If you’re into fantasy and you love comics, chances are that at some point you’ve come across the wonderfully endearing and whimsical fairy tale world created by Linda Medley in Castle Waiting. And, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this wonderful series, you’ve got a lot to look forward to, so long as you’re okay with all of the flowery storytelling.
Both written and drawn by the talented Linda Medley, Castle Waiting isn’t your typical fantasy adventure. In fact, it’s far from it, focusing heavily on the day-to-day lives of women in a castle and the many trial and tribulations that come with it. Naturally, I was apprehensive going into this as my favorite genre of comic is generally dark fantasy rather than fairy tale, but I decided to give it a go. Let me make it clear that you shouldn’t expect fierce warriors fighting dragons or curious adventurers exploring perilous dungeons in this series.
Let’s begin with a remake of Sleeping Beauty, named The Curse of Brambly Hedge. This story predates the rest of the series by many years and does a fantastic job of setting up the residents of the castle. We are introduced to a few major characters, including the fan-favorite a stork-headed dandy that goes by the name of Rackham. While it’s probably best to start with this story arc for the perfect reading experience, you really don’t need to. I hadn’t started with it. In fact, the true wonders of Castle Waiting lie in what comes after.
Issue #1 begins with Lady Jain, who is pregnant and is fleeing her home. We’re left in the dark as to the specific reasons why she was on the run but later on in the series we are handed small tidbits of backstory. I like the way Medley does this, as it kept me intrigued and engrossed in the story from start to finish. She’s following a map that was given to her by her father, and details a wonderful castle called Castle Waiting, so that is where she heads for. Of course, no long journey in any fantasy story comes without its struggles. On her way, Lady Jain has her horse stolen and embarks on a quest with some newfound friends to retrieve it.
Eventually, she arrives at the elusive Castle Waiting. This is where the series really comes into its own and sets itself apart from most other fantasy works. In the castle, we’re introduced to several main characters, including a few that you might recognize from classic fairy tale/folklore stories. There’s Simon — inspired from the classic nursery rhyme Simple Simon — and Iron Henry, just to name a few. We’ve also got Rackham, the masked doctor, Sister Peace (a bearded nun), and later arrives Chess, who’s a warrior horse. There are other residents, but these appear the most throughout the series.
What I didn’t realize when reading without prior research is that the series doesn’t have much action or adventure, it literally just no-shame follows the residents of the castle as they go about their daily lives. It couldn’t be more charming. The first major plot point sees Jain giving birth to baby Pindar, who is unusually green. As a first-time mother, Jain learns how to take care of her child along with help from other residents, and later in the series the Hammerlings also assist her.
The many storylines see everything from Jain teaching Simon how to read, to a castle-wide bowling match. My favorite story by far was when Rackham and Chess travel into town for supplies. It was humorous (very laugh out loud at times) and had an intriguing plot to it. The two characters have such opposing personalities and they bounced off each other fantastically!
I enjoyed every story this series had to offer, with the exception of one multi-issue storyline. After establishing the members of the castle, Linda Medley decided to write a backstory for Sister Peace, called Solicitine, which details her life before she arrived at Castle Waiting. Unfortunately, I found it to be a complete let-down. Not only did this detract from Lady Jain’s wonderful tale, but it did so by introducing a whole new set of characters who were, frankly, nowhere near as intriguing as the residents of the castle. Beyond that, I couldn’t help but become rather bored and irritated at this deviation. If anything, I think Medley would have been better off releasing Solicitine as a separate thing altogether.
Overall, Castle Waiting is an absolute pleasure and a must-read for anyone who reads comics and loves a good fairy tale. What’s more, apparently Linda Medley is currently working on even more issues within the fantasy world, this time in full color. If you’re interested in learning more about volume 3, be sure to check out her Patreon page.