By Dustin Cabeal
I will be absolutely forthcoming and tell you that I usually do a hard pass on anything related to the Loch Ness monster. It’s not that the stories have all been done before, but it’s just nothing of particular interest to me as a reader. When you’re a reviewer though, you read things that aren’t of your interest for a lot of reasons. The main reason is to find diamonds in the rough or give insight for those that are interested in a particular genre.
Like a most Loch Ness stories, there is an explanation of where the “monsters” or as they’re called in The Hidden Loch, “Paddle Giants.” The explanation is actually in the title. Through a series of tunnels that are difficult to access due to the current, there’s a special area of the ocean untouched by “drywalkers,” in which sea creatures are protected. Extinct species exist and somewhat thrive in the hidden loch.
They have a ritual called the “Arck” in which the leader Paddle Giant will go to the surface and see what’s going on up there. Hence the different sightings which was a clever bit. It’s during one of these Arck’s that our main character Nessandra’s grandmother is killed, igniting a hatred for drywalkers within her. As Nessandra grows up, she groomed to be the new leader of the loch, but her adopted sister gets her into trouble because she’s jealous of Nessandra. On the outside world, there are two human parties that are looking to find the hidden loch, and of course, one side is good, and the other is bad.
The story is geared towards a younger reader. It’s fairly predictable in its journey, both for the characters and for the plot. To go into it too much reveals almost the entire story, so I won’t be doing that. There are several messages that the story is conveying to the reader. A lot of it has to do with change, but there are subplots about trust and jealousy. The only real issue with this is that they aren’t subtle in the least bit.
The part of the writing that struggles the most is the dialogue. It is very choppy and full of exposition. Also, one of the characters has thought bubbles, but none of the other characters use this writing device. At least it’s consistent, but it doesn’t seem like the thought bubbles were needed. The story also jumps ahead a lot after giving information, the exposition explains what we need to know, and instead of showing any of it with the art it jumps to something else for the art to show. The overall reading experience isn’t bad, but it’s not as smooth as you’d like a graphic novel to be.
Also on the younger side of things is the artwork. It has an afternoon cartoon vibe to it and by no means is that a slam. While I’m not personally a fan of sea creature characters, my tastes aside, the art is consistent and talented all the way through. The characters all have believable and consistent designs. Consistency is the key for any story taking place underwater because it’s very distracting to see a character look different ten pages later. What’s also very talented about the artwork is that the story progresses over time and so the reader sees Nessandra grow, but have the same resemblance.
While I wouldn’t recommend The Hidden Loch to adults, I would highly recommend it for younger readers that perhaps enjoy monsters or myths. The story has strong female characters making it a great pick for young girls, but there’s enough here to interest young boys as well. The story can continue which is nice, and hopefully, with future volumes, it’ll gain some more polish and shine a bit brighter.
The Hidden Loch
Writer: Marlaine Maddux White
Artist: Claude St. Aubin
Inker: James Taylor
Colorist: Mike Garcia
Publisher: Penny-Farthing Productions