 2, Lake of Tyna feels much more like a kids adventure romp. There are duels, magic and mystery, and all kinds of action adventure. It’s much more readable as a result and is potentially the best jumping on point for new readers – although each volume does a great job of catching you on the story and so you could really jump in at any point.
It also feels very much like this is a book for a younger audience. Although there wasn’t anything in the earlier volumes that was particularly unsuitable for kids, having the focus being on a pair of youngsters definitely makes this more of a draw for a younger audience.
Utkin’s beautiful artwork continues to bring this wonderful world to life and his coloured pastel style is gloriously rough and textured with an exquisite use of colour throughout. The character designs and rendering are once again spectacular, from the sublime aquatic blues of Tyna to the cartoonish villainy of Lobsterrific (who feels like he could have stepped out of a Spongebob cartoon) through to the sinister and snake-like Godyanov. The whole book has this delightful swirling watery sense to it, which goes perfectly with the subject matter. While when the characters are on land they have this glorious elegance and flow to them which makes the whole thing utterly wondered. The whole thing also has this timeless sense of class to it, with Utkin’s artwork feeling very contemporary with it’s cartoonish, almost Anime, expressions. But also gloriously old fashioned thanks to it’s subject matter and textured printing.
How faithful these stories are to their source material is unsure. however this feels as if it is playing faster and looser with the accuracy compared to previous volumes. But it does this to make a better story and it definitely benefits from any adaptation. That being said, it doesn’t stray too far, as a sub plot involving Tyna’s sisters and their interest in Baba Yaga keeps things firmly rooted in the Slavic tradition.
Thanks to Tyna of the Lake, the Gamayun Tales series is growing and developing into a truly marvellous franchise for Nobrow. (Perhaps even one to rival Hilda in time!) With each volume having it’s own unique characteristics each volume is able to stand on it’s own two feet, yet still feels part of an overall set. This is without a doubt the best of the bunch so far and one which will be very difficult to eclipse. With a strong year ahead for Nobrow, this could end up being one of the sleeper hits of the year for them as it really is something rather special.