It’s no secret that I love rabbits. I was browsing the graphic novel section in a book store the other day and I saw this book and was immediately captivated by the artwork. I love graphic novels, and one of my all time favourite books is Watership Down, so a book featuring bunnies living in their own society had me hook, line and sinker.
“Cottons: The Secret of the Wind” is a graphic novel written by Jim Pascoe and illustrated by Heidi Arnhold. The first in the series, the story follows a young brown rabbit called Bridgebelle who works in a carrot factory and who cares for her ailing aunty. Bridgebelle’s job is to help convert carrots into cha, the energy that powers the Vale of Industry. Although she dreams of being an artist, using cha to make beautiful objects called thokcha, she is tied to the factory in order to support her aunty. However when her friend Croquet goes missing and the foxes who covet the cha grow more bold and more dangerous, Bridgebelle’s abilities and her tragic past can no longer go ignored.
This is a beautifully illustrated book with great character design and worldbuilding. Bridgebelle is an enigmatic, lonely young rabbit who is struggling to find her way in an increasingly dangerous world. I particularly liked the character Glee who seems particularly complex, and I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the steampunk vibe of the Vale of Industry. I also really liked Samiji, a brave and fiery young rabbit who joins the sect of rabbits who dedicate their life to windism. For a more detailed insight into the world of Lavender, there is a bit of a fictional overview of the history, society and culture at the back of the book.
I think some of the things that felt a little underdone were the foxes as antagonists and the concept of cha. Cha seems to at once be a power source, a material for making art, a narcotic and a potential weapon. I’m not always into high fantasy with super complex magic systems, but I did feel a little like cha needed a bit more explanation or at least something to pique the interest of the reader and make them curious to read more. There was some of that detail in the section at the back, but I think I would have liked it woven into the story a little more. I also didn’t quite get how the foxes could be so malignant and powerful, yet not be able to simply walk in and take over the factory.
A beautifully rendered story that perhaps leaves the reader with more questions than answers, I will be keeping an eye out for the second volume.