“Tartwater does an excellent job in essentially setting her main character along the Fool’s Journey without really replicating the classical path characters often take there.”

Shamsee: A Fistful of Lunars

Publisher: Back That Elf Up
Writer: Tristan J. Tarwater
Artist: Adrian Ricker
Release Date: September 2014

Shamsee is an affable sort of guy. He has loads of friends throughout the town, and they’re usually happy to do favors for him. Of course, one gent who isn’t going to do Shamsee any favors is The Blighter, argueably the most powerful gangster in the town. A Fistful of Lunars opens with The Blighter knocking Shamsee around in an alley, trying to get him to pay up his debt by that evening. We then get to follow Shamsee throughout the day as he begs, borrows and steals every few coins he can get his hands on to pay off his debt.

The story summation isn’t terribly elaborate. It’s 120-some pages of Shamsee doing odd jobs and calling in favors throughout the course of one day. For the most part, nothing life-changing or dramatic happens to him. It’s really just a day in the life from his perspective. And while the story revolves around the titular character, the real drama happens around him, although he remains largely oblivious to it. While he’s collecting fullies and blueies, there’s an inter-gang war brewing in the shadows and some of his friends use Shamsee’s predicament to give them an edge in the battle.

And that is what I found most fascinating about the story. While the focus was on the protagonist, the real story was what was happening around him, and with whom. Not only were there some very interesting characters, but the relationships between and among them were often surprising as well. All of which drew my interest away from Shamsee’s immediate problems, and towards the rest of the townspeople. The Blighter rightly, and rather metatextually, points out at one point: “Everyone likes Sham. But nobody cares about him.” Shamsee, as I said, is pretty affable, but I wasn’t drawn to his predicament as much as I was everybody else’s.

That’s an interesting way to approach a story, and one that seems rife with challenges. But Tartwater does an excellent job in essentially setting her main character along the Fool’s Journey without really replicating the classical path characters often take there. Each of her characters, which could be simple archetypes, are pretty well-rounded figures and their brief encounters with Shamsee provide a surprisingly open window into their lives. On the site, A Fistful of Lunars is noted as only being the first chapter, and I’m definitely curious to see who we’re introduced to in chapter two.

The story is currently being serialized online for free with a new page every week, but you can also purchase the completed graphic novel in digital download or paperback versions.

Shamsee Review
8Overall Score
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