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Rave: Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant

Whew! It’s been a minute since my last post here! Of course, I’m sure you all know there are other places on the internet where you can get book reviews, but I do want to use this blog to highlight favorites from NAFCPL’s Teen Scene! In 2014 I resolve not to abandon the blog again. Please hold me to this!

For starters, here’s a book I just read after seeing it recommended by several people.

Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk & the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff. New York : First Second, 2013. Review copy provided by my local library.

As many of you know, I read a lot of comics. I do love reading about superheroes, but I’m also happy to see original stories with new characters, especially when the new characters are as much fun as Delilah Dirk. When we first meet the titular characters, Delilah Dirk is imprisoned in a Turkish palace after being caught breaking in, and Erdemoglu Selim is the lieutenant who’s been dispatched to interrogate her, because of his language skills. 

Lieutenant Selim enters her cell, where she’s sitting on the floor and chained to the wall. He starts the interrogation by offering her tea:

Selim: I’ve made tea for you.

Delilah: No thank you. I only drink the blood of my enemies.

Selim: (shocked expression)

Delilah: Haha, it’s a joke.

Selim: I think that, in your position, it would be wise to maintain a less casual attitude.

Delilah: Mm. Yes. Absolutely. Done.

This is a perfect introduction to these two characters. Selim is very proper and very concerned about the quality of his tea. Delilah is a carefree adventurer, and she proceeds to impress the heck out of Selim by telling him all about her globetrotting adventures. She also tells him upfront that she’s planning to escape and that she’s very confident that the palace’s guards will be no match for her skills. 

Later, as Selim relays this information to his superior, he’s scolded for humoring Delilah by believing that any of what she says could possibly have been true. But they’re interrupted by Delilah fleeing the palace. Selim’s superior decides that Selim must have had something to do with her escape, and sentences him to death. But Delilah rescues him, and both flee the palace together in Delilah’s flying boat (another unbelievable thing mentioned in her interrogation). Selim ends up tagging along on Delilah’s quest to steal some treasure back from the Pirate Captain Zakul.

I’ve seen this book compared to Indiana Jones, which I’ll buy to a certain extent. Both are comedic action stories about world traveling characters. I appreciate how Delilah Dirk uses a gender flip of the usual conventions for this type of story–Delilah’s the savvy swordswoman, and Selim is the meek tea brewer who’s in a bit over his head. But the story also creates a space for Selim to use his own skillset. Both characters learn from each other over the course of the story, which is both emotionally compelling and hilarious. A lot of the comedy comes from Cliff’s excellent artwork–he’s great at showing Delilah and Selim’s reaction faces. The story feels fresh, and it’s a great use of the graphic novel format. 

Reviewed by: teen librarian Renata

Recommended for: fans of Indiana Jones, and anyone looking for an adventure


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