Cathy G.'s Book Posts
Comic recommendations for young readers, educators and librarians.
Agents of the Realm: Volume 1 by Mildred Louis, 290 pages, Sapphire Shard Press, 2016
Age Recommendation: Teen
Intro: Agents of the Realm: Volume 1 by Mildred Louis is a take on the magical girls genre, which originates in Japanese manga and anime. Featuring a team of super-powered college students, Agents is action-packed with bold colors and vibrant tones. Volume 1 sees our protagonist Norah beginning to settle into college life. She is finding her way through the dormitory and campus, when her routine is interrupted by—a magical gem, a talking robot bug and a monster trying to kill her?!
Story Summary: The small town of Silvermount seems like a boring place to go to college, but Norah uses it to her advantage. Norah prefers to be alone -- sitting in the back of the class, taking quiet walks alone in the middle of the night. Fate has a different idea for Norah, though. College is forcing her to open up to new experiences. She builds relationships with professors and classmates, shares her small dorm with a new roommate Adele, and, well—she now has a magical sword to fight monsters with.
Being a magical, monster-fighting Agent has its perks. One is building friendships with the other college women who have been given this mysterious charge: Adele, Kendall, Paige and Jordan. There’s something else going on in this town, though. Local legends say that Silvermount was at the center of two realities before they were split by a powerful gem getting shattered. Gem shards give agents their magical powers, but where who are these other Agents with the gem shards? What’s happening in the other Realm? Why can’t Norah catch a break?
Why This Book?
Agents of the Realm is exciting and fast-paced, while not shying from showing emotional moments between characters. The magical girls genre adds a level of excitement and mystery to the plot. Fans of superhero comics will enjoy Agents, as well as people who enjoy slice-of-life and coming-of-age stories. It’s exciting to have not only one powerful young woman, but five, in addition to a huge (and growing!) cast of supporting characters. These are characters any reader will love and want to know more about.
LGBTQ Heroines of Color: The cast is made up of lesbian and queer characters, with multiple characters of color. Louis wanted to create a mirror in which women and girls could see themselves. To quote Louis’ foreword to the book:
“Magical girl stories were my first sincere introduction to tales in which young women were allowed to be their own heroes … While my dreams were expanded, there was still a twinge of doubt that always existed in the back of my mind. I did not look like any of the heroines in any of the stories I adored. I always hoped to aspire to the levels of greatness I saw, but the lack of visual mirroring that I experienced always left me with a sense of insecurity that this greatness was not for me. … This is for all the young awkward Black girls that fall in love over and over again with extraordinary tales, yet constantly wonder if these stories are for them, too.”
Female Friendships: Norah begins her Freshman year reclusively, but her magical duties throws her into a friendship with the other Agents Adele, Kendall, Paige and Jordan. Norah accepts this, navigating her classmates with sensitivity and compliance. She is careful with her actions, but she is also adventurous and tries her best. The women are strangers, but begin to care for each other deeply. Feelings are talked through and intimacy grows, making this a fruitful representation of friendship, teamwork and loyalty.
Should I Read It?: If you love action, friendships, adventure, drama with a little bit of romance thrown in, this book is for you! The book can be purchased here: sapphireshardpress.com And the webcomic version can be read online here: agentsoftherealm.com