March 16, 2015

Cybils Finalist Review: THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll

Summary: Horror fans take note: if you're a fan of, say, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Edgar Allan Poe--you will not want to miss this graphic novel compilation of spooky tales by webcomic artist Emily Carroll. It's beautiful, and frightening, and difficult to describe. It's as if you took all the scariest folk tales--like Bluebeard, like the Armless Maiden--and put them all together in a striking, can't-look-away visual format. But these aren't any tales you've already heard, though they have echoes you might recognize. And they aren't going to posit any implausible happily-ever-afters; these stories will introduce you to the wolf lurking in the dark forest, the unknown monsters that disguise themselves all around us. Bring a night light, and prepare to be chilled.

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Peaks: For teens into dark and gothic literature, or fantasy, or retold fairy tales, this one is fantastic, in terms of both artwork and writing and overall style. The tales are well-written and creepy, echoing existing stories without feeling in any way derivative. The art and text were wonderfully integrated and just right for this set of stories: striking and evocative and perfectly interwoven. I loved the hand-painted look of the images and text, and the atmospheric feel of the pages that utilized blank space to great visual advantage. It really looks unlike anything I've seen before.

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Valleys: Other than being a bit scary for some readers (I wouldn't hand it to younger kids; this is definitely a YA title), I wouldn't say there are any valleys here. Not all of the stories provide a tidy explanation; this one rewards readers who are comfortable with ambiguity and want to read and re-read and ponder what is being said between the lines and in the empty spaces.

Conclusion: This was a title that got a lot of rave reviews and positive comments and oohs and aahs from the Cybils graphic novel panel in Round 2. Take a gander at the sample images here and you'll quickly see why. It's just so well done, and immerses the reader immediately into a world of darkness and danger and unease. Gorgeous and frightening.

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library. You can find THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Carroll at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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