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A Tale of Two Castles

Review

A Tale of Two Castles

A world of kings and dragons, castles and ogres sounds like an enchanted one indeed. And surely the tale of a young girl with big dreams coming to the capital city there would prove to be one of magical fulfillment. But in Gail Carson Levine's capable hands, the fairy tale genre is given some wonderful and unexpected twists sure to please fans of fantasy and those unfamiliar with the genre. In A TALE OF TWO CASTLES, a world of dragons and royalty is also one of intrigue, mystery and all types of ambition.

Elodie has recently left home and arrived in the bustling town of Two Castles. Her parents sent her there in the hopes she could apprentice with a weaver or learn some other useful trade. But Elodie has her sights set on the stage. She hopes to secure a position with a troop of mansioners so that she can perfect the craft of acting. Even before she arrives in Two Castles, her ideas about who to trust and who to avoid are challenged, and things just get more difficult when she gets to the city. Should she trust the kindly old woman she meets on her journey? What about the handsome cat trainer she suspects is a thief? Or the ogre who the town fears but who seems only misunderstood to Elodie.

Before she knows it, and following her instincts rather than the advice of the citizens of Two Castles, Elodie finds herself the apprentice to a clever dragon named Meenore. In addition to building the fires and toasting the sandwiches of the town's residents, Meenore answers questions and solves mysteries using inductive and deductive reasoning along with common sense and observation. IT (for no one can tell the gender of a dragon) sees an intelligence and eye for detail in Elodie and takes her under IT's wing, literally and figuratively. The mystery before them involves Count Jonty Um, a much maligned ogre who lives in one of the two titular castles. Though his parents were far from kind, Jonty Um has no malice for people, yet they are afraid of him and hate him anyway. And now someone is trying to hurt the count through a variety of means. Meenore sends Elodie to the castle to observe all she can so that together they can figure out who is acting against Jonty Um.

Elodie is more than happy to spend time in the castle, using her acting skills to try to save Jonty Um. However, it seems that it may be some of the people she has come to like (if not totally trust) in Two Castles who may be involved in the plot against the gentle ogre. Will she place her loyalties with the innocent parties or the guilty ones? Are any of her new friends really the evil "whited sepulcher" her mother warned her about? Will the power of Meenore's intellect and her acting skills be enough to save Jonty Um and all of Two Castles?

Levine's latest is a charming adventure with a powerful and compelling heroine and a cast of wonderfully written supporting characters. A TALE OF TWO CASTLES goes beyond the old adage of "you can't judge a book by its cover" and gives young readers ideas on what people should be judged on, such as actions, intentions, treatment of others and kindheartedness. From shape-shifting ogres to hard-working dragons, from giddy princesses to cats trained to steal, Elodie's adventure will satisfy readers who love fantasy, mysteries or just well-written stories.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles
by Gail Carson Levine

  • Publication Date: December 26, 2012
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0061229679
  • ISBN-13: 9780061229671