3 out of 5 Stars
My son and I were wandering around the mall one day and noticed a new Amazon Brick and Mortar store so we stopped in because in all honesty we can not help ourselves. Plus, we wanted to have a look a look at the kids section (because the Lad needed a new book to read on his own since his stack got below 100 unread books) and I wanted to have a look at the Graphic Novels. I came across Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët and picked it up. The reviews listed on the shelf tag gave it high marks and I read the first few pages completely missing the grey hand on the cover and the picture on the title page somehow. After I bought the book and brought it home only then did I realize just how dark this book really is. Not for small children at all and I am trying to decide when I let my son read it.
This Graphic Novel is admittedly dark and disturbing. Our story opens with the traditional scene of a Princess (Aurora) meeting her Prince (Hector) and “falling in love” before everything changes and goes very very dark. We then come to the title page and it shows a little girl who has died in the forest and all of her little characters start to escape from her body. This is how our story opens sets the stage of what comes next: mainly survival in the forest when dealing with plants and animals that are much larger than you are, various personalities working out a pecking order of society, and what happens to body if left dead in the forest.
The images to start are lovely and colorful. They are bright and hopeful. The various characters are looking for one another and trying to find shelter and food. As the story continues because start forming groups, and one group takes advantage of another group. Then characters start to disappear. They are hauled off by bugs, their bodies can’t handle the poison of certain plants, they are killed by certain factions and everything continues to get darker and the colors of the illustrations start to change and get darker as well. We also see the deterioration of the little girl and the scenes tend to eventually move away from her to a shack where a “giant” lives. The sweetest characters eventually turn dark like the scenes and there is a certain amount of disturbance with that. Greed and jealousy run rampant and it is a cautionary tale of how society can take dangerous turns.
This was a very interesting story within a much larger story, but I struggled with the idea of it all and found it tough to come to terms with which might explain why I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped. I like the idea of an anti-fairy tale, but this took it so much further. I do believe that folks that love disturbing and grim stories that border on scary will probably enjoy this more than I did. It was good to take me out of my comfort zone, but I admit I was happy to finish the book.