I closed Castle Waiting with a pang of regret – my hours spent with the inhabitants of the castle were over! I had tried to go slow, to take my time with this graphic novel, to savour the enchantment, but I couldn’t help it and read it over two nights (I managed at least some kind of restraint, see – plus I was also dipping into The World Without Us and Ali and Nino, more on those another time).
Castle Waiting opens with The Curse of Brambly Hedge, essentially that familiar fairy tale, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. After being snubbed by the king, one of the local witches places a curse on baby princess Medora, that on her 15th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and drop dead. Another witch alters this curse to a deep sleep of a hundred years, to be wakened by her love, her prince charming. That’s the story that all of us know and adore. The tale of Sleeping Beauty sets up the rest of Castle Waiting, which tells the story of the castle and what happens to those who continue living there, waiting to serve someone. And then someone comes along, she calls herself Lady Jain, Countess of Carabas and she is seeking sanctuary while awaiting her child. At the castle she meets some fascinating characters, like the efficient castle steward Rackham, reticent woodsman and smith Iron Henry (who apparently is a Brothers Grimm character), the ladies-in-waiting, Dinah Lucina and her son Simon who run the household, resident knight Chess, Sister Peace of the Order Solicitine (who gets several chapters to herself as she tells the story of how she joined the convent – it’s a lot more interesting than I’m making it out to be, but I don’t want to spoil your fun). The 457 pages in this hardcover collection just fly by, and you emerge feeling like you’re part of the Castle Waiting family. However, I had questions left unanswered, such as Lady Jain’s background (who’s the father?), so I’m hoping that Volume 2, which was released in December 2010, will answer my questions. Medley self-published the first seven issues of Castle Waiting in 1997 and 1998, and you can tell that this was a labour of love. The simple line drawings took me by surprise a little – how different they are from the very colourful illustrations that have splashed the graphic novels I’ve read – but were refreshing and so charming. And I could not have wished for a better read.
Here’s an interview that Linda Medley did with Westfield Comics in 2000.