Graphic Novel Review of “Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll

Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 208 pages
  • Published July 15th, 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (first published July 1st, 2014)
  • Original Title Through The Woods
  • ISBN1442465956 (ISBN13: 9781442465954)
  • Edition LanguageEnglish

Awards

  • Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Graphic Novel (2014) 
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2017) 
  • Milwaukee County Teen Book Award (2015) 
  • British Fantasy Award for Best Comic/Graphic Novel (2015) 
  • Lincoln Award Nominee (2017)
  • Green Carnation Prize Nominee for Longlist (2014) 
  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album-Reprint (2015) 
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2014) 
  • IGN Award for Best Original Graphic Novel (2014)

About

From the publisher, “‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…”

My Thoughts

This book is a collection of five gothic horror scary stories beautifully illustrated. Each of them in one way or another is about the horrors that exist inside of a person, and the horrors we cannot see that are lurking for us in the dark whether literally or figuratively.

Our Neighbor’s House – This is the story of three pioneer girls: Mary, Beth, and Hannah waiting for their father to come back from a hunting trip. When he doesn’t come back after three days, instead of heading off to the neighbor’s house as they were instructed they sit and wait. A mysterious stranger starts coming to the door. He is full of smiles with a wide-brimmed hat, and one by one the sisters are charmed away. He is stealing the children away much like the pied piper. This is a slow burn of a horror story, in the beginning, it seems innocuous enough that a man, maybe a neighbor, comes to the door and offers reassurance to the girls. One by one though, as they disappear into the night, you know something is wrong with the man. Until finally, there is no one left at all and he is, in fact, not a man.

A Lady’s Hands Are Cold – To me, this is the most Gothic of tales in the collection and probably my least favorite. It is the story of a young lady married off to a Man in a large white manor. From the first night onward the lady would hear a moaning wail coming from somewhere in the house decrying “I married my love in the springtime, but by summer he’s locked me away. He murdered me dead in autumn, and by winter I was naught but decay. It’s cold where I am and so lonely…” Every night the wailing would get louder as if it was coming from the houses very bones. When the young lady could not take it anymore, she took a hatchet and began to hack at the house. Inside the walls and floor of the house, she found the decaying body parts of a woman and eventually the head which sang an awful lament. The young girl pieced the body back together holding it fast with red ribbons where it rose up and proclaimed, “Do you think he loves you know? Think you usurped my role? When I’ve torn you to pieces, girl then I’ll be whole.”

His Face All Red – This is a story of two brothers, one charismatic and loved while the other always lived in the first one’s shadow. One day while hunting for the mysterious beast that had been plaguing their village, the brother who still lived in the shadow killed the charismatic one and buried him in the woods. The shadowed one returns to the town with naught but a bloody scrap of his brother’s clothing proclaiming “I have killed the monster. I have avenged my brother.” Then the brother returns…but his brother is not actually his brother.

This story leans heavily on ambiguity to produce the necessary ambiance for a Gothic tale of this type much like the previous story. What the reader doesn’t know is the chilling part of the story. Again, I felt like this story fell flat. To me, the story moved to quickly to really produce the necessary environment for me to be scared.

My Friend Janna – This is a story about two girls who say that they can commune with the dead, but it is a hoax. Two bored girls playing a prank on the malleable. What Janna’s friend does not tell her is that Janna is haunted. There is a spirit that surrounds her, and it slowly is taking over Janna eventually until Janna disappears entirely.

The Nesting Place – This is my favorite story of the bunch. It is the story of Bell, a young girl home visiting her brother and his new fiance. The horror part of this story is that Rebecca, the fiance, is not at all what she seems. There are worms, I will leave it at that.

I am a bit torn on this collection. It is evident that Emily Carroll is a skillful artist and writer. The graphics for this collection are beautiful and striking. But, the stories left me feeling flat. They seemed rushed and because they seem rushed the setting that Carroll creates doesn’t have the buildup necessary for it to be effective. I wish it had worked for me, but it just didn’t. Not to say that it won’t work for you, this is a very beloved story collection. Give it a try! I am in the minority here when it comes to this story collection, let me know what you think!


Procurement

I checked this out from the library


About the Author

My name is Emily Carroll, and I was born in June of 1983. I grew up in London (Ontario) but moved to Vancouver for work after graduating Sheridan College’s Classical Animation program. I have since moved back to Ontario and now live in Stratford with my wife, Kate Craig. We have a very large cat.

Comments

  1. Liam

    Just have to say that I very much agree with your conclusions. I enjoyed the art style but the stories were lacking and I couldn’t connect to any of them unfortunately 🙁

    1. Beth Tabler

      I very much wanted to like them, but there was just something lacking. Maybe the brevity in which each story was told kept me from connecting too. I’m not sure. I’ll give her work another try just because the art was so good.

  2. neuravinci

    I actually really liked the stories, and thought each one built up with enough time. I can see the abruptness being jarring, but to me, that was part of the appeal.

    1. Beth Tabler

      This might come down to preference. Her book is beautiful. The stories where well done. She definitely knows her gothic horror, but for some reason seemed rushed to me. I might try it again in a different frame of mind and see if it speaks to me differently. I am so glad you liked it!

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