Through the Woods is a collection of five short stories that read like haunted fairy tales. Written and illustrated by Canadian artist Emily Carroll, the stories are told as though they are intended for a children’s storybook, but ooze with tension and foreboding in adult-sized proportions. The stories are connected not by content, but by the overarching theme of the darkness that awaits us all in the woods.
The anthology takes typical fairy tale events and injects them with new, disturbing details. “In Our Neighbors House,” the short walk through the woods to the neighbor’s house is easily accomplished, but only for those brave enough to make the journey. “A Lady’s Hands are Cold” tells the tale of a young bride meeting her new husband’s previous wife in the walls of her new home. “The Nesting Place” couples the sadness of losing a parent with the terror of being replaced.
The writing in the stories is minimal, choosing instead to emphasize tone through the artwork. The sparse dialogue and narration is strong and evokes classic fairy tales. Carroll’s pacing in these stories is what makes them effective horror stories. There’s a synergy between the writing and artwork here that can only be accomplished when the writer is doing their own art.
The artwork is nothing short of stunning, each story painted with stylized characters and murky backgrounds. Carroll plays with the idea of color to great effect, inverting between blues and reds to emphasize the darkness in each story. The words weave in and out of the panels, taking readers on a short, unique journey through each page.
Through the Woods might not make you scream with fright, but it will make your heart pound just a little bit harder. And when you eventually close the book, you’ll hesitate for the briefest moment before turning out the light.