Monday, 11 July 2016

#CBR8 Book 75: "Castle Waiting, vol 1" by Linda Medley

Page count: 457 pages
Rating: 4 stars

The opening story of Castle Waiting, which explains how the castle came to be abandoned, so to speak, is a variation on Sleeping Beauty. Only once the princess is awakened from her century of sleep and the hedge surrounding the castle lets people in and out, she goes off with her prince and pretty much forgets about the place where she slumbered and the people in it. As the years pass, the castle becomes a refuge for various outcasts and odd characters, with the princess' now elderly handmaidens being the only original inhabitants still staying there.

The second story concerns the journey of a mysterious lady, who is revealed to be pregnant, who after travelling for months, arrives at the castle, seeking sanctuary. Once the baby is born, she reveals that the baby's father is not her husband, and while not much is revealed about the baby daddy, the child has green skin and his father apparently had horns, at least, so he's clearly something a bit out of the ordinary. I'm assuming more about the lady Jain and her baby may be revealed in future volumes, it's not actually given that much focus here.

We are also given the story of the nun, sister Peaceful, and her order of bearded nuns. Turns out, Peaceful was originally a tavern keeper's daughter, until she started growing a beard and decided to join the circus. There she discovers they already have a bearded lady (who becomes her BFF) and the two eventually run off and discover the convent of the Solicitine nuns, all of whom have facial hair. My favourite story was probably that of the Mother Superior of the order, and her life before she came to the convent.

Linda Medley studied folklore and it shows in her gentle twist on a number of fairy tales. It's only really the first tale that is a version of Sleeping Beauty. The rest of the book involves more of an anthology of tales involving the various inhabitants of Castle Waiting or people they've met before they came there. The art and lettering is absolutely gorgeous throughout, and reminded me a bit of Charles Vess (who among other things illustrated Neil Gaiman's Stardust and some issues of Sandman). There is a strong feminist theme to many of the stories, with female friendship being an important common denominator throughout the book.

Only the final story of the book, involving a greedy mill owner making things difficult for the Solicitine nuns didn't really work for me. That one was boring. Other than that, there are a lot of quirky and unusual characters making friendships and forming bonds throughout the stories. Found family is absolutely a big thing here. This is once again one of those books that has languished on my shelves for years and years without me ever picking it up. I'm glad I finally did. It was well worth some hours of my time.

Judging a book by its cover: I have a lovely hardcover edition of Castle Waiting, vol 1. The spine is green and the cover image feature all of the various inhabitants of the castle, in a full colour illustration. As the inside illustrations are all in black and white, it's nice to see the characters in colour, at least once.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read. 

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