Delilah, Ashley, Rebecca, Becca, and Sierra: thank you.

Thank you for writing, illustrating, coloring, and editing a graphic novel for women. Thank you for the representation of women of color, women who are disabled, women who are gender non-conforming, and women of different faiths. Thank you for giving a voice to those whose whispers are often left unheard.

Thank you for a fantastic tale where the princess saves herself, the King is a woman who engages in peace, not war; every conceivable talent in the village from the librarian to the doctor to the knights (and more) is utilized and given respect, and no one is mocked for their interests or left behind. Thank you for the humor (“gadzooks” and “zooterkins”) and pop culture Easter eggs ( “According to Madame Hermione’s Monster Nullifying Manual, it should. There is always an answer in the library.”). They intensified the story for ultimate enjoyment.

Thank you for a book that made me laugh, root for the underdog, and whose characters I can identify with. King Merinor’s bout of imposter syndrome (“Chin up, back straight. I can do this, fake it till you doth make it.”) lets the reader know that even those who are perceived as being perfect, often struggle within themselves.

Thank you for giving me hope and inspiration not only as a woman but also as a graphic novel reader that not all books need to be geared for men nor should all creators be men. (Also thanks for letting Lord Riddick, the only male character with lines in the book, get “woke.”)

All the best,
Lisa Rabey

I could go on forever in my effusive thanks to this work’s creators, but first I shall need to tell you, the reader of this review, what Ladycastle is about!

In the mythical land of Mancastle, Princess Aeve is locked in a tour whiling away the days while her father, King Mancastle, searches for a husband for her. There is a curse on Princess Aeve that if she is not married soon, the village and lands will suffer horrible fate. One day, a knight comes to the village gates to tell the story that the King and all of the men in the village have been killed by a dragon because the King would not pay the toll to cross a treacherous bridge on their way home. Lord Riddick assumes that as the kingdom is now filled only with women, he will become king by default. A ghastly hand holding a sword suddenly appears to foretell that anyone who can lift the sword will become king. Merinor, the blacksmith’s wife who herself is also a blacksmith, lifts the sword and much to the chagrin of Lord Riddick, declares herself king.

King Merinor’s first act is to let Princess Aeve out of the locked tower; Princess Aeve’s own first act is to chop off all of her hair. King Merinor then declares that women can cut their hair, dress however they want to, and do whatever they please. King Merinor’s next actions are to create a round table and sewing circle to prepare the town’s defenses, stock up on food, and basically get the village ready for fights with the coming monsters. Punch and pye will be served.

Mancastle is then renamed Ladycastle. Thus begins our journey into the wonderful world of Ladycastle, where the villagers fight to save their land while also trying to break the curse. They work together on taking care of each other, using their various skills to defeat the monsters as they come—from the salamanders set upon the village to destroy only to be captured and used for lighting and heat, to the werewolves who are caught and discovered to be men who were cursed themselves, as well as the harpies who invite the residents of Ladycastle to tea and strike up a mutually beneficial arrangement, rather than just eating the villagers.

There is, thank goodness, no romance in the book. Princess Aeve and the rest of Ladycastle are not saved by men, they do not desire men to save them, and Princess Aeve herself is not married off as a condition to break the curse.

Ladycastle is perfect, which I’m sure you gleaned from my fan letter and gushing praise. I found no fault within the book and I was bragging about how much I loved it and was recommending it on Facebook even before one word of this review was written. There is, however, a slight downfall of the story—there is what could be called a cliffhanger at the end of the book but there does not seem to be any likelihood of more issues or books. The bright side to this, however, is the storyline and plot are exquisitely crafted and not one word is wasted. I’m not typically a reader of fantasy and I’m behind in legends and lore, but you don’t need to have a background in either to follow the story. I will add the caveat that having a thorough grounding in pop culture for the Easter eggs is super helpful, but not being hip to such things will not take away your enjoyment.

Ashley A. Woods and Rebecca Farrow’s illustrations are a huge complement to the story and the bright watercolor-like coloring by Rebecca Nalty adds even more of a fantasy element to this a gem of a masterpiece.

The fantasy and fairy tale elements of Ladycastle will appeal to readers of all ages, and there isn’t any gore or language that would make this inappropriate for younger readers. However, the pop culture references and humor make this most suited for teen or adult collections. It is especially suited for graphic novel lists of women comic creators as well as fantasy stories.

Ladycastle
by Delilah S. Dawson
Art by Ashley A. Woods, Rebecca Farrow, Elsa Charretier
ISBN: 9781684150328
Boom! Studios, 2017

  • Lisa R.

    | She/They

    Reviewer and Content Editor

    Lisa contains multitudes. She is a content wunderkind, librarian, geek, and makes a delightful companion to trivia teams. She does not live in Brooklyn nor attend a fancy college. She spills her guts at https://lisarabey.substack.com and she can be found as @heroineinabook across the internet.

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