Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2023) Featured Review of The Witch Owl Parliament: Clockwork Curandera, Vol. 1 by David Bowles and Raúl the Third

The Witch Owl Parliament: Clockwork Curandera, Vol. 1 by David Bowles and Raúl the Third
Tu Books
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
ISBN: 9781620145920

Set in an alternative colonial Mexico of the 1860s, the Franco siblings, Cristina and Enrique, are pulled by tragedy into a mysterious world of conspiracy, alchemy, and witches. Cristina is an apprentice curandera, a Christian-magic based healer, and while at a train station waiting for her brother, she is killed by three lechuzas, witch owls. Enrique uses alchemy, a crime in their society, and robotic parts to bring Cristina back to life. Now an outcast with super strength, Cristina, Enrique, and Enrique’s friend Mateo search for answers about the witch owls’ return, as it has been 300 years since they were wiped out. While the witch owls are taking refugees hostage, the group finds that the return of the witch owls has a connection with the mysterious death of Cristina and Enrique’s parents. 

This volume manages to deliver dense worldbuilding and beautiful artwork in this first, fast paced part of the Franco siblings’ story. Raúl the Third’s artwork has a distinct style and a limited color palette that work well with the age faded look of the pages. The witch owls look truly horrifying, and the artwork sets up the atmosphere of this world very well. The story also includes action and humor at the right moments.David Bowles revels in world building and, in his author’s note, he relays that he wanted to make a steampunk story outside of a euro-centric country and closer to the Mexico/Texas border areas where he grew up. Frankenstein is also a major influence on the story, but takes a unique approach to the classic with the emphasis on family, as well as the impact of colonialism and Christianity on Cristina, Enrique, and society as a whole. 

Hand this graphic novel to fans of Hazards of Love: Bright World by Stan Stanley, as both worlds are influenced by Mexican culture and also provide stories with mystery and horror elements. M is for Monster by Talia Dutton is another read-a-like that is a Frankenstein re-telling that focuses on identity and sisterhood. Finally, fans of the Shadowshaper series by Daniel José Older may want to try this series out, as both feature a Latinx female protagonist with magic unraveling a mystery.  

—Rachel Johannigmeier

Other Nominated Titles:

  • Free Speech Handbook: A Practical Framework for Understanding Our Free Speech Protections by Ian Rosenberg and Mike Cavallaro (November 30, 2021)
  • Coven by Jennifer Dugan and Kit Seaton (September 6, 2022)
  • Eat the Rich by Sarah Gailey and Pius Bak (May 1, 2022)
  • Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame (June 21, 2022)
  • Static: Season One by Vita Ayala and Nikolas Draper-Ivey (June 7, 2022)
  • Junkwraith by Ellinor Richey (January 18, 2022)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.