Skip to main content

Bourbon Island 1730


Bourbon Island 1730

Ah, the allure of a pirate tale. Who can resist it?

Surely not the readers of BOURBON ISLAND 1730, which comes to us courtesy of two French comics creators. Appollo (actually, Olivier Appollodorus) and Lewis Trondheim (also a pseudonym; this time for Laurent Chabosy) collaborated on this story of the sea. They know what they’re doing here, and they’re determined to have fun with it, raking in action and suspense of the swashbuckling variety unapologetically. Using animals to star in the story doesn’t hurt either. It may seem surprising, but it never devolves into cute-animal-story territory. That’s a wonderful thing.

BOURBON ISLAND 1730 takes place at the time when piracy is giving way to ongoing colonialism. The marauding ways of the sea are no longer in vogue, at least not for most. But that’s not the case for Raphael Pommery, an assistant to ornithologist Dr. Despentes. Both have come to a small island off the coast of Madagascar to document the fauna there, but Pommery is caught up in a daydream about pirate life. It’s a pirate’s life for him, if he has anything to say about it.

Sure enough, he does. Soon, the book is swimming in tales of outrageous acts and hidden treasure, and Pommery, like the reader, is dazzled. Appollo and Trondheim make it easy to fall in love with this story. They take it seriously enough to imbue it with so much fun that it’s hard to resist.

Still, BOURBON ISLAND 1730 transcends any particular genre boundaries. It features some mild language (a “hell” here or there, and the “S” word) that keeps it from strictly fitting into the confines of kids’ literature, but it’s suitable for older children. The elaborate nature of the artwork --- never cartoony --- is probably enough to ensure the book appeals to older readers anyway. It doesn’t look like typical animal books do.

Like every good pirate story, it owes much to Robert Louis Stevenson’s TREASURE ISLAND. The popular pirate motifs abound here, as does the overarching theme of human morality. Amid a changing world, the characters here try to determine their place based not so much on what’s right and what’s wrong but on how the world at large is changing permanently.

The teamup of Appollo and Trondheim has created some buzz, with a lot of readers anxious to see what these two turn out. Those people are in for a treat, because BOURBON ISLAND 1730 is something unexpected, and as respectful as it is to the genre it celebrates, it still manages to tread into new territory. For most American readers, though, it will probably be some kind of unknown surprise, a new take on an old saw. Both groups will be able to have some fun here.

Reviewed by John Hogan on October 27, 2008

Bourbon Island 1730
by Appollo and Lewis Trondheim

  • Publication Date: October 28, 2008
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: First Second
  • ISBN-10: 1596432586
  • ISBN-13: 9781596432581