Fairy Tale of Ash, review: a mature and intense fairytale

Fairy Tale of Ash, review: a mature and intense fairytale

Fairy Tale of Ash, review

In this "Once upon a time" there are fire, ash and destruction. It is that of Fiaba di Cenere: where despair meets hope, fear knows courage, hatred discovers empathy and brotherhood. Simone Pace's dark fantasy graphic novel arrives on paper (here is our interview with the author), presented by Edizioni BD on the occasion of Lucca Comics and Games 2022, after its digital debut on the webcomic platform TacoToon. Fiaba di Cenere becomes a book, a fairy tale enclosed in pages to leaf through, which speaks of an ancient story, but also out of time: current, raw and intense.

Once upon a time there was fire

Fiaba di Cenere: a new and “ours” fantasy

Among fantastic beasts, knights, witches and magic, Fiaba di Cenere takes off from the war and the death trail that marks its passage as it progresses, but it does so through a story that smacks of folklore and fantastic legend with a fresh and new flavor, in an era in which fantasy is strongly anchored to specific canons . The one traced by Simone Pace on every page, in every line or caption and also in every illustration, is in fact a graphic novel that evokes images and atmospheres of a traditional tale, almost a popular narrative that could have belonged to a time so remote that having been forgotten. The closeness to us, however, is palpable: for the extremely current themes, but also for elements of the settings that recall a Mediterranean mythology, images of places that could be without hesitation those of our own territories. Fiaba di Cenere is therefore really a fairy tale, albeit mature, hard and often bloody, told through images that hurt and sting the reader on the alive one.

Images of death, flames and devastation, but never an end in themselves or a purely destabilizing story. Because Simone Pace's is a fairy tale that has something to teach: fire, however destructive and lethal, is "bad" depending on the use made of it. And what it represents is something that should never be fed: hatred. A part of the world among those that, as we said at the beginning, sometimes seems never to be able to directly touch our lives with wars, aggressions, fights, something only apparently distant, but which in reality concerns all of us, even if only in the limited sphere of small daily gestures that can mark the dividing line between indifference and solidarity. A fairy tale "ours" not only thanks to its characteristic of being a fantasy that seems to draw on the Italian foklore, but also for the commonality it creates with the protagonists, for the feelings it allows to emerge, the desire to be involved and participate in something positive. That's why we call this graphic novel intense: you need to know Marfisa and Marlo and their story, but also the Cheerful knight and his dog Pupa, the witch, the surgeon and all the survivors of the fire (or rather, hatred in the form of red and sanguine flames), to feel how the stories of the past could be and get excited with current feelings and issues.

Telling through the sign

In his hard and marked illustrations, the flat colors with clear and deep shadows, the shapes with a vaguely geometric cut but always very detailed, Simone Pace inserts the care and fascination for the dark fantasy world of medieval origin, generating an amazing crasis between the narration and the setting, which he finds so full expression in the design. Those of Fiaba di Cenere are in fact illustrations that seem to borrow the archaic character, of dark brilliance, which could belong to medieval images and, at the same time, always maintain that aura of local folklore with figures that vaguely recall the memory Italian playing cards.

Fiaba di Cenere is then an excellent example of how the story can easily immerse the reader in a certain atmosphere, in a certain era (albeit fantastic and fictitious), in a specific context , even if only through the sign and the colors; the human figures and their faces; the design of the armor, the architecture of the cities. In short, immersing yourself with transport in this graphic novel is inevitable: the illustrations perfectly follow the line of themes and the narrative genre, an adaptation operation that is never to be taken for granted in an author, especially if we think, for example, of a previous work by Pace as Love Needs Space, fluo and fluid, more minimal, colorful.

It's true, Fiaba di Cenere is a raw story, but it's also magical; it is frighteningly current, but it tells us in one way or another how to fight against the most horrible adversities; it speaks of fire and destruction, but also of rebirth from the ashes that that same fire has produced. And through strong images, decided both in the stroke and in what they represent, it tells an ancient world in which current ugliness occurs that we cannot help but feel ours. Not a fairy tale with which to naively marvel at brave deeds and impossible loves, but one from which to draw courage, empathy and strength, immersing oneself in the ashes of what once was.

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