Imagine an alternate Victorian England where fairies are real, but only fairy doctors can see them. This is the world of The Earl and the Fairy – Volumes 1-2, a manga adaption by Ayuko of the novel by Mizue Tani.
Fairy doctors can only see and speak to fairies, not perform magic themselves, so they act as ambassadors between faeries and the world of man. Lydia Carlton, a young fairy doctor setting up shop in Scotland, has been sought out by two parties seeking the Treasure Sword—abducted by one, then “rescued” by the other.
One of the parties, the roguish Edgar J.C Ashenbert, wants the sword to prove he is the rightful heir to the Blue Knight Earl’s title. The other party seeks the sword’s Star Sapphire for the wealth it will bring. Unfortunately, neither side can decipher the riddle that hides the sword’s location. How lucky for Lydia that she can.
That story is told in The Earl and the Fairy – Volumes 1-2, taking Lydia from her sleepy, but unappreciated life as a country fairy doctor to first captivity upon the open seas, then back to the mainland as a partner to seek out mermaids on an Irish island on the edge of England’s territories.
Ayuko does a nice job establishing setting while introducing mysteries to be revealed later. (I definitely recommend reading the Viz translated version as opposed to the fan translated version out there which is often incoherent in its narrative.)
Lydia is charming as a heroine, and the dashingly good-looking Edgar constantly catches her eye. Although Lydia’s character seems the damsel in distress far too often, she does show spunk and fends off Edgar’s advances well. Edgar is a manipulative ladies man who is as handsome as he is untrustworthy. Yet he is an interesting character and rarely disappoints as we watch him establish himself as the Blue Knight Earl, escaping certain death only by Lydia’s intervention.
In one volume, Ayuko discussed the difficulty in adapting this novel when choosing what to keep and what to discard in the manga. I felt volume two showed this difficulty the most. Parts of it felt rushed and incomplete. The pacing was off as character development warred with action from chapter to chapter. For example, when we saw the death of a character—a sequence that was beautifully rendered by Ayuko—the scene was as poignant as it was confusing since we never quite learned what that character’s motivation was.
Fortunately, the payoff was worth the rough parts in The Earl and the Fairy – Volumes 1-2. Ayuko’s art is lovely and brings Tani’s story to life. The mermaid world, especially, was wonderfully illustrated and captured the traditional Irish yarns of cities underneath the waves. The bad guys may have suffered an ignominious fate off screen—taking their unclear motives and background story to their graves—but Edgar & Lydia’s tale took a fantastical turn. The reader should feel well rewarded.
Release Date: March 6, 2012 / June 5, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: vol.1 1421541688 (9781421541686)
vol.2 1421541696 (9781421541693)
Publisher: Viz Media
Original Title: 伯爵と妖精 (Hakushaku to Yōsei)
Language: 1 (minor expletives)
Violence: 2 (implied torture/execution, fights with knives and guns)