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Through the Woods

Review

Through the Woods

Blending hauntingly beautiful artwork with stories that will keep you up at night staring suspiciously at every shadow, THROUGH THE WOODS perfectly combines horror with a touch of fantasy to create an unforgettable journey through the dark places of the imagination.

When writing about graphic novels or collections, it often requires a look at the art and words. With most graphic collections, after all, the text is put in after the art, and so it becomes almost two separate texts, told concurrently by the writer and artist. With THROUGH THE WOODS, though, there is no line between writer and artist, and not simply because they are the same person. The words simply cannot be taken out of the art, and the art cannot be separated from the words. Dialogue bleeds in living poetry across the pages, is itself art in its placement and depiction.

The art as a whole is surreal and horrifying, lending heavily on the sublime and the stark contrasting colors of red, black and white. The introduction sets up the rest of the collection by grounding it in a nearly universal thing: a child's fear of the dark. It is that fear that THROUGH THE WOODS uses to create terror. The stories are not orgiastic bloodbaths, though there is occasionally a bit of violence. Instead there is just a feel of malevolence from the pages because of what is not shown, or only partly shown. The most terrifying things are seen only in glimpses, only outlined in order for the real horror to come from within the mind of the person looking at it. It is an effective method, and one that is expertly and mercilessly used throughout.

THROUGH THE WOODS offers up probably the best horror I have ever experienced in graphic form

The stories themselves are mostly set as fairy tales, taking place in what seems to be some sort of distant past with European influences. And each one is dark and twisted, leading the protagonists down into some weird and unknown danger. In some, like "Our Neighbor's House" and "His Face All Red," those dangers are more intangible, more mysterious. In the others, including "A Lady's Hands are Cold,” "My Friend Janna" and most especially "The Nesting Place," the monsters are present and what is there is quite horrifying. But again, it is the hint that what is seen is only the tip of what is there --- that any more would be too much to face --- that truly make the stories frightening and disturbing.

Of course, the subject matter isn't exactly light, but the stories play out well enough for younger audiences. Again, the violence is subtle and well done, and the stories are much friendlier to younger audiences than much of what Carroll has on her website. The stories are gripping and terrifying, but there really isn't anything to object to unless you're looking for a happily ever after in every story. Because that is one thing these stories don't really provide. The endings, which almost always merely hint at what happens next, are never happy, and most of them are very dark. It's horror, though, so that's part of the point, and it is really well done. Otherwise there isn't much to say against the book, though personally I think that "His Face All Red" reads a little better online because of some of the tricks used that don't translate into a physical book. But it's all so good, and the other stories are all well suited to being rendered on the page.

In the end, THROUGH THE WOODS offers up probably the best horror I have ever experienced in graphic form. The text and artwork are inseparable and amazing, and the epilogue sums it all up in perhaps one of the most frightening sequences I have read in so few pages (and with a great nod to GOODNIGHT MOON). It implies that every time you step into the darkness, be it a strange forest or an inky graphic novel, you take a risk that the darkness is going to reach out and drag you in. And even though you might get through once or twice or a thousand times, the darkness only has to find you once. It's definitely enough to keep me up at night, but not enough to stop me from reading this collection again and again, tempting the dark each time.

Reviewed by Charles Payseur on July 16, 2014

Through the Woods
by Emily Carroll

  • Publication Date: July 15, 2014
  • Genres: Horror, Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 1442465956
  • ISBN-13: 9781442465954