Eighteenth-century England seems like an unlikely time for a woman bare-knuckle boxer to become a celebrity. Alas, that idea would be wrong, as put forth by this compelling graphic novel. Elizabeth Wilkinson, half-Indian, lives in poverty with her sister Tess in a rundown section of London called the Mint, where a debtor is safe from being thrown in debtor’s prison. Since Tess owes a lot of money, she’s highly motivated to stay there. So, when The Mint’s amnesty runs out, it’s a big deal.
Hotheaded Elizabeth means to pay Tess’s debts off by bare-knuckle boxing other women. But she finds obstacles such as a traumatic past and a lack of training. Enter James Stokes, a charming Black trainer who whips her into shape, and becomes a trusted ally. Elizabeth’s struggles to find a boxing promoter, save her sister, and overcome a villain from her past are riveting. She’s a sympathetic and fascinating main character, and the supporting characters are likable as well.
The story itself hits all the right notes, and includes enough surprises to keep the reader guessing about what will happen next. The historical setting is presented with a light touch, and the artwork is excellent. If you’re a fan of exciting underdog tales, tough, motivated women, and multiracial characters you’ll love this fast-moving, tightly plotted graphic novel. Highly recommended for young adults and up.