A review of The Forbidden Door by Marilee Heyer and The Moon’s Revenge by Joan Aiken, Illustrated by Alan Lee
Fantasy and horror have always (in my mind) gone just as well together as horror and science fiction. And while there’s plenty of films — Willow (1988) and Legend (1985) being the first that come to mind — who share strong veins of both fantasy AND horror, there’s many books and book series as well, especially in the realm of picture books and children’s literature.
Growing up, I loved fantasy and horror in equal measure. And, while the horror genre has ultimately come out on top, I still love fantasy and will read, watch or buy anything that combines fantasy with my favorite genre.
A few nights ago, I was struck by the image of a sea monster looming out of a frothing sea side bay, his green eyes staring down a small medieval hamlet sidled up to the bay. This image was, I knew, from a book that my mom had read to me when I was a kid. With this in mind, I asked her what its title was and if she could find it. She said she could and went directly to her book case and began leafing through various brightly illustrated titles.
While she did this, I watched. It wasn’t long before another fantasy horror book, whose cover I momentarily glimpsed, sparked another memory of strange bird like creatures and a red-eyed monster silhouetted against a blood red moon. I grabbed the book, and it wasn’t long after that that the other book I sent my mom on a quest for emerged from the bookcase, too.
Following this I read them both cover to cover and found not only inspiration for the nightmares I would have for the next week, but for the topic of my next article. I hope you enjoy these two reviews. I also hope that, after you’ve finished reading them, you go to your public library or book store and get them, read them and get scared by them.
The Forbidden Door by Marilee Heyer
The Forbidden Door is a slim but lavishly illustrated and masterfully told dark fairy tale that centers around a beautiful young girl named Reena who lives with her family in a cave and who, after hearing a story of “the outside” from her mother, endeavors to find “the outside”. Upon finding the outside, Reena is faced with the task of defeating a horrid monster with the help of some strange looking birdlike creatures — the same monster who drove her ancestors into the caves in the first place and who now wishes to keep her trapped for her beauty.
The story moves briskly but never leaves the reader feeling rushed. The brevity of this fairy tale works in its favor, and its use of hot and cold showers, shifting from horror to heart and back, keeps the story accessible.
The helpful bird-like creatures depicted in the book are reminiscent of Arent Van Bolten’s Grotesques, and the demons depicted in Matthias Grünewald’s painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony (sometimes titled: Demons Armed with Sticks). The writing evokes those great fairy tale tellers, the brothers Grimm (who really WERE grim if you know what I mean).
The story is elegant in both its illustrations and writing, and will be sure to leave a lasting impression on any reader. Equal parts terrifying and tender, The Forbidden Door is sure to keep any reader up at night.
Click here to purchase on Amazon.
The Moon’s Revenge by Joan Aiken, Illustrated by Alan Lee
The Moon’s Revenge is much more gothic and was admittedly not as well received as Marilee Heyer’s The Forbidden Door. Nevertheless, it has garnered a considerable amount of fans and praise, which is evident by its Goodreads page. The main reason The Moon’s Revenge wasn’t as well received lies in the fact that many felt the plot didn’t match the sumptuous and sometimes scary illustrations (unlike Marilee Heyer’s The Forbidden Door).
I personally don’t feel this way and find the story and the accompanying illustrations perfectly matched in strength. Bear in mind, my perception may be skewed from growing up with this book and loving it, but I honestly looked for inconsistencies and found none.
I will admit, however, that The Moon’s Revenge (although a children’s book) is a little more advanced in its use of language and history, so it may be better suited to older children or those with an advanced vocabulary and sense/appreciation for history. What’s more, this book is also scarier then The Forbidden Door (I feel), and even at “calm” points The Moon’s Revenge maintains a vale of unease — and suspense — around it.
Like The Forbidden Door, the book also deals with a monster — which is quite gruesome and looks like the sea monster on the cover of Mysterious monsters: Real or Unreal? by Jerry A Young — as well as ghosts, a haunted house, and a wrathful moon.
All in all, this book is well paced, and the narrative moves nimbly from page to page.
Click here to purchase this book on Amazon.
That’s it dear readers! Until next time, keep looking under your bed and keep your sword at your side.