The only son of King Awale and Queen Warsan, Prince Afrah is heir to the entire kingdom of “Jayrikas”, a secret land at the edge of the world, frozen in ice where strange things happen under the midnight sun. At a very young age, Afrah has trained under Master Warrior Kosugi and is on his way to becoming one of the most formidable warriors the North has ever seen, which is good because the biggest battle of his life is coming
Afrah is a 12-year-old boy living with his mom, Warsan, in Gaalkaycyo, Somalia. Since his father, Awale, moved to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Afrah has been having some trouble at school. Unable to control his emotions, Afrah keeps getting sent home for fighting with his classmates, much to his parents’ chagrin.
Working as a cabdriver in Yellowknife, Awale is struggling to reconnect with his son. In order to help Afrah with his anger, he begins writing a graphic novel and sends him snippets along the way. The story takes place in a magical winter kingdom named Jayrikas, and it centres on Prince Afrah, a young Somali prince who must learn to tame his own anger by saving his parents from the evil White Bahaals, zombie-like creatures who are trapped beneath a frozen lake.
Afrah becomes enthralled with this magical tale and cannot wait to read another chapter when life begins to imitate art. While out on a call, Awale is seriously injured by a disgruntled customer. Afrah, paralyzed with fear, but desperately wanting to take action, decides he can help his father by continuing his story. Afrah begins writing, putting all his emotions into his new chapter, and that is how Prince Afrah is able to defeat the White Bahaals and save his parents in order to become the King Warrior.
The story ends on a happy note. Awale recovers, and both Afrah and Warsan travel to Yellowknife to reunite their family.
A fast-paced read, King Warrior is a truly unique graphic novel. Its multicultural storyline blends elements from the Canadian North, Somalia, and Finland, highlighting the unique complexities of the Canadian immigrant experience. The struggles of Awale, Afrah and Warsan are very relatable, and many children will find solace in Afrah’s ability to keep his family together no matter the cost. Bulckaert and Nyyssonen worked with Halima Mahamud, a cultural consultant, giving the storyline even more authenticity.
But it is Lucas Green’s illustrations that really stand out here. Not only does he seamlessly transition from one world to the next, but his use of colour, especially in the magical world of Jayrikas, makes readers feel like they have been transported to the Great White North and are watching the Aurora Borealis on a cold winter’s night.
Overall, a magically entertaining read, King Warrior is recommended for library collections.
Teresa Iaizzo is a Librarian with the Toronto Public Library in Toronto, Ontario.