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When I Arrived at the Castle

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"A castle, a killer, and prey all bound and blurred by lust and blood." Like many before her that have never come back, she's made it to the Countess' castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism th "A castle, a killer, and prey all bound and blurred by lust and blood." Like many before her that have never come back, she's made it to the Countess' castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism that doesn't just make your skin crawl, it crawls into it.


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"A castle, a killer, and prey all bound and blurred by lust and blood." Like many before her that have never come back, she's made it to the Countess' castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism th "A castle, a killer, and prey all bound and blurred by lust and blood." Like many before her that have never come back, she's made it to the Countess' castle determined to snuff out the horror, but she could never be prepared for what hides within its turrets; what unfurls under its fluttering flags. Emily Carroll has fashioned a rich gothic horror charged with eroticism that doesn't just make your skin crawl, it crawls into it.

30 review for When I Arrived at the Castle

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    It was a dark and stormy night… … when a cat-like humanoid rocked up to the vampiric Countess’ castle to slay her. Yup, that old chestnut! But who is the predator and who is the prey? Emily Carroll’s When I Arrived at the Castle is a disappointingly weak and unmemorable lesbian/horror fairy tale, the kind of book I imagine Angela Carter would’ve produced if she’d made comics. Carroll mashes together elements of Dracula, Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast into a barely coherent, rambling story wh It was a dark and stormy night… … when a cat-like humanoid rocked up to the vampiric Countess’ castle to slay her. Yup, that old chestnut! But who is the predator and who is the prey? Emily Carroll’s When I Arrived at the Castle is a disappointingly weak and unmemorable lesbian/horror fairy tale, the kind of book I imagine Angela Carter would’ve produced if she’d made comics. Carroll mashes together elements of Dracula, Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast into a barely coherent, rambling story whose obliqueness leaves very little impression behind. Carroll’s art is utterly beautiful though. The splash-pages are intricate and imaginative dreamscapes gorgeously coloured in striking blacks, whites and reds and I loved the highly stylized, baroque designs of the castle. Her take on the Countess is interesting and the character was genuinely creepy with some actually shocking scenes (the keyhole!). Visually this is an appealing book but the dreamlike story is much less compelling to read. And, like a dream (or nightmare), not long after reading When I Arrived at the Castle I’d already forgotten most of it and moved on! If you’ve not read it I recommend Emily Carroll’s other, much better book, Through the Woods, instead.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    I am a huge fan of Emily Carroll, and very much like When I Arrived at the Castle, which might best be described as a lesbian horror fairy tale. Here’s a bit of what happens: A cat-eared human visits a Countess’ castle to kill her. We don’t know why, but she isn’t the first to try. She is surprised to find that the Countess is waiting for her. The cat-girl is led to a series of (red) doors, behind each a tragic fairy tale she must navigate to survive and remain sane. It’s an ode here to literatu I am a huge fan of Emily Carroll, and very much like When I Arrived at the Castle, which might best be described as a lesbian horror fairy tale. Here’s a bit of what happens: A cat-eared human visits a Countess’ castle to kill her. We don’t know why, but she isn’t the first to try. She is surprised to find that the Countess is waiting for her. The cat-girl is led to a series of (red) doors, behind each a tragic fairy tale she must navigate to survive and remain sane. It’s an ode here to literature, to fairy tales that scare and seduce us. What happens later is the sex part, which gets murky and complicated, as in dreams. The Countess is a vampire, a femme fatale, alluring and dangerous and creepy, the flame to the cat-girl’s moth. But how can we resist her attractions?! And she’s a shape-changer: one of the most alarming and amazing sequences happens as cat-girl watches the Countess at her dressing table. Successfully scary! So it’s dark erotic fantasy in Carroll’s signature black and white and (bloody) red. A touch of gothic, certainly. Decadent in the way of nineteenth century “decadent” art. A nod to things like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, after which she takes off in a swirlingly dangerous and delicious direction the Bronte women could not have taken (but possibly allude to). And complicated, in the ways of the best of fantasy, which leave us some space to dream in our own heads and maybe leave us a bit confused if we try to explain it all. Which is to say it prioritizes atmosphere over plot. All about mysterious, intense feelings, in that Poe/Bronte romantic sense. At the intersection of violence and eroticism, which means it is not for kiddies. And the art style fits the open, reader-based narrative of fantasy; Carroll almost never uses a panel structure at all, favoring (bloody) splash pages in rhapsodic fashion. It’s a poetic structure that fits a “tale of mystery and imagination,” one that allows for the “grotesque.” Maybe for my tastes (ahem!) I like the more the (slightly) more conventional Through the Woods tales, but from light fantasy and YA (her illustrated Speak) to dark horror, Carroll can do it all, the best there is. And you can find her stuff, wonderful short shorts, on her website for free sampling, too. I guess I rate this as 4 stars because I think the degree of confusion I still have after two readings is greater than I prefer, but the art is 5 stars, for sure.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This is just one story, but all in striking blacks, reds, and whites like her previous work. A woman arrives at a castle, but why is she there, and who is the person answering the door? Things are not what they seem. This is not for kids, as the eroticism and violence might be a bit much! Definitely a tale for adults. I received a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out April 16, 2019.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The once was a girl that lived in a deep and damp and dark celler... Caroll has crafted another beautifully atmospheric and decadent novel that skirts the line of horror and the gothic. A curious and courageous cat-eared girl braves the castle of a vampiric countess with plans to destroy her. Plans change and go pear-shaped when the strange catgirl instead finds that the countess is waiting for her. Soon, the girl is sent into a maze of tragic fairy tales and stories that she must claw her way th The once was a girl that lived in a deep and damp and dark celler... Caroll has crafted another beautifully atmospheric and decadent novel that skirts the line of horror and the gothic. A curious and courageous cat-eared girl braves the castle of a vampiric countess with plans to destroy her. Plans change and go pear-shaped when the strange catgirl instead finds that the countess is waiting for her. Soon, the girl is sent into a maze of tragic fairy tales and stories that she must claw her way through holding as best she can on to her purpose and sanity. The tales trapped behind red doors, the house, countess, and her; all is not what it seems. This story is a rich work that you need to read a few times to get all the meanings. It is beautifully executed, much is conveyed in the simple palette of three colors; bone white, black, and blood red. It is gothic; ornate when it needs to be and simple when it doesn't. The backgrounds are simple with repeating patterns, but still very useful. It is a hauntingly scary work for a short graphic novella much in the style of her other novels (Out of Skin, Through The Woods) and shouldn't be missed.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ilana

