Review: The Tower In The Sea (Avery Hill Publishing)

The latest chapter from B. Mure’s Ismyre series, The Tower In The Sea, is another sublime slice of magical fantasy set in this most wonderful of worlds.

Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing
Writer: B. Mure
Artist: B. Mure
Price: TBC from Avery Hill Store

With each chapter of Ismyre so far featuring a stand alone, albeit interconnected story, The Tower In The Sea joins previous chapters Ismyre and Terrible Means continues B’s plan to craft a truly extraordinary world. This chapter follows Miriam a young orphan who is sent to divination school at an early age. While there she attempts to find meaning for her apocalyptic dreams which sees Ismyre in rubble and flames after a huge war. But is this a premonition or just a dream.

With its magical school theme, the Tower in the Sea has an obvious Harry Potter feel to it, but only a hint, as it’s a long way from being a knock off the boy wizard’s world. This is thanks, in no small part, to B’s wonderfully esoteric characters. From the shy and unassuming Miriam to her clueless owl buddy Efrim, through to intimidating teacher Madame Cornelia (who as a scarred fox feels like they should be the villain of the piece, but is anything but!) While the characters are all wonderfully written, it is also their design which helps to make them really unique. Obviously it helps that they are all animals, but this isn’t your average cutesy animal book, and instead the characters are packed with unique idiosyncrasies and details that make them really interesting. (Sometimes B even go completely off the wall, such as the teacher who has a strange sphere with palm-like wings coming out of their head, which feels like an extra from Pans Labyrinth.)

Visually the story looks incredible again with B’s watercolour wash style giving every page this multi coloured textured beauty to it. The pencilling and lettering can be a bit rough and loose in places, but it is part of the charm. The use of colour helps to evoke a real mood to the pages, whether it is the glorious blues and green in the landscapes of the tower or the blood red and amber hues of Miriam destructive dreams.

The story is also layered with subtle politics and real world big picture angst. The threat of a war in Ismyre is something which has been brewing across all three books, with its corrupt government and idealistic freedom fighters who have been cast as both villains and heroes so far. With an ending that hints at a more traditional, almost quest type story, in a future volume, B manages to layer a more edgy side of the story into the world of Ismyre without ever doing it at the expense of the characters of their world. This is also where the slightly ragged approach to the artwork gives the character a real edge, and reminded us of the way Michael Oeming and Victor Santos helped make their animals more gritty in the Mice Templar books.

With so much depth and detail lurking behind these glorious watercolour pages, The Tower In The Sea feels like the most polished and accomplished chapter of the Ismyre series so far. It certainly feels the most accessible for new readers to get into – and reading it out of order would not hurt if you started here.

With every new chapter developing and improving, the Ismyre series is fast becoming one of the most under-rated collections in Avery Hill’ stellar line up. Which is also helped by it’s relatively regular frequency. On first reading the series it took us a while to really get into it, but three issues in we are definitely on board! So if the quality continues to grow and develop like it has with The Tower In The Sea, then we can see the whole Ismyre series becoming something really very special in the long run.