Papercutz. May 2020. 176p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781545804124.
Gr 6 Up–Franco-Scottish duo Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers, collectively known as Metaphrog, attempt a feminist interpretation of “Bluebeard.” Gazing at Count Bluebeard’s imposing castle on the hill, Eve and her beloved Tom wonder about the rumors about the mysterious Count, whose former wives supposedly vanished into thin air. When Eve turns 18, a rainstorm destroys the village’s crops, and a mysterious messenger offers the townsfolk a reprieve, inviting them to Bluebeard’s country house. The Count emerges, taking Eve as his wife and trapping her inside his castle. Before leaving on business, he hands Eve the keys to all of the rooms in the vast castle, but warns her against using a small golden key. Yet breaking this rule may be the key to Eve’s freedom. Metaphrog’s vivid jewel tones heighten the mood—frosty blues for the ominous castle; muted pinks and reds for Eve’s childhood memories. However, choppy transitions between panels hamper the flow. The story feels jumbled—Bluebeard spends most of the book off the page, lessening the intensity of his threat to Eve. And despite the book’s subtitle, it’s not clear why this is a “feminist retelling”; the authors follow the same basic plot as the original, rather than subverting it. Symbols, such as an injured bird that Eve and Tom heal, seem to suggest a more nuanced interpretation, but it’s never clear what if anything they are meant to represent.
VERDICT Beautiful artwork struggles to cover a weak narrative. Fans of fairy-tale retellings or Metaphrog’s previous works may appreciate the work, but many readers will be frustrated.

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