    Gothic erotic violent bloody and disturbing, as one expects horror by Emily Carroll to be. A cat-like girl arrives at a castle out of the cold and rain and is greeted by a beautiful woman of seductive beauty. But others have been to the castle before and her arrival was expected. Nothing is what it seems and the beautiful woman is only a skin inhabited by a horrible vampiric beast. Somehow our girl must kill this demon who has slayed the other innocent girls who came to eliminate her before. The Gothic erotic violent bloody and disturbing, as one expects horror by Emily Carroll to be. A cat-like girl arrives at a castle out of the cold and rain and is greeted by a beautiful woman of seductive beauty. But others have been to the castle before and her arrival was expected. Nothing is what it seems and the beautiful woman is only a skin inhabited by a horrible vampiric beast. Somehow our girl must kill this demon who has slayed the other innocent girls who came to eliminate her before. The story seems mostly an excuse for Carroll’s gorgeous illustrations and is deliberately convoluted. Definitely not for children, with lesbian erotica and lots of disturbing bloody violence. David wrote an excellent review some hours back that had me thinking I shouldn’t even attempt my own review and should just post a link to his. Can’t do that on my phone but will provide when I am at my computer next.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    2 stars for content but 5 stars for artwork. When I Arrived at the Castle is a Gothic adaptation mixing Dracula and Alice in Wonderland so I was very intrigued to pick this up. I thoroughly enjoyed Carroll's previous publication, Through the Woods, but felt this effort wasn't up to the same standard in terms of storytelling. There is something delightfully macabre and deliciously wicked about Carroll's illustrations but, in this case, the actual story wasn't that coherent and a bit confusing at 2 stars for content but 5 stars for artwork. When I Arrived at the Castle is a Gothic adaptation mixing Dracula and Alice in Wonderland so I was very intrigued to pick this up. I thoroughly enjoyed Carroll's previous publication, Through the Woods, but felt this effort wasn't up to the same standard in terms of storytelling. There is something delightfully macabre and deliciously wicked about Carroll's illustrations but, in this case, the actual story wasn't that coherent and a bit confusing at times which was a shame. :/ Having finished the book, I thought 'hmm...well that was a bit odd', but didn't feel anything more unfortunately.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    The Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts fistfight in hell in this unsettling and gory tone piece.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Crowinator

