Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
Come, take a walk in the woods, and see what awaits YOU there.
I'd heard an awful lot about this graphic novel even before I started getting into them. After my success with the first volume of the Fables comic series, Through the Woods was one of the first into my virtual basket when I went on a graphic novel buying binge. I finally picked it up off the pile one gloomy afternoon and curled up on the sofa under a blanket. I didn't move until I'd finished it, slightly wide-eyed. It was unsettling without being terrifying and had me quietly closing all of the curtains in the house so that I could move about without having to be too menaced by the darkness outside. I gave it 5 stars without hesitation. Anything that can be that impactive with so few words deserves all the credit I can give it.
The book's most obvious virtue is that it's absolutely stunning. The cover is eerie and has a raised design that means that it even feels like something that's crawled out of the woods to haunt you. The artwork is shadowy and dark and the colours are mostly primary colours that are stark against the black pages. It's absolutely perfect.
The stories themselves are quite short and vary in theme. Some are more mysterious, others have supernatural threads. Well, I suppose all of them hint at the supernatural but some are more explicit than others. My favourites (by a not particularly significant margin - I loved them all) were Our Neighbour's House, a quiet and disturbing story about three sisters whose father goes missing and leaves them trying to decide whether to brave the woods to get to their neighbour's house, and A Lady's Hands Are Cold, a gorgeously illustrated story about a woman dealing with ghostly noises in the creepy mansion of her new husband.
They only very, very narrowly "beat" His Face All Red (which you can read on Emily Carroll's website for free HERE), a story of a man dealing with the guilt of betrayal that reminded me a lot of Edgar Allen Poe's Tell Tale Heart. Next up My Friend Janna, which feels desperately...sad and was the epitome of 'haunting'. The last story was my least favourite (which is to say, I only really liked it), The Nesting Place. It's the story of a young orphan who goes to visit his brother and his brother's fiancée and becomes concerned that all is not as it seems with her future sister-in-law. The story had some wonderful elements and it was one of the longer stories in the collection with a lot more character development but for me, it was a little too obvious. Most of the stories are subtle and open to interpretation but this one just felt different to me, somehow.
Any criticism that I have is faint and I really recommend that you hunt down a copy of Through the Woods. Pick it up even you aren't a graphic novel aficionado and just want to read something different. Heck, pick it up even if you don't care about the stories and just want to look at the pictures. Just make sure that you do pick it up.
Overall: Stunning, both to look at and to read. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for more graphic novels by Emily Carroll. I can't find any other collections out at the moment so I'll settle for Baba Yaga's Assistant, which is written by Marika McCoola but is illustrated by Emily Carroll.
Date finished: 30 January 2016
Genre: Graphic Novel; Horror
Pictured Edition Published: by Margaret K. McElderry Books in July 2014