(w/a) Emily Carroll
I always remembered the saying as a kid, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” But like any kid, would I never listen. This worked out most of the time, but sometimes it lead me to straight up trash (with really good covers). The reason I bring this up is because I totally judged When I Arrived At The Castle by its gorgeous art when I saw it online, which persuaded me to buy it. Thankfully, this was one of those times when it worked.
Emily Carroll’s story is hard to explain. At first, the words didn’t even register completely because I was so enamored by the lush gorgeous art. Also, it appears initially that not much care or attention is given to the plot. Carroll thrusts the reader into what seems to be the ending of a saga, never explaining who you should root for, or why a certain cat lady wants to kill this world’s Countess. Even after sequential re-reads, I believe I may have come to somewhat of a my own conclusion, which may differ from others. A cat and human traded skins with the cat in human skin going to a castle that she supposedly sent many to but none returned. She does this to kill the monstress vampire Countess that lives there. Yep, that’s what I came out believing and I’m sticking with it.
It may sound like a narrative mess, but it’s truly by design – one that Carroll excels at. She writes in a vague yet intriguing way that makes it up to one’s own opinion what it’s all about. Ending with each reader coming down to their own conclusion. In an age where everything needs to be explained or have a backstory, this coyness is appealing. As a reader, it feels good to consume the story and possibly have a different interpretation to discuss with a friend. Throughout the book, she will go pages without dialogue, leaving the art alone to tell the story. Other times she’ll have a few pages that are virtually all prose. As far as vampire stories go, this one should be on your to read list, and your re-read list.
Now to the thing that made me seek it out, the art. Carroll’s art is sublime, with red as the only color blending perfectly with black, grey, or white. Forgoing the traditional panels she draws her own way which makes beautiful peaces of art that get lodged into your brain you’ll never forget. A fair amount of the art can be considered erotic, but it’s done so gratefully and elegantly that it flows along with the story. Each page on it’s own is a work of beauty showing how much love and effort she put into it all, thus paying off in the end. Every part she draws as a meaning and a reason for being on the page. The art feels vastly different from other artists that in a line up you could tell what was hers and what emotions the characters are feeling while teasing a plot.
I had never heard of Emily Carroll before picking up When I Arrived At The Castle (Editor’s Note: shame on you Jason, go read Through the Woods). Now after reading such a visual beautiful and cryptic story I long to read whatever she comes out with next.