Nothing Special, Vol One: Through the Elder Woods by Katie Cook

Contrary to the title, this book actually is something quite special.

Callie Benson has always felt like something of an outcast, even in a world where humans and non-humans more or less co-exist (tho in large part due to the fact that most humans don’t actually believe that non-humans like Callie and her dad are real vs really committed to the bit.) While her father allows her to help out in his “antiquities” store that backs onto Draken City Market, she is expected to go to mortal high school and then to mortal college. Callie, ofc, would much rather be helping her dad source magical artifacts to sell to both his mystical and mundane clientele. Alas then that she’s been forbidden from going any further into the magical realm than the Draken City limits.

Callie’s dull life begins changing when she literally bumps into Declan Rice, I mean, Hickey, a classmate of hers, and he realizes that she can see the vegetable spirits that surround them, too. After they both discover that they’re neither of them fully mortal, they begin to develop a friendship. Declan’s parents died when he was very little, and he was raised by his human grandmother, who is away as often as Callie’s dad is. There’s a lot for them to bond over, even before adventure thrusts them ever closer together.

For Callie and Declan come back to her shop on her seventeenth birthday to find it ransacked, with an alarming smear of blood by the door into Draken City. The evidence points to Callie’s father having arrived just a short while ago before being violently abducted by person or persons unknown. With the help of a magical amulet, Callie sets off to find him and bring him home. Declan, ofc, refuses to let her go alone, so accompanies her. The amulet tells her to go beyond the gate leading away from Draken City, despite her father’s many dire warnings. But she’s doing this for his sake, after all. Isn’t it time she learned a little more about this side of her heritage, given her father’s adamant refusal to discuss any of this till she turns, well, seventeen?

The story is very cute, tho feels stronger in the front half than the back. I’m 100% a sucker for any character that reminds me of my own beloved Declan, so was very much rooting for him throughout. Without giving away any spoilers, I do feel that Katie Cook tends to deal better with humor and romance than with pathos, but as this is merely Volume 1, there is plenty of time for her to continue sharpening her storytelling skills. I also rather hope Callie finds some female friends soon. I tend to get a little suspicious of people whose friends are all of one gender, particularly when it’s not their own.

But the main reason I found this book incredibly lovely was the art. Beautiful, yes, that’s absolutely a given, and expressive and kinetic and all the things I usually say about good comic art. This might sound hella weird to people who don’t appreciate graphic novels, but the sequencing was some of the best I’ve ever seen, especially in the humor and romance beats. The pathos parts — tho not necessarily the suspense, since the scene at the shop right after Callie’s Dad was abducted was masterful — need a little work still, but that’s something the author will definitely gain with time and confidence. I was 100% unsurprised to peek into her sketchbook at the end (sorry, Radish, I’m pretty sure you’re not the actual author!) to see the amount of prep work she puts into her layouts, with assists from letterer and layout designer Nathan Price. It all makes for a book that flows beautifully from start to finish, with gorgeous colors as well.

I can’t wait to check out the next volume in the series! Sure I could catch up on Webtoon but these books are so much nicer (and easier to read!)

Nothing Special, Vol One: Through the Elder Woods by Katie Cook was published March 5 2024 by Ten Speed Graphic and is available from all good booksellers, including

Permanent link to this article:


  1. Books *are* so much nicer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.