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Book: “Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds” by Camilo Moncada Lozano & Angel Di Santiago (Colorist)
Publishing Info: IDW Publishing, April 2023
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from the publisher.
Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound
Book Description: Navigate through monsters, mysteries, and the will of the gods with two young extraordinary adventurers in fifteenth-century Mesoamerica as they search for a missing father.
Donají is a fearless Zapotec girl who, even though she’s only fifteen, is heralded as a hero by her village. In Codex Black, Donají sets out on an adventure–accompanied by the god that lives inside of her poncho–to find her missing father. Along the way, she meets an 18-year-old winged Mexica warrior named Itzcacalotl, and over time their temporary partnership blooms into an incredible friendship.
The search brings the young pair closer to danger and deeper into mystery than either could have predicted. What exactly was Donají’s father involved with? And how did a simple search for a missing relative lead Donají and Itzcacalotl into a fight with a terrifying bat monster to defend an entire village?!
Review: Thank you to IDW Comics for sending me an eARC of this graphic novel!
I told myself that I was going to try and do more graphic novels this year, as I felt like 2022 was a bit more sparse than it should have been. And with that goal I’ve found some pretty fun reads, some of which have been suggested to me or offered up, and were therein probably not been on my radar without the outside help. And that’s really worked out in my favor! The most recent of these is “Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds”, a young adult fantasy graphic novel that takes place in a pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and involves two teenagers who have found themselves with magical abilities and powers. The premise alone sounded awesome, and when I saw the artwork I was even more eager to dive in!
“Codex Black: A Fire Among Clouds” is a really enjoyable first volume in the series. It has a lot it has to do in terms of setting up time and place, as well as a cast of characters, AS WELL as building a fantasy world within a historical context. We meet our two protagonists and see where they fit into the story, and Lozano does a great job of not only introducing them and making them connect, we also get a great sense for who they are. The first is Donají, a Zapotec teenage girl from a mountain village, is determined to find her father, a man who left their village and never returned, but did leave behind a poncho that houses the God Chicahualizteotl, who is there to assist her on her journey. The second is Itzcacalotl, a teenage Mexica boy who, while on a caravan with warriors, falls into a cavern and is gifted with crow wings. These two teens eventually come together and begin a journey of fantastical proportions, as Donají looks for her missing father and Itzcacalotl comes along for the ride and stumble upon thieves, monsters, and historical figures. I really loved both Donají and Itzcacalotl and their characterizations, and how Lozano slowly peels back and explores their personalities, strengths, and flaws. Dojaní is feisty and strong willed, while Itzcacalotl is a bit more reserved but also very determined to prove himself, and together they make an endearing team. I loved seeing them start to realize the powers that they both are wielding, be it the protectiveness of Donají’s poncho or Itzcacalotl’s wings, and how they interacted with friends, foes, historical figures (like Cosijoeza, one of the last coquitaos of the Zapotec people), and monsters from Mesoamerican lore and myth.
But what stood out to me most in this graphic novel was the VERY well presented historical context and information that was provided at the back of the book. As a woman who went to an American high school at the turn of the 21st century, I have VERY little working knowledge about Mesoamerican/Pre-Columbian civilizations and cultures (outside of a grade school unit on the Mayans). I’ve learned bits here and there through other books I’ve read, but it’s not extensive. So I LOVE that Lozano has such a great, accessible, and thorough historical notes section at the end of the book. It talks about the various myths of these different groups of people, and also gives historical notes and context to the events that were going on in Mexico during the time of this book before European imperialism started to take over. Given that I had been opening multiple tabs on my browser to look up some of this context, finding a good deal of it at the end of the PDF was really refreshing.
And finally, the artwork. I like Lozano’s style, with clear influence by manga and anime, with all the intricate details that harken to the cultures and styles of the people that the story is about. It’s varied and unique and I really liked it.
I will definitely be going forward in the “Codex Black” series. It’s so unique and filled with so much heart, I really can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Rating 8: Filled to the brim with fantastical mythology, engaging and well presented history, enjoyable characters, and lots of heart to spare, “Codex Black: A Fire Among Clouds” is a great introduction to a fun fantasy adventure!
“Codex Black (Book 1): A Fire Among Clouds” would fit in on the Goodreads list “Mesoamerican Mythology in YA and MG Fiction”.