Anglo-Saxon Denmark. In this re-telling of Beowulf, Rob Lloyd Jones’s story and Victor Tavares’s illustrations make the perfect match. The story has all the colour, vigour and blood-thirstiness of the original and it’s told vividly and clearly: Hrothgar’s magnificent hall; the monster Grendel; the arrival of the hero, Beowulf; Beowulf’s fight with Grendel and then his underwater battle with Grendel’s fearsome mother and, lastly, Beowulf’s final battle against the dragon. I’m sorry we don’t have the dragon being disturbed by a human intruder wanting to steal the treasure he’s guarding but, apart from that, I have nothing but admiration for the way the tale is told.
The pictures, too, are terrific. They can only be described as Arthur Rackham on speed meets manga – with a nod towards the Anglo-Saxon setting en route. Though, I have to say that Beowulf’s first appearance looks as if he’s just stumbled off the set of Gladiator, complete with Roman armour and tunic. However, the slight comic picture-book exaggeration serves the story well, for Beowulf is a larger than life-sized hero. I love the unusual angle shots of the pictures, particularly the shot looking down on Hrothgar’s hall, all browns and slaty blues but with a scarlet trail of blood leaking out of the door.
I also liked the cast list plus illustrations at the beginning with instructions as to how the names should be pronounced – very important if children are not to be put off reading.
Aimed at children of seven plus who can read alone and are ready for longer stories; blood-thirsty small boys in particular will love it.