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Beautiful Darkness Hardcover – February 25, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—What starts as a common fairy tale trope—Prince Hector and Princess Aurora are having tea the day after a ball—quickly turns dark and disturbing. The prince is charming but self-absorbed, and the princess is somewhat flighty and unprepared, when the ceiling appears to fall in, and they find themselves in a dark forest filled with other refugees, all Borrowers-small. While Aurora and her friend Plim adapt to their surroundings, taking charge and feeding the others they have found, Hector is only concerned with staring into space. None of the characters notice the dead body that they are playing on and living around (a human-sized girl, also named Aurora), and do not question where the items they are using are from (quite possibly the corpse's purse). The forest's animals do not speak, distancing this from other fairy tales. The end does not find our characters rescued but living in the shack of a hermitlike human man, referred to as a giant. The artwork is cartoonlike and colorful, in contrast with the morbid and macabre tone. All of the protagonists are wide-eyed, though the animals and bodies are drawn realistically. Purchase where teens like their graphic novels and fractured fairy tales on the dark side.—Suanne B. Roush, formerly at Osceola High School, Seminole, FL
When Princess Aurora’s world implodes, she puts her courtship with the handsome prince aside to help make a life for herself and the other fairylike folk of her kingdom who inhabit this gorgeous, brutal book by award-winning French writer Vehlmann (Isle of 100,000 Graves, 2011). In scenes that mirror the worst of human behavior, the more Aurora blithely goes about putting things in order, the more those around her scheme, betray, belittle, and disregard everything our morality tells us the characters should care about. The delicate, haunting, and beautiful watercolor artwork by Kerascoët helps to enhance the fairy-tale setting, juxtaposing the small, petty characters perfectly against the lush blues, greens, and purples used to create the huge forest that surrounds them. The result is a story that shocks as it entertains and is predictably unpredictable. As the seasons turn and wide-eyed Aurora loses her amiable innocence, the reader is left not knowing whether to cry or cheer when Aurora finally decides she’s had enough. --Eva Volin
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They think nothing of exploiting Aurora's naive industriousness or bowing down to the heartless Zelie because she's so beautiful and to do otherwise would bring their lives misery. Hector, the so-called Prince, is a navel-gazing moron and Plim, the capable right-hand man, is a bully as well as a toady.
The pixies, if I interpret correctly, are all archetypes that scampered out of the girl (the original Aurora) after she was murdered and are gradually subsumed by the pixie Aurora. Fascinating and haunting.
All of this is nothing new to humans. It's the art that makes this unique. It really is beautiful.
- the art really is incredibly gorgeous.
- the story and excecution is successful in that is GREATLY disturbed me, which is what it intended to do.
- I think what keeps me from loving it is that at many points the characters are inconsistent: at many points it lost track of characters' motives and drives. For example, at some point they found something gross and then at another point they found something equivalent to be no biggie.
- I think the author did a good job portraying cruelty but when no one around is bothered by it, it becomes banal and that detracts from the shock value.
So yeah, I have mixed feelings.
I'm also forever scared.
And even if you don't like the story, just look at that amazing art! Just wonderful watercolors.
The trivialization of violence and death are also abridged in depth with the themes within the book. The lack of boundaries and morals make for a perfect and beautifully done comic!
Though that ending left me tilting my head to the side saying, "What??"