By Arpad Okay. The pages of Ladycastle overflow with iconic imagery. The princess confined to her tower. Pink-maned unicorns. The Lady of the Lake. The subject matter is Grimm, but shown through a rose-gold lens. A sweet blend of authentic and nostalgic (with a slight touch of historic), the art is spare but the cast of characters is diverse. Lively and interesting. What’s more, the cast of characters are all women.
The men of Mancastle are all off (indefinitely) to find the right suitor for their princess. The total absence of medieval bros makes Ladycastle a weird tale as well as a wyrd one. Their absence allows room for a new kind of story. A dialog amongst the ladies. A seditionary tale about the different levels of imprisonment beyond a princess in a tower. Societal shackles.
Ladycastle wants to know, when the men aren’t there watching, do you have to obey their rules? What do you do when you are free? The problems of monsters and wizard curses and all that don’t disappear just because their traditional combatants have abandoned their posts. So the ladies are forced to fill the gap, an army of Rosie the Riveters who might just win the day if they follow their guts instead of the laws of the land. If they fight smarter, not harder. This is a book of clever, confident storytelling, shot through with dark, dry humor. Ladycastle can be quite surprising, twisty even, but always heartfelt. Bold and tender.
You’ll find the tension comes more from penetrating stares than flashing swords. The joy is in being yourself instead of conquering others. It may adhere to storybook expectations, but the heroes here have zero time for traditions that serve to narrow a point of view. Dudes follow their stupid rules and stay stuck in place. Patriarchy sputters, but the ladies? They get it done.
Ladycastle hits on that philosophy a little hard, but there is an intriguing finesse beneath that gives the genre conventions life. This book is shameless. It loves its fairy tale staples. Loves all things Medieval, Ren-Fest, Monty Python. And Ladycastle loves its ladies. A delightful premise, enlivened by true-life solidarity. A thinking book, melding the indulgent pleasures of youth with the real issues of the world. There’s purpose in these pages, an agenda I am excited to see unfold over the course of the series.
Written by Delilah S. Dawson.
Artwork by Ashley A. Woods.
7 out of 10