Fuchsia, orange, and violet stain the pages of this disquieting “Bluebeard” retelling. Creative duo Metaphrog stages this graphic novel adaptation in a village overshadowed by Bluebeard’s turreted mountaintop castle. A thorny forest and stormy weather simmer with malevolence as the heroine, Eve, grows up on stories of a rich man and his vanished wives; fortunately, Eve has allies too, including a loyal goatherd. When rains and famine weaken the villagers, Bluebeard hosts a luxurious party none can resist and strikes a deal to marry Eve, whose attempts to flee are magically curtailed. Bluebeard intercepts her letters home, baits her with an enchanted key to a forbidden room, and summons village girls, who stagger toward the castle as the story’s events play out. Metaphrog’s illustrations glow with fluorescent intensity, and the saturated imagery conveys murderous suspense.Ages 7–12. (May)
This is perfect in every way. A beautifully told tale.”
–CHARLIE ADLARD, The Walking Dead
“BLUEBEARD’s beating heart lay in its unsettling glow, guiding in silhouette, patiently leading to mystery’s core. Haunting for young and old alike.”
–NATE POWELL, National Book Award Winner of March
“Metaphrog’s books have always been charming but this one explores new territory of warmth and mystery.”
–MICHEL FABER, The Crimson Petal and the White
“Set in a dreamlike world, expertly painted with colour, texture, menace and beauty, this retelling of Bluebeard is a page-turner from the start and delivers on all fronts in the very best traditions of fairytale storytelling.”
– FRANK QUITELY, All-Star Superman
A feast for the eyes and fuel for the imagination, I devoured Metaphrog’s feminist fairytale take on BLUEBEARD in one sitting. It has all the ingredients of a tale well-told.”
–PHILIP ARDAGH, children’s author
“This is wonderful.”
–DENIS MINA, crime writer, Conviction
“Metaphrog’s illustrations glow with fluorescent intensity, and the saturated imagery conveys murderous suspense. “
“The stylized illustrations have a soft quality that contrasts with the characters’ exaggerated expressions. Spreads and panels that predominantly feature blues and pinks seem to correspond with Bluebeard and pink-haired Eve, respectively. “
“Every page of the work is beautiful and dreamlike, rich in atmosphere for what is tantamount to a horror story. The artists make expert use of color: red and orange hues indicate happiness and good times, while blue is used to illustrate frightened animals and the ominous corners of Bluebeard’s mansion. Shifts from red to purple foreshadow events to come, as does Eve’s narration: “some insects spend their whole lives not realizing they have wings. Not realizing they can fly.” Eve learns to take hold of her fate and soar in this gorgeous adaptation.”
In a book of berry-bright colours, predominantly luminous deep pink and blue, the images of heroic Eve and Tom the goat boy stand out, weighty and rich, as though they might feel braided to the touch.
THE TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT, Imogen Russell Williams
"Glasgow-based creators John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs continue their all-ages reinvention of fairy tales with this smart, beautifully rendered feminist take on one of the darkest of them all"
- The Herald Scotland Best Graphic Novels of 2020
Eve dwells in an idyllic town near an enchanted forest where deadly vines hunger. Past that ravenous wood stands a forlorn castle, rumored to be the home of the hideously hirsute Bluebeard, though no one has ever seen him to confirm his existence. After catastrophic rains take their toll on the little hamlet and belts tighten from the hunger, every villager receives an unexpected invitation to go to the castle and enjoy the hospitality of Bluebeard himself. Accepting the offer, Eve's family partakes in his largess, with circumstances unfolding with her unexpected arranged marriage to the polite and dapper yet distant man. Leaving on a trip, Eve is given strict instructions to do as she pleased as long as one room remained forever locked, though she would have the temptation of a key. Doors are made to be opened, and what Eve discovers in that room hidden by her wicked husband puts her life in danger, even as unbeknownst to her the many local women, including her sister, are being drawn to the castle under a terrible spell. VERDICT Metaphrog (creative duo John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs; "Louis" series) offers a pastel-hewn modern take on the venerable tale that is delightfully offbeat and thrilling, with an actively heroic lead and unexpected magical menaces. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour's "Picture This," LJ 4/20.]—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta
Gr 6 Up—Franco-Scottish duo Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, collectively known as Metaphrog, attempt a feminist interpretation of "Bluebeard." Gazing at Count Bluebeard's imposing castle on the hill, Eve and her beloved Tom wonder about the rumors about the mysterious Count, whose former wives supposedly vanished into thin air. When Eve turns 18, a rainstorm destroys the village's crops, and a mysterious messenger offers the townsfolk a reprieve, inviting them to Bluebeard's country house. The Count emerges, taking Eve as his wife and trapping her inside his castle. Before leaving on business, he hands Eve the keys to all of the rooms in the vast castle, but warns her against using a small golden key. Yet breaking this rule may be the key to Eve's freedom. Metaphrog's vivid jewel tones heighten the mood—frosty blues for the ominous castle; muted pinks and reds for Eve's childhood memories. However, choppy transitions between panels hamper the flow. The story feels jumbled—Bluebeard spends most of the book off the page, lessening the intensity of his threat to Eve. And despite the book's subtitle, it's not clear why this is a "feminist retelling"; the authors follow the same basic plot as the original, rather than subverting it. Symbols, such as an injured bird that Eve and Tom heal, seem to suggest a more nuanced interpretation, but it's never clear what if anything they are meant to represent. VERDICT Beautiful artwork struggles to cover a weak narrative. Fans of fairy-tale retellings or Metaphrog's previous works may appreciate the work, but many readers will be frustrated.—Elise Martinez, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL
In this diminutive graphic-novel adaptation of the “Bluebeard” tale, Eve and her siblings confront the mysterious and sinister man whose castle looms over their village.
The sparse text is narrated by an older Eve as she recounts her youth and reluctant marriage at age 18 to Count Bluebeard. Her slow-burn tale successfully builds suspense, though it’s somewhat diluted by clunky writing and excessive use of ellipses. The stylized illustrations have a soft quality that contrasts with the characters’ exaggerated expressions. Spreads and panels that predominantly feature blues and pinks seem to correspond with Bluebeard and pink-haired Eve, respectively. Despite the limited color palette, readers can distinguish characters’ skin tones: Eve, her family, and Bluebeard all appear white while her best friend and true love, Tom, has brown skin along with several unnamed townspeople. This adaptation retains many elements that characterize existing versions of the tale, including a bloody key, dead wives (here, with minimal gore), sibling saviors, and an enchanted castle. Yet, though Eve claims that the “bond between two sisters, our love, proved stronger than any evil spell,” this self-identified “feminist fairy tale” treats that bond superficially (a slap from Eve is what finally breaks her sister Anne’s trance). Overall, the characters and worldbuilding are frustratingly two-dimensional; readers would be better served with Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods (2014).
A passable introduction to horror for young readers in an engaging format. (Graphic fairy tale. 10-16)