The Heavy Bright
The Heavy Bright
The Heavy Bright
Once, the world lived in harmony. People trusted and aided each other, dreamed freely, and communed with their ancestors. And then one day the eggs appeared. One thousand black eggs, heavy as pure lead, which by some mystical property, provoked greed and violence in all who came in contact with them. A family of brutish men managed to hoard the eggs and build a misogynistic dynasty that held all of the land in an iron grip. Years later, Arna, an orphaned young woman immune to the beguiling power of the eggs, is charged with a monumental mission: hunt down these formidable men, pilfer their eggs, and release the bright from the heavy. Along the way, she falls for the enchanting Sela, who shows her how beautiful the world can be.

Reviews of The Heavy Bright

Broken Frontier

What works is the world Malkasian has created: soft, swooping vistas seen from a variety of perspectives and frames as rich as the diverse and eccentric cast of characters, and epitomizing the message of the small and local and true being truly the biggest things.

Library Journal
In a mystical-realist preindustrial world, people thrived in harmony with their ancestors, the living conversing convivially with the dead. But then a “something” visits the land, revealing itself as bright lights and then a thousand heavy black egglike shapes. The eggs spread greed and violence among men, leading them to torment the women and ultimately break the connection with the ancestors. Then girls, too, disappear. Only Arna, a queer girl passing as a man and assisted by her luminous partner Sela, learns how to release the Bright from the Heavy to bring men and women together and restore love. Malkasian (Eartha) infuses her fable with whimsy, adding some playfulness to the grim plot elements. Beautifully limpid watercolor art sets the story outside reality but close enough to reflect current society’s flaws.
VERDICT Malkasian’s “once upon a time” parable infuses a Handmaid’s Tale–type set-up with surrealistic charm and bittersweet resolution, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli’s work. Highly recommended for fantasy connoisseurs.

Publishers Weekly

Malkasian (Percy Gloom) hurls readers into a feminist fantasy fictional universe that’s alternately baffling and all too familiar. In a patriarchal dystopia where the warmongering Commanders rule with iron fists and women are treated as chattel, Arna, the daughter of a traveling puppeteer, commits the double sin of being female and a queer practitioner of “gender deception.” An envoy from the spirit plane enlists Arna to rid the world of egglike objects that spark aggression. As her quest progresses, humanity becomes less warlike, but not less cruel. “Our life is crazy... but we’re the sanest people alive,” comments Arna’s girlfriend, Sela. Malkasian renders a world that feels lived-in, building every detail from the ground up: architecture, customs, religion, music. The fluid, confident art has a funhouse-mirror hyperreality, reminiscent of alternative cartoonists like Renee French and Dave Cooper, that adds a satirical sting. If the sociopolitical commentary is sometimes heavy-handed, the endlessly imaginative worldbuilding is more than enough to keep the pages turning. This smart, surrealist work has the appeal of Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Tim Burton.

Electric Literature
Chronicles of Narnia meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this gorgeous allegorical epic. It’s set in a fantasy world in which men known as Commanders ravage and pillage the land and its people, their power coming from ancient black stones passed down to them by their ancestors. The destruction goes unchecked until one day, a young tomboyish girl discovers the secret to defeating the Commanders once and for all (and falls in love along the way).