Rose Book 1: A Double Life
Émilie Alibert (writer), Cromatik Ltd (letters), Denis Lapière (writer), Valèrie Varnay (artist), Lara Vergnaud (translation)
June 12, 2019
Dupuis (French), Europe Comics (English)
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Since she was a child, Rose has had the ability to split herself and wander the world while outside of her body. Nobody can see this duplicate of hers and nobody she knows has the same ability. But when her father is murdered, Rose’s gift could become the key to finding his killer.
I was excited to read this first volume of Rose. I love murder mysteries with a supernatural element to them and this book definitely delivers on both accounts. Not only do we have the mysteries surrounding Rose’s dad—who we learn was a private investigator—but we also have the conundrum of Rose’s abilities. There are clues throughout this first volume that point to reasons for it but nothing is explicitly stated, which makes the reader want more. In that sense, Rose is quite the page-turner.
What I found particularly fascinating was that Rose’s strange condition doesn’t exactly go unnoticed—when she splits herself, her primary form becomes catatonic—but the people around her simply assume it’s an idiosyncrasy of Rose’s, not that there could be anything else involved. There are some memorable scenes where Rose overhears her colleagues talking about how weird she is, and how they don’t like spending time with her. So much so that they decide not to share their condolences with Rose after the death of her father.
The reason why this treatment of Rose’s ability struck me was because most of us know a ‘strange’ person at work (we might even be them!). Someone who’s a little aloof, a bit spaced-out, who doesn’t quite fit in. And I like that this story puts that kind of person as its protagonist. To Rose, who has never not had her ability, everyone else is strange because they can’t do what she does. I like that aspect of her character and Rose.
Rose’s ability also makes me curious about her relationship with her parents. We are only given hints about Rose’s mom, but we do learn far more about her dad. Rose explains that she did tell her parents about her powers, though they never believed her. They did send her to therapy, which didn’t help because there is nothing psychological about her abilities. How did that affect her parents? Surely over the span of so many years—Rose is an adult by the start of this book—there must have been several moments when her parents questioned why their child spaced out so often or how she appeared to know things she couldn’t physically have witnessed?
We do get an inkling as to the fact that the father-daughter relationship was poor. Following her father’s death, Rose is reluctant to enter the building he owned, because it has been years since she last stepped foot in there. Was there a falling-out, or did Rose simply drift away from her family the older she got?
I also found myself pondering the worldbuilding in this first volume. Mainly, I’m not sure all of it was needed. Rose Book 1 ends up spending so much time setting up the story that it ends just as one major plot point is revealed. I found that quite frustrating because absolutely nothing seemed to have happened over forty-eight pages and then near the very end, we get a massive revelation which we now have to wait to read about in another book.
I also have to question why the characters in Rose can’t simply tell the protagonist what they know. Conflict arising due to information being withheld from characters is over-tired and dull, and feels manipulative for the reader. I would have preferred if the information was laid out up front so we as readers could sift through the information and come to our own conclusions as we read the story.
Valèrie Varnay’s art is lovely, though. I liked her cartoonish style, which seems at odds with the subject matter, but manages to work because it’s so easy to access the world she has created. The way she colours Rose makes it immediately clear to the reader which realm we are following, and I appreciated the thoughtfulness behind that decision.
As an opening volume, Rose isn’t bad, but it is ponderous. A book needn’t be self-contained to be meaningful, but I feel like once you have read the second volume, this book will be nothing but a very long prelude with little informative value.
I really did want to enjoy Rose Book 1 but it was far too meandering and pointless for my taste. I love the concept but the execution leaves much to be desired. Here’s hoping the second volume does it better justice than the first.