There are a few graphic novels that update fairy tales, most notably Bill Willingham’s Fables. Castle Waiting is a little different, as it maintains its setting in a fantasy medieval-style era, but keeps the story light and accessible. Its closest relative is probably Bone. This isn’t a children’s book but it’s accessible, funny and very entertaining — a true all-ages tale.
It revolves around a castle. One hundred years of its early history are whistled through in the first three chapters, which see a young princess doing all the usual frog kissing and finger pricking that princesses do in fairly tales. However, the story isn’t about her, and when her hundred year sleep has passed, the world has changed.
So the castle falls into the hands of a new owner, who uses it philanthropically, to collect people in need of shelter and provide them with a place to stay. As they arrive, they help with the castle’s upkeep, and their stories unfold. These stories delve into characters that inhabit the fantasy world, from bearded women escaping circus imprisonment, to a young single mother with an unusual-looking half-breed child.
It’s here that the biggest shift occurs: the women in fantasy and fairy tales can often find themselves playing support roles to the men. Here their stories take centre-stage and there’s a calm, assured, homely feel to the book. No-one is rushing into battle or fighting for thrones, but the adventure of life is celebrated, one person at a time, on a magical backdrop that mixes fairy tale with the everyday drama of life.