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Aliera Carstairs is just a normal girl, with a penchant for fencing, reading and RPG games.

With a combination like that, it's almost inevitable that she would stumble across some supernatural adventures. Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro do a solid job with "Foiled," a graphic novel with a feisty heroine and some clever plot twists, but be warned -- this is only the first part, not a complete story.

Two important things happen in Aliera's life -- a new boy named Avery Castle arrives at school, and her mother buys her a secondhand practice foil with a fake ruby glued to the hilt. Avery and Aliera are assigned each other as lab partners, and Avery turns out to be charming, creepy and very odd. He also seems very interested in Aliera and her sword.

And when he inevitably asks her out, Aliera agrees to meet him at a train station -- but soon encounters a strange-looking woman and a seemingly hostile bird. And soon she discovers that she's enmeshed in a world where nothing is as it seems... including Avery.

I'm not sure whether "Foiled" is destined to have a sequel, or whether the entire story is about Aliera discovering the magical world that most people can't see. It's obvious there's more to her story, and I can only hope that Yolen and Cavallaro show us more of Aliera's adventures with her bejewelled sword.

The story is kind of slow-moving, but Yolen's strong writing keeps it balanced. Her prose is snappy and witty ("...showing a piece of his anatomy that looked remarkably like the frog after we were halfway through skinning him"), and she puts in some wonderfully creepy atmosphere whenever Avery starts being... freaky ("I like cutting... dead things").

The best part of this story: Aliera. She's no Bella Swan -- she's a strong, feisty heroine who has a passionate attachment to fencing and a fiercely individualistic spirit, but she also has her fair share of insecurities. And she doesn't take any garbage from others, even from the guy she was crushing on.

Cavallaro also has some solid artwork -- thick lines, sharp contrasts, and some splashes of action and adventure (including fencing practice!). And since Aliera is colorblind, most of the book is rendered in black, white and grey... which makes it all the more shocking when we see the faeries, which are splashed with bright, vibrant colors.

"Foiled" is a clever, imaginative little story that meshes together magic and swords -- and hopefully, this isn't the end of Aliera's story.
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on 3 April 2011
I was looking forward to this book, having heard about it, but the reality was a great deal better even than the buzz. What a lovely conceit, the main character's colour-blindness reflected in the muted colours used on the page. And when a change comes along it is visually quite shocking, which is presumably what the protagonist is feeling at the time. The story romps along, as our heroine engages our sympathies without needing any sympathy at all, and then various hints scattered throughout the text suddenly make sense as the truth behind Aliera's sword - sorry, weapon! - sweeps up all and sundry. Good foreshadowing, quirky and engaging illustrations, and the usual fine writing from an author whose works have won about every award there is. Foiled is a marvellous book for any of us who have felt alienated as teenagers: at a guess, that's 99% of the reading population. Thank you, Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro, for a scary, funny, fascinating graphic novel that will be read more than once. More than twice. And what marvellous news that there is going to be a sequel. Can't wait!
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on 17 May 2010
I would have given this book a five-star review if it weren't for the fact that it seems to take off in an unexpected fantasy direction when you least expect it. I like fantasy but, in "Foiled," it just doesn't really seem to flow from the rest of the book. I love the main character, though - a strong, female character with a mind of her own, a passion for an unusual sport/hobby (hence the title), and relationships that mostly seem pretty realistic. Some readers may love the fantasy angle; it just wasn't for me. I would still recommend the book, though.
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