Sunday 1 February 2015

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a collection of five graphic short tales. By graphic, I use the term like in 'graphic novel' - i.e. the tales are illustrated. I would not call these 'comics' - there is a slow and deliberate artistry in the illustrations and text here, and it is, after all, a hard-back book.

These are beautifully sinister and creepy fairy tales. I do not mean they are tales for children: I would be very cautious before giving this book to a child. They are tales of horror. When I call them fairy tales, I mean that they draw very archetypal characters, and they draw on very archetypal fears and story structures. That makes them all the more powerful: there is something universal about the terrors in these stories, and they resonate with all the things that probably scared you when you were little. (Except spiders: there is no appearance of spiders at all in this book)

Some of the stories leave the horror just off-page, so your imagination fills in the blank with bone-chilling effect. Others put the horror very much on the page, so you shudder at the creepy illustrations of creepy ideas.

The illustrations use black, white, and red persistently - all other colours are slightly faded, slightly subtle. And one archetypal, universal theme of horror in this book is teeth: whenever we get a close up of teeth, devouring, smiling, fletching, tearing... there are terrible teeth in this book.

Oh, these stories are wonderfully, deliciously dark, beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. Five tales, each one a gem, and the book about as perfect as it could be.

Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

PS: If you'd like a preview, you can read one of the tales on Emily Carroll's website: His Face All Red

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