Book Review: When I Arrived at the Castle

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Lesbian horror fairy tale? Sorta?

When I Arrived at the Castle is a graphic novel that’s been getting a lot of buzz as of late so I decided to check it out. I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s listed as 72 pages but feels WAY shorter than that, or perhaps I feel that way because I’m not really sure what the point of it was.

In the pro column, unsurprisingly the art by Emily Carroll is incredible. Everything is red, black or white, and it’s so effortlessly striking it made me like the book far more because of it. Her ability to convey emotion though her art is fantastic, and I would read anything illustrated by her. That being said, I don’t know if I ‘got’ what this book was supposed to be telling me. I loved the fairy tale element and found the creepiness of the story intriguing, but by the time I got to the end it just felt very anti-climatic.

I felt confused by the end and unfulfilled, which is sad because I was loving the idea of the Dracula/Alice in Wonderland crossover. It was sold as a “lesbian erotic horror fairy tale” and I didn’t really feel like it leaned enough into any of those descriptors to earn them. The erotic aspect seems to be just because you see some nipple, which I wouldn’t personally describe as erotic. I wouldn’t consider this horror either, but I would use the term unnerving. It’s got a creepy, unsettling appeal to it while reading, but I never felt scared or grossed out.

I love Carroll’s other work and the art is fantastic, but I think the wishy-washy ending confused me and made me feel unsatisfied by this rather than keeping a singular tone throughout the book. If it was supposed to make the reader feel unsettled, I wish that would have continued for the entire work. There were too many emotions to run the gamut through for anything to really stick to me overall.

Title: When I Arrived at the Castle
Author: Emily Carroll
Format: Paperback
Pages: 72
ISBN: 9781927668689

Three Descriptors: Complex, beautifully illustrated, disjointed

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