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Castle Waiting (thoughts)

January 19, 2009

graphic_novel_button21I originally put Castle Waiting by Linda Medley in my reading pool for Dewey’s Graphic Novel Challenge, but I ended up reading other books instead. So when I signed up for the new Graphic Novels Challenge this year, I put it on my list. Last week, I realised I suddenly wanted to read a graphic novel (which has never happened before-I’m new to the genre-so I was quite excited), so I put this on hold at the library and waited impatiently for it to arrive.

Then, a couple days ago, I sat down with it, intending to just read the first chapter to get a feel for it. Instead, I ended up reading the whole thing straight through, because it was so addictive and so good I just couldn’t stop flipping the pages (and at 457 of them, this is a long graphic novel). I put it on my TBR list based on Nymeth’s wonderful review, so I’m tempted to just link to her and call it a day.

But I won’t, because that would be cheating. :p The first three chapters sound suspiciously like Sleeping Beauty (one of my favourite fairy tales), but just as I was settling in a for a standard fairy tale re-telling, Medley pulled the rug out from under me! Because in chapter four we find out that the beginning story happened quite awhile ago, and the focus of the book suddenly shifts to a young woman Lady Jain, who is on a quest to find sanctuary in a place called Castle Waiting. We follow her adventures for a couple more chapters, until she arrives at the Castle-which used to be Sleeping Beauty’s residence-and meets the varied group of ‘people’ living there. And that’s when the book finally settles down a little. The rest of the book weaves between the present and that past, looking at the various characters who live in the castle and their little escapades, as well as the life story of one of them.

So, what made this book so great? Well first of all, the characters are all lots of fun. Some of are human, and some are animals who act human, in grand fairy tale tradition. They’re quirky and funny, and Medley’s simple black-and-white line drawings (they almost feel like woodcuts or etchings) really bring them to life. Also, the pages are full of allusions to various fairy tales, so anyone who loves fairy tales will recognise some old friends. That being said, Medley has created her own distinct world, and if you’re not overly-familiar with the Brothers Grimm, you won’t feel out of your depth or anything.

But the most important part of the book, the thing that kept me turning the pages until the very end, are the stories. Medley nests them one within another, and all of them are fascinating and funny and just so human. I always wanted to know what happened next-I read this book the way I read books when I was younger, devouring it really. The stories touch on humanity’s great questions, and although it’s a light touch, it’s definitely there; this isn’t a fluff book, although it’s as compulsively readable as one!

I’ve just realised how difficult it is to review a graphic novel, because I can’t just give you excerpts the way I can in from an all-words book. But as someone who was deeply skeptical of graphic novels, I highly recommend that anyone curious about the genre try this one out. The drawings, the story, everything just works beautifully. And of course all of you who already love the genre, if you haven’t read this collection, you should. My only problem with the book is that there isn’t a sequel yet! To tide me over in the meantime, I’ve got a question for you all:
Do you love fairy tales, and modern books based on them? What’s your favourite?

27 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2009 10:28 am

    This book sounds great, I’m just discovering Graphic Novels as well.
    I haven’t read too many books based on a specific fairy tale, but I like the genre and books which sound like fairy tales, for example John Connoly’s The Book of Lost Things

  2. January 19, 2009 10:39 am

    I really enjoy reading modern takes on fairy tales, but I don’t have a favorite. I haven’t read any graphic novels yet… but this one sounds very good!

  3. January 19, 2009 11:01 am

    I added it to my list after Nymeth’s review, but haven’t gotten a copy yet. Now, I’m even more eager. Thanks for a great review, Eva.

  4. January 19, 2009 11:36 am

    I guess I missed Nymeth’s review, because this sounds right up my alley! I’ll definitely be looking for a copy during my next comic book run. I love fairy tales, and modernized versions (The Bloody Chamber and Fables are amazing!) of them, and graphic novels, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this book. :)

  5. January 19, 2009 11:40 am

    I’ve never read a graphic novel before (do the Buffy comics count? I kind of think they don’t…), mostly because I’ve never really been interested in the whole genre. But this review has made me reconsider that stance, because this sounds like a fun adventure kind of in the vein of John Connolly’s “The Book Of Lost Things”, which I really liked. I’ll have to see if our local library carries it!

  6. January 19, 2009 12:04 pm

    Oooh – I went straight to my library’s site and reserved this one.

  7. adevotedreader permalink
    January 19, 2009 12:24 pm

    I’ve not read any graphic novels yet, but I do like retellings of fairy tales. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Drusilla Modjeska’s The Orchid and Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl are my favourites.

    I’m glad to see ohters recommending The Book of Lost Things, as it’s in my TBR pile.

  8. January 19, 2009 12:25 pm

    It’s really great to hear about you enjoying the graphic novels – I tend to steer away from them – I’m usually into words not pictures! Although my partner just finished a Neil Gaiman one that looks kind of interesting.
    I must admit I don’t have a favourite fairytale – the feminist in me thinks they give women a bit of a bad wrap (but the girl in me secretly kind of likes them!).

