Emma G. Wildford
Zidrou (Writer), Edith (Artist)
Éditions Soleil (French), Titan Comics (English)
21 November, 2018
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review,
It’s the hottest summer in London, but Emma G. Wildford has her mind on colder climes. Her fiancé, Roald Hodges, left for an expedition to the Arctic and has been missing for over a year. Despite repeated visits to the Geographical Society for information about Roald’s expedition, Emma is shut out and denied any information. When he is finally proclaimed dead, Emma makes a decision that will surprise everyone around her: she plans to mount a one-person expedition herself to find Roald. Nobody believes Emma can do this, least of all the old fogies at the Geographical Society, but nothing is going to stop her from recovering the love of her life.
Emma trains hard and makes her way to Norway, where she meets her guide, Børge Hansen, who was in touch with Roald during his expedition. Emma and Børge press on despite worsening weather, but, unbeknownst to Emma, a great secret hides in the wilderness, one with the power to destroy her world.
Adventure stories so rarely have female protagonists that I was immediately drawn to Emma G. Wildford. A spunky heroine setting out to rescue her long-lost love? Sign me up! For female protagonists in historical fiction, romance is usually the central force in their narrative, but Emma G. Wildford shows that a female character can rise above it.
This story is driven by Emma, and partly by her sister, Elizabeth. The men in the story are secondary, which was a pleasant surprise considering the time period the book is set in. I was also pleased that Emma and Elizabeth share a loving bond. Far too often, sisters are portrayed as enemies or rivals for the affections of men. In this book, however, women do not have to be tied to the men in their lives to matter; they are individuals in their own right.
Emma makes for an excellent hero. She’s pragmatic, but romantic, down to earth in her dealings with the people in her life, but still a daydreamer with regards to the future. She is willful, but not ignorant of the world she lives in. She questions the way things are and doesn’t back down when she is condescended to. I love that she is a poet by profession, but isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Her story may be driven by her love for a man, one who might not be entirely worthy of it, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that she is an adventurer at heart. Roald is only the catalyst for her actions, the means for Emma to find herself.
I also love the subversiveness of Roald being the damsel in distress instead of Emma. It was an unexpected role-reversal that I really enjoyed. There is one plot point that I wish had been explored further: the goddess Dolla, whose tomb Roald’s expedition aimed to find. There is a connection between Emma and Dolla that is hinted at, but largely left to the reader’s imagination but I would have liked to see more of Dolla’s impact on Emma.
I also found some of the dialogue to be a little clunky, especially Emma’s monologues to herself. I’m not sure if this was a flaw in the translation or in the original text, but they didn’t quite work in the speech bubbles and ended up taking me out of the story.
The art by Edith beautifully captures the time-period, but the way she depicts the seasons is a marvel. You can practically feel the heat of the summer in her golden hues, and the frost of the winter in her blue tones. When Emma talks about being speechless at the vistas before her, the reader can certainly understand. The landscapes Edith creates in this book are breath-taking works of art.
For a book that opens with an age warning, there wasn’t much mature content. The nudity, in the few instances that it appears, never feels gratuitous, but is instead empowering. It really does make a difference when a female artist draws women in the nude! There is limited violence, though some panels do graphically illustrate frostbite which might be disturbing to some readers.
Emma G. Wildford is an immersive story with a protagonist who is bright and vivacious, and quite inspirational. Every page was a joy to read, and despite the slight hiccups in dialogue, this book was an enjoyable foray into the past.