My rating: 4 stars
Gone are the days when I never pondered picking up a graphic novel. Nowadays I know that I can enjoy them, as long as they feature some of the characteristics that I relish – splashes of colour, elaborate drawings, and panels in an array of sizes and formats. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll caught my attention because of its mix of bright and dark colours and the promise of it being unnerving. In general, it really lived up to my expectations
This graphic novel is more of a collection of short stories, which all have in common being spooky and presenting a storyline that encompasses a forest. It starts with an eerie introduction where readers are warned that, at night, there may be something hidden beneath our beds. The following five stories carry on conveying the frightening feeling crafted during the presentation.
My favourite tale was ‘A Lady’s Hands Are Cold’. It tells the story of a girl who married the man she was promised to by her father. She went to live at his manor house, where at night she could hear a singing voice escaping from the walls. I particularly appreciated the melancholic and alarming atmosphere present throughout, as well as the colours used in the evocative illustrations.
In fact, the majority of the stories feature really haunting drawings which in some instances help to convey the darkness lurking inside people. ‘His Face All Red’, for example, is a tale about brother jealousy. Some of the pages comprise just illustrations and no words. So, the development of the plot rests solely upon the movements depicted.
One of the most disturbing stories, though, is ‘The Nesting Place’. It starts in a quite tranquil way, despite the main character’s circumstances, but gradually develops into a disconcerting tale. Bell was at a boarding school, but her brother decided to pick her up to spend the summer with him and his fiancée. What she discovered at their house alluded to a story that her mother used to tell her about a monster who ate people alive from the inside out.
All of the stories are also quite gripping, either because of the plot or the rhythm achieved through the repetition of certain expressions. ‘My Friend Janna’, a story about the secrets that friends share and the ones they dare not tell, in some instances almost reads like poetry. ‘Our Neighbor’s House’, on the other hand, has quite an engrossing plot. It tells the story of three sisters who stay alone at home while their father goes hunting. Unfortunately, the ending feels slightly unsatisfying and too unclear.
If you look forward to being startled before falling asleep, I totally recommend Through the Woods as the book to have on your nightstand. If not, read it during the day when it’s undoubtedly safer to immerse yourself in some attention-grabbing spooky tales.