The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. Little Brown, 2016. 9780316259170. 224pp.
Kiddo, daughter of a God named Birdman, created the Early Earth. For a time it was a paradise, a happy world full of perfect, ignorant people that she liked to watch. Birdman was revolted by their purposelessness and the fact that they knew nothing of him, so he took over, creating a world where people feared and worshipped him, and where they knew their place. But he also accidentally created love.
This is a tale of two lovers in that fearful world, two women who are secretly in love, Cherry and her maid Hero. It starts when Cherry’s husband Jerome and his repulsive friend Manfred make a bet: Jermome believes Cherry is faithful, and he agrees to leave her for 100 nights to give Manfred a chance to seduce her. (Manfred doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “seduce” and “rape.”) When Manfred soon climbs uninvited into Cherry’s bed, she begs him to let her hear a story from Hero first.
Thus starts a series of magical tales (and tales within tales) that Hero learned from the League of Secret Storytellers. In a world where women aren’t allowed to learn to read or write, they stitch stories into tapestries and pass them around. They captivate not only Manfred but the guards at Jerome’s house as well. They are tales of a woman who marries the wrong man and tells him her secret, that she and her sisters can read and write; of two sisters seduced by the same man, and possibly of a murder; of a young girl whose mother is the smallest and most beautiful of the three moons, and of a king looking into a mystery posed by his three daughters.
The art in this graphic novel is dark and the lines heavy, though there are brush strokes that seem loose and unplanned. This odd combo gives the story both mythical gravitas and a bit of whimsey.