When a tentative truce is formed between four countries in the land of Tuvana so a dig can take place to uncover the people’s history, things go sideways — fast. Pathways: Chronicles of Tuvana by Elaine Tipping follows friends Princess Taria, Prince Dhiren, and Scion Quinel, as they attempt to navigate their world after the dig uncovers hundreds of people being sustained in pods. The discovery prompts the already fanatical Holy Order of Miakarna to imprison those working on the dig — save for one, who manages to escape with the help of a guard.
From there, things only get more difficult. Here’s the full description of the comic:
An ancient empire awakens, bent on reclaiming the world they once dominated. A small group of people, drawn together by a common cause, are determined to stop them. However, they face more than threats from the outside….
A queer, high fantasy adventure (with a dash of sci fi), friendship, and romance.
Updated every Wednesday and Friday, Pathways is a queer fantasy epic with a well-defined cast of characters and stellar world-building. The supernatural mystery of the Akarna establishes an overarching plot that connects each aspect of the story, without feeling disconnected or patchy. Pathways is currently in its sixth chapter and so far, the pacing is excellent — Tipping clearly has a plan in mind for each character, and following them week to week is fun, if stressful when things get hairy.
In many ways, Pathways: Chronicles of Tuvana feels like the kind of fantasy I have craved for years. Queer characters of color are the stars; there’s just enough sci-fi to up the stakes without taking away from the high fantasy; the characters have unique voices and there are friendly, familiar dragons. What’s not to love?
Tipping’s writing is excellent, but so is their art — Pathways is drawn in black and white, with colored chapter headings, and it’s all gorgeous. The characters’ facial expressions, in particular, are beautifully rendered, as is their body language. There’s never a question of what a character is thinking or how a situation is affecting them unless there needs to be a question, such as when a character is trying to remain calm or unaffected for a specific reason.
As noted above, Pathways updates every Wednesday and Friday on Smackjeeves, as well as every Wednesday on Tapas. To gain access to exclusive art, sneak peeks and more, you can support Tipping on Patreon; you can also follow Tipping on Twitter @TriaElf9.