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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+
 

Black as Night: a fairy tale retold - Review
< Back to reviews for ages 14+>

Publisher's Summary:

Doman, Regina. (2007) Black as Night: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-9819-3182-1. Author recommends teens and adults. Litland.com recommends ages 15+.  

Publisher's Description:

Blanche Brier entirely on her own this summer in New York City while Bear is wandering through Europe and her family is on vacation. Blanche is fast becoming the focus of a terrifying play of evil forces. Even the refuge she takes among some lively Franciscan friars does not protect her from dangerous attacks. Rather, they continue to escalate as she struggles to persuade a sick and aged man from killing himself. Discovering Blanche's disappearance, Bear and Fish cut short their European vacation and join up with Rose to begin scouring New York City looking for Blanche. But the same malevolence that is lurking over Blanche seems to be hunting them as well and drawing them all togther into a death trap until it seems that all hope is gone. Yet during this time, the desires of Blanche's heart are being clarified - and so are Bear's. A black night. Tested faith. Honest love.

   

Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.
 

As with the first novel in the series, Black as Night serves to demonstrate acting with integrity to one’s values. Considering integrity as talking the talk, the characters do this well. And since their stated values follow the Golden Rule, of respectful treatment of others, then they take pains to think through decisions and actions as far as consequences to others.

Hope-Faith-Charity: this story embodies all of the virtues. There is also trust, and how Blanche feels that Bear broke her trust in him. Simultaneous with the suspense of solving the crime while being stalked, all of the characters experience confusion common for their age as they attempt to discern their vocation in life, their future goals, and marriage. In doing so, there is much effort to consider the consequences of their decisions upon others.  Even more prominent is the concern Bear shows for Blanche, using physical self-discipline so their affections do not lead to sex. He refrains from touching her as he feels it would not be fair to her. “receiving that smile was as good as a kiss.”


Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”
 

Considering that Blanche is wanted by the authorities while Bear and Fish are arrested under false charges, there is plenty of opportunity to portray authority figures with contention: police, judges, attorneys, jail guards, and more. However, the authority in this story remains respected and are shown to be competent doing their jobs. There is no attempt to manipulate them nor are they shown as bumbling fools as is common in entertainment today.

Implied is the authority of the head of household, as Mrs. Foster is portrayed and respected as a wise elder, and Ms. Brier is presumed to be an “in charge” head of family for Blanche and Rose. Their authority over family matters is confirmed with Bear making their involvement in the situation a priority.


Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.
 

Strong family bonds remain present throughout the story. Through description and self-talk, we find the tight bond the boys had with their mother while Bear must come to terms with his resentment towards his father. Meanwhile, Blanche and Rose continue to have pride and loyalty towards their family as well.  There are implied early on when Bear wants to contact Blanche’s mother but is unable to.. Rose “loyally” tried to find Blanche a job at the theatre. Bears loyalty to Blanche occasionally wavers but remains steadfast. The two groups of friends, in essence, become almost a combined family.


Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”

 

The core of the mystery is the classic battle of good over evil, with good always prevailing or at least permitting Hope to exist. There is a lot of talk about this, including Fr. Raymond’s wisdom that bad people stop believing in good. The characters can easily make excuses and choose to act poorly, but do not. The author has written the story with a darkness to the suspense and realistic nature of the hardships faced by the characters, but has not succumbed to crossing the proverbial line into a gothish story common by other writers today.  Characters make decisions based upon right and wrong, and choose good even when it may put them at risk. Ultimately, that is Faith.

Evildoers are obvious, such as the thief/murderer. It is also more subtle and intuitive in the description of the popular kids and Rose’s interactions with/observations of them.


Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.
 

Inner beauty is portrayed by the character’s desire to remain pure. Achieving inner beauty is portrayed by the continued use of discernment to guide decision making. Fr. Raymond’s explanation of discerning a vocation as “giving your whole self to it even when you don’t want to” demonstrates this.  This constant use of discernment by characters gives the story a feel of goodness in spite of the evil taking place.

As for physical aspects of the story, the clear descriptions takes the reader easily to place. Whether it is the opening scene with Blanche frantically escaping muggers, the description of the monks and monastery, or the dialects spoken by the local population., the scene is richly portrayed. Inner city neighborhoods of New York City as well as Catholics have distinct cultures, and this story is believable in portraying both.  Adding to this is the back-and-forth movement between reflection upon the past, and being part of the present scene. Doing so fills in gaps slowly so the reader begins to put together what has happened over the summer, leading to the current situation.  Also of interest is the telling of the mugging scene through the eyes of the mugger rather than the victim.

 Continuing on the theme of inner beauty, the story also shows true empowerment of women, which is maximizing use of their strengths to serve God; in this story these are empathy, intelligence, and courage. Giving examples of real historic female saints and martyrs reminds us such female creations really do exist in real life too. 

Finally, the story’s alignment with verses from the Grimm fairytale somehow seems better connected in this story compared to book 1, perhaps because the story’s discourse is richer. It is very much a fairytale.



Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.
 

The story begins with a fast-paced mugging and chase scene, also later involving drugs and robbery.  Otherwise, absolutely outstanding writing and portrayal of good character. 

By the way, for readers interested in seeing the real-life monastery after which this was modeled, visit the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal whose history and works in the Bronx is closely approximated in our story: http://www.franciscanfriars.com/  Check out their gallery and see if this is what you pictured while reading this book.  And while Fr. Stan Fortuna, the rapping-priest, might be their best known member to the general public, in his early days perhaps he resembled our Brother Leon...what do you think?  :>) http://www.francescoproductions.com/

 

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   


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