#FebruarySheWrote Review: When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll

when I arrived at the castle

There once was a girl that lived in a deep and damp and dark celler…



“A castle, a killer, and prey all bound and blurred by lust and blood.”

Like many before her that have never come back, she’s made it to the Countess’ castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism that doesn’t just make your skin crawl, it crawls into it.

Emily Caroll has crafted another beautifully atmospheric and decadent novel that skirts the line of horror and gothic in When I Arrived at The Castle.

A curious and courageous cat-eared girl braves the castle of a vampiric countess with plans to destroy her. Plans change and go pear-shaped when the strange catgirl instead finds that the countess is waiting for her. Soon, the girl is sent into a maze of tragic fairy tales and stories that she must claw her way through holding as best she can on to her purpose and sanity. The tales are trapped behind red doors, the house, countess, and her; all is not what it seems and the cat-eared girl is doomed.

The vampiric countess reminded me of a cat stalking its prey. She was coldly seductive, dangerous, and beautiful. She batted around the girl, knocking her back and forth and toying with the cat-eared girl’s sanity. And underneath the exterior of the vampiric countess darkness lurks inside.

This story is a rich work that you need to read a few times to get all the meanings. It is beautifully executed, much is conveyed in the simple palette of three colors; bone white, black, and blood red. It is gothic; ornate when it needs to be and simple when it doesn’t. The backgrounds are simple with repeating patterns, but still very useful. The perspectives of the story zoom, twist and create dreamlike and violent panels.

It is a hauntingly scary work and an obvious nod to the gothic works of Mary Shelley and the Bronte sisters. This book is certainly not for everyone, it is difficult to understand on the first read-through and is a bit high and esoteric. But giving it a second read-through I found it to be extremely well done. The pages practically bleed horror and terror.

Carroll packs quite a bit of emotional punch in this short graphic novella and you can tell why she has won Eisner and Ignatz awards. When I arrived at the Castle is very much in the style of her other novels (Out of Skin, Through The Woods) and shouldn’t be missed.


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