Monday 19 January 2015

Review: The Pirates of Pangaea by Daniel Hartwell and Neill Cameron

The year is 1717. The newly discovered island of Pangaea is the most dangerous place on Earth, where dinosaurs still walk the land - Sophie Delacourt has been sent to Pangaea to stay with her uncle. But little does she know its perils - for Pangaea is a lawless wilderness, teeming with cut-throat pirates! Kidnapped and imprisoned, Sophie must escape from the ruthless Captain Brookes and embark upon an epic journey, to find her way home.

It's nothing more than simple maths where this book is concerned:

Yes, Daniel Hartwell (no relation) and Neill Cameron's brilliant The Pirates of Pangaea, first seen in The Phoenix comic has finally been given its first collected edition, courtesy of those wonderful people at David Fickling books. Seriously, if you have kids who love comics (or kids who you would love it if they loved comics) then The Pirates of Pangaea is a must-buy book. I was a weekly purchaser of The Phoenix in its early days (and I still would be if I had kids), and although I adored the zany and madcap work of the Etherington Brothers, my favourite part of the comic by far was Hartwell and Cameron's dinosaurs and pirates mash-up.

The story follows the adventures of Sophie Delacourt, who, following the death of her parents, has been sent to live with her uncle, the governor of the remote tropical island continent of Pangaea. What Sophie doesn't realise until the voyage is almost at its end, is that Pangaea is not like the other islands she has heard of as it is still home to many species of dinosaur. 

The interior of Pangaea consists of vast areas of long grass that hide deadly predators, much the same as a quite and serene ocean may hide a school (or is it a shiver?) of vicious killer sharks. In order to travel throughout the interior, ships arriving at the port are craned onto the backs of huge sauropods, which then proceed to transport said vessels across the land. However, as this is set in the early 18th Century, there have to be pirates a plenty as well (of course), and they lie in wait for passing vessels, ready to attack with their own sauropod-mounted ships. Poor Sophie has barely made landfall when her own ship is attacked by a bloodthirsty band of cutthroats, and she is the only survivor.

Sophie is not your typical demure and retiring 18th Century young lady - she is quick to leap into the fray and the incredible creatures that inhabit Pangaea do not faze her at all. In fact, she quickly discovers that she might have a gift similar to that of a horse whisperer, something that will come in very handy as she attempts to escape captivity.

Daniel Hartwell's exciting, dinosaur-laden, swash-buckling adventure story is perfectly complemented by Neill Cameron's stunning graphic work. Neill was the talent behind the brilliant and visually stunning Mo-Bot High, but in Pirates of the Pangaea he has taken his artwork to a new level. Everything about his art in this comic is right: the sprawling Pangaea landscapes; the details of the dinosaurs and their ships; the depictions of the characters (especially the evil pirates); and the great colour palette used throughout (just feast your eyes on the image below, a promo poster that Neill Cameron produced for the launch of the comic). 

The Pirates of Pangaea is due to be published by David Fickling books on 5th February and it is well worth every penny of the £8.99 cover price. My thanks got to the wonderful people at David Fickling Books for sending me a copy to read and review.

(Pirates of Pangaea, all images and concepts ©2011 Daniel Hartwell & Neill Cameron)

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