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Becoming Sentient: A Review of the SENTIENT Preview

Sentience Cover Art by Dany Rivera, Band of Bards

Despite their similarities, there’s always been a sort of distance between the world of prose stories and the world of sequential art. There have been times when the line has blurred – for example, Watchmen’s incorporation of newspaper articles and excerpts from a character's memoir – but the interaction between comics and prose has most often been adaptation one way or the other: from comic to expanded universe novel or from novel to comic.

However, Sentience is not quite a comic and not quite a novella. Band of Bards’ American light novel format is truly something in between, taking the best bits of prose and the best bits of comics and blending them together for an unforgettable reading experience.

Dany Rivera’s art in Sentience isn’t supplementary to the story, it is the story. From pages where the text wraps around the illustrations, to the seamless inclusion of sequential art, the illustrations are essential to the energy and tone of the story. The illustrations in the first chapter all add a sense of movement to the prose in a way that a completely text-based book can’t. You can feel the motion of the centipede-like wagons crawling along the forest, and the looming threat of the Witch-Queen pouncing onto Kyra. In a scene as action-heavy as this first chapter, it’d be easy for the art to distract from the action, or worse, break the tension of the fight completely, but that’s not what happens here. Each illustration is placed thoughtfully to enhance the moment.

Sentience Interior by Dany Rivera & Elyse Russell, Band of Bards

Meanwhile, Elyse Russell’s prose allows us to see the interiority of characters in a way that comics often can’t capture. Tessienne and Kyra lend themselves to two tonally different writing styles. This tone shift is evident between the prologue in Tessienne’s point of view and chapter one in Kyra’s, allowing for an interesting juxtaposition: The Bone Witch Tessienne’s grimdark and tactical brutality vs. Kyra’s biting wit in a world where she revels in doing what she does best, violence. The one throughline is cruelty – both Tessienne's and Kyra’s – which seems to come to each as easily as breathing. In this opening chapter, Kyra is undeniably her mother’s daughter.

Russell describes Sentience as “A story about growing up and forming your own morals, your own sense of what’s right and wrong separate from what you grew up with,” and even in these first two excerpts, her prose is poised to walk us through the sometimes subtle and sometimes jarring internal changes Kyra is bound to make on her journey to her own identity.

Altogether, the interiority of the prose and the momentum of the art will surely weave an unforgettable story in an innovative format. Don't miss the opportunity to back this book while you can!

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