Stories tend to be too tightly written. After having read Castle Waiting, I realized that. The storyline goes all over the place and doesn't so much leave you hanging at the end but blow out the light and crawl into bed.
The story starts with the "Sleeping Beauty" folktale. New baby, twelve witches/fairies, one wicked witch who was left out, the spell, the briars, the falling asleep, etc. The prince comes, wakes the princess, and they ride off to the prince's homeland, silhouetted in the sunset.
The castle becomes a waypoint, a safe haven. The story shifts now to focus on a traveller, running away from her husband in order to give birth to her lover's child. She makes her way to Castle Waiting.
Well, the traveller likes stories, and ends up asking the story of Sister Peace of the order of Solicitines. Sister Peace tells her story, which involves the abbess of the order telling her story...
Well, hopefully a sequel. Castle Waiting ends (after 452 pages) with the main part of Sister Peace's story, but there are a lot of loose ends. What about Iron Henry, who has lost his son and is learning to love again? What about the traveller's husband? And who was her lover anyway (here's me, not spoiling a significant plot point, aren't I so good)? And so on.
A wandering story. Even most episodic stories aren't this wandery. Even Scheherezade manages to tie things up more snugly. But good.
The art is great, too. Most significant for yours truly, the people's faces look like people's faces. Not pretty, not monstrously ugly, but individual and expressive. Even the fairytale characters (for example, Sir Chess, a knight with a horse's head) manage to reveal their souls with an ease that makes Disney and Pixar look contrived. Oh! And I should mention that this edition is one of the more beautifully put-together books I've seen in a long time. It has the bookmark ribbon, the internal motifs, the color scheme, the rough-cut edges...everything.
--How come you never tell the rest of that story?
--What, about how I'm constantly plagued by a pesky demon?
---About how Clarice really didn't want you to leave. About how you were supposed to be the next Abbess?
--Cripes, were you born in a barn?!! Get your feet off my bed! Why would I tell them about that? I think an Abbess with a pack of mastiffs is just as good as one with a brace of lions...
--Maybe they'd take you more seriously if you did.
--If they took me more seriously, it would make my job of helping them even harder.
--Why do you bother? It's a thankless job. And anyone who ends up here is halfway to Hell anyway...
--That's not true, and you know it. Besides, we don't all have to get into Heaven through the front gate.
--Ha! The back gate of Heaven stands awful close to the front gate of Hell, Sister!