Luuna is set in a Disneyesque version of Native American culture: The main action is wrapped in lots of feathers, earth spirits, and clingy buckskin, with a trio of bumbling sprites thrown in for comic relief. Those looking for authenticity should go elsewhere, but taken on its own terms, the book works quite well.
The main character, Luuna, is strong, beautiful, and deeply in touch with nature, and all the creatures of the forest love her. The story begins with her vision quest, a coming-of-age ritual in which she must go into the forest and seek her totem, her guiding spirit. Unfortunately, she chooses the night of the evil spirit Unkui, and he demands her soul. With the help of a good spirit, she partially escapes from his spell but is left with two totems, a black and a white wolf, and whenever the moon is full, she falls under the spell of Unkui and is filled with destructive power.
The story arc of Luuna is very clear, although some of the details are confusing. Knowing that she has this dark side, Luuna cannot return to her tribe; instead, she sets out to rid herself of Unkui's totem, accompanied by her forest friends. When an encounter with Unkui's followers leads to disaster, her dark side takes over and she wreaks havoc on her enemies, leaving one of them strung up crucifix-style and impaled with a spear in the most violent scene in the book. Luuna returns to her normal self when the sun comes up, with only vague memories of what she has done. In the second half of the book, she meets up with the ghost of a storyteller and lifts an ancient curse, again by going to her dark side. This edition contains two volumes of the original French edition and thus two fairly complete stories; Tokyopop plans to publish the entire series in three volumes.
Luuna is basically good-hearted, yet when the moon is full and she is angered by injustice done to one of her friends, she makes a conscious choice to let herself go into Unkui's realm. A different personality takes over, and she becomes visibly feral, strong, and sly. On the one hand, Luuna is frightened by her own destructive power, yet at the same time, she finds its temptation irresistible.
The art in Luuna is vigorous and energetic. Facial features are exaggerated to the point of caricature, yet expressions and gestures are always easy to read. The story is populated with a wide variety of natural and supernatural creatures, and Keramidas draws his animals with solid, muscular power while keeping the sprites chubby and friendly.
While the story is in no way sexual, there are some nude scenes (from the rear) of people bathing or swimming in streams. The violence is straightforward but not overly graphic--several animals and people are killed in various ways but without gratuitous closeups or splattering blood. Younger readers may find the masks and supernatural aspects of the story somewhat frightening, but for older teens with a taste for fantasy, Luuna is a solid, entertaining read.
-- Brigid Alverson