Queen of the Sea, by Dylan Meconis, (June 2019, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536204988
Inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s exile when her sister Mary I ascended the throne, Queen of the Sea begins with the banishment of Queen Eleanor, a young monarch of an embattled kingdom, to an island where nuns live, pray, garden, and sew. Margaret is a young girl who has spent her entire life on the island in the care of the nuns and finds herself drawn to Eleanor. Margaret learns about the island and the reasons behind her presence there, and quietly begins planning with Eleanor and a mysterious man who washes up on the island one stormy night.
Queen of the Sea is gorgeously created historical fiction with fully realized characters and a solidly constructed plot filled with intrigue; revelations; world-building, even light romance. Dylan Meconis’ pen, ink, and gouache artwork will appeal to Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson fans; the characters are softly realistic with period costuming and soothing earth and sea colors. I particularly love the back-and-forth between present moment storytelling and Margaret’s narration of history and myth, rendered to appear as stone or stained glass. The character growth is a joy to witness: Eleanor, from a taciturn exile to an embattled young woman embracing her feelings, and Margaret, a naïve child to a young woman coming into herself and her own intelligence make this a wonderful read. An author’s note discusses Elizabeth I’s inspiration of Eleanor. Graphic novel gold.
Queen of the Sea has starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. You can read an excerpt at Candlewick’s website.