Sometimes it only takes a misunderstanding to change your life. Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide To Mistaken Identity is a new graphic novel for young readers written, drawn, and lettered by Jarad Greene. Set in a quasi-medieval world, the story takes place during a busy kingdom’s preparations for a royal wedding between the glamorous Prince Chapp and his fabulous royal guard, the warrior Riqa. Our unlikely heroes are Darlis and Mae, two kitchen scullions who find connection through their mutual obsession with Riqa’s book Fair Maiden’s Guide (full of helpful tips like “Distract your enemies with a lengthy bargain, while you scope out your best means of attack”). On the day of the wedding, Darlis is kidnapped after being mistaken for the famous Riqa; Mae sets out to search for him, and their journey begins.
Scullion is a good old-fashioned farce, in which those who are high are briefly made low, and those who are low are able to glimpse a different future for themselves. The great thing about farce is that anything can happen when the cards are in the air. There’s nothing that disrupts the norm more than being able to step outside of the structure of the day-to-day and learn something new about oneself and the world.
Greene’s characters (and character designs) are distinct and interesting, bright spots that stand out in the bustling world he’s built. His art shines the most during the story’s quieter moments, notably when Darlis is baking alone at night. However, some of Scullion’s pages are a little clunky in their layout, and Greene’s lettering can be confusing from time to time.
What helps set Scullion apart is its emphasis on the idea that it’s okay to take things slow. When they first meet, Darlis and Mae have a conversation about their jobs as scullions, but they’re not ashamed of the washing-dishes gig, nor are they in a rush to work their way up the ladder. Instead, they’re just trying things out, seeing what works, and acknowledging that it’s okay if it takes time to find to a good fit.
Kids are often pressured to figure out what they want to “do” with their lives at a young age. But most kids don’t know what path they want to follow, and having a book that makes a point of saying, “It’s okay to take your time before you decide what to do with your life” can be a powerful tool. Scullion isn’t necessarily a must-read, but there are merits in its message, and it should find an audience among Middle Grade and early YA readers, especially those who enjoy fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons-type settings.