“Supernatural romance” is a genre I turn up my nose at. It’s not my thing. Sparkly vampires, rugged werewolves, and prancing shapeshifters are best left to readers with more limited imaginations. I usually liken it to the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd who wouldn’t know a well-written piece of kink fiction if it whipped them fifty times with a hardbound copy of the Marquis de Sade’s works. But I digress – I received the graphic novel adaptation of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Eternal: Zachary’s Story, and immediately found myself turned of. The cover art itself is so cheesy I could barely bring myself to peek inside.
The Fabio-like angel with flowing hair and wings that barely fit the body are the stuff of high school fanfiction. But to my surprise, once I started reading, I found myself interested, despite the embarrassment burning my cheeks. It’s nowhere near perfect, and at times far too contrived to be really enjoyable, but something kept me turning pages despite everything – perhaps it’s how earnest fallen angel Zachary really is. I saw the story through to the end, despite the silliness and the melodrama.
In a nutshell, Zachary is the guardian angel of a shy young girl named Miranda. She loves the theater and all the things people associate with “uncool” people. Zachary is there every time Miranda finds happiness or has her heart broken, and it’s obvious he’s fallen in love with her. After a slip-up he makes to help Miranda, he’s stripped of his status as a guardian angel and begins life as a human, depressed beyond belief – until, that is, he receives notice that he may well be reinstated as a guardian angel yet. He’s assigned to help out Miranda once morek, who’s been taken in as a sort of consort for vampire royalty. It’s a pretty awkward situation on its own, compounded by Zachary’s feelings for Miranda and what he actually is, while planning the master vampire’s deathday celebration.
It’s about as awkward as it sounds, but Smith finds a way to sneak in near-intimate moments and plenty of melodrama. And all the way up until the admittedly sad ending, something about these textbook characters keeps you reading. Perhaps it’s the lilt of the graphic novel medium goading you to finish, or the fact that Miranda has grown into such a wholly unlikeable character as a vampire you can’t help but root for her comeuppance or her savior to swoop in. While the ending wasn’t what I had hoped for, I did find myself having had a lot of fun arriving there.
The black-and-white illustrations are a bit too contrived for my tastes, with uninspired character designs, but there’s no denying there’s an exhaustive attention to detail contributed by the talented Ming Doyle. I also wasn’t a fan of the book size, since it fit oddly on the bookshelf, but that’s neither here nor there.
Eternal: Zachary’s Story may have been better enjoyed in its original novel format, but despite many aspects I did not enjoy, I found myself becoming drawn in here and there by earnest situations. It’s still overwhelmingly sappy and mired in the confines of all that’s teenybopper romance, but it’s got some bright spots too. Ming Doyle’s artwork helps bring the cheesy storyline to life, even if I’d have preferred more stylized designs for the characters. It’s far from perfect, but I can see plenty of young vampire/werewolf/angel/demon obsessed teens finding plenty to love here, especially in the form of Zachary, even if Eternal is quite fluffy fare.
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Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ming Doyle (art)
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