Identical twin sisters, Jeanie and Amber Malkin, are new students at the 100-year old Greenwich Private College – a boarding school in North Sydney, Australia that lies in the middle of the vast, virgin bushlands. Jeanie has a vivacious personality and is excited about the new school, but quiet Amber has misgivings about Greenwich.
Their aunt, Jessie Malkin, the school’s headmistress, pulled strings to get the girls admitted, and she neglected to tell the school’s vice-principal, Mrs. Skeener, that Amber and Jeanie are twins. Mrs. Skeener doesn’t exactly hate twins, but she seemingly has some irrational fears about them. The first time she meets the girls, she’s sure they’re twins, though she’s also willing to believe that Jessie wouldn’t lie to her about that. Still, Mrs. Skeener seems as if she’s going to be a real problem for the girls.
That’s not all. The school is beset by rumors, and the twins learn more about it as they begin to make new friends: two girls named Millie and Schala respectively and a boy named Trevor. It is from Millie the girls learn that over the years Greenwich students have wandered off into the surrounding bushland and vanished without a trace. Amber also begins to have strange dreams in which she’s dressed in the finest Victorian era fashions while wandering in the bushland. There are other young women dressed like her in the dream, and blood seems to fall from the sky. Jeanie, who admits to having exactly the same dream, thinks it’s no big deal because, as twins, they have had that experience in the past.
The girls gradually delve deeper into the mysteries of the school, its shadowy past, and the peculiar behavior of the teachers. But as they’re doing so, a student disappears, and the twins begin to learn just how much the surrounding bushland plays a part in the strange goings-on at the school.
If the long running Nancy Drew novels have a manga stepchild, that could very well be Queenie Chan’s manga series, THE DREAMING. Chan is a fine illustrator with a excellent sense for creating environments: from the mystery-saturated school with its well-decorated interiors and secretive rooms to the surreal depths of the bushland.
However, drawings alone won’t make one a good cartoonist or, in this case, manga-ka. Using pictures with words on them, in sequences, Queenie knows how to establish plot, character, and setting so that her narrative moves with hardly a hitch. Creating comic art that captivates requires an ability to draw pages in which the layout, design, and contents come together to form a rhythm that in turn carries the reader on the journey of story. Queenie does that with the self-possession of a veteran.
The Dreaming certainly makes the short list as one of the best of the so-called World Manga (manga produced outside Japan), and I look forward to reading more. I think readers – young and old – who like mystery tales will certainly dig this.