The Harrowing cover
(Abrams Fanfare)

The Harrowing

Writer: Kristen Kiesling
Artist: Rye Hickman
Publisher: Abrams Fanfare
Publication Date: April 16

When a gifted teen gains the ability to foresee murders before they occur, she’s sent to Rosewood: a secret facility that trains fellow precogs known as Harrows. Their mission is to identify and intercept potential killers. But when Rowan learns that the boy she’s loved since childhood is their next target, she faces a dilemma: to protect him or risk the wrath of the organization she serves.

This is the premise of The Harrowing, the debut graphic novel by writer Kristen Kiesling that falls into both the thriller and young adult genre. It’s a promising debut and a slow-burn moral dilemma of a girl who wants to feel normal but has gifts that often feel more like a traumatizing curse.

One standout aspect of the story is its intricately layered world, rich with character moments and precise backstories that establish a stark and thematic backdrop. Rowan’s parents harbor secrets about their origins, as does the organization she finds herself entangled with, creating a slow-pulling tension as truths get revealed.


The artwork by Rye Hickman stands out as a stark black and white with splashes of mostly reds and pinks highlighting certain objects worthy of attention. It’s a good technique and gives the book a particular style, especially for moments highlighting death, drama, or intensity. I’ll also say, the paneling layout is pretty good for a Western comic and the lettering was also concise and solid. Even though I would have preferred all caps, I think the approach used for The Harrowing does create a more quieter and creepier ambiance.

I do think what the book is trying to achieve gets accomplished by the end of it, but I will say, that the ability of the Harrows feels like the movie Minority Report. The dilemma of seeing murderers act out before they commit crimes has been done many times in the media before, just not as much in young adult fiction. I think this is the strength of the comic as it explores just how to balance this thread of mystery, characterization, and murder mystery.

Unfortunately, while the character backstories are heavily detailed, they do sometimes overshadow the plot’s intended direction. The book is long at 230 pages, and I feel edits could have been made to condense a lot of what happened in about half the time.

For example, compost worms play a key element in the character’s origins and a lot of first-person murders are felt by the Harrows to use their ability, leading to a history of problems in the organization with degrees of mental instability. The inability to touch someone else triggering the Harrowing ability, along with the need to wear gloves, all feel like intricate character details that build psychological conflict. However, a lot of this doesn’t feel necessary when it comes to the ending when so many points of backstory introduced had little to do with the plot. 

Still, there are a lot of positive reviews out there for the book, especially for a first graphic novel. Kieron Gillen said in a blurb for the book: “You will shiver in fear and delight. You will want to be held and to hold.” 

I think that’s about as spot on of a statement regarding this character’s journey. Rowan is a teen with a curse of her mom’s legacy of this mysterious gift – which can be used for both good and evil. To save someone’s life is a precious gift. To see horrendous acts of murder, a terrible curse. 

Final verdict: Buy