Castle of Shadows
Ever since the Queen disappeared, things in Quale have gone poorly. The King has lapsed into a strange depression, the economy has faltered, the Princess has been shut away in the castle, and the prime minister may be moving the kingdom towards war. That secluded princess, 11-year-old Princess Charlie, has just found a clue that may explain her mother's absence. And so she embarks on a dangerous but vital quest to find the Queen and save her father, herself, and the entire kingdom. CASTLE OF SHADOWS is the fast-paced and exciting tale of Charlie's adventure.
"CASTLE OF SHADOWS is a lively and delightful read about a young girl struggling with serious adversity and grand adventure."
Upon finding a fragment of a letter written by her mother, Charlie experiences hope for the first time in five years. Could it be that her mother is still alive? And if so, how can Charlie find her? First she turns to her friend and confidante, Mr. Moleglass. Formerly her parents’ trusty butler, Moleglass has been recently relegated to the castle cellar by the evil and tyrannical O'Dair. Moleglass advises Charlie that she can only trust one other person with the letter, and surprisingly that individual is the pesky garden boy, Tobias, who is just a year older than Charlie herself. But when Charlie gains the attention of the charming and smooth-talking prime minister, Alistair Windlass, she shows him the letter as well, with disastrous results. Soon, Charlie is involved in a plot by radicals to oust Windlass while she pretends to be his naïve student in matters of state. Her goal remains to find her mother and heal her father, even if she has to risk her life to do so.
And risk her life she does. Charlie and Tobias must sneak all around the castle and eventually the city outside. They are constantly pursued by the vindictive O'Dair and her armed lackey, Watch. Windlass, too, may be on to their work, and he is the most dangerous figure of all.
With a series of fun twists, secrets and chases, CASTLE OF SHADOWS keeps young readers on their proverbial toes. But Ellen Renner's debut is not all fights and fantastic escapes. Charlie grows up along the way, transforming from a lonely girl left to her own devices to a young woman willing to take extreme risks for the sake of justice, able to take her rightful place as leader of her people. The dynamic between Charlie and Tobias is especially interesting as both characters are well-developed and confidently written. The language Renner uses, a fun mix of Britishisms and archaic English, gives the reading a bit of the fantastic.
Like the delicate house of cards that the King spends his days constructing, the reign of Alistair Windlass crumbles. But along the way, Charlie must confront her worst fears and be prepared to accept difficult truths about the people she cares for the most.
CASTLE OF SHADOWS is a lively and delightful read about a young girl struggling with serious adversity and grand adventure.
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on April 30, 2012