Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: March 2012
List Price: $15.99
Review: Imagine that a young princess is being caught and yelled at for stealing a servant's lunch. Yes, you read that right, a princess who is stealing her own servant's lunch. However, she only does this out of a terrible hunger, not cruelty. This may seem very odd, but for Princess Charlotte Augusta Joanna Hortense of Quale, this is part of survival. This is the beginning of the book Castle of Shadows written by Ellen Renner. The genre of this book is the web of lies and secrets of mystery. This book is set in the castle and streets of the city of Quale, most likely in late 1700's to mid 1800's England. The main character of this book is Princess Charlotte Augusta Joanna Hortense of Quale, or as most of the few people who ever mention her name call her, Charlie.
For eleven-year-old princess Charlie, life is terrible. Five years ago, her mother, the queen, mysteriously went missing. Due to severe depression from this, her father the king went mad, and now spends his days swinging from the scaffolding in his chambers building fifty-foot card castles. Charlie's housekeeper the dreadful Mrs. O'Dair gives her scarcely enough food to survive, and treats her like a disobedient peasant. Charlie's life mainly consists of wandering about the castle in the tattered old clothes that Mrs. O'Dair supplies her. Charlie has no hope that she will ever find her mother again, and restore the kingdom and the king to their former greatness. Then one day, she finds an unfinished letter written by her mother those five years before in a book she must bring to the gardener's boy. The letter gives her the only clue to the whereabouts of her mother that had ever been found. Charlie begins a search to find her mother with very little knowledge of the first thing to do. In her search, she must face her horrible housekeeper, the usually drunken night watch, who has recently received a gun from none other than O'Dair, and someone who seems to be a friend but is the greatest enemy of all. Her unlikely ally is the gardener's boy who is usually the one against her, but has a motive of his own to help her. She learns very quickly, and can put on quite an act.
The story was written with beautifully used figurative language; Renner put it in the perfect places and used exactly the right words. The plot flowed exceptionally well, and varied in speed and intensity so well that I am just blown away. Ellen Renner filled the genre of mystery very well, she included all of the main aspects of a great mystery, including suspense, intrigue and excitement. The hook of this story is very effective, because it pulls you right into the action. However, before this, the prologue might capture your interest even more. The author was very descriptive, she used the words so well that you could see in your mind what was happening, she was able to make it so clear how desolate and lifeless the castle was. The end of the book wrapped up the story very well, explained all of the loose ends. It did not leave you with any questions, just as a singular novel should end. Overall, the book was exceptional to say the least. I give this book four stars out of five. I recommend Castle of Shadows to 12-13 year olds, or 10-11 year olds who can handle a bit of intense language.
Review written by Noah (7th grade student).
We would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of Castle of Shadows for this review.
Have you read Castle of Shadows? How would you rate it?