Do you love fantasy worlds, but find that every story has the same kind of elves, dwarves, and orcs that are all, well, male? Earthsong is a fantasy webcomic/graphic novel series written and illustrated by Crystal Yates with a keen emphasis on a diverse and largely female-driven plot involving magic and universe-saving. Those that are fans of the newcomer’s self-discovery plot with the addition of lore and humor will enjoy Earthsong. Crystal Yates has diligently updated it as many Mondays as she could since 2004, and it now boasts 13 Chapters to read through and a reliable schedule to follow. Earthsong also regularly ranks pretty high – #22 this week in fact – on TopWebcomics, and has an established readership.
The story begins with a young female who wakes up without any memory of who she is and why she is lying under a tree. The arrival of several belligerent persons from a dizzying array of races quickly places the purple-skinned protagonist (later given the name Willow) in the midst of a battle, apparently over her. The two faction leaders, a stern looking human Nanashi, and the winged Skogul, have both staked some unknown claim on the confused newcomer, although they nurse no small grudge between them. Fighting is abruptly called off once Nanashi stabs an attacker through and he disappears. A sinister, disembodied voice in their heads commands Skogul to fall back, and Willow is left wondering if the winning side can be trusted.
It turns out that individuals of many different races are drawn to the planet Earthsong because they develop soulstones, a crystal embedded on their bodies that release a huge amount of power at the cost of their life. Each planet in this multiverse has a sentient anthropomorphic form, and Earthsong was the new planet chosen to safely house the bearer of soulstones until their safe removal. Breaking a soulstone, as Nanashi did with a sword, forcibly removes the person back to their home planet with only a faint memory of their time spent here.
Complications occurred when Beluolos, the warped remains of a brother planet, attempts to take over. Commanded by Skogul, the Mandragora forces serve him in his quest for soulstones. Earthsong’s task force include Haven’s Guard, the small but elite group that chose to put their old lives on hold and remain behind to defend the planet.
Enter Willow, a girl with no memory of her past, not even a name she remembers, and also happens to be the first pale-haired, purple species anyone on Earthsong has encountered. For a girl that doesn’t even know where her place is, she manages with sass and stubbornness. Will her soulstone power reveal itself in a way that gives Willow a purpose to fight for, or is she truly a creation planted there with evil intentions?
Throughout the 10(!) years Crystal Yates has been working on the same project, there is understandably a visible improvement of art style. The contrast is most prominent due to the fact that Earthsong recently had its very first chapter completely revamped with new pages or the tenth anniversary. Upon turning to Chapter 2, the reader is shocked right back into the artist’s beginning mistakes such as anime eyes and flat colors. Crystal Yates’s attention to realistic modeling of expressions and carefully plotted paneling pays off, as Earthsong has both human attitude within a classic vast world-building journey.
Willow gains confidence, the friends and foes flesh out, and the panels also fill a lot more traditionally.
Earthsong’s updates can be described as slow but steady: a page a week with faithful author communication. One of the ways Crystal Yates is so effective in keeping her amassed fans and readers over the years is through TWC vote incentives. Sometimes they’re sketches, commission work, or fun side doodles; other times you get the “Choose your own adventure” Easter eggs, where a character goes on a humorous sidequest whose decisions are picked from the highest user voted option of the week. It’s also a great way to include some side character filler.
For the most part, if you enjoy webcomics you’ve heard of Earthsong. It’s been around forever and has always kept its well-earned rank and stable following. It isn’t wildly innovative or sitcom funny but it tugs on the nostalgic heartstrings of those readers that like to watch a rich and straightforward story unfold. So check out Earthsong if you haven’t already!