Within the walls of Brambly Hedge, lies a castle housing a group of misfits and outcasts. Their stories are familiar, borrowed from fairytales and nursery rhymes. In the first volume of Castle Waiting, Linda Medley introduced us to the castle and its inhabitants in a twist on Sleeping Beauty – the princess rides off with her prince, abandoning her groggy citizens. As the years passed, the castle became home to an unusual cast of characters, included a bearded nun, a horse who serves as a knight, a giant’s widow, and a mysterious Lady running from a troubled past.
Volume 1 was absolutely enchanting – the artwork incredibly detailed without being busy, the characters well-developed, and a story that left you wanting more. Fans of fairytales, retellings, and a good dose of humor were sure to enjoy it and it was just as likely to be picked up by teens as adults. Volume 2 doesn’t disappoint after the long wait for publication!
The story picks up shortly after the previous volume. The castle residents are preparing to move Lady Jain and baby Pinder to their new rooms when a pair of Hammerlings (think dwarves) pay a visit. They are Henry the blacksmith’s family, and have come asking a favor. In exchange, they’ll help explore and rebuild parts of the castle, allowing Jain and Rackham easy access to their rooms. This volume is something of a slice-of-life story. We get brief glimpses into characters’ pasts – Jain’s betrothal and life with her father, Dinah’s time working in a giant’s tavern, and mad Dr. Fell’s tragic history. These stories come to us in flashbacks and bits of conversation, not lengthy retellings, as we had with Sister Peace in volume 1. Henry’s history is perhaps the most fascinating but only given in snippets; we’re left to piece together what little information we have about him.
The castle itself plays a large role in this collection. We knew from reading the first volume that fairies lived in its walls, but now we discover that it houses some more sinister secrets. Overall, though, this volume is lighthearted and fun. The stories are less about the fantastical world they’re set in and more about finding a sense of community and acceptance. If you’ve ever wondered what fairytale characters do when they’re not slaying dragons or questing, it would be the life led in Castle Waiting.
If I have any complaint, it’s that this collection ends very abruptly. There’s no story arc for the volume, which leaves you wondering why they chose to end it where the did. Even though this is a hefty read at 384 pages, it flies by. I found myself rereading it, hoping that maybe I had missed a few pages.
Medley’s writing is clever, with plenty of humor and depth. If you’re looking for comics that have a positive portrayal of women, you can’t go wrong with Castle Waiting. The women are smart, witty, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, she also addresses serious subjects, such as plagues, war, and death. I expect that we’ll learn more about Jain’s marriage, which may have been abusive, and Pindar’s father if there are future volumes.
The artwork is gorgeous. Medley’s panels are filled with detail, laying out the sprawling castle but also giving emotion and character to its inhabitants. We get a sense of gravity and humor from them, which can’t be easy when portraying someone like a bearded nun! Though there has been some controversy over Medley’s name not appearing on the cover, this is still a beautiful volume that you’ll want to have on your shelf!