Syv is the youngest prince of the snowcats, beasts who have lost much of their magical abilities. He has learned that the sandfoxes are his enemy. But when he goes on a quest to try to set things right, is there more to the story? Find out in The Snowcat Prince from Oni Press.
THE SNOWCAT PRINCE
Writer: Dina Norlund
Artist: Dina Norlund
Editor: Grace Scheipeter
Publisher: Oni Press
Cover Price: $14.99
Release Date: March 8, 2023
Previously in the Snowcat Prince: The Nordan Horizon was a peaceful, magical place ruled by the Eldking of the Snowcats. But things have changed, the magic is gone, and those times live on only through legend. Young Syv, a Snowcat prince, loves the story of the Eldking and dreams of finding the Eldking’s crown.
VENTURING ON A QUEST
The Snowcat Prince is a graphic novel appropriate for readers around grades 3-7, and certainly enjoyable beyond that range. It takes the classic hero’s journey and adds a few twists that make it feel more relevant in the modern world. I also like the way it includes folkloric elements.
Syv is one of seven snowcat princes, and he is the youngest. Ever since he was a very small snowcat, he has loved the story of the wise and powerful snowcat Eldking. His powers, or aura, were very strong, but the sandfoxes, also magical creatures wanted the aura for themselves. They tainted the land with bad aura. The Eldking had his smiths forge him a crown to increase his powers. Instead, the foxes stole it and cursed them. When snowcats betray their honor, they gain black stripes, and when they get three stripes, they disappear in humiliation. The hope is that one day they will regain the crown and triumph over the foxes.
The snowcats rule a city that is inhabited by humans. When the king dies, it is they who will choose which prince becomes the king. The older brothers have seen that Syv is popular among the people. Where they have been content to live in the palace and take offerings from people, Syv feels comfortable going out among them. They devise a plan. They show him a map that they have found, a map that leads to the Eldking’s crown! And unfortunately, all the rest of them are too busy to go out on a quest for it. But Syv could go.
And so begins his quest. In fairly short order, he steps into a snare and meets the hunter, a strange, red-haired girl. She sets him free but spots his map. She recognizes that he is a snowcat and assumes he is looking for the crown. She wants to go with him. He refuses. She is going the same way he is, for now, and travels with him anyway. Her name is Kit, and they become friends.
On their travels, they find a town where the bad aura has been seeping close. A tainted bear approaches, ready to attack. Syv feels he must do something, so he steps up between the bear and the people. Magic crackles from his paws and seems to release the bear, just before a man shoots it. The town must move; they are too close to the bad aura now. Syv steps up and says he will save the town. The man tells the people to ignore the kitten. Snowcats are liars. Syv, who has never ventured beyond his home, is hurt. He is even more surprised when he discovers he has gained a black stripe. He has betrayed snowcat honor and does not understand how.
Along the way, he discovers that the map he has is not accurate. Still, he keeps going. He has a run-in with some foxes (who are also shapeshifters) who threaten to hurt Kit. He stands up to them, his magic flares, and he earns a second stripe. It is not until they reach another Horizon that he realizes that Kit seems to know where they are going. She has led him to the land of the sandfoxes.
And that is where he learns that the history he knows is one-sided. It does not tell the full story. He has grown up learning that sandfoxes are not to be trusted, but he has also seen things that don’t seem to match what he expected. Now he is on his own and must figure out for himself what it really means to be a snowcat, and what the stripes mean.
FIGURING OUT THE TRUTH
The art of The Snowcat Prince is gorgeous. The snowcats and sandfoxes have some Asian-style design elements which not only set them apart as magical creatures but allow for them to have a lot of individuality. The snowcats may all be in shades of white and blue, but the way they are presented lets us see at a glance what their personalities are. Syv, as the youngest, still looks like a kitten, and he is adorable and fluffy. When he realizes he must go on his quest alone, he steps up, but we can see that inside, he is frightened. I like this because I do think it will speak to younger readers as well. It really makes it easy for us to be on Syv’s side.
When we meet Kit, she looks like an untidy human girl. She has an enormous mane of messy red hair with twigs in it. Her outfit does not look local. She plays jokes on Syv and seems to talk without doing much listening. There are moments when she is alone that she looks as though something is bothering her. After we learn that she is a sandfox, we can see from her human form that there are other clues. I like how subtle these clues are, just enough so that the reveal does not feel like it came out of nowhere.
Much of the land has been tainted by evil magic for hundreds of years. The aura has not taken over everything yet, so some places along the journey are full of life. Syv and Kit reach one border area where the trees grow much taller than in the Nordan Horizon. It is beautifully presented, and it seems almost funny that Syv is frightened of it. But there are also enormous areas where there is not as much water as there should be, areas where the trees have died and there are few plants. The book does not have an overt ecological message, but rather uses this as visual language to show where places have been damaged.
BOTTOM LINE: A TERRIFIC BOOK FOR READERS OF ALL AGES
The Snowcat Prince is a wonderful story with brilliant art. It is a hero’s journey, but nestled within is the not only the concept of doing right, but learning to be open-minded. It is hard for Syv to learn that his beloved story may not be entirely true, but that does not stop him from trying to do what is right, not just for the snowcats, but for the sandfoxes and everyone else.
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The Snowcat Pricne
Syv, the youngest snowcat prince, must go on a quest alone.