Friday, February 19, 2016

Tuesdays at the Castle (Jessica Day George)

Tuesdays at the Castle
(The Castle Glower series, Book 1)
Jessica Day George
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Castle Glower has many peculiarities. Rooms and halls rearrange themselves, though the throne room can always be found (eventually) by heading east. People have been known to be physically ejected if unpleasant enough. And on Tuesdays, the castle likes to create new rooms. Many find it confusing, but eleven-year-old Princess Celie has always considered Castle Glower a friend. She's even making an atlas of the sprawling, shifting grounds, an undertaking never before attempted in its ageless history. On this Tuesday, the castle produces a new tower, seemingly just for her - perhaps to comfort her. Celie's parents are leaving to bring her brother Bran home from the College of Wizardry, and they're leaving her behind. Sure, her elder brother Rolf and sister Delilah are still here, as is their friend Pogue the blacksmith's son, but it's not the same; they're on their way to becoming grown-ups, and she's still the baby of the family. Then something goes terribly wrong: her parents and Bran are ambushed and possibly killed, leaving fourteen-year-old Rolf next in line for the throne, a collection of greedy advisors ready to turn the crown into a puppet of their interests, and peculiar foreign princes on the doorstep who might be more than just concerned neighbors. As much as Celie needs the help of Castle Glower in these dark times, it might need her help even more.

REVIEW: The concept looked fun, and the Kindle edition was discounted, so I figured I'd give it a try. It starts out light, pushing towards silly. Celie's relationship with the castle seems almost as childlike as her character. But it soon becomes clear that there's a little more to her, and to Castle Glower, than initially meets the eye, strengths that come out under pressure as her parents are attacked and the children are left to their own devices, forced to cope with a complex, adult situation. The three inherently trust each other, a refreshing change of pace from many stories, so they don't have to waste time convincing other people to listen to them, nor are they forced to act alone. As the story progresses, the castle itself becomes a character; it does indeed seem to reciprocate Celie's friendship, but it alone can't help her or her family against their many enemies. In general, peripheral characters line up pretty much as one might expect from early impressions - but, then, this is aimed at a younger audience. It still manages some tense moments as the siblings struggle, first to simply endure and then to try to best their opponents. Needless to say, Celie doesn't remain immature for long; all the Glower children do a lot of growing up, Celie most of all. The ending feels a bit quick, but wraps up the major plot points. I enjoyed it, and will likely read the next book one of these days.

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