First Published: September 1, 2001
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
A raven who has learned to speak from watching movies befriends a young girl whose eyes were ruined in a freak accident. He brings her eyeballs he steals from other people, and when she puts them in her eye sockets, she sees memories from their original owners. Desperate to make the girl happy, the raven brings her more and more eyeballs. This is also the story of a young girl, Nami, who has lost her memories and cannot seem to live up to the expectations of those around her. The stories intertwine in a haunting, dreamy, horrific narrative evoking the raw and universal need for love.
Black Fairy Tale is a bizarre story, full stop, it is the thought that kept circling my mind as I read the novel and especially when I finished. What made this story so enjoyable was precisely for that reason. It is an offbeat paranormal story about a girl that undergoes an eye transplant and finds that she can see the memories from her donor’s life. While it is a horror thriller, surprisingly this isn’t the horrific part of the story as would be predicted, and I liked that the novel toyed with my expectations.
The only ghosts in this story are the memories of those that have been lost, keenly felt by the people of the town. Black Fairy Tale is about grief and loss; the warm comfort and bitter sting of memory, how memory shapes the people we are and ground us to others around us. Nami feels this keenly, suffering from amnesia and feeling crushed under the expectations of others, who compare her to the Nami of their memories, who she was before.
The dark fairy tale about the raven, at first seemingly unrelated, becomes an allegory for the way that loneliness can warp a hungry soul and make monsters of people. The meditations on relationships and themes of the search for self is explored in a hard-boiled mystery a signature for Otsuichi, with thrills and chills galore. The latter parts of the novel become extremely graphic which amped up my anxiety for the main characters. This book was an unexpected delight, and I was impressed with Otsuichi’s longer-form writing despite how he admonished himself. While at times the novel slows to a crawl, it is a slow burn story with an incredible payoff.
“Everyone in this town was seeing visions of the dead.”
Trigger Warning: Violence, Extreme Gore and Mutilation, Animal Torture, Death