I borrowed the hardcovers of Castle Waiting volume one and two from my local library. I own the paperback volume one, but reading both in hardcover was kind of nice. I had difficulty setting the books down once I started, and honestly loved both of them pretty much completely. When I was re-reading EB White's books to my kids as they were groing up, Stewart Little was my favorite, and the character stays very present in my mind, as he was an example of decency, and also kind heartedness. For being more or less a mouse in the world, he was fallable and capable of self defeat, but really, again for being what he was, embodied humanity as I could identify with it, and as I liked to think it could be. This is what Linda Medley has captured and conveys in the characters she has created in her books. Even if the characters are not all entirely human, there is a real decency and humanity in so many of them that it has the ability to just about bring tears to my eyes.
Linda Medley's art is clean and thin lined and very clear and easy to follow. Her settings and architecture are perfect, and her expertise with facial expressions has her rightfully recognized as one of the all-time greats in that particular skill. I think of her in the same way I think of Jaime Hernandez and Terry Moore with regard to conveying thoughts and feelings through their character's faces.
Castle Waiting starts with a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. Stories are a primary focus of this series, and it opens with a story that at least so far, gives us the main base of operations for the primary focus of the series, and it also gives us a handful of characters. If Castle Waiting is about stories, it is equally about characters, as characters are the heart of the stories. There is less traditional 'action' in Castle Waiting than you might expect for something that owes so much to Fairy Tales, and seems to have evolved out of such a great love of them, but it is replaced with character development and backstory filling up even the most seemingly still and reflective or insignificant of pages.
After the Sleeping Beauty story is told, we move focus to Jain, who we first see fleeing presumable domestic abuse and setting out on her own to seek an almost mythical sanctuary known as Castle Waiting. Jain exhibits a lot of fairy tale characteristics herself, and gets into situations that should go much worse for her, but always seem to work themselves out with kindness or storytelling, etc. She eventually makes it to Castle Waiting, which is the castle of the kingdom from the Sleeping Beauty story. Remaining there from the opening piece is a trio of Ladies in Waiting who are now very old ladies, and a small demon that always seems to be around. They people of Castle Waiting operate it as a sanctuary for anyone who needs it, and they all need it themselves to some degree.
Jain is pregnant, and has her child at the castle, and ultimately the book turns to the story of Sister Peace (Warren), a sister of a very unique order, who seems to always know what people really need. Her story is again, filled with relatively little real conflict, although there is a good bit there, the focus is on the good people trying to live their lives. The stories are very much the sorts of things that go on just off the page in fairy stories, combined with a sort of modern sensibility of feminism and human nature, and good people looking out for good people.
The Second volume contains a lot of coverage of what goes on when visitors come to the castle with ties to some of the other residents, and are inlisted in helping Jain and her baby move to different living quarters. It is slice of life, but there is more going on than just day to day. You continue to get stories, and you continue to wait for resolution to a variety of questions that have naturally come up since the story began. In my opinion that is just fine with me. I am not impatient about the lack of resolution. The word WAITING is right there in the title. This is not an action story, this is a story that celebrates the need for stories as much as the need for people to have a safe place to live, and caring people to interact with. There is a great deal of sweetness in this, but it is mixed with mischief and wonder, and a sense that if you look hard enough you will find that you aren't alone, and that you don't have to suffer for your differences as much as we are lead to believe sometimes. These books are a treasure, and I highly recommend them. There will be plenty of people who will surely hate them as much as I love them, but there are books out there for them as well.