Coming at you today for a review pit stop! The newest Mini Rainbows feature is putting an awesome fantasy graphic novel in the spotlight this time around – Ladycastle, by Delilah S. Dawson and Ashley A. Woods.
When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out—that’s a lot less armor polishing for them to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle…well, the women take umbrage with that. Now the blacksmith’s wife Merinor is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight Sir Riddick is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build, and do all manner of noisy things the men had been doing while the women assumed they were just drunk.
For a 4-part story that’s only one part published so far, Ladycastle has already grabbed me by the heart. And by the brain. And by the sense of humour. Because to my immense satisfaction, it brings all three things to the table.
I tend not to read a lot of comics or graphic novels, because I feel like the initial bar for having my attention grabbed has to be higher than might be the case with a novel. Short stories are often the same; they have more work to do and less time to do it in, so any such story that doesn’t immediately grab me, or feels like it’s wasting time, is likely to lose my interest very quickly. It’s a tricky issue to get around, but the upside is that any story that does get around it tends to do it in remarkable style. Ladycastle is one of those.
The first thing that struck me about it is how wonderfully, cheekily subversive it is when it comes to fantasy tropes – and when that’s one of the very first things you notice about a story, then that story is already doing plenty right in my book. From the young maiden in the tower awaiting her prince, to the rightful king with the blessed sword, to the young girl who dreams of being a knight – all the tropes are lined up and cheerfully knocked right down, turning this into a punchy, hilarious tale that speaks loud and clear to the nerdy little girl in all of us – you know, the one who doesn’t see why ladies can’t be heroes too.
It even takes a shot at the possibly dangerously overlooked fantasy staple of slaying the monsters. Why settle for killing a swarm of salamanders when you can adopt them instead? Think about it – tame them and they’re hella useful. King Melinor’s a blacksmith, and she sees the potential in that approach right away.
Slaying monsters? Wasteful. Put them to work, and everybody wins!
This approach to the story, as much as any other quality of the writing, is what has me waiting eagerly for the next issue. What else is coming for Ladycastle, and how will the womenfolk deal with it?
Whatever method they choose, I am happy in my faith that they’ll handle it the best way. Together, and using their heads.
As messages in fiction go, that one will never get old.