Originally posted on Moonshine Arts magazine.
Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa
First Second (April 1, 2008)
Cyril Pedaroa is a former artist for Disney, who worked on such films as “Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Hercules,” but has since transferred his creative and artistic talents to the world of graphic novels. Three Shadows is a story of life, a family’s love, grief, and death rolled into an all too short novel. Pedaroa captures the tale of this family with ease and their relationships with one another and the world around them.
Three Shadows is the story of a small farming family, father, mother, and their young son named Joaquim. They live an ideal life with all that they could ever need in their lives. Until the day Joaquim approaches his parents and tells them of the three shadows outside watching him. After initially not believing him, his parents watch as the three shadows come closer and closer to the home. Like any parent they want to protect their child from shadows and each goes about providing protection in a different way. The mother visits a local shaman to find out information about what the shadows are and how to stop them. When she finds she cannot, the father takes Joaquim and journeys across the river, in hopes of escaping the shadows. Joaquim’s father is willing to do anything to protect his son, including giving up his own life. The father is a larger than life figure in the book, both figuratively and literally. His presence is seen and felt from the beginning and it is clear he has compassion and love, but is a force to be reckoned with, not only for his physical strength, but the mind and heart behind it. The father is a protector and almost seems lost when he cannot protect those around him, but he doesn’t give in. While they seem to escape the shadows by crossing the river, the shadow figures come back with a vengeance before Joaquim and his father finish crossing the river. No matter what Joaquim and his father try they just can’t seem to escape the three shadows. Joaquim is eventually willing to accept and meet his fate, but has one last task to complete before he can move on.
In the end, all of the characters introduced in the novel, find that no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape death. The story itself would appear to be a simple one, but the twists and turns of the lives portrayed make it a compelling story. Although the story is more father and son, the mother’s love is evident by her sacrifice to allow father and son to undertake their journey. Both parents handle the situation as best as they know how and exemplify a family’s love for one another. The story’s overall message is that even in death, you can find hope, and that even though death may come, life will still go on.
What really sells the story and draws the reader in, are the illustrations. The illustrations in the novel are simple black and white line drawings, but through Pedrosa’s use of lines they convey emotion and energy. Even without words, the drawings are able to convey joy, fear, grief, and love through the characters expressions and movements. The reader becomes not a mere witness to the story, but a participant, feeling a sense of the place, the time, and the people. The characters cease to be mere drawings on the page, but become real to the reader, as if we could meet them in real life.
This novel is a must read for any age, but particularly for those struggling with grief of a loved one. The story touches on life, love, and grief in a way that is easy for any reader to relate too. The simplicity of the illustrations, the depth of the characters, and the compelling story line make this a great read for any age. Pedrosa’s novel has captured the essence of a family that transcends country, culture, or time.