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Review: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

Delilah Dirk is not your average 19th century woman. Raised by globetrotting parents, she has traveled from the courts of Europe to America’s wild west to Japan, picking up not just new skills but a fervent love for adventure. Her chance meeting with the more ordinary Turkish lieutenant Erdemogul Selim takes them both on an adventure of flying boats, evil pirates, and a wild chase through the countryside.

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
By Tony Cliff
First Second, August 2013
ISBN: 978-1596438132
176 pgs, $15.99

There are a lot of graphic novels coming out with female leads, but none are quite like Delilah Dirk. Tony Cliff has created a heroine who is smart, skilled, and has a razor wit that makes her a delight to read about. A globetrotting soldier of fortune, Delilah takes the routine-bound Lieutenant Selim out of his comfortable life and introduces him to a life of adventure and danger that may seem too much for him, or maybe too good to give up.

Delilah and Selim’s worlds couldn’t be more different. The book starts out showing Selim’s mundane routine of working in the Janissary Corps, fighting for a share of the weekly pay for entertainment, and savoring a cup of tea. This is shown mostly wordlessly, giving a monotonous feeling to his life—until Delilah arrives. Then Selim’s life becomes anything but routine as Delilah’s swashbuckling ways sweep him away and he is branded a thief and traitor for supposedly helping her. “Help” is a relative term, as he causes more trouble for Delilah at first, leading to many of the humorous situations in the book. He starts to prove himself by the end, as he grows more accustomed to Delilah’s way of doing things and becomes less surprised by her antics.

I enjoyed the relationship between Delilah and Selim. They don’t start out as friends, as Delilah’s thievery gets Selim exiled from his home, but they do become companions. Delilah is often annoyed but patient with Selim’s lack of experience. He complains a lot, but his company helps the make the journey more enjoyable, and he does make a good cup of tea. Selim comes to respect Delilah for her skills and daring, even if he is dubious about her “liberating” of treasures. By the time their journey is close to an end, they have become quite good companions, and it’s disappointing when they go their separate ways.

The description for this title compares Delilah to Indiana Jones, but as I read the book, I found she reminded me of the Doctor from Doctor Who. If they ever had a female Doctor, she is how I would want her to be. Delilah is confident and cocky but has the knowledge and skills to back her words up. She comes in like a whirlwind, sweeping Selim off his feet and into the adventure of his life with excitement and danger. Selim is the perfect companion, needing Delilah’s help but not completely helpless himself. And while Selim protests that he just wants to settle down and live a quiet life, the taste of adventure is too sweet to pass up. The story and characters fit the formula perfectly, making this a great story, not to be passed up.

Cliff’s art only added to the enjoyment of the story. The characters are drawn with a more realistic feel. I loved that Delilah still had feminine touches while being the fighter. Selim has some great expressions as he is tossed from one crisis to another. The coloring was subtle and suited the characters and story.

If you are looking for a story that is filled with fun and adventures with rich, colorful characters, then you can stop right here. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is a page-turner you won’t want to put down. The book is perfect for both boys and girls, and the role reversal of Delilah and Selim makes them both good role models. No library or graphic novel collection should be without this book.

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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