Saturday, July 17, 2021

Review: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor by Shaenon K. Garrity


by Shaenon K Garrity
Illustrated by Christopher J. Baldwin
McElderry Books
224 pages 
ages 12 and up

JULY 20th!!!

Nimona meets Paper Girls with a literary twist in this wickedly funny graphic novel about a teenager who is swept up in a strange new universe and must save it from an all-consuming evil in order to return home.

One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.

Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?



Gothic romance novel fans or anti-fans will get a kick out of the satire and fun in this quick paced and original graphic novel.

Haley loves gothic romance novels and catches negative comments for it at school. When she dives in a river to save a drowning man, she enters a parallel just like her novels. While she's convinced, at first, it's her gothic romance dreams come true, things take a slightly different twist. Soon, she's not only dealing with rifts through the universe but an evil, which she has no clue how she can defeat. 

Although I read the blurb, this read still was anything but expected. Haley is a wonderful character—overly dramatic, a true dreamer, and yet, a carries a bit of bite when needed. Her 'over-the-top' way of seeing life is endearing and funny, especially when the other characters flow in totally different directions of their own. Every one is ridiculous, and still, it's hard not to cheer for them the entire way through.

The illustrations are well done and make the tale very easy to follow. They add all the drama and settings needed to make this novel work. They allow the extreme moments and humor to wiggle its way into the drama nicely. I enjoyed flipping through these.

This is an odd tale and did make me raise an eyebrow more than a few times. So, don't expect normal because this is not it. The science fiction additions twist the satire in very original directions...and yet, it's addictive. Even when I really wondered about several twists, I didn't want to put this one down because I was curious what would happen next.

And here they are...

Shaenon K. Garrity is an award-winning cartoonist and writer best known for the webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse. Her short stories have appeared in many science fiction magazines and anthologies, and she is the author of Dire Days of Willowweep Manor. She lives in Berkeley, California. Visit her at

Christopher Baldwin was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He was a regular contributor to MAD Magazine for over a decade, and has drawn acclaimed webcomics including BrunoLittle Dee, and Spacetrawler. He has work exhibited or archived in the Roswell Museum and Art Center, the National Academy of Science, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Cartoon Art Museum. He splits his time between Olympia, Washington, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Visit him at 

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