Lost Souls Wandering to Their Doom

The gorgeous ghost stories of Emily Carroll.

Courtesy of Margaret K. McElderry Books

Courtesy of Margaret K. McElderry Books

Earlier this year, Emily Carroll won Slate’s Cartoonist Studio Prize for her Web comic “Out of Skin,” a ghostly fairy tale about a woman living alone in the woods. Carroll’s story was an elegantly drawn throwback to an earlier era of storytelling, when narratives embraced the dark bloodiness of a more frightening century.

Now Carroll’s first book, Through the Woods, is out, and every story in it fulfills the promise of “Out of Skin.” Reminiscent of Angela Carter and the early work of Margaret Atwood, stories like “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” and “His Face All Red” explore the terror in the commonplace: a new husband, a new home, a brother who’s always better than you. In the book’s centerpiece, a shocking update of Shirley Jackson called “The Nesting Place,” a surly teenager visits her brother in his beautiful manor house—only something’s a little bit weird about his pretty new wife’s teeth.

Though Through the Woods is published by the prestigious children’s press McElderry Books—and, indeed, smart children with a Gothic bent will eat it up—it’s a reminder that ghost stories and fairy tales have deep resonance for adults as well. To see my own everyday fears and weaknesses—envy, sadness, greed—reflected in Carroll’s horror-story mirror still gives me a chill. And adults in particular will marvel at Carroll’s gorgeous artwork; the book is full of portentous full-page spreads of wintry landscapes and lost souls wandering toward their doom.

We’re very proud and pleased to have Emily Carroll illustrating the September issue of the Slate Book Review.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Margaret K. McElderry Books.

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