Author: Emily Carroll
Genre: Horror, Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: July 2014
Hardcover: 208 Pages
A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of Grimm Tales, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and the works of Neil Gaiman
‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…
Stand alone or series: Stand alone graphic novel
How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher
Format (e- or p-): Print Book
Why did I read this book: Did you see that gorgeous cover?! And that deliciously creepy description? How could I resist? When I saw some of the interior art, it became painfully clear that I would need to read this book. Immediately.
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.
They truly do.
In Through the Woods, Emily Carroll weaves together five macabre tales of terror, all united by a common setting: the deep, dark woods and the monsters who lurk within its shaded eaves. Punctuated by Carroll’s boldly illustrated panels – dominant bloody reds and inky blacks – Through the Woods is beautiful, edgy, and horrific in all of the right ways. There’s a certain unsettling dreamlike (and by dreamlike, I mean nightmarish) quality to Carroll’s writing and illustrations, reminiscent of Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman’s work on Coraline and The Sandman; all the figures are drawn with eerie, slender limbs, all their faces bearing a constant bloody blush. I love Carroll’s restraint, too – instead of showing the monster or describing its carnage, she suggests. Her panels focus on a lone eye, or a wide-brimmed hat, or the glistening teeth of a wolf in the dark. Consider, for example, this passage from the conclusion of the book:
So, you ask, what of the stories themselves? Through the Woods collects dark fairytale-like stories, with twisted images of wolves and worms, severed body parts, and specters. They are atmospheric and dark; sparse with words but chock-full of horrific implication.
In Our Neighbor’s House, three sisters are left to fend for themselves when their father goes out hunting. He tells them if he is not back after three days, they are to pack their bags and walk to their neighbor’s house. Except the sisters disagree, and decide to wait for their papa, and one by one disappear. The inevitability of this narrative – each of the sisters meeting a man with a wide-brimmed hat – sets the perfect, ominous tone for the rest of the book.
A Lady’s Hands are Cold, my second favorite of the five stories, is a Bluebeard type of retelling, with the ghost of a murdered woman wailing for vengeance from within the walls of her home. The most effective thing about this story, severed body parts aside, is the fact that the eponymous lady with the cold hands is neither fair nor understanding of her husband’s new wife and her plight. Rather, this ghost is cruel, filled with rage, and will have her revenge. (For Gaiman fans, of all the collected stories in the book, this is easily the most Gaiman-esque.)
In His Face All Red, a man grapples with his jealousy of his charismatic brother – a brother this man knows cannot be alive. When you finally learn the meaning of the title of this particular story, it’s a wonderful – terrible! – realization.
My Friend Janna follows two unlikely best friends; Janna is a medium, while the narrator of the tale helps Jana swindle the bereaved who come to her for answers from beyond the grave. Although this is, in my opinion, the weakest of the five stories, it’s still an effective supernatural ghost tale with an interesting twist of an ending.
Finally, there’s The Nesting Place – easily my favorite story of the bunch. Here, a younger sister visits her older brother and his wife, only to discover that his wife is not what she seems. This story is so unsettling that I actually woke up in the middle of the night after reading it fearful of skreaaak skriiiick noises, loose teeth, and the squirming of worms.
Like I said, I loved this book. Brooding, haunting, with an overwhelming sense of morbid inevitability, Through the Woods is the kind of horrific graphic novel that hits all of the right notes.
Absolutely recommended, and in the running for one of my favorite books of 2014.
(One last word of caution: make sure you read this with the lights on, preferably during the daytime. I speak from experience – waking up in a cold sweat because you read this book too late at night is terrifying.)
Notable Quotes/Parts: From A Lady’s Hands Are Cold:
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfection.
Reading Next: Night Witches by L.J. Adlington
Buy the Book:
(click on the links to purchase)