July 10, 2012

Nightmares and Fairytales: 1140 Rue Royale

NIGHTMARES AND FAIRY TALES Volume 3: 1140 RUE ROYALE by Serena Valentino; Illustrated by Crab Scrambly (SLG Publishing, 2007)
GENRE: Graphic Novel / Horror
HONORS: None (though the series has enjoyed many positive critical reviews)

REVIEW: Nightmares and Fairytales is a series of graphic novels wherein the uniting factor is a strange little doll called Annabel. Annabel is said to be cursed, but her current owner, a girl named Gwen understands her, so Annabel tells her stories of the horrors that she's seen. 1140 Rue Royale is one of Annabel's stories. Though an integrated part of the series, it can easily be read alone. It tells the story of a woman named Victoria and her niece who move into the house on 1140 Rue Royale - a house that is said to be haunted by the slaves who were tortured and killed there years before. What unfolds is a story full of foreboding and magnificent creepiness. Valentino's writing is perfectly paced, giving the reader just enough of a break between frightening occurrences to relax before she ratchets up the wrongness even more. Scrambly's illustrations are gorgeous and atmospheric - one part Edward Gorey, one part early Tim Burton - with odd angles and shadings that make you want to look over your shoulder. Everything about 1140 Rue Royale, it is based on the true story of Delphine LaLaurie, from the panel design to the narrative itself, is meant to sweep the reader along into a story that is dark and honestly horrifying (what was done to the slaves is diabolical). A beautiful, effecting and impressive work.

OPINION: The Nightmares and Fairytales series is, generally speaking, not one for younger adolescents, and some volumes should be consigned strictly to YA. 1140 Rue Royale is an exception, though I would only recommend it for those 12 and above, given the level of horror-style tension, some of the imagery and the violence that is implied. That said, 1140 Rue Royale is horror at it's best - driven not by blood and guts, but by a sense of injustice that must be avenged. Between Valentino's haunting story and Scrambly's evocative illustrations, it's one that the reader will think about long after it's been put down.

IDEAS: A good edition to any display containing darker fare, along with Neil Gaiman, Ted Naifeh etc., 1140 Rue Royale is a good suggestion for older tweens who are into Stephen King and serious poltergeist style ghost stories. Given the abuses to slaves that are depicted, it would also pair well with the Newbery award winning books, The Slave Dancer, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and The Dark Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural.

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