I read earlier portions of Castle Waiting a few years ago, books at my library that are contained in this beautiful hardbound 450+ page volume. And I loved them (you can see the earlier reviews here and here) and read my initial impressions of the book, which certainly haven't changed since then. Thanks once again to Nymeth of Things Mean a Lot for introducing me to this wonderful graphic novel.
The story of Castle Waiting is made up of smaller stories about the many people who come to the castle, which used to be the home of Briar Rose, but has now become a sanctuary for a group of fascinating and often hilarious characters, each seeking refuge for their own reasons (which are explained in the various tales that make up the book). I particularly love the strength of the women characters, and the fact that while the book often makes me laugh out loud, it is moving as well. There is a lot of subtext, and the reader can whip through the book, smiling and vastly entertained, but can also choose linger and enjoy the deeper themes and emotions that are woven throughout the stories as well. I loved all the stories, some of course more than others (I think I would have preferred more focus on the castle itself, while some of the stories of the characters' lives prior to arriving there were so long and involved I began to feel impatient to get back to matters at hand, but that is a small quibble).
I received this book for Christmas this year - anyone who reads my blog knows how rarely I buy books these days, with my bulging bookshelves and the abundance of reading material at the library where I work, so just the fact that I had to own this book is a huge recommendation. It is one of those rare and precious books that has huge appeal to readers of all ages. Both my children have read it (they are 11 and 13 years old now), and I would say even younger readers would enjoy it, too, for while some of the themes are a bit more adult, they are understated and would likely fly over the heads of those too young to understand them. Lovers of fairy tales will adore this one - so many allusions and references to traditional tales are sprinkled throughout the text. And have I mentioned how very funny they are? It was delightful to listen to my girls laughing as they made their way through the stories.
This volume is beautifully made, with lovely thick creamy pages, and it even has one of those ribbon bookmarks built into the spine. Best of all is the introduction by Jane Yolen, one of my all-time favorite authors. She sums up my feelings about this book much better than I possibly could (no surprise there):
In other words, what I adore about Castle Waiting is that while it is a fully realized world, a world that any ordinary reader can enjoy, it is also a world for which I have special knowledge. Knowledge I have been years amassing. So I feel as if Linda Medley is and old friend who has written Castle Waiting just for me - a feminist fairy tale with attitude, heart, imagination, laughter, love and truth. Er, Truth.Castle Waiting, Volume 1 by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics Books, 2006)