Review: Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann (Illustrated by Kerascoët)

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Publication: February 25th 2014
Publisher:  Drawn and Quarterly
Pages:  94 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Fiction, Anti-fairy tale
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

I seem to be reading a lot of really fucked up things recently. But that’s okay, because I’m kind of into these weird, disgusting, horrifying stories.

They make me think.I first heard of Beautiful Darkness from Karen’s Goodreads Review and immediately became interested in the story. Karen also shared pictures from the novel in her review (which I didn’t do because I already returned the book back to the library), which showed how beautifully dark (see what I did their?) the illustrations are. I fell in love with the juxtaposition and knew I had to get my hands on this book.

The summary for the book is vague, being described as an anti-fairy tale telling readers to “[j]oin princess Aurora and her friends as they journey to civilization’s heart of darkness in a bleak allegory about surviving the human experience.” To give you a bit more detail without spoiling too much, the novel begins with Princess Aurora and her people escaping her castle because it is literally collapsing in on itself. When Aurora and her kingdom escape, it is revealed that Aurora’s kingdom was inside the brain of a dead little girl in the forest, and that now that the little girl (the real Aurora) is dead, the fairy tale creatures have no where else to live and escape her brain to live and explore in the forest around them.

The book reminds me of the cartoon miniseries Over the Garden Wall in both plot, darkness, and drawing style. And if you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, do it. This show will literally change your life. Both follow the themes of innocence, darkness, and manage to make you laugh at parts where you shouldn’t laugh (ah dark comedy, my old friend.). Beautiful Darkness is definitely the darker story of the two, but if you like one you’ll probably enjoy the other.

I definitely agree with the cover blurbs description of the book as an anti-fairy tale and with Eisnein’s description of it as a “sugar-coated nightmare” and hope that this is a genre more fully explored by authors. It’s no secret that I love fairy tales, especially one’s that are dark, and getting to read an anti-fairy tale felt like I stumbled onto a genre I had been missing my entire life.

Beautiful Darkness is a fantastic start-up to the anti-fairy tale genre. For anyone who loves the combination a cuteness and darkness, who enjoys reading books that force you to think, this is the book for you. Beautiful Darkness is wonderfully illustrated and a beautifully told story. I can’t wait to read more of Vehlmann and Kerascoët.

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