Friday, July 7, 2023

Today's read... Tower of God Volume One by S.I.U.

My teens are webtoon fans. Even my daughter, who isn't the hugest reading fan, has always had a soft-spot for graphic novels. As do most of her friends. So, in our family, I'm a bit behind on reading this one. I did make my kids keep their lips tight about what this one was about (which they did) before getting a chance to dive in myself. 

And here's my and their verdict.

Volume One
by S.I.U.
WEBTOON Unscrolled
YA Fantasy
288 pages

Twenty-Fifth Bam must journey skyward in a mysterious tower if he has any chance of reuniting with his best friend Rachel, even if that means facing his own death.

Before mysteriously disappearing into the tower gates before his very eyes, Rachel cautions Bam to forget all about her. Unwilling to lose her, Bam enters the Tower completely surrounded by Shinsu — a divine and magical water, at his own peril.

The Tower itself contains multitudes of floors as vast as continents, each one with its unique geography, language and culture. Confronted by skillful tests each step of the way, Bam meets powerful guardians and otherworldly environments, making his quest to the top no easy feat.

Beginning his journey, Bam is met by Headon, the first floor guardian and caretaker of the Tower who explains the rules of the Tower. At each level Bam is constantly tested for his strength, dexterity and wit. With help from fellow travelers and unlikely villains, Bam makes both allies and enemies in order to find Rachel; however her intentions of reconnecting with him become unclear as misinformation about her whereabouts do not add up. Behind each ascension is a revelation about their friendship, revealing a much deeper, darker secret.

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Friendship beams and shines in a dark and dangerous game, whose secrets promise to be more perilous than any deadly test could ever be.

Bam only knows that his dearest friend has been taken up into the Tower...and he's not about to let her go. With no training, special talents, or strengths, he enters the first level with the single goal of getting her back. When he meets the first guardian and learns that he'll need to pass a test at each level to advance to the next, he doesn't even flinch, although failing will cost him his life. 

I'd be lying if I said that the basic framework of the plot was extremely original. It's not. Bam arrives as a complete underdog and must make his way, battle after deadly battle, to the next level to reach his goal. But the author/illustrator has done a terrific job at creating characters, which dig in, and a world to let tension take root, while letting hope offer a worthy beacon to root for. 

Bam has everything an underdog hero needs and, thanks to the well-played illustrations, holds innocence against the dark surroundings to make him easy to root for. Quite a few other characters come into play in this first volume, each offering interesting personalities and complex interests, which promise much more weaving in the volumes to come. All the while, imagination lends for grabbing visuals, making each one unique in all the right ways. It was no problem to read this in one sitting and enjoy every moment.

The plot does take a darker tone, but while the tests can end in death, the graphics don't slide into the overly gory direction. It's just enough to make the stakes clear and keep the reader on the edge of their seat. To maintain balance, humor sprinkles in and takes the edge off at the right moments, while subtly creating room of growth and future twists. The intentions of the characters is as mysterious as the Tower itself and guarantees there will be tons of surprises along the way. 

As to the graphics, these take on a more traditional, manga style, which fit the tale nicely. There was a switch from dark to light halfway through, which joined the change in plot very well. 

The first volume grabs in with danger, a hero to root for, and promises of complex twists and turns as the story unfolds. I am curious to see how this progresses and hope it can stay original enough the entire way through. While the story is exciting, there are still open questions surrounding life outside of the Tower and the background of everything. I'm assuming this world building will catch-up soon. But this first volume offered a fun launch into an exciting journey. 

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