Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Lion of Rora: A Dad and Daughter Review

The Lion Of Rora is a new original graphic novel written by Ruth Fletcher Gage and Christos Gage, part of the writing team for the Netflix hit, Daredevil.  It is drawn by Jackie Lewis, and artist I was not previously familiar with but have some nice things to say about in a couple of paragraphs.

I don’t want to summarize too much of the book and spoil it for you, so I will let the websites words give you the basics for me.
Based on true events, [Lion of Rora] tells the story of Joshua Janavel and the Waldensians, the first people in European history to rebel against their ruler for the purpose of religious freedom.

When the Waldensians were threatened, Janavel went from being a simple, unassuming farmer to what Napoleon called the greatest military tactician in history. Through their skill and bravery, winning battles against overwhelming odds, Janavel and the Waldensians won the admiration of people throughout the world.

The Gages have crafted a fast paced interesting history book that I could not put down.  Stories involving religion can put people off, but this book is about a group of people who want to be free and are forced to fight for that freedom.  You do not have to be interested in any specific religious struggle or religion at all to enjoy The Lion of Rora

I think the best thing I can say about the art is that while reading Rora I kept being reminded of another book, Joe Sacco’s The Great War, a 24 foot fold-out book depicting the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  If you are not familiar with Sacco’s work, trust me, this is high praise.  Jackie Lewis’ art is not identical to Sacco’s but there are plenty of busy battle scenes in Rora and Lewis makes the close ups and the distant shots clear, informative and exciting, like Sacco did in his book.  This is a carefully researched book, both by the authors and the illustrator.  The clothing, references and tools all feel authentic (granted, I’m taking their word for it, but everything seems right). 

As I write this my ten year old daughter is reading my copy of the book.  I have asked her questions to check her comprehension as she reads and she is getting it.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing this into my classroom for my ten year old students (I’ve had parents complain about the sex and violence in BONE) but any reader mature enough to watch a movie like The Hobbit should be able to handle the action and violence of The Lion of Rora. There is death and violence in The Lion of Rora, as any book about revolt and war will surely have, but the brutality is not depicted in a gory way and there is no cursing or nudity.

 I was entertained and educated while I read it and my daughter is feeling the same way right now.  She was unfamiliar with the problems that faced the early protestant churches, but I did not have to say much – the book does a great job of giving readers enough information to follow the story.  The official website for the book has
more information on the history of the Waldensians and a study guide as well.  Any class studying the Protestant Reformation or the history of revolts in general could use this book and guide.

To finish off, words from my daughter, who just now finished reading the book:

Mariah: I really liked it. It was interesting how it told about the fight people have to keep their churches.  Also, I liked when Janavel’s young son said that each other and the family bible was all they needed.  “Everything that’s important is still here.  This was just a house.”

The Lion of Rora is published by Oni Press.

Scott Tingley
September 12, 2015 
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