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Review: Deltora Quest (Vol. 01)

Author: Emily Rodda
Manga-ka: Makoto Niwano
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: July 2011

Synopsis: “The kingdom of Deltora is turned upside down when the King and Queen both die mysteriously and their young son, Endon, is given the Belt of Deltora and pronounced king. Meanwhile, Endon’s best friend, the orphaned Jarred, discovers a plot to strike at the royal household from within! Before he can warn his new king, Jarred is accused of murder and barely escapes the castle with his life. With the nefarious Shadow Lord’s army preparing for invasion, Deltora has never needed Jarred more – will he answer the call?”

The book is a very show-over-tell experience. It suffers from a complete lack of subtly. Whether it’s out loud exposition or the bad-guy looking so evil that it’s confusing why anyone would trust him, Deltora Quest is like a stiff book report version of its source material. While a classic fantasy story told in manga format was a temptation I couldn’t refuse, it quickly became a purchase I nearly regretted – regret tempered only by the amusement I had dissecting its flaws with friends.

Deltora Quest‘s story is easy enough to follow. A plotting adviser to a kingdom’s royalty has the King and Queen killed, leaving their only son to become King. The Prince’s best friend – the orphaned child of a valiant knight – realizes the conspiracy and tries to come to his friend’s aid before the plotters take control of him and destroy the kingdom. Nice and simple, but unfortunately very boring as everything (little as there is) is presented to us in a very cut and dry manner.

One the elements I did like about Deltora Quest was the friendship between the Prince, Endon, and the story’s lead, Jarred. They have some genuinely cute and amusing scenes that show off how close they are having been raised together. Unfortunately it’s these very scenes that make first volume’s climax so hard to swallow. Perhaps he was stricken by grief, or just not very smart to begin with, but after Jarred reveals the true villain behind the death of his parents, Endon sides with the adviser, barely batting one of his long eyelashes. Jarred is then nearly killed and forced to run from the castle, vowing to return someday to rescue his friend when the guy smartens up enough to realize some harsh truths. This includes everyone in his kingdom being starved to death, among other things. The Prince is so meek and self-interested, despite speaking to the contrary, that it almost becomes understandable how he was manipulated for years like a lump of formless clay.

How Jarred comes to realize said evil scheming plots in the first place was painfully sloppy storytelling. We’re made to believe is your average, sword-slash-first-questions-later kind of main character – but when Endon’s parents are killed, he takes to the castle library on a sliver of a hunch and discovers the truth by reading a book that conveniently spells out the entire plot that we’re left to assume no one’s ever read before. Oh, and it also solved his convenient amnesia. A story is revealed about a magical gem-covered belt that can restore the true ruler to the throne, which makes this first volume simply a prequel to the ‘actual’ story that stars Jarred’s son.

Deltora Quest‘s vacuous plot may be the book’s greatest failing but it actually falls short of being its greatest flaw. The art is pretty amateurish for a supposedly polished finished piece. Most of the book looks decent enough, albeit stiff, but there are some character designs and posing that look ridiculous. It’s a laugh out loud moment when Jarred returns seven years later looking like he’s spent those years popping steroids. Later Endon’s wife, who looks more like she’d be his twin sister, suddenly strikes some sort of footballer’s posture to run forward. Those are two examples moments that take what could’ve at least been a mediocre art style and just make them a lazy looking one. It’s a pity when you see some scenes that actually look pretty good because they’re sullied by the fact they’re a minority.

Flat, dull and even hilariously bad sometimes, Deltora Quest fails in its mediocrity and falls far short of reaching that level of being bad enough to be good. I bought this book looking for a classic Western fantasy story told with a shonen style, and unfortunately that’s exactly what I got. Alas that instead of drawing upon a bevy of mythos and slick, polished art styles with strong friendships and compelling characters, we got the worst of either genre’s elements. Rushed, silly and ultimately boring, this is one quest I won’t be joining in again.

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Book bought from Strange Adventures

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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4 Responses

  1. […] in a number of countries, and this version runs in Kodansha's Comic BonBon in Japan. Lissa Pattillo didn't care much for the first volume, but hope springs […]

  2. Justin says:

    Ooh. Then it was definitely a good decision not to purchase it when I saw it at Borders^^ Sorry you had to suffer Lissa!

  3. […] I recently saw Deltora Quest in stores. I was tempted to take a look since at the time Borders had for cheap. Looks like I saved my money. […]

  4. Ally says:

    While I can believe that the manga version of the story has its faults, please bear in mind that the source material, the original series of books it was based off, was intended for 8-12 year olds.

    Incidentally, all fifteen books are actually quite good in English, but this is a manga that’s based off an anime that’s based off the Japanese translation of the original series, and I’m pretty sure the author wasn’t able to have much input in the Japanese versions. (In the anime, for instance, a major twist about the location of the King and Queen of Del is revealed in the first episode due to sloppy writing/lack of thought instead of at the climax of the story) I have no idea why the creators of the manga stretched out Jarred and Endon’s story over a whole volume, considering it was one chapter in the first novel, but this is probably reminiscent of the rest of the manga and reason enough that I’ll be sticking to the books.

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