  9. January 19, 2009 12:43 pm

    I’m so happy you liked it, Eva! And I eagerly await the sequel too. She has released more individual comics, but they weren’t collected in a single volume yet. Hopefully they will be soon!

    Now that you’re no longer suspicious of graphic novels, you should give Fables a try! Fairy tale characters living in our world! Beautiful art (Linda Medley actually did some of it)! Smart storytelling! Funny, moving and with something to say! How can you resist? :P

    As for my favourite fairy tale retelling, it’s so hard to pick. One of my very favourites is The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett, a loose adaptation of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Have you read that one yet? If not, do! I’m pretty sure you’d love it.

  10. January 19, 2009 1:11 pm

    I’m in the middle of reading Grimm’s complete tales and loving them all! I have this on my list for the year. Sounds like a nice follow up to Grimm.

  11. January 19, 2009 5:07 pm

    Great review! This is one of my very favourite graphic novels. I originally borrowed it from the library, but I loved it so much that I bought my own copy as soon as I’d finished it.

    ELLA ENCHANTED is another of my favourite fairy tale books. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I figured it was going to be a quick, kiddie read. The next thing I knew, I was sobbing wretchedly.

    And I second Nymeth’s recommendation of FABLES. It’s such a great series. I just finished the tenth volume, and I think they keep getting better and better.

  12. January 19, 2009 6:58 pm

    Sheesh…who should I blame when I buy this one??? Nymeth or you? Nymeth put it onto my wishlist, but you’re going to be the one to make me go out and buy it! Sounds so good!

  13. January 19, 2009 7:34 pm

    This sounds really, really good. I’ve never read a graphic novel before but I have a few on my TBR list. I think I’ll give this one a try for my year of reading dangerously. Great review!

  14. January 19, 2009 7:59 pm

    I read Nymeth’s great review too and immediately added it to my TBR list. Now there is further proof from your wonderful review that I should definitely read this graphic novel!! Thanks!

  15. January 19, 2009 8:08 pm

    I just added this one to my list because I love anything involving fairy tales. Thanks for recommending!

  16. January 20, 2009 2:28 am

    Katrina, I loved The Book of Lost Things. :)

    Jeane, I really think this would be a great place to start!

    JenClair, I hope you get to read it soon. :)

    Jessi, awesome!

    Steph, I didn’t used to be interested in the genre either. Castle Waiting is a lot lighter in tone than The Book of Lost Things, fyi. ;)

    Claire, awesome!

    ADevotedReader, thanks for the suggestions-I’ve read the Carter and Hale but not The Orchid. And The Book of Lost Things is incredible. ;)

    Karen, I’m usually more of a words than picture girl myself. ;) I enjoy fairy tale retellings, because they often make the women awesome!

    Nymeth, Fables is on my list-I promise I’ll get to it. :) I haven’t read The Amaing Maurice-I’ll put it on my list!

    Rebecca, it would be a fun follow-up to Grimm; a very different perspective. :)

    Memory, I’ll have to try out Ella Enchanted. :)

    Chris, lol-blame us both!

    Samantha, I hope you enjoy it. :D

    Staci, you should!

    Kim, I love fairy tales too. :)

  17. January 20, 2009 12:12 pm

    Dammit, Eva…like my TBR pile isn’t growing fast enough already! You and Nymeth are awful enough on your own…but when you work in cohoots like this, how’s a girl to resist?!! Yep, I already hopped over and put it on hold at the library.

  18. January 20, 2009 4:45 pm

    I’m so glad you read this one! It’s been on my wishlist for ages. Looks like I need to go ahead and ILL it!

  19. January 20, 2009 6:37 pm

    I love fairy tales. I’m putting this on my TBR list!

  20. January 21, 2009 5:12 am

    I signed up for this challenge too. I am having to use sheer willpower not to add this one to the list…lol!

  21. January 21, 2009 8:43 am

    Debi, lol!

    Andi, you do need to ILL it. :)

    Vasilly, I love fairy tales too!

    J. Kaye. lol-you should add it to the list.

  22. January 25, 2009 4:49 pm

    You’ve made me want to read a graphic novel! You might get a point for bad blogger for this! lol

  23. January 25, 2009 7:40 pm

    I picked this book up from the library for my kids. My 16 yo and my 12 yo liked it, but felt it jumped around too much. From my reading, I got the impression that this volume is a random sampling of the individual comics so there may be gaps. It could also be that my girls didn’t understand all the references. I guess I’ll have to read it myself to judge.

  24. February 3, 2009 5:15 am

    I picked this up after Nymeth’s review and someone elses (possible Kim L or Darla D?) and am really looking forward to getting time for it this year. I love graphic novels and fairy tales so how can it go wrong! Glad to find another convert.


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