Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Title Through the Woods
Author EmilyCarroll
Genre Horror, Graphic Novel, Short Stories
Format Paperback
Page Length 208
Publication Date 01 Jul 2014
Publisher Faber & Faber
Read Date 31 Oct 2017(second time)
Rating 5.776659 stars

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

A wonderful collection of truly spine tingling horror stories. Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

My first experience with Emily Carroll’s work was through the game The Yawhg. I love that game, and the visuals are aesthetically wonderful. When I spotted Through the Woods in a bookshop a couple of years later I recognised the artwork as being from the same artist and snapped it up quickly. This was a bloody marvellous decision on my part I must say. This book, is great.

I was reminded about this book when I saw it in Danielle’s (The Introverted Book Nerd) post Trick or Treat Round the Block Book Tag and decided I must give it another read. Today is Halloween/Samhain so it was the perfect time.

In this book there are 5 short horror stories bookended by a short introduction and conclusion. My brief summary and thoughts on each story:
Our Neighbor’s House – Three sisters are left alone by their father who tells them that if he doesn’t return after three days, to go to the neighbour’s house. He doesn’t return. Instead, what does come to visit the girls isn’t good. 4.428626 stars. I particularly loved the atmosphere created in this.
A Lady’s Hands Are Cold – An aristocratic father arranges the marriage of his daughter to a man. The girl moves in with her groom to his lovely wide, white manor. Shortly after arriving, the girl discovers there are secrets within the house. Secrets that once discovered put her in peril. 3.265342637 stars.
His Face All Red – A man kills his brother. Seems reasonable. Problem is, it’s the week after the event, and now his brother sits in the tavern laughing, drinking and celebrating with his fellow patrons.The murderous brother can not say anything. No longer able to sleep, he must travel to the spot where he left the body to discover what has happened. 5.2768437 stars! Oh boy, this story is full of the mega spoops!
My Friend Janna – Janna cons people by pretending to be able to speak to the dead. Her friend, Yvonne, hides in the walls of the house to make noises and convince people that Janna’s readings are true. Janna and Yvonne find this whole situation amusing. One day, Yvonne starts to see a spirit haunting Janna. Janna changes. She becomes introverted, antisocial and short tempered. She spends all day writing nonsense in a notebook. Other spooky stuff happens but I don’t want to spoil anything. 5.732623 stars! By far my favourite story in this collection. Is this a story about a woman being haunted by a ghost, or is it a clever metaphor for the impact depression can cause once it infects a life? I guess that is up for the reader to decide.
The Nesting Place – The only story in the collection that is set in a later time period (probably ~1950s, whereas the others feel more 1700-1800s). Bell goes to stay with her brother and his new fiance (Rebecca) for the summer in their house in the country. She is told a story by the housekeeper of how Rebecca once got lost in the woods and had fallen down a cave where she was stuck for 3 days. The housekeeper tells Bell this to ensure she doesn’t go wandering in the woods alone. One day, Bell goes wandering in the woods alone. What she finds there… is just a bunch of butterflies and bluebells. Streams gently running their path. Birds singing in the trees. It’s beautiful. Ha! I tricked ya. What a kneeslapper! It actually wasn’t nice things she found there, it was very not nice things. 3.26767 stars. This was probably my least favourite of the bunch, but still a solid 3 star story. I still enjoyed it very much. It’s a little less psychological than the others which is probably why it didn’t spook me out as much.

Those scores above would give an average of 4.3942210674 stars overall. I’m giving an additional 0.5 stars for the introduction and conclusion and then ignoring all of that and scoring this 5.776659 stars.

For many of these stories the horror comes from that which we don’t see. In Neighbor, Face, and Janna much of the horror takes place off page. None of the stories give a nice tied off ending, they are all a little open ended. If you have read my other horror book reviews you know that monsters, jump scares and gore just doesn’t really do it for me. But those stories that plant the seeds of horrors that can take place in our mind just freak me the fuck out. Our own minds are by far the most scariest thing in life. These stories all feel intimate, exploring the vulnerability of characters and the scariness of change.

The artwork throughout is exceptional. I’ve become a fan of Emily Carroll’s style. This is a quick read. On both read throughs I found myself consciously deciding to slow down a little and allowing myself to become completely engrossed in the setting. This is a thrilling collection of stories that seep into your mind and give you the chills for the rest of the day. I love it.

Through the Woods – Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Anyway, I’m off to go exploring in the woods. There’s a cave nearby that I keep meaning to check out. Peace and Love.

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