PUBLISHERS WEEKLY --
This historical adventure by married comics veteran writers Christos and Ruth Gage pulls from the real-life struggle of the
Waldensians, a pre-Protestant religious sect in France that was often in conflict with the Catholic Church. Depicting events from the early 17th Century,
the story follows farmer Joshua Janavel, who through circumstances out of his control becomes the leader of his people in rebellion, as the French government bears down on them with the intent of ripping their religion apart and slaughtering as many of them as they can while doing so. Well-researched and realized, the struggle of folk hero Janavel to save his people takes on the flavor of a Robin Hood adventure, without becoming too fantastical or unbelievable. Some dramatic action and dialogue falls into adventure-story clichés, but that doesn't take away too much from the larger story's impact, and such attention given to an off-the-beaten path moment from history is certainly welcome. Lewis's art has historical detail with a clear storytelling style. A further-reading section offers plenty of areas for investigation.
BOOKLIST - Joshua
Janavel and his seventeenth-century farming community in the Alps have faced years of persecution by the Duke of Savoy. Roused by Janavel's brilliant tactics and heartfelt speeches, the Waldensian peasants repel countless attacks against insurmountable odds, an incursion that would later inspire other rebellions,
like the French and American Revolutions. Basing their book on historic events,
the coauthors have written Janavel's story much like a blockbuster movie script,
with plenty of suspense, over-the-top action, and daring escapes. Though this format turns some of the characters more into stereotypical movie fodder than historical figures, it nonetheless makes for compelling reading. Lewis' artwork sometimes feels cartoonish, given the serious subject matter, but it helps lessen the violence and gore of the brutal story, which might make it more appropriate for a younger audience. A great perspective on a historical event few Americans know anything about.
LIBRARY JOURNAL --
Written by Christos Gage (Avengers Academy) and
Ruth Fletcher Gage and illustrated by Lewis, this graphic novel takes the reader back to the stories of how Joshua Janavel became known as the Lion of Rora.
Janavel, a member of the Waldensian Church, was born in 1617 in Rora, Italy. A
prosperous farmer-turned-courageous and renowned battle tactician, Janavel led his fellow villagers in defense of their religious freedom against attacks by the Duke of Savoy to rid Italy of Protestantism. Eventually, Janavel's people regained ownership of their villages and land, but he was exiled to Switzerland.
In the same vein as Gene Luen Yang's Boxers and Saints, The Lion of
Rora presents moments of history depicted with captivating art. The illustrated format provides a unique perspective on historical fiction and nonfiction; here, death is depicted without being gory and excessive, while emotion is easily conveyed across the faces of those involved in Janavel's history. VERDICT Recommended for large graphic novel collections serving teens and adults with room to spare on niche historical fiction. A potentially useful springboard for instructors in an academic setting.