Paranorthern and the Chaos Bunny A-Hop-Calypse
written by Stephanie Cook
art by Mari Costa
Review copy from ETCH
With Paranorthern and the Chaos Bunny A-Hop-Calypse, Cooke takes a handful of familiar fantasy elements – witches, ravens, werewolves, discovering and owning your (magical) power – and adds a ghost in a hijab, a pumpkin-headed character who finds all pumpkin-spiced delights barbaric (in spite of the fact that pumpkins are rarely harmed in the making of such treats) and a coffee house where you can get a shot of luck, a "good-day infusion" and other potions added to your drink to create a fantastic, unforgettable story. My one regret is that my review copy of this book was not in color, but I sense that Costa’s warm palette of purples and oranges add both an eeriness and intimacy to Cooke’s story.
In the united supernatural community of North Haven, Abby Morgan is busy during her fall break brewing up lattes at Witch’s Brew, keeping an eye on her little sister Ella, studying her craft and hanging with friends (when she has time) during her fall (rather than summer, an idea I personally adore) break. When Abby unknowingly opens a portal to another world, she knows she has to close it as soon as possible. She just doesn’t know how – this is magic way beyond her abilities and education. Abby struggles to believe that she can fix the chaos (in the form of adorable white bunnies with fangs and bulging red-eyes) but is buoyed by the support of her friends – the outspoken, pumpkin headed Silas, the hijab wearing ghost Hannah, who has just immigrated from a different dimension, and Gita, a werewolf with psychotherapist parents. She is also given insight into her ancestors by a visit from the spirit of Morrigan, a powerful witch who helped shape the supernatural community through personal sacrifice and by her mother, who shares the truth of a family folktale. All these elements combine to give Abby what she needs to close the portal, banish the bunnies, clean up the community and see the sun set over the pumpkin patch.
Cooke weaves many fascinating threads into her story, like the myth, The Three Ravens, a story within the story. Short but really gripping, this tale (Cooke’s knowledge of Greek mythology from her Oh My Gods! series coming into play) making me want to know more about Morrigan and her daughters. While the possessor of magical powers getting in touch with their inner strength/voice/self in order to understand and unlock their magic feels familiar, I definitely appreciated that Abby is aided in this quest by mutual crush Gita, who sits her down for a therapy session in the "safe space" of her parents’ office. I was also intrigued by Hannah, an immigrant who sheds some light on portals. Authorized portals require a travel visa to pass through, while "unauthorized portals can upset the balance of the whole world and let in invasive species from other dimensions." Knowing that Hannah is a hijab wearing immigrant, it’s hard not to read real world issues into this magical situation and wonder what or if Cooke, a Canadian, is making any kind of comment. Finally, while both of Abby’s parents are dedicated to using their magical powers to help people, the fact that Abby’s father chose to leave his wife and daughters, and the united supernatural community of North Haven, to "thrive in the wilds with the recluse covens" where he is a high priest, leaves Abby wondering how he could "change that much and suddenly want something completely different?" And worse, Abby worries that her inherited power might change her.
I am excited to see where Abby’s new found power (and new girlfriend) take her in what I hope is a long running series!
More by Stephanie Cooke!
September 9, 2021 at 01:06PM Tanya