The Year of the Beasts (by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell) – ARC

4 04 2012

In classical Greek mythology, anyone looking directly at Medusa would turn into stone. In most versions of the Medusa story, Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden until the goddess Athena punished her (because Athena caught Medusa being ravished by Poseidon – for feminists a cause of obvious outrage!) and turned her lovely long hair into snakes. The Medusa figure has been used (Versace!) and analyzed in many ways throughout Western cultural history, with psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations obviously taking the forefront here.

Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell have also drawn on the Medusa story in their upcoming collaboration The Year of the Beasts, but they have reinterpreted the Medusa as a symbol of grief and loss in a much more contemporary way than could have been expected from this age-old myth.

Tessa, along with her younger sister Lulu in tow, goes to the annual summer carnival un-chaperoned for the very first time. Any carnival brings with it limitless possibilities for the summer, and this year especially there will be new experiences for the girls in the form of…boys. Tessa has her eye on Charlie, but it’s her younger sister Lulu who comes out the curiosity sideshow tent as Charlie’s girlfriend. Who knew that the darkness inside the tent, which all the girls initially perceive as a good thing, because darkness mixed with boys would obviously lead to handholding and kissing, would actually be the beginning of a life-changing event for Tessa?

In two different storylines – one told solely in words, the other in both word and image – Castellucci and Powell weave together a story about betrayal, jealousy, guilt and grief. It’s great and refreshing to see how Cecil Castellucci’s words are taken to a new level by Powell’s graphics about a girl with snake-hair, a minotaur and a mermaid! Nate Powell’s images and his light/dark play are indeed very evocative and even enhance the feeling of not quite belonging, which is exemplified in Castellucci’s part of the book by the character of Jasper. Because both storylines are at first somewhat confusing to the reader, you get an almost unheimlich feeling until towards the end, the storylines form a unified whole. I am not familiar with Powell’s previous work, but to me, this book seems like Castellucci’s boldest move yet.

Ultimately, this is a story about feeling lost – for whatever reason, because you live in the shadow of your sister like Tessa does in the beginning the story, or because you are or just feel different from the rest of the world like Jasper, or because you have literally lost something or someone – and consequently the Medusa myth is an apt point of reference, of course (what hasn’t Medusa lost … hair, honour, beauty, virtue?). As such this is also a book that can be read by both the young and the not so young as they will each realize what it is they regret having lost.

The Year of the Beasts comes out on May 22nd, 2012.

Review based on ARC received on NetGalley.



One response

28 10 2012

Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading?
trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog.
feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

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