Through the Woods (Emily Carroll)

5 stars

So I picked this book up on a whim from the library having fallen in love with the style of illustration on a brief flick through. I had seen some of Carroll’s illustrations and short comics online before and knew that her strength seemed to be in dark otherworldly stories and folklore, which, happily, is also one of my favourite genres to read.

This is a collection of 5 graphic short stories set in what seems to be a timeframe before, during and just after the Victorian era. I don’t want to go into too much detail about each of the stories, I feel it would ruin the spine tingling joy of reading them for the first time. I will, however, say that they’re all centred around the occult and the bizarre liminal state of the deep dark woods. Three books came to mind whilst I was reading it, not necessarily because they are similar storywise, but because they gave me a similar feeling of the loneliness and emptiness of the deep woods: ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter, ‘Uprooted’ by Naomi Novik and ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ by Katherine Arden, all books that I happen to adore.

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The art is gorgeous, the lines incredible, deceptively simple and perfect for the mood of the stories told. There are couple of pages that I could just stare at for hours. It’s the kind of stylisation that really makes you want to push your own art more to the limits.

Don’t go into this book expecting that all your questions will be answered, because you’ll just end up disappointed. The beauty of the stories and, indeed, the eeriness of the collection is definitely one rooted in the unknown and the unexplainable. If you’re the sort of person who finds the unknown too distressing then this book probably isn’t for you. I’d also put a big warning on this for people who can’t deal with body or eye horror!

It’s a fairly short read, it only took me about an hour, and that’s with me lingering open mouthed over several pages, but if you’re able to get your hands on it then I’d definitely recommend a read…though maybe not when on your own in the house.

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