Manhwa Review | Spinel by Baek Ji



There will be spoilers for the series Spinel.

Trigger Warning: There may be references to enslavement, racism, exotification, murder, death, imbalanced power dynamics, blood, violence, torture, abuse, kidnapping, rape, arranged marriage, guns, BDSM, child neglect, bullying, and cheating, as it appears in the manhwa.


Rowell is the youngest duke in the empire due to the murder of his parents. His parents were murdered because they disapproved of the current acceptance of slavery in the empire. The world is made up of two races. The Pels, the ruling race, enslave and trade the Spinels like commodities. Despite his parent's murder, Rowell continues their legacy, refusing to take part in the buying and selling of humans.

However, all of that changes when Rowell is attacked by an escaped Spinel one evening. The Spinel has unique features, specifically his bright blue eyes, and Rowell is drawn to him. After the Spinel runs off, it is discovered he stole Rowell's pendant, one of the last gifts he received from his parents. He ends up going to meet the captured Spinel and, while negotiating the return of his pendant with Dev, the Spinel, Dev asks Rowell for a favor:

He wants Rowell to buy him. Despite his beliefs, Rowell can't bring himself to leave Dev there and decides to follow through with this agreement. So, Rowell brings Dev back to his estate, and the two learn to live with each other. All the while, Dev is trying to determine how best he can use Rowell to find his missing family.


The art in this is stunning. It has a beautiful style, and it's pretty clean. Though, to my surprise, I actually wish it was less clean. The prologue has a much more painterly style, which I wish had been carried on throughout, but even beyond the prologue, it is beautiful. It's not perfect by any means (sometimes the characters can look a bit froggy), but it's consistent throughout. The best part is undoubtedly the character designs. Our main characters, Rowell and Dev, are beautiful. I love a long-haired man, which Dev has, along with beautiful blue eyes, and Rowell is just beautiful in general. This is pretty, pretty, pretty, so if you care about the artwork in your manhwa, this is a big win.

Cover art for Spinel on TappyToon

It's hard to believe in a between an enslaved person and the person who enslaved them, though. Sure, I get Rowell believes Spinel should be free and doesn't intend to enslave anyone and only did so because Dev asked him to. However, it's still hard to imagine any kind of balanced relationship where the two could have equal footing in a prejudiced society. However, Dev and Rowell are far more balanced and less toxic than the coupling between Duke Chapman and Garnet. That couple made absolutely no sense as it appeared that Chapman routinely tortured Garnet, and he was ruthless. It gives off vibes, and I found it more disgusting that they ended up together. Duke Chapman deserved to end up alone after everything he did, and Garnet just deserved so much better.

As if that wasn't enough, Duke Chapman, narratively, also just doesn't make any sense. He seems to have an obsession with Rowell. He kidnaps him, calls him darling, makes it a point to seek him out at public functions, and is just a creep. He's constantly asking Rowell to join him, but it's never clear in what capacity. He's already married, so if gay marriage exists, they can't get married. Rowell is a duke in his own right, so I'm not sure why Rowell would ever hand over his dukedom just because. It makes no sense, and it feels like Duke Chapman was created to cause needless chaos. Then, it's revealed that Duke Chapman loves Garnet, which makes the connection to Rowell all the more senseless. If he loved Garnet, why was he going after Rowell to begin with? If Duke Chapman had been removed, I don't think it would have changed the main story, even one iota.

I really enjoyed the world, though, and while the story isn't perfect, it was interesting enough to keep me going. However, like with most fantasy shorts like this one, it just isn't built out enough to be satisfying. Duke Chapman could have been built out more so that his obsession and love would have made more sense. Rowell and Dev could have had more time to grow close to each other beyond their physical connection. We could have seen more on how the Spinel function in society, how Rowell's parents were murdered, and why they specifically beyond the superficial “they were killed cause they don't believe in slavery” when it is mentioned that others felt the same and were not murdered. It's implied that Prince Fritz had romantic feelings for Rowell, but that is so subtle it might as well not have even been there. This just needed more time and development, which is disappointing to see when it had so much potential.


This was very much all over the place. It had a ton of potential and a lot of interesting threads, but it was either overshadowed by needless chaos or was never fleshed out beyond the superficial. This needed so much more time to develop. My favorite part was actually in the side story, where we get to see Dev's father and how the whole enslavement of the Spinels started. I wish it had been part of the main story because it was some of the strongest narrative in this entire story. So, would I recommend this? Probably not. It's pretty to look at, but not much more beyond that.

Have you read Spinel? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!

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