Karen Haber Reviews The Thousand Demon Tree by Jeffrey Alan Love

The Thousand Demon Tree, Jeffrey Alan Love (Flesk 978-1-64041-010-7, $29.95, 93pp, hc) Au­gust 2019. Cover by Jeffrey Alan Love.

In The Thousand Demon Tree, Jeffrey Alan Love follows up his popular Notes from the Shadowed City (Flesk, 2017) with a powerful 96-page wordless graphic novel.

Love has painted an eloquent tale whose haunt­ing silhouettes and strange atmospheric effects create a timeless eerie story in which the reader is an active participant.

The imagery here is sparer than in his previous work and the silence is profound. The artist’s use of limited color, white space, and texture height­ens the strangeness of his story. Here, a man travels through a bleak and mysterious landscape, acquires a sword, a key, and directions from those he briefly encounters, both dead and alive, before arriving at his own fate.

Love plays with perspective and relies on the reader’s familiarity with cinematic tropes – sud­den close-ups, extended wide shots – to amp up his story. Adding to the impact are references to archaic imagery. The artist also plays with the reader’s expectations regarding heroes’ quests and their meaning, depicting mystery and transforma­tion, strange ritual, and hope.

He uses traditional materials to achieve his unusual and surprising images: ink and rollers, masking, overpainting, utilizing “mistakes,” or just being open, in general, to what happens dur­ing his process. Love has said he’s not interested in traditional drawing or painting, finding it too limiting and claustrophobic. His work is informed by his love of sequential art and graphic storytell­ing. He credits Mike Mignola’s work with making him aware of the need for breathing space and grace notes – a bird, a tree – in the midst of the ongoing story.

Love’s unique point of view and process have won him much acclaim and awards: the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist, the British Fan­tasy Award for Best Artist, a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators, two Silver Spectrum Fantastic Art Awards, and two Academy of British Cover Design Awards. He has also been nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal, the British Science Fiction Award and the Chesley Award. His clients have included Walker Books, DC Comics, Image Comics, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, The New Yorker, Scholastic, HarperCollins, Tor, Gollancz, Bal­lantine Books, Candlewick Books, Small Beer Press, Del Rey, and others.

Handsomely produced, from its endpapers to its glossy pages, The Thousand Demon Tree is a powerful tale that transcends genre.

This review and more like it in the August 2019 issue of Locus.

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