I have read too many stories to be shocked by most of them anymore. But the first volume of Sleepless subverted my expectations in such a way that I feel compelled to recommend it to you, dear reader, so that you also can spend ten minutes flipping back and forth between Sleepless‘s final pages, your jaw hanging agape at what has just occurred.
I will not spoil Sleepless Vol. 1’s ending in this review, because I think you should feel that ending’s power for yourself. But I will talk about how Sleepless builds to that ending in ways that both set it up and make it surprising, paying off the book’s main points of tension.
At its core, Sleepless is the story of Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia’s Hamlet-like struggle to survive at court after her father has died and her uncle has been crowned king. However, Pyppenia is so much more competent than Hamlet. She is good at playing politics. She knows that her very existence could unravel her uncle’s rule. And while she has no designs on the crown, her kin and her countrymen may have their own ideas:
Thankfully, Poppy does not have to manage court’s travails alone. She is guarded by a Sleepless Knight named Cyrenic, who long ago foreswore the ability to sleep so that he could keep an ever-watchful eye upon her.
Poppy’s Desires Are Sleepless’s Foundations
Poppy loves her family. She feels a duty toward both her countries. And there is something there between her and Cyrenic. As Poppy navigates the tension between her obligations, her survival, and her actual desires, we get to see most every side of her, and we learn just how fierce, gentle, clever, and caring she can be.
Poppy does not yield to life’s circumstances, but she does not change to confront them either. It is her own abilities to compartmentalize her desires, empathize with others, and read a room that, just as much as Cyrenic’s protection, keep Poppy alive through this volume. In every scene, whether through Sarah Vaughn’s dialogue or Leila Del Duca and Alissa Sallah’s emotional character acting, we learn at least a little bit more about just how Poppy thinks, what her ultimate goals are, and what she’s willing to do to achieve those goals – especially when they conflict with one another.
Which brings us to the book’s ending. As Sleepless Vol. 1 draws to a close, we learn a lot about where Poppy’s current priorities lie, and just how far she’ll go to protect herself and those she loves. I did not expect Sleepless Vol. 1 to end as it did, but its ending certainly made sense given all I’d learned about Poppy up to that point. Also, it hit me in the gut like a sack of clay mugs – which is not something most comic books’ endings can claim, these days.
If you want to hop on the Sleepless train, you can click here to buy the first volume from Bookshop.org using Matt Reads Comics’s affiliate link. While you’re there, you should also be sure to buy Volume 2, which concludes the Sleepless story. Because trust me, after you finish Volume 1, you’re going to need to know what happens next.