    Emily Carroll's bloody, beautiful, suggestive, ornately grotesque artwork is masterful, as always, but the story lacks coherency. I'm all for evocative mood and ambiguity, but I honestly do not understand the story after reading it twice; it's spare and poetic and effectively so, but more confusing than any folkloric story should be. I think I needed a little more (view spoiler)[to figure out the cat, the girl, the seductress, and the two(?) castles (or was it the same castle?). (hide spoiler)] S Emily Carroll's bloody, beautiful, suggestive, ornately grotesque artwork is masterful, as always, but the story lacks coherency. I'm all for evocative mood and ambiguity, but I honestly do not understand the story after reading it twice; it's spare and poetic and effectively so, but more confusing than any folkloric story should be. I think I needed a little more (view spoiler)[to figure out the cat, the girl, the seductress, and the two(?) castles (or was it the same castle?). (hide spoiler)] So, 5 stars for the artwork, and the interplay between the art and the story; 2.5 to 3 for the story itself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam Wescott

    Omg, how gorgeous was this book? It's a gothic romance with a heaping spoonful of body horror and dark fairytale. It's spooky, it's erotic, and it's an absolutely engrossing read. The coloring is genius and the style is mesmerizing. Emily Carroll is an absolute master and she strung me along by the nose start to bloody finish.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    What Elena said.

  11. 5 out of 5

    tinabel

    Feminist lesbian body horror at it's best! I’m a big fan of Emily Carroll’s work, namely Through the Woods and her prolific webcomics, which are absolutely amazing. With striking two-tone artwork and an enthralling, bloody, terrifically-paced narrative, When I Arrived at the Castle delivers. The best way I can describe it is this: Victorian Gothic, specifically Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla meets the likes of Angela Carter or Karen Russell. Wonderfully nuanced and full of surprises. Thank you Feminist lesbian body horror at it's best! I’m a big fan of Emily Carroll’s work, namely Through the Woods and her prolific webcomics, which are absolutely amazing. With striking two-tone artwork and an enthralling, bloody, terrifically-paced narrative, When I Arrived at the Castle delivers. The best way I can describe it is this: Victorian Gothic, specifically Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla meets the likes of Angela Carter or Karen Russell. Wonderfully nuanced and full of surprises. Thank you to Koyama Press for an advance reading copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ashlee Null

    5 stars for artwork but maybe 2.5 for story because it was beautiful but I’m confused by what I actually read? I mean a lot was left up to interpretation but too much was unexplained. I think if it had been longer I would’ve given it a higher rating. Still I’ll read anything she creates. So there’s that.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carol Tilley

    I didn't fully understand the story, but I loved the creepy, erotic tone.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    No idea what happened, but I was scared anyway.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Whaaaaaaaatttttt?!?!?!?!? This book is exactly like a nightmare; I've never seen anything capture how bad dreams look and feel and seem so effectively. Also, titties.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica (Spooky KidLit & We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone)

