It came from the woods. Most strange things do.
Through the Woods is a chillingly eerie young adult graphic novel short story collection to start getting us all into the Halloween mood – written and illustrated by Emily Carroll. The collection has been heralded as a “haunting collection of visual stories, part Stephen King and part Edgar Alan Poe… a special kind of quiet horror (John Hendrix).” While I wouldn’t agree with the King comparison, mostly because I’m really not a Stephen King fan, Carroll’s collection definitely encompasses the “quiet horror” of the unknown. Please keep in mind that this is geared towards teenagers and therefore forgoes some of the more intense themes reserved for adults.
There once was a young girl… who lived at the edge of a deep, dense forest. Before she left for her mother’s house her father told her: “Don’t linger in the woods, travel swift and safe, there are wolves circling in the dark.”
Through the Woods has five tales with dark twists on fairy tale tropes and traumas. The ambiguous nature of the stories make them deeply troubling. In a new take on the modern fairy tale, Carroll refuses to decisively adapt any one story, instead melding multiple threads and thematics that run through our collective knowledge of fairy tale plots. You will detect Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, wicked in-laws, as well as a cast of some more subtle fairy tale characters who pop in for gruesome greetings.
But the worst kind of monster was the burrowing kind. The sort that crawled into you and made a home there. The sort you couldn’t see. The monster that ate you alive from the inside out.
These are hauntingly sad stories crawling with the instances of the supernatural encroaching upon and infecting reality and slowly crossing the threshold from the real to the unreal. The ambiguous nature of the occurrences makes them all the more frightening. I won’t give you a synopsis because the stories are short and I wouldn’t want to give too much away but I expect you all to GO READ THIS BOOK! Really, it’s more fun if you discover it on your own than if I reveal the spine-tingling plots.
I dreamt I woke upon a boat
A rocking boat
A quiet boat
On a smooth black sea we float
I dreamt a Captain dressed in grey
I dreamt I wore a long white coat
I dreamt a stone caught in my throat
I dreamt I choked and choked and choked
I dreamt my legs were long and pale
made of smoke
I choked and choked
And when I woke I wrote and wrote
as though it all might float
Through the Woods is lyrically chilling and visually stimulating. The colour scheme is predominantly black, red, blue, and gray. This book is gorgeous and simply flipping through the illustrations and their synchronized colours, vivid, bold lines, sometimes surrealist style, is breathtaking. The blood drenched sunset of the cover page splashes through the rest of the text and lingers behind the reader’s eyes even once the book has been set down.
You may find that once you finish your reading for the evening, climb into bed, and reach for the light switch that you pause, just for a split second, before allowing the darkness to creep in and surround you.