In middle school, I was one of those kids going through all the adventure books the library had to offer. From the The Famous Five to kid detectives to opening that wardrobe, I loved it all and then had fun with my friends digging holes, running away from imaginary bad guys and hidden doorways. After that, a lot of “grown-up” books were a disappointment to me at first until I learned to embrace speculative fiction and started to consider other topics exciting as well. But this is a very long-winded way of saying that I still am that kid looking for adventure stories and when I heard about Malice in Ovenland, I knew I had to give it a go. And yes, middle-grade books still deliver the same fun and no, I did not try to explore behind my kitchen oven, cause that would be weird. (it was very dusty!)

Malice in Ovenland is a middle-grade comic by Micheline Hess and published by Rosarium. The first volume introduces fierce young, Black Lilly Brown, who does not get to spend her summer at camp like her friends but instead has to take care of her mother’s organic garden and a list of other chores. Already, and with adult eyes, I find this positioning important: Lilly lives with her mom and loves fast food but her mother has chosen to grow organic food to take care of her daughter and herself and Lilly also has responsibilities that she might not enjoy but takes care of nonetheless. This is not your spoiled middle-class kid and I love this glimpse of Lilly’s mother. And then, when Lilly attempts to clean the oven she tumbles into Ovenland, like Alice once fell into Wonderland.


How fantastic are those colors and especially that last panel!?  I love all the details like the cracked glasses and the horribly-green Bleh! Now in Ovenland, Lilly is locked into the dungeon, meets a queen and finds a kingdom in crisis over the lack of incoming grease. Yup people, if you’re going organic, make sure you’re not cutting off the kingdom behind your oven!

Lilly is everything I’ve always wanted from a heroine in an adventure story and I was in turns delighted and grossed out with her. There is a lot of monologuing going on initially but keep on reading it’ll get better and I did not find the message overly preachy, so hopefully middle-graders won’t either. I think there is a lot of potential in this story and I look forward to future volumes and Micheline Hess’ next project. I wish I’d had more female characters of color to look up to when I was younger, especially ones so visually present as in comics, and Malice in Ovenland totally delivers. It makes me want to get some kids from somewhere just to push this comic on them. And since I don’t have and don’t want kids, this is high praise indeed.

Malice in Ovenland Vol.1 will be out August 31, get it for your kids and your inner child! Also make sure to check out Rosarium Publishing here, they specialize in multicultural speculative fiction, comics, and a touch of crime fiction.

Disclaimer: I received an egalley of this book from the publisher. But never fear, I remain my opinionated self!

39 thoughts on “Thoughts: Malice in Ovenland Vol.1

  1. I will never stop looking for adventures in my stories! I still feel like a kid at heart, more so than an adult sometimes. lol But please don’t tell anyone.
    Oh, I MUST read this one. Narnia is great and all, but Lilly traveling to Ovenland is the kind of story I wanted to read as kid! It sounds hilarious and I think I will love the icky parts. I will be buying it for sure and hope the series continues. 🙂

    1. Heh I think most of us do and it’ll be a sad day when we don’t go looking for adventure stories anymore! It’s such a cool concept and the Ovenlanders are very cool figures and there’s lots of gross and icky stuff there. Hope you’ll enjoy it, Lilly is a wonderful heroine and she’s got a cool sidekick, too.

  2. I don’t know what it is about middle grade graphic novels, but there are so many fabulous ones! I used to read a lot of YA and I’m actually pretty sick of it right now, but somehow middle grade still works for me.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gwen! Yes middle-grade fiction is wonderful, I need to explore more of the comics available for that group. I think Princeless counts too right? I love that series!

  3. Reading this put SUCH a big smile on my face. Thank you so much for this awesome review. Although I created this book for kids, I especially love it when adults who are in touch with their inner kid enjoy it too. It really makes all the work worth it in the end. Again, THANK YOU!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment! I had such a great time reading, more adults should choose books for their inner child! 🙂 Looking forward to future projects from you!

  4. This sounds like fun! I checked at my library after you mentioned it and was disappointed it wasn’t there so I am glad you say here it isn’t published yet. Hopefully that means my library will get it!

    1. It’s definitely a fun read and I hope your library will acquire a copy! This is indie pubbed so if you don’t ind it there after publication makes sure to suggest it 🙂

  5. Sounds like a great story and I hope the quality continues with the series! I am definitely always looking for diverse books and graphic novels for children and middle schoolers. This sounds like a winner! Thank you for your insightful thoughts on this one!

    1. Hope you’ll find this a fun read and also a good book to recommend! Can’t wait to see if the later volumes show more of Lilly’s development. I’m excited to read more comics by WoC creators.

    1. It is!! Heh I hope you’ll enjoy this comics and perhaps it’ll also be something to read with your older boy! 🙂 But it’s definitely a fun read for adults as well.

  6. I’ll be looking out for this one, for sure! I love the pictures. It reminds me of the adventure stories that my sister used to tell me at night after we got into bed – they were called ‘Naomi Gets Flushed Down the Toilet Bowl’. 🙂

    1. Ahahaha, what a sister! That’s how you treat (younger?) siblings! I’m an older sister so.. 😀 The art is really good and it’s a fun story, definitely an interesting take on Alice, hope you’ll enjoy it!

  7. Such a great review, Bina! When I was a kid I always wanted the scary stories. What’s interesting about the girl crawling into the oven is it reminded me of the fairy tales in which the children are tricked into an oven by a witch!

    1. Heh yay someone liked my jokey comment! 🙂 Glad you liked the review, Melanie! Haha yes that was an image that came to mind when Lilly just crawled into the oven. I really enjoyed scary stories as a kid as well, but then my mom read me Grimm’s fairy tales (NOT the kid’s version) 🙂

    1. It’s pretty middle-grade. But if it’s not for you, it’s always good to have in mind as a gift for nieces and nephews or friends’ kids 🙂

    1. Hope your library will acquire it! Yes it’s so important to have such sheroes for children of color and these stories are also plenty fun. It’s great to support WoC creators 🙂

  8. Wonderful review, Bina! I will add this to my TBR list! I am loving Princeless and after finishing it, I will get this. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Vishy! Yay glad to hear you’re enjoying Princeless! Hope you’ll love this one as well, so many good comics for younger readers out now!

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