    A triumph of art, story, and design, When I Arrived at the Castle is an erotic, dreamlike graphic novel that combines gothic horror and fairy tales into an indefinable work of terror and beauty and the delicious fear that results when the two collide. The narrator, a cat-like young woman, arrives at a castle to kill the Countess, a vampiric monster who has been expecting the young woman’s arrival. Any further attempt to explain the plot would do very little to convey the eerie, transformative na A triumph of art, story, and design, When I Arrived at the Castle is an erotic, dreamlike graphic novel that combines gothic horror and fairy tales into an indefinable work of terror and beauty and the delicious fear that results when the two collide. The narrator, a cat-like young woman, arrives at a castle to kill the Countess, a vampiric monster who has been expecting the young woman’s arrival. Any further attempt to explain the plot would do very little to convey the eerie, transformative nature of this book…imagine a Hammer film starring only femmes fatales, directed by Clive Barker, with a script by Lewis Carroll (no relation). Surreal and sumptuous, this is Emily Carroll’s most innovative and breathtaking work to date. The interior of the castle is a marvel, a black, white, and blood-red maze that looks like M. C. Escher by way of Jim Steranko. The perspectives loom and disorient, pulling the reader in to the Countess’s seductive and terrifying game of cat-and-mouse. Just like the halls of the castle, reality loops back in on itself; Carroll layers stories on top of stories, leaving the reader no choice but to surrender themselves to the phantasmagorical narrative. This is a book you will re-read obsessively. The Countess is a remarkable character. She’s alluring and frightening in equal measure, constantly slipping out of and into different skins as the mood strikes her. In one particularly Eisner-worthy sequence, the unnamed narrator watches through a keyhole as the Countess sits at her dressing table. Initially the Countess appears as a beautiful human woman, pinning up her hair and regarding herself sensually in the mirror. What happens after she drops her human disguise is, simply put, horror at its finest. I’d like to continue waxing rhapsodic on this keyhole sequence, but I’m heading into spoiler territory, so consider yourselves warned: SPOILERS AHEAD. Please skip the paragraph below if you want to remain unspoiled. I read this on my laptop, flipping through pages individually rather than viewing the typical two-page spreads of a physical book, and for the first time in my life a comic book page made me jump out of my seat. Having seen the layout of the physical book, though, I can safely say that I would have jumped just as high while reading a “real” book as I did while reading my eARC. Carroll plays with reader expectations and crafts an impeccably-timed jump scare that is organic to the story and gorgeously illustrated. (Jump scares may be looked down upon by some horror fans, but I maintain that when they’re done well, they’re brilliant examples of what makes horror great. This six-page sequence from Emily Carroll is one such example of what makes horror great.) YOU ARE HEREBY MARKED SAFE FROM SPOILERS. This haunting, surreal graphic novel further demonstrates what Emily Carroll’s fans have known for years — that she is one of the most talented and intriguing creators in horror comics. With When I Arrived at the Castle, she reaches new heights of terror and artistic achievement. Her hypnotic illustrations and eerie, poetic storytelling ensnare the reader in a labyrinthine fairy tale that they’ll never want to escape. My thanks to Koyama Press and Edelweiss+ for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eleanore

    Every work of Emily Carroll's I've seen is just magnificent. I still don't quite know how she does it; I honestly don't believe I'm a skilled enough artist to fully grasp it. Her horror reads like poetry, Poe-like and deeply evocative, rhythmic and hypnotic. Her imagery is so delightfully drippy (typically with blood), oozing with just the right amount of gore, full of crazed eyes, flowing fabrics, ghostly hands and fingers, looming darkness and jarring swatches of light. Her characteristically l Every work of Emily Carroll's I've seen is just magnificent. I still don't quite know how she does it; I honestly don't believe I'm a skilled enough artist to fully grasp it. Her horror reads like poetry, Poe-like and deeply evocative, rhythmic and hypnotic. Her imagery is so delightfully drippy (typically with blood), oozing with just the right amount of gore, full of crazed eyes, flowing fabrics, ghostly hands and fingers, looming darkness and jarring swatches of light. Her characteristically limited palette (black, red, and white) always serves her well, and no line is ever wasted. I also found myself appreciating more than ever, reading this latest -- which I'd been waiting on the release of for months, then had to spend at least a good 20-30 minutes savoring -- how her images progress. They coincide just right with the way her words are read, somehow knowing just how to best match reading rhythm to the intake of the visuals. She does not really ever do traditional panels, nor does she have to; she has incredible skill for laying out each page (and this includes two-page full spreads) in such a way that your eye is always drawn where it needs to go, even if it needs to move in a way it might not naturally do. This is an easy gift to miss if you don't know to look for it, because when something like this is done so well, the entire point is that your mind does NOT see it. There is always at least one slight twist of character or plot, even in her shortest stories, that drops my mouth open to just the right degree of delicious horror. All of these things and more are why I feel there is no one better making horror graphic novels today. Her work is unmistakable, distinctive, hugely effective, and eerily beautiful. I want to re-read and stare at it for hours, and ultimately probably will, I'm sure.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    I'm not really sure how I want to rate this just yet! For artwork, Emily Carroll is the best, mixing in this volume her signature reds and grayscale/bold blacks and whites, while also featuring some solely white and grey pages to contrast with the bolder colouring on other pages. I genuinely think she's a master of colour, especially in horror stories told in a graphic format, she's truly one of a kind. I always love her focus on the relationships between women, too; this one especially is a tal I'm not really sure how I want to rate this just yet! For artwork, Emily Carroll is the best, mixing in this volume her signature reds and grayscale/bold blacks and whites, while also featuring some solely white and grey pages to contrast with the bolder colouring on other pages. I genuinely think she's a master of colour, especially in horror stories told in a graphic format, she's truly one of a kind. I always love her focus on the relationships between women, too; this one especially is a tale about a human with cat features who arrives at the home of a Countess, a vampire-like shapeshifter, and the horrors she witnesses there. While it's not the strongest of her stories that I've read- my particular favourite is The Nesting Place-, it's still very much an erotic, Gothic story that really has a great atmosphere to it. Highly recommend this one!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Dinges

