Lizzy the Librarian Reviews Guignol: A Tale of Escalating Horror by Brett Schwaner and Keith Hogan

Women in Horror Month Librarian, Lizzy Walker, has returned with a review of Guignol: A Tale of Escalating Horror by Brett Schwaner and Keith Hogan.

                      ***

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Shy artistic Maelynn Maghee is a new student at the art academy of Sainte Jeanne d’Arc. She hasn’t made any friends, and with her constantly exhausted mother, an overworked nursing administrator, being absent or passed out on the couch, she’s left to her own devices most of the time.

Mysterious strong-willed Lilly Langtree befriends her in their art class, and they become practically inseparable. Lilly brings a few other girls into their circle: the twins Aubree and Marcella, Fiona, and Monet. With Lilly’s encouragement, Mae and the rest try out for Madame Jeanette’s self-professed masterpiece, Guignol.

Lilly reveals a dark secret to her friends, and she offers each of them their own gifts. As they accept her gifts, they discover there are benefits as well as detriments to what she has given them.


They go through excruciating transformations, each experiencing physical pain and hunger they must slake before they suffer any further. Lilly opens a whole new world for her new friends; new talents, late night adventures, and the most memorable night of their entire lives.


maebatsThe countdown to opening night of the play is underway and, after a series of unpleasant events, Maelynn realizes Lilly is not the person she once thought.

The closer to opening night, the less stable and more powerful Lilly becomes. Can her friends survive their gifts and Lilly’s power in the meantime?

There are a few criticisms I have of the book. There are times the text becomes repetitious, specifically when the focus of the scene is the play rehearsal. Madame Jeanette often makes the characters run through lines multiple times, and this is made quite clear in the text itself.

It does illustrate the frustrations that cast members go through when they are preparing for the production, and Madame Jeanette’s perfectionist tendencies, but it could have perhaps been trimmed down just a bit. I also found the way the characters spoke to each other could be too formal at times, using tightly worded sentences with each other.

Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Two things I enjoy more than anything in the horror genre are interesting female characters and creepy children.  Guignol-A Tale of Escalating Horror delivers on both accounts.

Maelynn, after all, is only ten years old, and the other girls aren’t much older. That being said, while the main characters are children, this definitely isn’t a children’s book. There are some gruesome elements to the story that would not be acceptable for some kids.

Each of the girls has a distinct personality, and Maelynn in particular developed as the story progressed. Her character growth was both because of and spite of Lilly’s influence. I could identify with her in particular.

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The full colour illustrations provided by Keith Hogan lend to the text very well. They really grab the reader’s attention and help emphasize specifics from the text. Additionally, if Schwaner wanted to change from a novel to a graphic novel format, he has a great illustrator in Hogan. There are some rich watercolours by Laura McCombs that also added some atmosphere and are very well executed.

Are you brave enough to experience Guignol-A Tale of Escalating Horror?

See you in the stacks….

Lizzy, WiHM Librarian