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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I'm Reading: Castle Waiting Volume 2

Day two of review-a-polooza.  Today it is the graphic novel, Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley which I mentioned grabbing off the new shelf here.  For the record, I talked about how we organize our new shelf at the BPL in that post, but I forgot to mention that until January of this year, we did not include graphic novels on our general new shelf.  Instead, they were ghettoized to their own shelf on the graphic novels shelf.  In a few months, we will be checking to see if the circ stats went up on the new graphic novels and the general adult graphic novel collection with this change.

Now on to the review...

Just like when I read Castle Waiting Vol 1, I was engrossed in Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley, finishing it in one long sitting.  How much did I love the first volume two years ago?  Click here to see my review.  I also chose it to be included on the Browser's Corner, where I said this:
This graphic novel begins as a retelling of Sleeping Beautybut evolves into a modern fable about an abandoned castle and its eccentric inhabitants. Medley uses the fairy tale format to tell the story of strong, independent women who do not need to be saved, but instead save themselves with the help of wonderful friends. I was completely engrossed by this book and could not put it down for the few hours it took me to read it.
While the first volume was more fairy tale based, Vol 2 focuses more on filling in the back story of the secondary characters and beginning a look into the history of the castle itself.  We get two new characters who have historical links to the current castle residents.  Everyone is just as eccentric as ever, but they are all more comfortable with each other.  As one character begins to move into the castle keep, they all work together to make it ready.  As walls are removed, secrets and mysteries are unearthed.

Again, like the first volume, the ending is fairly open, maybe even more so than Volume 1.  I learned a lot more about these amazing characters, but I still want to know more.  And the mysteries of the keep are only just beginning to unfold.  I hope it is not another 2 years until the next volume.

Like last time, Medley also uses black and white, pen and ink drawings in a fairly standard comics style. She often does whole page frames.  Her style may be without color, but it is extremely detailed and beautiful.  She also tells the story in a lineal fashion with frequent flashbacks to fill in the blanks. The flashbacks are cool because they tend to come as stories told by a character.  It is a nice feeling to read a story and have the story tell you a story.

The tone here is optimistic but with a nod to the tragedies of the past.  All of these characters came to the castle because of something bad which had happened to them in the past.  While they are moving forward with their lives together, the problems and trials of their pasts' casts a slight pall over the story.  All are still healing, but each is at a different stage in the healing process.

This is a book for anyone who likes fantasy based in a fairy tale atmosphere with a darker, but not oppressive tone, without sex of violence.  Even if you do not normally read graphic novels, but enjoy this type of fantasy, I would try Castle Waiting.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  eccentric characters, fairy tale-esque, engrossing

Readalikes:  In my review of Volume 1 I suggested, Jane Yolen and Robin McKinley among others.  Click here for those suggestions.

Although Kate DiCamillo writes children's books, her novels share much with Castle Waiting.  There are all fairy tale-esque, with interesting and original characters, a darker, but ultimately optimistic tone, and an engrossing pace.  Try The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (which I am reading with my six-year-old son now).

Readers who enjoy Neil Gaiman or Audrey Niffenegger should also try Castle Waiting 1 and 2, for many of the same reasons you should try DiCamillo.  The Graveyard Book by Gaiman and Her Fearful Symmetry by Niffenegger are great readalike options here.  Use the links to read my reviews and see why.

Moving on to suggestions based more on the appeal of the setting (which is huge here as the keep becomes a character in the story itself)...

Another great novel that looks into the dark mysteries of castle keeps is Jennifer Egan's The Keep.  I still think about this book, years after finishing it.  Also with all the buzz on her recent Pulitzer Prize, why not try this excellent backlist psychological suspense title by her.

For an even darker story about a house with secrets try Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez's Locke and Key graphic novel series.  This is horror, not fantasy, but these graphic novel series share the appeals of great characters with troubling pasts, and a home with hidden, nefarious secrets.

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