    When I Arrived at the Castle is a pretty good encapsulation of what you'll get in a typical Emily Carroll story. It's got horror, gore, sensuality, and little bit of nudity. This is the longest single story I've read from Carroll, as Through the Woods was a collection. It is fairly short for a graphic novel. I'd probably describe this book more as a long form poem than anything else. It doesn't follow the same structure you might expect from a typical graphic novel, mostly eschewing panels for sp When I Arrived at the Castle is a pretty good encapsulation of what you'll get in a typical Emily Carroll story. It's got horror, gore, sensuality, and little bit of nudity. This is the longest single story I've read from Carroll, as Through the Woods was a collection. It is fairly short for a graphic novel. I'd probably describe this book more as a long form poem than anything else. It doesn't follow the same structure you might expect from a typical graphic novel, mostly eschewing panels for splash pages and breaking dialogue in rhythmic chunks. I think it's partly due to that poetic structure that I ended up being lost a lot of the time. It clears up a bit by the end, but it still didn't make a ton of sense to me, which, to be fair, I think was the desired effect. More importantly, this is visually striking, like all of Carroll's work. Her line work is beautiful, but it's her use of colors that make her works stand apart. She establishes better ambiance and feel with black, white, and red than most books manage to with a full pallet. The splash pages also serve to highlight the most dramatic moments in a smart way. I'm not sure I'd know what was happening no matter how many times I read this, but the artwork alone is worth the price of admission.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Really enjoyed this story! ! The story reminded me a bit of "Us" in that bodies were switched(cat and girl) and the other wants revenge for the outcome from the switch (girl left waiting in the cupboard). Whereas in the movie "Us" they are doubles, this story depicts a woman and a feline/human. The woman (if I am to understand the story) is really the cat but the woman is also a vampire. The feline/human is actually the girl that eventually broke out of the cupboard to get revenge. The artwork rem Really enjoyed this story! ! The story reminded me a bit of "Us" in that bodies were switched(cat and girl) and the other wants revenge for the outcome from the switch (girl left waiting in the cupboard). Whereas in the movie "Us" they are doubles, this story depicts a woman and a feline/human. The woman (if I am to understand the story) is really the cat but the woman is also a vampire. The feline/human is actually the girl that eventually broke out of the cupboard to get revenge. The artwork reminded me of Moto Hagio and a combination of Hideshi Hino & Junji Ito (when the body pops out of the skin and peeps through the peephole!!!). It's like this poor unfortunate anime character stumbled into Castlevania and wrecks house!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily Gilbow

    Okay, so I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but reading this one felt like a dark acid trip. I wasn't entirely sure what was happening throughout the entirety of the novel. For fans of Pan's Labyrinth, with Carmilla-esque (in this case, it's really much darker than Carmilla) sapphic undertones. I really wish I knew what I just read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Kolody

    For some reason, I found this harder to follow than Emily Carroll’s other graphic novel “Through The Woods.” I also found the illustrations in “Through The Woods” much more beautiful. I’ll definitely re-read this eventually and try to get a better grasp of the story but I guess I just prefer her shorts to her full length stories.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    The art work was gorgeous and the story was very compelling, but I'm not sure I completely understood everything that happened. I might have to give it a re-read to see if I can pick up on more of what was going on.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This one just didn't do it for me. I like dark and I like fairy tales, but it was too gory for my tastes and the story didn't quite click.

  25. 5 out of 5

    emma

    Beautifully dark and gorey. exactly what i expect of emily carroll, tho more unclear than i’d have liked.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    I always want to like Emily Carroll's work SO BADLY but something just isn't clicking for me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Nobody does beautiful and terrifying quite like Emily Carroll. Deeply unsettling with beautiful, intricate artwork.

  28. 4 out of 5

    kit

    lesbian day of visibility babey!! 🧛🏼♀ ⚢ lesbian day of visibility babey!! 🧛🏼‍♀️ ⚢

  29. 4 out of 5

    Miquel Rodriguez

    Horny and spooky as usual, this new story somewhat touched me deeper than her previous work. A truly brilliant book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tony McMillen

    Sensual and mythic, the story feels like an ether rag revelry scribbled into the iconography of some bent, new religion.

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