Monday, January 17, 2011

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

I’m a great fan of fairy tales and have spent many happy hours poring over the more obscure corners of the Grimm brothers’ stories (if you’ve never read The Mouse, The Bird, and The Sausage, I recommend it highly). However, even the most avid fairy tale reader may tire of their emphasis on plot over character development and bemoan the lack of strong, interesting women. In Castle Waiting, Linda Medley rights both these wrongs and produces an enchanting graphic novel that Publishers Weekly called “a modern, feminist Chaucer for happy people.”

The titular castle serves as a safe haven for a small group of social outcasts including a bearded nun from an unusual order and a widow whose giant husband was murdered by a bigoted young “hero” named Jack. The main storyline follows Jain, a pregnant woman who comes to the castle to escape an abusive husband. No one pushes her for details about her past, but everyone’s curiosity is piqued when her baby turns out to be less than human.

Ultimately, the mystery of Jain’s past takes a backseat to the simple pleasure of watching the interactions of the cast of well-developed and likable characters. Domestic affairs such as patching a roof or tending the goats are enlivened by Medley’s detailed and expressive art and her clear affection for her subjects. Over time, the characters reveal themselves through numerous flashbacks. Much of the first volume is devoted to the history of the bearded nuns of St. Wilgeforte, many of whom joined the convent to escape mistreatment in traveling circuses.

Castle Waiting is largely devoid of the sword-fights and derring-do that some readers may expect from their fairy tales. Instead, the patient reader will joy a leisurely sojourn filled with gentle humor and smart, kind women.

~Andrew, Adult Services

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