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The Weirn Books Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods

The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Wood
By Svetlana Chmakova
JY/Yen Press $13

In the sleepy New England coastal town of Laitham there’s something creepy and haunting that co-exists amongst the humans. The witches, vampires, mermaids, werewolves, shape shifters, and more roam the lands and make a living in this quaint town. Laitham is also the home for a special type of witch called weirns who are bonded with a demon guardian spirit at birth (think a black and white ghost-type Pokemon) called astrals. An astral is fiercely loyal to their weirn and serves as a their protector and guardian.

Ailis is a young middle-school weirn. With her parents away, she lives with her grandmother Julia (who is also a witch) in the apartment right above her grandmother’s magic store. She is best friends with her cousin Na’ya, who is also her age and obsessed with dragons. Na’ya and her younger brother D’esh are also weirns.

At school, Ailis and Na’ya also have the usual problems – but their school is like no other! The girls attend the Night School – a normal school during the day for humans but at night it transforms magically into a Hogwarts-like learning center for the night things.

In between classes with spell casting, alchemy, cryptozoology, astral training, and more, Ailis has to deal with her crush on Russ (a teenage werewolf), astral training gone haywire, and her nemesis Patricia, who is so perfect that she literally sparkles. After Na’ya accidentally ruins the astral race by creating a torrential rain, the girls are not improving their status in school at all.

When helping their grandmother in her attic the girls discover a picture of grandmother when she was young and are shocked to find out she had a twin brother named Jacen who disappeared years ago while attending the all-weirn Mansion in the Silent Woods school. When they were young, Ailis’ grandmother skipped school and on that same day Jacen, as well as the entire class of students including the headmistress, mysteriously vanished and were never seen again. The old mansion still exists but is rundown and abandoned.

When a mysterious cloaked, white-masked figure is seen in the Silent Woods and students start disappearing—including Patricia and D’esh—Ailis, Na’ya, and their friends try to figure out the mystery of the Mansion of the Silent Woods and the apparent return of the vile headmistress.

After three graphic novels in the much-acclaimed Berrybrook Middle School series (Awkward, Brave, and Crush) Svetlana Chmakova is returning to her spooky roots in a new middle school series based in the same world as her 2009 series Nightschool. The new series is set in the same world as Nightschool, but with a slightly younger audience in mind.

The first volume was a lot of fun, and Svetlana is in her element that made her a household name as a rising neo-manga artist in the graphic novel series Dramacon and Nightschool. Ailis is a spunky and nerdy weirn who even among her own peers of creatures and monsters is a misfit, and she and her cousin Na’ya are a joy to read. The world-building of having a Hogwarts-like school is fun, and the mix of monsters in the classes is really enjoyable, as is the creepy threat of the Headmistress and her shrouded companion. The astrals also are very creative and each of their feral-like personalities is fun to explore.

If you have the Berrybrook series and are looking for a fun follow-up from Svetlana Chmakova, the Weirn Books’ first book in what promises to be an ongoing series is that perfect fit for manga fans looking for some light horror and mystery. Yen Press has also reissued the original Nightschool series in two collections that are highly recommended for your teen library collection.

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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