I just finished reading the two-book stories of Castle Waiting about hodge podge family living in a remote castle on a cliff. Sometimes it is their daily lives and chores and sometimes it is tales woven of their pasts each bubbling with a sense of humor and a touch of adventure.
The world of Castle Waiting is a psuedo-Middle Ages Europe with a layer of minimal magic. But the setting of a non-past past doesn’t stop Castle Waiting from delivering perspectives on all kinds of serious business. Everything from women being property, to a few bad apples giving an entire race of people a tainted reputation, to using compassion when tackling mental illness, to gender roles, to spreading religion, and much more. All of it done with a wry smile.
There was a lot to love about the series, even though I wasn’t sure I was going to like Castle Waiting after the initial story, but I was wrong. I fell in love with it somewhere around the escaping from the circus part.
These are just a few of the things that stood out to me.
Fairytales Mixed-in and Mixed-up
I love a good fairytale retelling, but Castle Waiting’s initial story based on Sleeping Beauty is actually its weakest. “The Curse of the Brambly Hedge” is too close to what we know so well albeit the ending is a nice zing of humor on the tale. Instead, the stories that grab just a nibble here and there from the classics succeed. Henrick’s heart that is held together by metal bands. An off-hand mention of someone named Jack villainously slaying giants. The castle infested with Brownies and the like.
Beautiful Women . . . with Beards!
It isn’t exactly something I’ve been dying to see or anything, but I was impressed by this spin on the bearded lady of the circus, religious lore, and “beauty” in general. The order of bearded nuns with their progressive stance on dedication to their Lord was also refreshing.
No One Judging Jain
Jain enters the story with a bruised eye and leaving her home under dark of night. We eventually learn that Jain is also pregnant as she travels the road to Castle Waiting. As Jain’s tale unfolds we learn of an unhappy marriage, a true love who died, and her out-of-wedlock pregnancy all without anyone giving an opinion on Jain’s choices.
The Way Hammerling Families Work
Castle Waiting is all about an unconventional family and we see many others throughout the course of its various stories. One I liked especially was that of the Hammerlings whose society yields very few women. Every generation has about four-times as many men as women. The children of those few couples send them to The Nursery, by law children cannot stay at home, in order for everyone to enjoy having an extended family.
“. . . you’re a little kid whenever you do anything for the first time.”
This line is just a sweet and lovely truth telling us not to be embarrassed with our progress even as adults.
This panel . . .
Overall, Castle Waiting’s panel design isn’t that exciting but this struck me as a very clever solution to conveying the haphazard layout of the tower.