Macabre. Unsettling. Gruesome.
I loved it.
My introduction when I reviewed Beautiful Darkness, also by Vehlmann and Kerascoët, had the above words and they prove true in this unique graphic novel too. At first glance, the story line seems to be simply a dark fairy tale- yet, it goes deeper than that.
The story begins with a cave exploration gone wrong. Spelunker Christopher has gone missing, and experienced guide and priest Father Monsore can not find him. Another recovery team sets out to find him that include’s Christopher’s younger sister Charlotte. Monsure tries to save this group too when poor planning on smug team leader Lavergne’s part traps them in the cave and a spring flood pushes them deeper into the caverns.
Once the six characters are established, we find out the real reason for Christopher’s exploration- he was writing a book to prove the existence of Hell by using Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lavergne, a believer of Christopher’s theories, expounds further by explaining that perhaps Neanderthals moved into the cave’s depths and evolved to combat the heat, over thousands of years, to resemble demons of folklore.
Soon time begins to bend, and hallucinations occur for some of the team, so it’s hard to know if what they are experiencing or seeing is true. Some of the team disappear or go crazy and only three remain- Father Monsore, Charlotte and Lavergne. The three find some clues that Christopher might still be alive and they push deeper finding grotesque creatures and other-worldly landscapes. They encounter some demon looking beasts, and one seems to take a liking to Charlotte. I will not spoil the end of what happens to everyone in the land of Satania, but the last few pages were perfectly disturbing.
The illustrations are lush and detailed with special attention to the subterranean landscapes. The world created is strange and lovely, with vivid coloring to help bring each part of Satania to life. The art is credited to Kerascoët, which is actually a pseudonym for the husband and wife team of Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset. These two have also worked with the writer Hubert to create the book Beauty, that Kathleen reviewed. While their illustrations may seem suited for children’s tales, read further in and you will see why all their books are only meant for mature audiences.
If you like your fairy tales dark, pick up this book and the others by Kerascoët, to experience thought provoking, haunting and allegorical tales.
Vehlmann, Fabien & Kerascoët. Satania. 2017.