Amy Unbounded: A Subtle Story of Girl Power
Amy of Eddybrook is your typical tomboyish nine year old girl, eager to explore and play with the neighboring farm's youngest boy, while simultaneously beginning to read the "Belondweg," her country of Goredd's national epic about the titular warrior queen who saved her people from invaders.
But this summer, the summer she turns ten, is the time when everything changes. A young scholar has come to the area to study the local folklore--he claims to be named Ollpheist, but Amy soon figures out he's actually a dragon named Lalo in disguise. Her father's weaving business is threatened by the local guild who wants to rein in his independence. A local female textile merchant has her business threatened because she's unmarried. The family who lives on the neighboring farm is being divided between the two oldest siblings, who are struggling for control of the household. And Amy is discovering boys.
It's really amazing that Rachel Hartman, the writer and artist who created this book, was able to cram so much story into 6 short issues. True, there were six minicomics that came before this story (which unfortunately have not been collected together, as far as I can tell) which detail how Amy got her copy of "Belondweg," where she met Lala, and other issues of backstory and the like, and it is a real shame that the minicomics are not a part of this, but you'll barely notice after the first issue, because the story is so compelling with such interesting characters, not the least of whom is the precocious and passionate Amy, who doesn't necessarily understand everything that's going on around her but is curious enough to try to find out.
An element of this story I really liked was its subtle but powerful feminist tone to the story. Goredd is a very male-dominated nation, and we get to see both how women are disenfranchised in society and how they resist this disenfranchisement. From Amy's mother, a former nomadic barbarian who is unapologetic in refusing to conform to social standards, to her friend Pearl-Agnes, a rich textile merchant whose kitchen is a place for strong women to meet and discuss the goings on of society, to Niesta, the woman who really runs the farm next door to Amy (even though her brother is technically the head of the household), to the legendary Belondweg who Amy reads about all summer, we get plenty of examples of women who are strong, capable and intelligent. All this within a story where the fact that these women are strong and independant is largely not even the point of the story, a fact which somehow makes the book even more powerful as a feminist work.
All in all, a great book (although it would have been better had it included the minicomics). Definitely anyone who finds this should read it, particularly young girls looking for role models. Unfortunately as far as I know this is the only collection of these stories that I know of, but I'll definitely keep my eye out for Rachel Hartman in the future.