I have had this graphic novel on my shelf to read forever. I finally got around to reading it; I originally picked this up because I love Charles Vess’s artwork and thought the concept of him illustrating a whole bunch of traditional ballads sounded really awesome. It was a very good read. Some of the ballads were retold in really wonderful ways, others were just excerpts from the original ballads.
This book consists of a series of traditional ballads. The ballads are first told via graphic novel format. Some are retellings and some are pretty much word for word from the original ballads. Then after the graphic retelling, the ballad is printed in its entirety.
A lot of these were just the ballads with pictures without much retelling done by the authors. There were a couple that really stood out though with excellent retellings done by the authors. The Two Corbies by Charles de Lint was a very well done retelling and delivered a fantastic story while still referencing the original ballad. The Black Fox by Emma Bull was also very well done, Bull gave an American twist to this traditional ballad.
Most of the Ballads feature supernatural being like fey or witches. All of the Ballads have fantasy or faerie tale bent to them.
Charles Vess’s artwork is as stunning as always. I was a bit disappointed that everything was in black and white, because I love what Vess does with color. Still the drawings were wonderful and did an excellent job of portraying the mood of the story. His artwork ranges from cartoonish (in the Galtee Farmer), to stunningly beautiful (in Tam-Lin and Savoy), and even to disturbingly ugly (in Alison Cross).
I also really enjoyed reading the poems in their original format. I love epic poetry and folklore and these were fun and interesting to read.
Overall an enjoyable read. I was a bit disappointed that so many of the “retellings” were just excerpts of the original ballads/poems. Still there were some excellent retellings in here as well. Charles Vess’s illustration was absolutely stunning and really set the mood for the stories. Recommended to those who enjoy fantasy graphic novels or are interested in folklore/fantasy poetry.