Forest of Bones by David Kennett
Omnibus, 2014. ISBN 9781862919884
(Age: 10+) Recommended. This is well-known illustrator, David Kennett's, first graphic novel. It is set in 9CE and is based on the defeat of the Roman Army in Teutoburg forest.
For those with a passion for history there is much to learn in this realistic telling. It provides the reader with a clearer understanding of the size and nature of the Roman Empire and its army as it documents the campaign seasons and the effect the Romans had on a conquered peoples. Their passion for order is no more clearly expressed than by Ursus who worries that, 'sometime in his future he would look up an find the night sky had been ordered in the Roman way, its magical lights in neat rows and the moon a white square.' p. 141
On the other side are the Germanic Cherusci people who cling to the mythology of their past where they are capable of shape shifting and worship the bones of bears hung in the forest trees.
For those who love a good story this book also has a lot to offer. The action largely revolves around the friendship which develops between Ursus, who has a deep seated hatred of the Romans and Canus, 'the dog boy' who is a slave to the Roman Governor, Vanus. Through their shared love of animals the boys become friends and bond strongly over their dual ownership of the wolf cub, Hercules. It is through this friendship that Ursus discovers that 'things were never straightforward the way his grandfather had promised they would be if he just hated the Romans. They were like a forest that entangle everything' p. 132 and 'spending time with the Romans and getting to know them was dulling the blade of his hatred'. p. 151
The uneasy peace which pervades much of the story is spectacularly disrupted when the Cherusci gather their forces to reclaim their land. The resulting thrilling climax is a brutal, frenzied battle which Kennett illustrates with evocative accuracy.