A Kingdom of Quartz Volume 2: A Promise of Souls



Sometimes, taking a step forward can have you looking backwards instead of towards the future- something that has happened to myself when reading A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2. Before touching on the past, though, I should really make reference to the present. I think Bomhat is a healthy distance away from being “bad” as a mangaka (or anything of the sort), but I similarly think it’s hard to discount the potential for a struggle with the contents of this volume.

Within that, the biggest offender is likely the pacing. The story of volume 1 is a well built 3 act play that chronicles Blue’s journey towards the Citadel- it’s tight, confident, and well styled. This second volume, in contrast, exposes readers to a wide range of content- concluding the finale of volume 1, establishing the laws of magic, tournaments and prophecies, the odd social dynamics of the upper caste, and the weeding out of friend of foe. It intermingles all of these ideas, barely turning a single page with some while concluding entire stories in regards to others. It almost feels like the Sparknotes equivalent of Bomhat’s vision for A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2. Certainly, you still get the story with it- but it’s missing a lot of the common decorations that make narratives palatable and interesting. Sam’s popular with the girls, which leads Tannith to buddying up to Blue in order to get to him. Of course, Blue’s all smiles on the surface, but the conclusion of the volume points towards the more negative emotions swirling within her. Despite that concrete presentation, it lacks the time and space to really seep into the reader’s understanding, and will inevitably be easily overlooked if you’re not soaking up every word and expression in the manga.

If there was an easy way to summarize that sort of effect, it would be that the narrative of A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2 feels like it’s been compressed to half (or less) of its original size. Killian’s whole character arc of foe to friend/rival happens within a fraction of the volume, which makes it feel like it’s been something that’s just been glossed over- despite the importance of Blue establishing a friendship through trial and communication rather than circumstance and opportunity like with Tannith. What I am saying is certainly not a complaint against the characters and plot of this second volume, though. The potential and quality is there- even the confidence required to deliver it. It’s just that there’s not enough pages to satisfy that work. Which is a real shame. Bomhat’s darker fantasy world definitely has me interested, but those feelings can wane when chunks of story aren’t given the time they need to really thrive.

Story is only a fraction of what goes into something like A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2 however, with visuals comprising the other portion. Unsurprisingly, the art rarely falters in the second volume (as its a separate affair to the narrative). As expected though, it doesn’t quite match the quality of panelling and character blocking that appears in the first volume- but I think the story is to blame there. Without a strong thread to follow, it can be a challenge to really deliver work on the same level as the first volume. There’s certainly more than a few panels that are very pretty and as well done as the first volume, but without the content to provide a backdrop, they can feel a little weightless. Take, for example, Blue and Noah’s reunion. It’s solid visual work that see Bomhat continue to excel at selling depth with these character designs, but the flippant and short-lived nature of the interaction draws you away from the impact of it (something that’s hard to explain with visuals alone).

If there was a way to explain it, it feels like pressure has weighed upon Bomhat with A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2. When you look back at volume 1 for the series, it sports a surprisingly different air. The excitement, humor, and wonder that offset the darkness isn’t near as present in this second volume, for example. The space afforded for visual flair is eaten up by narrative necessity, seeing pages filled with reveals and dialogue that don’t give Blue time to explore her new world. It’s interesting how rewinding the hands of time exposes that sort of thing, as if you go even further backwards to Bomhat’s debut work Born From Ashes (which you can read for free here), you find a similar story. Bomhat’s creativity runs free with humor and wonder in equal parts stymieing the more comedic darkness of this short little series.

It’s certainly a lot simpler of a work in the way that many of these types are, but that simplicity relieves Bomhat of the struggles that are apparent with volume 2. The incredibly fun panelling and character blocking, the well expressed but straightforward narrative. It’s the kind of work that I saw as potential in the first volume, but is beginning to fade with A Kingdom of Quartz volume 2. And unfortunately, there’s just a world of potential reasons for it. Similarly, it’s also a struggle that’s entirely natural to go through. Bomhat and A Kingdom of Quartz are still worth a reader’s time, it’s just that when placing the series on a scale compared to Bomhat’s previous work, it’s beginning to become unbalanced.

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