Friday, November 30, 2007

Castle Waiting, Linda Medley

Title: Castle Waiting
Author: Linda Medley
Published: 2006, Fantagraphics Books
Category: Graphic Novel
Rating: 6.5/10

Believe it or not, this is the first graphic novel I've ever read. I'm so behind the times here. I was never a comic book reader as a kid, so I just never got into them. But there was a piece about graphic novels in a recent Shelf Awareness email, with a recommendation for this one. It sounded interesting.

Castle Waiting starts out with a brief, and relatively standard, retelling of Sleeping Beauty. But after the princess is awakened by the handsome prince, it takes a sharp left turn out of the traditional fairy tale. The princess rides off with her prince, leaving the castle, still surrounded by bramble, without a ruling family. The town around it degrades to nothing, and the castle becomes a sanctuary for all sorts of misfits. The book centers on a young pregnant woman who flees her abusive husband and arrives at Castle Waiting, where she meets the kind, if odd, inhabitants: the three aging ladies-in-waiting, a bearded nun, a man heartbroken by the death of his family, and a jolly housekeeper and her "slow" son, among others.

This is in no way a traditional fairy tale! It presents some great themes that are actually quite anti-fairy tale. Feminism for one -- a couple of the stories show women shaking off bad men to live independently (and much more happily). And the rest of the stories revolve around acceptance of people who are different. The characters are all oddballs in some respect, but they are wise enough to discover that their differences are not something to overcome or do away with, but traits to be appreciated as something that makes them unique.

My one big complaint was that the book can really be divided into two halves: the first dealing with the pregnant woman getting to know everyone at Castle Waiting, the second telling the life story of the bearded nun. I think these stories were originally published as comic books over a period of time, which could explain the disjointedness. But I kept waiting to get back to the story of the people actually living in Castle Waiting. And then the book just ended.

I liked the illustrations, though I'm no great judge. I did get confused a couple times when I couldn't figure out immediately from the drawings which character (especially the women) was being depicted. But maybe the fault is in me, because I read a PW review that praised the book for the opposite thing. I guess I'm too much a words person. ;)

But this was a positive enough experience that I want to read more graphic novels. So if anyone who has recommendations, please share!


jmc said...

I haven't read many graphic novels...but right now I'm reading Y: the last man. The series rocks. I've read the first four volumes and am anxiously awaiting the next 5 from the library.

This one isn't about a fairy tale, though. It's kind of Orwellian, what happens if all the men in the world disappear in an instant...except one.

Dance Chica said...

Well, I read manga (Japanese comics), mostly. Try Emma by Kaoru Mori. It's set in Victorian England and follows the romance between a wealthy upperclass gentlemen and a maid who find themselves in love but unable to be together due to societal constraints. It's very Jane Austen-ish. I think you'd like it. And the drawings and panels are very neat and easy to read.

Jennie said...

jmc--sounds very interesting! I will see if my library has it.

DC--Austen in manga! Awesome. I'll see if my library has that one too. ;)

Estara said...

Linda Medley is steadily releasing the continuing stories of Castle Waiting via Fantagraphics. I've heard she'll collect them in another volume soon, so this isn't the end ^^. This is her website:

I second the Emma recommendation, you'll get into manga, a whole other kettle of fish. Also has lots of romance stories.

Jennie said...

Estara--Thanks for the info! I didn't realize she was still creating more stories. I think that's one of the reasons I didn't love it--I wanted more closure! I'm too used to reading stand-alone novels, I guess. I'll keep an eye out for volume 2.