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The Rebirth of a Medieval Serial Killer - an Editorial Review of "Floats the Dark Shadow"

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Book Blurb:

WARNING: This book contains sensitive subject matter concerning Gille de Rais, a medieval serial killer and child predator

Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill. When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass. Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children. Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

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Editorial Review:

I, whom some call poet, within the muted night I am the secret staircase; I am the staircase Darkness. Within my deathly spiral the shadow opens its dim eyes. – Victor Hugo

“Floats the Dark Shadow” is, first and foremost, a splendid work of literature ranking with the classic writers like Hugo, Shelley, Poe, and Doyle... however, it is also a novel that gives a moment of trepidation to the reader to even speak of the book with such accolades because of the theme woven throughout the narrative. This is a book of light and darkness, of riches and poverty, of innocence and debauchery, of poetic decadence and maggot-festering depravity all splayed in words and passages reminiscent of those aforementioned literary geniuses. Fey eviscerates the reader's soul, and reveals the realities of Belle Époque Paris, the theatrical and artistic brilliance against the grimy and seedy underbelly.

Can you tell me the themes?”

Death. God. The Devil. Lust. Love. Time. Beauty. What every poet writes about.”

For many who may or may not know the history of Gilles de Rais, let this review serve as a warning, for this novel is a plunge into the world of this notorious serial killer – a man once known as a fierce and brave knight fighting alongside Jeanne d'Arc – who, through some unknown inner cravings after her death, fell into a sordid and murderous life... preying upon children, young boys in particular, and who later met his own death upon a fiery stake. This is not a story for everyone, especially those with a sensitivity to the stark details of serial child murders mingled with Rais' desire to meet the Devil in his darkness. In truth, the revelation of Gille de Rais' life merely sets the stage as an introduction to the book (a shocking initial murder) but when the reader realizes that the time period is the late 19th century and not the 15th century in which he lived, the story unfolds... or bubbles forth like a festering infection boiling in the glorious Golden Age sun. The Belle Époque in Paris gave rise to a period of optimism, of cultural and artistic expression, and medical innovations (which is also revealed in brash reality in the story, quite shockingly), as well as a time when young women stretched their feminist wings, boldly wearing men's clothes (which was outlawed) and riding bicycles (the outrage!). But in the midst of this artistic decadence blossoming, where poets and artists flourished, another world lay beneath the surface – a world of harsh poverty where children disappeared with ease, where people could release their inhibitions at the Grand Guignol or Moulin Rouge, and escape into a world of the Green Fairy. Absinthe was the drug and drink of the day, and even high-class noblewomen turned their tea parties into an excuse to partake of cocaine.

His breath caressed her face and she caught a hint of absinthe. The scent churned up a chaos of emotion – concern, frustration, anger, yearning. A pang of jealousy. How perfectly Parisian, she thought, to be jealous of a liqueur. When had his flirtation with the green fairy become a love affair? Two months ago, four? He called absinthe his muse, but she stole as much as she gave. Under her influence, Averill's moods grew ever more erratic and his exquisite, fantastical poems ever more bizarre.

Enter Fey's three main characters – a young American woman, an artist, Theodora Faraday, who comes to live with family in Paris and develop her artistic skills; her cousin, Averill, an uprising poet who seeks to enhance his poetry by discovering true darkness; and Michel Devaux, a police inspector pulled into the investigation after a young boy goes missing. Theo and Averill are part of a group of poets, the Revenants, who play a dangerous game with one another, seeking to best each other with dark poetry and express their inner sufferings and struggles on the page, but lurking on the edges of the group and within the streets of Paris is another sinister evil which envelopes Theo and Averill, as well as the other poets in the group. Inspector Devaux, while satiating his own secret desires with a local well-known prostitute in order to procure information, slowly unravels the mysteries surrounding the missing children while also discovering the relationship between the disappearances and the Revenants. Theo adores her cousin, loves him, and he, in his own way, loves her, but this is by no means a love story about the two young people – this is a psychological study of a sociopath and how the killer's past and his obsession with the medieval serial killer blazes his own path. I use the word 'blaze' figuratively and literally, since fire is a theme throughout, from the death of Jeanne d'Arc in flames to the horrific fire at the Bazar de la Charité (a real historical occurrence) in which 126 people died in the flames in this Paris market. Fey uses this event to hide another child abduction by the killer. And just like the excellent stories of Sherlock Holmes told by Doyle, Devaux sorts through the massive amount of clues and photos stacking up on his desk and in his mind to wheedle out the truth and the identity of the killer. While he is doing this, Theo undertakes her own investigation, more so out of an attempt to exonerate any suspicion laid upon the Revenants and her cousin, placing herself in grave danger and in close contact with the killer, who just might be another man fanatically obsessed with Gille de Rais, a man called “Viperine” who dresses like the serial killer down to the blue-tinged beard on his face. Yet, Devaux wonders if placing the guilt on Viperine is too obvious if the man's “theatrics” are merely just for show and for satisfying a different sort of depravity, not murder. Maybe... maybe not.

