You Higuri – June – 2006 – 1 volume
Another story in the Gorgeous Carat series. Aside from the first volume, I think each installment of the series covers a separate story arc. The first 4-volume chunk is “Virtue of Darkness,” then there’s this “Galaxy” segment. Blu folded before they could publish “La Esperanza,” and Higuri is currently doing another installment, but no compilation has been released yet. Following the pattern of the series, these aren’t so much BL/romance as they are adventure stories about things that happen to Florian and Ray/Noir, in the sense that they are rich jewel thieves that live in France around the turn of the 20th century. Which is a lot! They remind me of From Eroica With Love, as I may have already mentioned. They tend to go to different locations (especially in Virtue of Darkness), are only slightly BL-themed in favor of action and globetrotting, and there’s usually some item at stake. There are no analogues to Klaus and Dorian, though. A shame.
In Galaxy, Ray and Florian are summoned out to the estate of a distant relative of Florian’s. The relative has fallen on hard times, and is hoping Ray will buy some of the art and other items from his estate. Once there, Ray and Florian are snowbound and realize there is more to the estate than meets the eye. A young girl named Eleonora lives there, and is sheltered by her relatives, who think she is mentally unstable. She is a fan of the Forest of Monsters, a sculpture garden around the estate that figures prominently in a memory for both she and Florian. There are murders, near-misses, characters long-dead that return, hidden passages, kidnappings, and all of it is confined to one manor. It’s a proper Victorian mystery, and Higuri pulls off the tale with style.
The story isn’t so much about Ray and Florian this time around, but rather use them as pieces in the mystery that unravels slowly and gains momentum gradually. I didn’t mind the fact that the story wasn’t character-centric, as the mystery plot was so well-told that I tore through all 250 pages in one sitting. I don’t want to spoil this too much, but it really is a proper Victorian horror story. The atmosphere is similar to Black Butler, actually, and just as good, if just a touch less sinister. And again, there is little to no BL content, for those who are averse to such stories, so this is a good general audience title, and You Higuri is always worth reading.
Her art is still quite good here, too. Better than in Virtue of Darkness, in fact. The clothes the characters wear, the character designs themselves, the manor, and the hidden passages and dark forest come to life, and Higuri clearly puts a lot of work into the period detail and setting. It’s a good-looking book, and while the story doesn’t give Higuri as much opportunity to flex her artistic muscles (the setting stays the same, and all the action takes place over the course of about a day, so there’s no costume changes or different characters introduced), it’s still a very nice-looking book.
You could probably pick this up without reading Virtue of Darkness, the first part of Gorgeous Carat, and still enjoy it immensely. I loved that the volume was self-contained, and the complete and very involved mystery plot took me by surprise, but was still quite good. Sadly, I don’t think this sold very well, because Amazon still has it in stock 6 years after it was released. That doesn’t bode very well for a La Esperanza release. But Gorgeous Carat Galaxy is a great book, and definitely worth a look. Someone buy that last copy from Amazon!