Sea Serpent’s Heir
Volume 1: A Pirate’s Daughter
by Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound-Comet
Aella begins as the young, innocent hero without any knowledge of who she truly is other than the daughter of a Pirate Queen, Ryanna. A zealot church’s army of knights is destroying all the people like her mother and magical pirate family. As the knights chase down the girl who appeared in a prophecy as the one who contains the demon Xir, the girl must make difficult decisions between the love for her family, her original good nature to avoid killing, and her first romantic love.
Aella moves from feeling powerless to being like a god. In her attempt to save everyone, she sees that violence is the only way out and death is the only way to stop people from fighting. If Kylo Ren’s story was about a girl and the sea rather than a boy in space, it would be this beautifully rendered book filled with detailed panels and a select muted palette of greens, blues, and reds.
That’s the basic gist of volume one. Volume two is slated for September 2023.
Here’s a little more about why Sea Serpent’s Heir is breathtaking: the cast is diverse and drawn with such care. Readers will get to know enough about the secondary cast members who make up Aella’s family of pirates and sorcerers. This is a gang that is clearly “ride or die” for each other.
Opposing the energy of the pirates and the quiet life on Kinamen Isle, the Church of the First Light is on a quest to spread their religion like real world missionaries: first by asking; then by force. Their army is led by Captain Oren and guided by a seer named Mirena. This prophet Mirena knows about the destruction and all the many deaths that will happen, but insists it is fate and can’t be changed.
Free will versus fate is an age-old plot device in any hero’s journey. Aella’s relatability to modern girls is that she feels cooped up under the watchful eyes of her aunts and uncle. She doesn’t have any understanding or knowledge about why her mother needs her to be kept secluded and safe. As Aella discovers the truth about being sired by the powerful sea demon, Xir, she begins to see that she can make her own choices. She doesn’t have to obey her mother or Xir. She can accept the powers and take her own course of action. The pain and trauma is shown in every panel of Aella through her eyes and body language. The tones of her face change when Xir is puppeting her. Even young readers are unlikely to be confused to because of the actions in the panels and the change in the lines from a soft gentle girl to a rigid monster to be feared still inside the body of the girl.
Naturally, each side—the pirates and the church—feel they are the heroes. Young knight Bashir is naïve and believes he can fix all that’s wrong with the church. He thinks the violence can end if only Aella joined the church alongside him and spread a message of peace. Historically IRL, that doesn’t go well. Aella takes Bashir’s actions as a betrayal. She had always been obedient to her mother, her family, and then Bashir wanted her to follow his way too. She may be making enormous mistakes, but the freedom of having choices to make is more compelling to Aella than shifting her obedience to another master.
Content Note: though it’s in a fantasy setting, there is a lot of human death and violence.
Skybound has a teaching guide on their site for Sea Serpent’s Heir which includes Common Core pre-reading tips.
Rating: 5 stars