Linda Medley’s fairytale world is a charming, if sometimes quite disturbing, place. The first volume starts with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from some of the peripheral characters’ point of view, which helps explain the existence of the castle as a refuge. The plot then moves on to Jain, who flees an abusive marriage and travels, pregnant, in search of Castle Waiting. Though people claim it’s just a legend, Jain is sure it exsists, and she has a map her father, who travelled widely in business, has drawn to guide her. After a long trip and a few adventures she arrives and is heartily welcomed by the castle’s inhabitants. As she makes herself at home and gets used to life at the castle, she is told the stories both of the castle and of the various inhabitants bit by bit, and these backstories make up a large part of the book. In volume one the main story, apart from Jain’s, is Sister Peace’s retelling of parts of her life and of how the Solicitine Nuns, an order of nuns conisiting solely of bearded ladies, came into being.
The story continues in Volume II, which starts off with Rackham, the steward, giving Jain a tour of the castle. Guests arrive, two *ahem* dwarves (there is disagreement in the book around whether this is an acceptable term or not), or Hammerlings. We learn more of them, and of the slightly mysterious smith Henry, as well as more of Jain’s backstory (though far less than one could wish).
On the whole, the main problem with Castle Waiting is that there is no more (yet?). Linda Medley is officially “taking a break from writing any more chapters”, so let’s hope she returns to it eventually.
So what makes Castle Waiting so special? Well, the drawings are superb, the dialogue natural, the characters lovable (well, except when they’re not supposed to be). Moreover they are lovable despite, or even because of, their flaws. Just like real human beings, in fact. Medley borrows elements liberally from fairytales and folklore, Castle Waiting is a treasure trove of a character gallery for intertextuality freaks like me. Oh, and then there’s the babywearing, of course:
But more than anything what makes Castle Waiting so special is the effortless acceptance and celebration of difference, which comes from the knowledge that everyone has a story, that everyone needs acknowledgement and that everyone has a contribution to make.