Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

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In Castle Waiting, Linda Medley delightfully tells some new fairy tales. Some of the tales are reminiscent of traditional fairy tales, but most of them are original in some clever way.

Castle Waiting is a rundown castle that is a refuge for a small community of outcast creatures. It is a place for acceptance, and learning the stories of the remarkable characters in the castle helps us to do so.

I found a quote from Linda Medley on Wikipedia (I don’t have this afterward in my volume). She says:

Castle Waiting was first conceived in 1984, when I was studying folklore and children’s book illustration in college. I had filled a sketchbook with character designs, intending to do my own ‘take’ on some of the classic Grimm’s fairy tales. What really fascinated me were the background characters — their unexplained pasts, and their often unresolved fates.

— from the afterword to Castle Waiting: The Curse of Brambly Hedge (1996).

It is these back stories that are so much fun, and I’m sad that Castle Waiting only told a few of their stories. There’s the lady Jain, who fled her abusive husband to have her child (a baby who has a pig’s nose and ears). There’s Sister Peace, a bearded nun. There’s Rackham, who has a stork’s head. And there are so many more people and animals and sprites to make the castle interesting.

When I finished, I felt disappointed that most of the people were only barely introduced (i.e., I only learned a few of their “back stories”), and it is only as I’m writing these thoughts that I found that this is a continuing series! Linda Medley is writing the back stories of all the people living at Castle Waiting! Now I want to go read the next in the series! And my library doesn’t have any of them! Does anyone know when the second volume will be published in hardcover? My library probably won’t get it before then.

As I said, I do admit that because I didn’t realize that this book is a continuing story, I felt like the book shifted in tone from the first half to the second. While I delighted in the stories of the first half, I found the second half a little bit dull, and I missed learning more about Lady Jain. I wanted to know about all the people, not just about Sister Peace, which was the focus of the second half. I was actually disappointed when I set the book down, because I felt it had a great start and an unsatisfying conclusion. I’m glad to hear that I can learn about the others characters, from Iron Henry to Chess the horse. If you read it realizing it is a serial, you may not be as disappointed as I was.

Despite the large number of pages to this book, it’s a quick read. I read Castle Waiting in two nights, about 1 ½ hours each time. I look forward to giving more graphic novels and comics a try.

Now, maybe you can tell me: What is the difference between a graphic novel and a comic? Is this one a comic because it’s a serial? Are graphic novels, on the other hand, always self-contained?

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed Castle Waiting on your blog, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

Reviewed on August 17, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I don’t know that I know the difference between comic books and graphic novels. From my naive and totally uninformed point of view, I saw comic books as the thin series-driven booklets, and graphic novels as whole books. The whole books can be in series, too, but like normal books can be. I guess I see comic books as smaller and set up to go forever and ever until it stops selling well. But again, this is just my uninformed unintelligence talking here.

  • I’m not sure what the difference it, but I think of comics as those thin, paper books that are stapled together. I’m not even sure they print those anymore.

  • I have no idea when the second book will be out…it has been postponed a few times, unfortunately 🙁

    Amanda is right about “comic” versus “graphic novel”: originally at least, comics were published individually, and graphic novels as whole books. But it doesn’t mean that those that are published as comics first will go on indefinitely: sometimes there are only 4 or 5 issues which are them published as a book, and that’s it.

    Personally I like to use the word “comics” for everything because sometimes people, and especially traditional media sources, add judgement value to the terms (“graphic novels”=respectable and good and “comics”=childish and bad), and I want to avoid that ambiguity. But I think these days they’re mostly used interchangeably.

  • One thing I forgot to say: I also like the word”comics” because it’s a good umbrella term for the medium: it can refer to sequential art whether it’s published in a newspaper, as a booklet, as a full-length novel, etc.

  • Great points about comics. Thanks, Nymeth, for the clarification of the terms. I like the point that an umbrella term for the medium might take away the “value judgment.”

    I’ll keep looking forward to the second volume! I see that 14 or 15 of the episodes have already been written, so that’s promising!

  • People have been reviewing some gorgeous-sounding comics/graphic novels lately! It’s a genre I haven’t explored at ALL, but I’m more and more tempted each time I read a review like yours. 🙂

  • Emily, I too have avoided them, but I like them when I pick them up. I loved Maus last year. Very good nonfiction memoir of a father’s experience in WWII holocaust. This particular one is much lighter, I assure you.

  • I’m with you; I really wish there were volumes already! But this is the first graphic novel that I absolutely loved reading, so I’ll always owe Medley a debt, even if I’m also left hanging!

  • The second volume of Castle Waiting was just published in late 2010. After the first series was published in 2001, the writer took a break (she was self publishing and couldn’t afford to do it anymore). When this first hardcover was printed in 2006, she began working on more issues. Those issues were all compiled into a second hardcover (looks like the first but the spine is red instead of green, and it’s a bit thinner) and published in late 2010. I actually found a copy at Barnes & Noble. It’s also available here:
    As for the difference between comic and graphic novel. I’ve been collecting comics now for about 20 years, and here’s what I’ve come to think of it as. A comic (or comic book) is a single issue of a series, usually published monthly. It’s 20 to 30 pages and is usually a self contained story (though it can be a to be continued type of thing). There are ongoing series, that keep coming out every month (like Superman or Batman) and there are limited series, which run only a certain number of issues (like Watchmen or Y: The Last Man, both of which I recommend highly). When a group of individual comic issues is collected into a single book, it’s usually referred to as a trade paperback, or “trade” (even the hardcover ones are usually called trades). A graphic novel refers to a long format story (usually more than a hundred pages) collected into a single volume (such as MAUS), that was never published as a series of individual issues. However, in recent years, most companies have taken to referring to trade paperback collections as graphic novels. Partly because a single trade paperback collection usually contains an entire self contained storyline of a series, and so can be read as one story, and not just a series of individual issue stories. And, at least I think so, partly to make them sound a little more serious to get people interested in comics and maybe make them realize that comics aren’t just for kids. Plus, a “graphic novel” is more likely to sell I suppose.

      • You’re very welcome. I’ve posted a link in my previous comment to where you can order it from amazon. I’m sure Barnes & Noble can get it for you too. That’s where I found mine. According to the info I could find on the website, Linda Medley is currently taking a break from the series. Which kinda sucks, because the second volume starts a new storyline, and it ends with a definite cliffhanger, which I, for one, would love to see resolved.

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