fantasy and science fiction book reviewsCastle Waiting, Volume 1 by Linda Medley Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

I picked up Castle Waiting by Linda Medley at the recommendation of The Book Smugglers who described a charming take on classic fairy tales with a twist. When I checked it out from the library, it felt like a vintage volume of fairy tales with a beautiful full-color illustrated cover, rough cut pages, and a silk ribbon bookmark. However, there is a very modern sensibility to these stories. Castle Waiting is a hardback omnibus collection of the first several issues of Medley’s comics about an abandoned castle that has become a refuge for the abandoned, lost, and rejected in society.

Castle Waiting starts with a take on the classic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, but in this case, the princess runs off and the castle is abandoned. Soon, though, the castle becomes home to geriatric ladies-in-waiting, an anthropomorphic horse, a young man with a learning disability, a man with his heart in a cage, and a whole other variety of fairy tale mainstays. The more familiarity you have with fairy tales, the more of the in-jokes you will catch, as many of the old tales show up here in one form or another, including the castle steward, who is named Rackham, as a nod to the inspiration for the illustrations. This is definitely a comic book, and not a graphic novel, as the illustrations are all done in black and white and lack the gorgeous, immersive quality familiar to those who read the graphic novels that were originally designed for that medium. However, the charming ink illustrations have a piquant charming quality that match the story wonderfully.

Castle WaitingAs I was reading this volume, I found myself wondering why I was struggling with the story. Where most comic books feature superheroes and dashing rescues, this collection of outcasts tell a story of community, love, and enduring relationships. Once I realized the subversive nature of the story, I was enthralled by how well Medley had taken a medium that is frequently mocked and critiqued for its objectification of women and had made a feminist comic series, in the sense that there are women both at the center of, and central to, the story. Castle Waiting, instead of being a place where women wait to be rescued from their lives, is a place where women go to rescue themselves, and, through relationships with other women and men, build a community of their own choosing. In contrast to the vapid Sleeping Beauty at the beginning of the story, who runs off with a perfect stranger, convinced that he is the love of her life, these characters come together as strangers and discover the power of love to change their lives.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsLinda Medley has written a gentle feminist fairy tale comic book that truly deserves to have a wider audience. I was very happy to learn that Castle Waiting is going to be re-released in a paperback edition in December of 2012. While this book obviously won’t appeal to a lot of readers, I think that for the right reader, it will earn a cherished place in the heart and on the bookshelf. I am looking forward to reading the next volume. Luckily, my library has it. I’ll be picking up my own copies when they are published.

The multiple Harvey and Eisner award-winning fantasy is now collected in one volume! A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil — but about being a hero in your own home. The 456-page Castle Waiting graphic novel tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil — but about being a hero in your own home. The opening story, “The Brambly Hedge,” tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on “Sleeping Beauty” when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. The castle becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun. For the first time, Fantagraphics’ Castle Waiting collects the first volume of the Harvey and Eisner Award-winning* comic book series into one hearty hardcover. Linda Medley lavishly illustrates Castle Waiting in a classic visual style reminiscent of Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. Blending elements from a variety of sources—fairy tales, folklore, nursery rhymes—Medley tells the story of the everyday lives of fantastic characters with humor, intelligence, and insight into human nature. Castle Waiting can be read on multiple levels and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.


  • Ruth Arnell

    RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.