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[Book Review] Through the Woods (Emily Carroll, 2014) ★★★★★

The Nesting Place from Through the Woods by Emily Carroll 2014

Through the Woods is a visual stunning delight full with sinister dark fairytales. 


Through the Woods is a graphic novel that reminds strongly of a gothic horror story wrapped in a dark fairytale. It contains five dark stories that are drawn with a stunning style to complement the stories to its fullest. These five dark fairytales are imaginative, creative and for adults to recreate their childhood stories, but far more darker. 

The drawing and writing style are both compelling and are of a poetic style. It certainly creates a sense of dread with its disturbing images and mysterious stories. It’s not told explicitly, but more elusive and will give you creepy chills.


Plot

Through the Woods contains five different stories, that are all connected in a certain way with a forest or the woods. The prologue and epilogue together form one little story and also connect the five different stories with each other. These are the five brilliant stories.

Our Neighbor’s House

It’s about three sisters Mary, Beth and Hannah who are left behind in a cabin in the woods while their father goes out hunting. But when he doesn’t return, Beth has to go to their neighbor’s house to get help. All the more while a strange man keeps knocking on their door to get them. 

With sober bleak coloring, the story unfolds while it focuses on Beth. The bright red of the sun and Beth’s cloak contrast the grey and brown tones that represent the bleak and sober tone of the story. It’s a very elusive tale and it doesn’t get quite clear what happened and why, but it has a creepy, intriguing vibe that is well executed. 

A Lady’s Hands Are Cold

A young woman is married off by her father to a wealthy man. But once in the mansion she hears strange noises and it seems to be haunted.

This is a very colorful story, in which each picture pops from the pages. With bright blues and reds and yellows, this is a gothic tale reimagined in a modern way, whilst guarding the old vibe of a gothic haunted mansion. It’s ghostly, spooky and bloody. And a story that stands out with visual elegance and horror to create an alluring tale. 

His Face All Red

A beast is threatening a small village. A man and his brother set out to find and kill the beast. But is there really a monster?

This story is told by the brother who is filled with remorse and guilt, that eats at him, just like the wolf or beast. It’s a tale that might be drawn with a simple style and with a simple premise, but something is lurking behind this tale that is very disturbing. 

My Friend Janna

Yvonne tells the story of her best friend Janna. Together they held fake seances, till one day Yvonne sees something spooky surrounding Janna. Are ghosts real? 

A very intimate ghostly tale from the perspective of Yvonne. It’s a somber bleak tale with bleak colors and a vibrant red. It sets a dark mysterious tone with unexplained events that you have to fill in for yourself. It doesn’t explain what really happened and follows the tradition of old Victorian ghosts stories that are never explained but leaves it up to the reader to create an answer in your own imagination. 

The Nesting Place

Bell is staying with her brother Clarence and his fiancé Rebecca that summer, after her mother has died. Her mother always told her stories about monsters, but they don’t exist. Or do they? 

The final story is the biggest story with a more clear structure. It’s a story that follows Mabel who is a normal teenaged girl, a bit grumpy and depressed. It starts out with a charcoal coloring when Bell thinks about the stories her mother told her. Then when she stays at her brother’s house, the coloring turns into a brownish bleak to accentuate her feelings. But when the horror sets in and Bell suspects that something strange is going on, the colors are more vibrant, and again, red is the prominent vibrant color of blood. This story is told through Bell’s experience and her creepy adventure. While the coloring livens up, so does Bell, although she’s scared. But somehow a scary discovery brings her also closer to her mother. This is the most fleshed out story with symbolism, and is the most complete story with great horror. 


Why you should read it

Every story has its own tone and voice and is very authentic. But still, they are clearly connected and form one big story. With slightly different styles of drawing, each story creates its own vibe. Some have primary colors, some are made out of bleak somber, grey and brown colors. Some stories are drawn with a sharpness, with the focus on contrast while others are more soft. Every style is adapted to the story itself. But what in every story predominates is the color red, blood red. 

Every picture is a little piece of art. It’s not the usual format, but each page is used to the fullest to create an image within a frame, or covers the whole page with text and drawings without frames. Telling the stories in a compelling and disturbing way, just by focusing on the right detail at the right time. It’s mainly that what is not said, told or shown, that has the biggest creepy impact. 

It’s a beautifully crafted graphic novel with great stories and excellent drawings. 


My favorite part

I think it’s obvious that I liked the last story best. It’s a great story, with beautiful drawings and coloring. Bell is an unconventional heroine that is representative for normal girls. And the villain is a very original and creepy one. 

But I also loved the visual style of A Lady’s Hands Are Cold. It has a great visual style and each picture is a piece of horror art. The whole graphic novel is beautiful gem that will enchant you that brings a fresh and authentic take on old horror tropes.


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Surreal factor: ★★★☆☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★


Info

Through the Woods is written and drawn by Emily Carroll. It was first published by Margaret K. McElderry Books in 2014. It consists of 208 pages. 


book cover Though the Woods by Emily Carroll 2014