Monday, January 7, 2013

Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand by Louise Hawes

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Age: Indeterminate*
Series: None
Interest: Fairytales/ Pretty Art
Source: Received as a Christmas gift


 . . . and they lived happily ever after.” Remember the fairy tales you put away after you found that no princess is as beautiful as common sense and happy endings are just the beginning?

Well, the old tales are back, and they’ve grown up! Black Pearls brings you the stories of your childhood, told in a way you’ve never heard before. Instead of lulling you to sleep, they’ll wake you up—to the haunting sadness that waits just inside the windows of a gingerbread cottage, the passion that fuels a witch’s flight, and the heartache that comes, again and again, at the stroke of midnight.

Make no mistake: these stories are as dark as human nature itself. But they shine, too, lit with the fire of our dreams and our hunger for magic. (Summary from Goodreads.com)


As promised in the description, Black Pearls fully explores the darker nature of fairytales. Hawes weaves the darker parts of human nature and fantasy together flawlessly. Topics such as adulterous marriages, unfulfilled dreams, abandonment and disillusionment are brought up in an artful manner. I heartily enjoyed every second of this strange little book.

Perhaps that is why I'm having such a hard time figuring out exactly why Black Pearls was published for children. This is a very dark book, more designed to leave your children weeping than laughing. There is perhaps two honestly happy endings achieved by the characters, yet they come at very steep prices. Black Pearls is much more suited to teens and adults than young children. (It could be the book was published for teens, but put under the heading of children. It appears to be a little deceiving.) I would caution against purchasing this book for a small child. However, I leave it up to the discretion of the parents and relatives after they flip through the book.

There are seven vignettes in Black Pearls; "Dame Nigran's Tower" (Rapunzel), "Pipe Dreams" (The Pied Piper), "Mother Love" (Hansel and Gretel), "Ashes" (Cinderella), "Evelyn's Song" (The Golden Harp), "Diamonda" (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and "Naked" (Lady Godiva). The only way to describe these stories is beautifully tragic. I adore the prose of Hawes. Her writing is soothing and lyrical, yet refrains from purple prose.This book is truly written in a fantastic fairy tale style which reminds me of all the things I love about storytelling. The words are all the magic this book needs.

I love all the stories dearly, but I have to point out "Dame Nigran's Tower" and "Naked" as my absolute favorites. "Dame Nigran's Tower" was the first story, taking me totally by surprise with its dark nature. I adored the tale, for once, being told in the point of view of the "evil witch." She was not evil at all, a victim of rumors and assumptions her entire life. The character I thought I'd known for so long became a new person with a huge moral playground for me to explore. "Naked" was one of my favorites because of my love for Lady Godiva. It takes some nerves of steel to ride naked through town on a horse in defiance of your husband and in penance for his misdeeds.

Illustrations! I must mention the illustrations. Rebecca Guay, man, that girl went all out drawing such beautiful illustrations. She is a new favorite/respected artist to me.

Black Pearls is definitely for those who like a little bit more tragedy in their happily ever after. Still, the lovely drawing and spectacular prose should sway just about any fairytale lover to pick up this wonderful little book.

*It could be given to smaller children, but I wouldn't recommend it. I feel teens and adults are more suited for this book.

Teaser Lines: "To leave behind the loneliness that made her days rattle like chains and stole the taste from everything she ate. To drop like a stone and put a stop to the waiting, the mad dream of a girl racing up the tower steps and into her arms. Wasn't such an end better than trying to begin again when a garden was no longer enough? When the sweet, empty face of a flower or the warmth of the sun was nothing beside the rush of air, the final fall?"


Happy Reading,

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