The following reviews were originally posted in my deviantArt journal, and have been expanded.
Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley. Fantagraphics Books, 2006.
It’s a medley (get it?) of what Publisher’s Weekly calls “nouveau fairy tales” threaded into one long story that starts with a reworked “Sleeping Beauty” and wanders through bits of “Iron Henry,” “The Musicians of Bremen,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and other tales and nursery rhymes (even a smidgen of Seuss). Meet good and bad witches; protective and kleptomaniac sprites; young women defending their faith and independence; nuns having fun; a flirtatious horse and other characters who join one big madcap family.
I love Medley’s use of satire, and the way she draws facial expressions–especially those of Leeds the demon. The character interactions will pull you into the motley family, and certain individuals (for me, it was Sister Peace) will continue to pester you long after you’ve put the book down, saying, “Come back for a visit! You haven’t forgotten us, have you?”
My only criticism is that, once in a while, the dialogue served too obviously (and awkwardly) as exposition. Luckily, that didn’t happen too often.
The best part is that the story’s not over yet–there’s a Volume 2 on the way this December.
Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. Bloomsbury USA Children’s, 2008.
On her twelfth birthday, Rapunzel discovers what her “mother” has been hiding behind the castle’s giant garden wall. This Annie Oakley-style princess proceeds on a quest to save lives and right wrongs.
Like Medley, Nathan Hale creates compelling character illustrations; I would find myself staring for minutes at a particular facial expression, turning the page, then turning back to see that expression again.
My only real criticism is that Rapunzel’s cowgirl-style speech at times seemed overdone and stereotypical. Otherwise, Rapunzel’s Revenge is a clever and sweet retelling of the original fairy tale, and the heroine is a refreshing break from what Phil, from Disney’s Hercules, would call “your typical D.I.D.” (Damsel-In-Distress).
02/13/11 added note: In fact, this Rapunzel, created several years before the release of Disney’s Tangled, is much tougher and more independent than her Disney counterpart. But then, judging from the latter’s more complicated mother-daughter relationship, and the greater length of time she spends in the tower, one can’t really blame the newer Rapunzel for her child-like skittishness.