Peach and the Isle of Monsters doesn’t waste any time getting started. Within a couple of pages, we have a good sense of Peach: a strong and lively young woman, though one bullied by her peers for her unusual name and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth (she was found inside a peach, a la Momotarō). When her adoptive father gives her a sword and then suddenly tells her to leave his home—“I realize I may have sheltered you too much my child. It is imperative that you go out and find your own way in this world.”—she sets about a new life as an adventurer. First stop: Monster Isle, to reclaim assorted goods stolen from the townspeople.
The adventures that follow are full of danger, excitement, and opportunities for Peach to prove herself. For a book aimed at younger readers, she’s the perfect heroine: fierce and determined, but also compassionate, kind, and a little naive about the wider world. It’s just the right combo for a fun coming-of-age adventure, and also paves the way for different, better solutions to problems than simply jumping into a fight. The vibrant art, characterised by bold lines and blocky colours laid over parchment-esque texturing, brings Peach’s adventures vividly to life.
They’re certainly exciting, from fleeing bears to fending off ancient, magical creatures while sailing with a crew of pirates, with a good dose of lightheartedness and warm moments to balance out the action. That said, pacing is messy: The Isle of Monsters covers two separate (but related) outings, months apart, and each somehow manages to feel both drawn out and incomplete. Scenes that are relatively inconsequential in the scheme of things—in terms of both plot development and the atmosphere that a well-crafted quiet moment can build—often overstay their welcome, while the most dramatic, climactic moments are over in a flash. Peach is a wonderful heroine, but she’s surrounded by a forgettable supporting cast, and I can’t help but think a more focused story would land better (and neatly pave the way for a second volume).
It probably won’t become a must-read on many people’s bookshelves, but Peach and the Isle of Monsters is an enjoyable enough outing, especially for its target 8 to 12 age group. The young at heart might be put off a bit more by the uneven pacing and dull secondary characters, but Peach herself is a delightful and inspiring protagonist, with exciting adventures to undertake and a bold art style to bring them to life.
Peach and the Isle of Monsters by Franco, Agnes Garbowska, and Zac Atkinson. Published by Action Lab Entertainment; available now.
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.