Book Review: Emily Carroll, “Through the Woods”

I’ve never been much of a graphic novel reader, but there’s something about Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods that enchanted me from the start. This book first made its way to me via my Secret Santa over the Christmas holidays. It was the eye-catching cover that drew me in and the spine shivering tales that kept me reading.

In five beautifully illustrated graphic tales, Carroll blends fairy tale with horror and suspense. Each page introduces some new monster that may be lurking either within the woods or at the edges of the world it desperately wishes to haunt. What I admire most about Carroll is her ability to make her words blend with her artwork seamlessly. This is especially notable in “A Lady’s Hands are Cold,” where a disembodied voice’s song slithers across three pages in a deliciously unsettling fashion. The presentation alone is enough to leave you straining your ears in hopes the song doesn’t make its way to you.

Through the Woods is also a refreshing face in the horror genre. Carroll’s tales are original and contain that creepy factor that many horror readers seek without having to result to unnecessary gratuitous scenes. There’s also no concrete ending to be found. While Carroll flirts with resolution, the reader is left to speculate about the fate of her characters. I often found myself retracing my steps and looking for clues I may have missed in both the prose and artwork. Carroll keeps the reader wondering and that, I think, is what makes the book so enjoyable.

Though filed under the genre of young adult fiction, Through the Woods is a book that can be enjoyed by all. For me, it created a sense of nostalgia, sending me back to my elementary school days of reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. You can find more tales and illustrations from Emily Carroll through her website and her book can be purchased here. Happy reading and beware the ghosts and ghouls you may encounter along the way.

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