Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is a folk horror story of adolescence from H1’s second batch of titles. After the Ignited universe, newer series like Meyer and Big Country bring in more genres. Each of which detail a humanizing experience for readers to follow. Going through puberty at its peak is a very good concept. But does the execution match the concept’s quality?
Nicnevin is Bloody Drama
Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen follows Helen Mullane’s titular protagonist who is going through a very compelling drama scenario. At the tender age of 15, she is among the one-in-five teens conflicting with family. After being expelled from school and with her parents apparently going through a divorce, Nissy with her mother and brother stay in the countryside for the summer. While there Nissy goes through some believable albeit risky things like sneaking cigarettes and lusting for her much older neighbor Reggie. Which in turn awakens her secret magical heritage that causes animals to go into an orgy.
Unfortunately, Nissy is not that great a character to get behind. Her rotten personality makes her rather cringing to read. Especially since the audience never really sees why Nissy is so angry with her mother. Or even why she values her father so much. The reader does not have a reason to vouch for Nissy’s behavior since they don’t know what’s going on.
A Fair Folk
As for the magical world that serves as the main plot, it brings in some great interest. Surrounding Nissy and her encounters with Reggie are folktales surrounding the setting. This makes the setting feel as much of a character as the cast. Complete with how it interacts with the cast and how it calls them to action. Nissy gets glimpses of the magic underneath everything and Reggie wants to find the fairyland.
There are some elements of the book that take away the tension and horror. As much as the magic shows itself to Nissy, she’s rather passive about all of it. Most of the time she just notices animals acting strange and goes back to what she was doing. While there is death befitting the folk horror, those deaths don’t really have a lot weight until near the end. Before the climax, Nissy just reacts to it as much as the animals. If Nissy gave more of a reaction, the tension would be immensely higher.
Nicnevin Demands Great Art For The Bloody Queen
Dom Reardon and Matthew Dow Smith’s art evokes similar supernatural horror stories like Hellboy. Some pieces of the story even share the pitch-black shading against bright surfaces of Hellboy. The contrast between known safety and mysterious evil feels apparent. Even in the brightest of days, there is still a shadow of danger lurking in the corner. Thanks to both artists experience in the horror genre, this is a given.
The fantasy sequences throughout the story feel enriching. Nissy finds herself welcomed to the folkloric stories of old Britain through her dream-like fantasies. They feel so important that when Nissy decides to partake in the flowers’ potion language to get Reggie’s love, the lettering captions match the text from folk texts she finds. When the fantasies come alive near the end however, they feel absolutely alien to the reader and some characters; emphasized by the difficult to read fonts of some texts. Even with the way the fae speak, green word balloons show how alien they are. What once seems fascinating becomes genuinely terrifying. Because no matter how familiar an outsider can be to this world, the fae reminds them that they are not a part of it.
Blood Queen Nicnevin Demands Familiarity
In all circumstances, Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen is best for people familiar with folk horror. The characters can be pretty forgettable, especially when they make adolescence feel cheap. None of them feel like they need care unless the plot demands it. Which is a shame because the artwork evokes feelings of both beauty and terror.