Nightmares flung her sweating out of sleep – into the waking nightmares of memory. First had been the torment of not being able to paint at all, then of being compelled by the hideous images that haunted her night and day. Flames burned inside her brain until she thought her skull would explode. For the first time in her life, she was afraid of color. Afraid of hot scarlet, and orange, and yellow that burned white. Afraid of the vivid licks of azure that tipped the ends of flames. Perversely, she was scrawling compulsively in charcoal, her fingers black, the smell half nauseating, even the gritty sound repulsive, but she could not stop. Clouds of smoke obliterated the white pages. Black flames burned to the edges of the paper. Rage and fear and grief drove her fingers into scrawling patterns...

Again, while the reader may not be able to 'stomach' some of the passages, Fey is honest in her depiction while not lingering, revealing the monster's mind and actions while using Theo's character as a glimmer of hope and light in this dark world – a nod to Jeanne d'Arc, the virgin saint – against the murky murderer's identity that she discovers along with Inspector Devaux.

Listen to me. Some monsters cannot hide what they are, but others are quite adept at appearing human. They are like the character in that English novel – the story of Jekyll and Hyde. But it is not some fantastic potion which releases the monster within them. Their own lust provides the chemistry.”

So many passages are pure poetic prose and make up for the times I had to skip past the gore. For fans of Les Miserables, of Dracula, of Murders in the Rue Morgue, and of By Gaslight, or for fans of the overt sexuality and brutality of Game of Thrones or Patricia Cornwell's The Ripper. But be warned, this is not a fluffy feel-good historical, this is pain in prose adorned with moments of fiery eloquence. For that reason alone, the author's remarkable skill to resurrect the classic writing skills of the past (a true revenant of those dead literary masters), not for the subject matter, this book is awarded five stars; however, the reviewer advises a reader to read the bio of Gilles de Rais on Wikipedia before traversing into the darkness of this book so as to clearly understand what lies within.


“Floats the Dark Shadow” by Yves Fey receives five stars from The Historical Fiction Company and the award of excellence.


Author Bio:

Yves Fey's Floats the Dark Shadow is the first book of The Paris Trilogy, set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. Her debut mystery won the Silver Medal "IPPY" Independent Publishers Award in mystery, and both the Mystery and Historical Finalist Awards from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It's also nominated for ForeWord's Independent Publishers Book of the Year Award in the Mystery Category.

Yves has an MFA in Creative Writing from Eugene Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. She has read, written, and created art from childhood, and is an ardent movie buff. In her varied career, she has been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, baker, creator of ceramic beasties, illustrator, fiction teacher - and novelist. A chocolate connoisseur, she's won prizes for her desserts. Her current fascination is creating perfumes inspired by her new novels.

Yves has traveled to many countries in Europe and lived for two years in Indonesia. Currently, she resides in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and two beloved cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Brontë Sisters.

Writing as Gayle Feyrer and Taylor Chase, she previously published four unusually dark and mysterious historical romances, The Prince of Cups, The Thief's Mistress, Heart of Deception and Heart of Night. She plans to rerelease these with her own cover designs in the coming year.


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