Author/Illustrator: Linda Medley
Series: Castle Waiting
Length: 457 pages
Genre: Graphic Novel; Fantasy, Fairytale
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books / 2006
Cover Art: Linda Medley
Cover Design: Adam Grano
Reason to Read: I stumbled across Castle Waiting while browsing at the library. I had no previous knowledge of the series and was more than pleasantly surprised with volume one.
Long ago, there was a small town called Putney. Though the King was a wise and kindly man, and though the port town thrived and drew trade from far and wide, the royal household was in a state of unrest. After suffering years of infertility, the King sought out Mother Medora and the dozen wise women for help. Within a year, his Queen bore a daughter—and a slighted witch named Mald sought revenge. Mald fumed over Medora's growing powers, which only increased after Mald discovered she was not invited to the feast celebrating the princess's birth.
In a similar fashion to Briar Rose, Mald crashed the feast and cursed the Princess Medora—when the young girl turns sixteen, she will prick her finger on a spindle and drop down dead. Luckily, the Wise Medora was able to amend the princess's fate—instead of a swift death, the princess will fall into a deep, one-hundred-year slumber. However, when the day arrives, Princess Medora is not the only victim. Instead, the castle's entire population falls asleep and falls victim to the briar bushes in the area.
One hundred years later, Princess Medora is awoken by a kiss from a perfect prince. Lovestruck, she leaves with her new love and leaves the staff of Castle Waiting in the dust. Three doting handmaidens—Patience, Prudence, and Plenty—are all who remain from the original staff at the castle when Rackham Adjutant, a new steward, arrives. From then on, Castle Waiting becomes a sanctuary to those in need, and offers a home to the loveable misfits inside.
Castle Waiting Vol. 1 explores a series of interconnected tales about the current residents of the castle and describes their lives before and after finding one another. In "Bahtalo Dram", a pregnant woman flees her abusive husband and brings new life to the castle proper; in "Cavalier", the half-horse knight Sir Chess finds a place to rest between adventures; and over the seven parts of the "Solicitine" arc, Sister Peace shares tales from her earlier days in the circus and her life among the Solicitines, an order of bearded nuns. At once whimsical and charming, yet also quite cheeky, Castle Waiting offers a world in which both children and adults can take absolute delight.
I can't explain the sudden fascination with fantastic, fairytale realms here in the Litoverse, but I am thrilled with the work that's gravitated toward me. Though Castle Waiting takes place in a medieval and magical world, Linda Medley fuses modern elements into her storytelling and her artwork, which offer a great twist to the fairytale standards we learned as children. Her pacing and her panel layout borrow from cinematic conventions and she uses modern fantasy literature to add context for her stories. Her artwork is both remarkably detailed and lighthearted, and she enhances the expressiveness of her characters in her crisp, energetic dialogue. I could see these stories working nicely on film and on stage, though certainly this graphic novel is an item to treasure.
As a side note, I loved the Poltersprites who occupied the castle as well—adorable little shit disturbers, the lot of them. Who wouldn't want a slew of house lutins, duende, brownies, tomtras, hobgoblins, servans, and piskies playing pranks in her home? Also, Old Man River—how one manages to balance creepiness and charisma is beyond me, but he does it with style.
If you're in the mood to explore a forgotten fairytale realm, and even if you're not, Castle Waiting is bound to charm the socks clean from your feet.
Ideal for: Readers who happily refuse to grow up; Fairytale junkies and fans of mythical times/places; Newbies to the graphic novel scene; Readers who like a dash a feminism and a whole lot of humour to their fantasy.