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“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll

“It came from the woods. Most strange things do.” This line sums up the theme shared by the five stories in Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods. Their main characters live in isolated dwellings on the edge of great dark forests. Sometimes, they must enter the forest, and encounter something odd, sinister, or downright terrifying there. Sometimes, the odd/sinister/terrifying thing comes to them.

Carroll also writes and draws webcomics, which can be read at emcarroll.com. (One of the stories in this volume, “His Face All Red,” is an adaptation of her comic of the same name, and “The Nesting Place” seems to be an expansion of “All Along the Wall.”) Readers of her comics will find the style of both art and storytelling very similar, although of course some of the comics feature elements that can’t be reproduced in printed medium—clicking on different areas of a single image to read parts of the story, for example, as in “Margot’s Room”.

The stories presented in “Through the Woods” share similar themes of isolation or displacement from the familiar. Most of them feature young women faced with a mystery. Both the art and the text help to build the sense of mounting unease through the story. In the introduction, Carroll talks about how, as a young girl, she used to read in bed at night with a lamp attached to the headboard. She was always afraid to reach around into the darkness to turn the lamp off when she was ready to go to sleep. This collection will make you similarly afraid to turn off the light and walk down the long, dark hallway to your bedroom after you’ve finished reading.