“I’m Lady Jain Solander, Countess of Carabas. I’ve journeyed many months, hoping to gain sanctuary at the legendary Castle Waiting.”
This is Sleeping Beauty like you’ve never heard it before. The king and queen are just, generous rulers, but have no child. When the long-awaited baby is welcomed into the world, a vengeful witch places her under the familiar curse. Thus begins the story of Brambly Hedge. However, it is what happens after the curse that makes this graphic novel special.
After the princess is awakened, and runs off with the prince, we get another “Once upon a time”. This section of the story involves a convent of bearded nuns, mischievous imps, a castle that stands as a refuge for all that might require it, a despot ruling over the local mill, and a lot of gumption on the part of the characters. Oh, yeah-and a library and a whole barnful of puppies. See, after the Sleeping Beauty part, Sonorus (the town) fades away; businesses move out of the region until all that’s left are the mill and the castle, which has become a self-sufficient refuge, rather like a commune. The story centers around a pregnant woman, running away from a mysterious past. (Don’t worry, you’ll learn about that bit later). She flees to the castle, and when she gets there, all of the inhabitants reveal, slowly, their back stories.
Friends, I’ve found it. A graphic novel fairy-tale retelling with a feminist perspective. The Magical Trinity of Book-Awesomeness-here it is! Don’t tell my professors, but I read this right in class, with the book crammed under my laptop. It’s that good! This is the kind of book I’d like to save, to pass off to my children, if I ever have any. It retains all of the magical fairy-tale storytelling, but Medley empowers her characters (all of them, not just the ladies), and emphasizes the importance of self-acceptance and bravery, without being didactic. I love the creativity in the book, too: all too often, it seems like fairy tale retellings stick too closely with what has already been written. Better still, this is a series! I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one in line.
Medley, Linda. Castle Waiting, Vol. I. Lake City Way, Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2006. 452 pp. (Don’t be scared about that-it’s a graphic novel! I finished it in two days!) Ages 13-18.
Publisher’s website. (If anyone has a link to Linda Medley’s site, I would be so grateful!)