Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann: Book Review

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Cover of Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann

3 Stars

I walked into the library on my lunch break to pick up a nonfiction book for my before-bed reading. I have enough unread novels at home. I was not going to check out any fiction. I grabbed the book I was there for and then started wandering the fiction stacks. It couldn’t hurt to just look, right? OK, so I hadn’t read anything by Patricia Briggs in a while. I needed to check out the next in the Mercy Thompson series since it was available. But that was it. Nothing else. I marched toward the checkout desk with blinders on. I would not be deterred.

But, oh! What’s that? Over on the “Staff Recommends” shelf? It’s so pretty! My feet were going that way of their own volition. My hands were reaching for it. Beautiful and creepy. A quick glance at the back. Fairy tale? Sold. I had Beautiful Darkness checked out and in the car before my brain even processed what had just happened.

It truly is a beautiful book. It’s large and hardcover so it was very striking on display. The interior artwork is all gorgeous too. I took my time looking over each frame.

The story–? So-so. It was very dark, in a Lord of the Flies way. I was never entirely clear exactly what happened, but I was clear enough. There’s a murdered little girl in the woods. All of these fairy-ish creatures fled–her body? her mind?– when she died. Now they’re alone in a harsh world trying to survive.

All of the personalities you would expect to see in this situation show up. The “Queen Bee,” demanding that the others cater to her every whim. The caretaker who is doing her best for everyone. The outcasts. The sneaky manipulators. And a whole lot of clueless people who get themselves killed for no good reason.

It was just too episodic for me. Each smaller story lasted just a few frames. There was a larger story arc and I did like that one. I did not expect the ending at all. It was deliciously shivery.

The translation was done very well. I would never have guessed it wasn’t originally written in English.

If you enjoyed Lord of the Flies, you’ll probably like this twisted little beauty of a book. If you’re looking for a Disney-ish fairy tale, keep those feet marching toward the checkout desk. This one’s pretty disturbing.

Read an excerpt.

Buy Beautiful Darkness at

Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
Image courtesy of hywards at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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