If there was one book that came out this year that stood apart from all the others in every respect it would have to be Craig Thompson's 'Habibi'
The first thing you notice about this graphic novel is its size. At just under 700 pages, it is a hefty tome and no doubt. That and the beautifully detailed embossed and gilt hardcover lend it an air of something instantly unusual, almost magical.
The detailing doesn't stop on the cover, throughout this book the art work is meticulous in its every aspect. Each page looks like it would have taken Thompson an age and an unparalled amount of patience to complete, just flicking through and taking in the incredibly intricate use of patterns and calligraphy will blow your mind. Drawing this book alone, by rights, should have taken up all, if not more, of the 7 years since his last book, Carnet de Voyage. So where on earth he found the time write the story is a mystery. However, don't think for a second that the story plays second fiddle to the art.
This Epic (with a definite capital E) tale is set in a fictional land, largely based around the Middle East but also incorporating other places, and in an indeterminate historical period that blends the medieval and the modern. Thompson manages to weave together a whole host of different societies and cultures, their religions, their landscapes and the people who live in them, crafting a new landscape and people from them in such an unbelievably seamless way. The plot focuses on the a girl, Dodola, and a boy, Zam and their ceaseless struggle through life. In the face of drastically shifting cirncumstances, a changing relationship, and numerous separations and reunions, they manage to maintain a unique bond of love and friendship.However, what Habibi is really about, even more significant than these melodramatic events, is the myths, legends, fables, folklore and particularly relgious parables that the characters tell each other, stories within stories that Thompson has researched to an astounding degree.
Ultimately there are no words that can convey the truth of this book, there's too much happening in it between the Plot and sub-plots and the astounding artowrk that it defies definiton, and that is the magic of it. A thing that can only be fully appreciated by picking up a copy and getting stuck in.
The other thing that will shock about this book is the price, even at the full price of £20, it's a ridiculous steal. just compare the size of it to any other graphic novel at that price! the fact that we're offering a further discount on it leaves you with very little excuse for not picking this book up!
Please note that some adult themes in this book make it unsuitable for younger readers.