Delilah Dirk takes readers on wild ride

Imagine Lara Croft with Indiana Jones' sense of humor, and throw in an exuberant love of adventure and disregard for danger.

Place her in early 19th-century Constantinople (now Istanbul), give her a flying sailboat, and you've got the delightful Delilah Dirk, the take-no-prisoners heroine of Tony Cliff's new graphic novel, "Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant" (First Second Books, 2013).

The Turkish lieutenant, Erdemoglu Selim, is a quiet, unassuming fellow, more interested in quiet conversation and a good cup of tea than swashing any buckles. But when he is sent to interview an imprisoned intruder on the palace grounds, he discovers the indomitable Delilah Dirk, the wealthy daughter of an English ambassador and a Greek artist.

She grew up traveling the world, where she learned a variety of survival techniques and became the "master of 47 different sword-fighting techniques." When she escapes her prison, the hapless Selim is accused of conspiring with Dirk and is sentenced to death. She saves his life, even as he feebly protests that he is duty-bound to kill her.

"Kill me with what?" Dirk asks with characteristic good humor. "That rope? You'll give me rope burns 'til I yield?"

Selim throws in his lot with Dirk, of course, and off they go in her flying boat. As it turns out, Selim is a bit of a klutz: He nearly crashes her boat, twice, and lacks Dirk's sense of adventure. When Dirk announces her plan to raid the coffers of the evil pirate captain Zakul — not all of it, but "enough to send a message," Selim asks, "Is that message, 'I have led a sufficiently long life?'"

Cliff's gorgeous artwork is a perfect complement to the witty dialogue and exciting chase and fight scenes that ensue.

Dirk is just a delightful, kick-butt heroine (with great hair!), and the quiet, self-deprecating Selim is her ideal sidekick.

The American publication of "Delilah Dirk" is one of those improbable success stories that should give heart to any would-be author or graphic artist.

It began as a 28-page self-published comic called "Delilah Dirk and the Treasure of Constantinople" and was expanded and picked up by a French publisher. It appeared as an online comic before being published in the U.S.

There are sequels in the making — and a good thing, too, because readers will want to join Dirk and Selim for more rollicking good adventures.

This book is recommended for tweens, teens and adults.

Sara Latta is a science writer and author of 18 books for children and young adults. You can learn more about Latta's work and find a link to past book reviews at http://www.saralatta.com.

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