At the Crucible of the World (Tout au milieu du monde)

Melchior Ascaride & Julien Bétan & Mathieu Rivero

Here’s a prosperous village, and yet its hallowed relic is decaying away. Here’s an aging shaman, and yet he longs no more for visions, feeling he has reached journey’s end. Here’s a faint hope of saving his people from the rot: a mythical ossuary where giants have gone to die. To find it, he must tread strange, dream-like paths.

At the Crucible of the World harkens back to the golden age of the fantasy story, of the mythical fable. Despite being rooted in this proto-historic fantasy setting, the story aims for more. Melchior Ascaride’s vivid illustrations illuminate this short illustrated novel by compelling a potent echo of this world lost to memory. With its moments of intense darkness, its searing visions and its powerful delivery, this novel shows no mercy and clutches at the reader’s guts.

The art of At the Crucible of the World is widely inspired by parietal art from all around the globe. However, far from being a simple illustration of the text, the pictures blend in the meaning, replacing some parts of the narrative, allowing a novel reading experience to take place.

The book is entirely printed in red and black.

From a publisher’s standpoint, At the Crucible of the World is challenging, but serves three purposes. First, it aims to sell a novella, which is usually harder to advertise than a traditional novel. Then, the book celebrates art, with graphic compositions at every page. The book boasts an amount of art that could only be exceeded in graphic novels. Eventually, At the Crucible of the world offers a unique reading experience, as the reader has to engage deeper into the art to better understand the text (and conversely), as the writers and the artist did collaborate very closely from the start of the project. Both art and text use black and red ink, with the added support of the white of the paper, to create a visually stunning book, with the art reminiscent of different types of cave paintings. Though illustrated, the story is unarguably for adults and balances dazzling visions and the cruel, hard truth of survival.