Castle of Shadows

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
July/August 2013

By Ellen Renner, Reviewed by Olivia Zeiner-Morrish

Castle of Shadows book cover

Castle of Shadows, by Ellen Renner; Houghton
Mifflin Books for Children: New York, 2012;
$15.99

Charlie is the princess of Quale. Yes, she lives in a castle, with gardens and servants that cook and clean. But ever since her mother disappeared five years ago, Charlie has been all alone. Her father the king has gone mad and Charlie is surrounded by people who don’t care about her. She has to fend for herself, and that doesn’t always bring out the best in people. In the beginning of this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Charlie. We didn’t really have any similarities, and quite frankly I thought she was a little bit of a brat.

Charlie has grown up hearing rumors about her mother’s disappearance. Some say her mother ran away, abandoning her husband and young child. Even worse, others say her father murdered her mother. As far as Charlie knows, her family is horrible. So why shouldn’t she be? Think about the stories your parents tell over and over again. My parents gave me a spoonful of honey when I cried. Maybe you always laughed at the dog. Those stories are part of who we are today. What if the only stories you ever heard were about your horrible temper tantrums, and the time your parents lost you at the park?

Everyone seems to hate the king and queen. Imagine going to a party and walking into a big room filled with strangers. There’s no one to talk to. In fact, no one likes you at all. The host of this party despises you. If you can imagine that, it’s pretty close to how Charlie feels, except she’s not at a party. This is her home. And if you were convinced everyone hated you, you might hate them a little too. If someone doesn’t like me, I find it awfully hard to be nice to them, and gradually I get to dislike them more and more. And so Charlie just hates. Charlie has pretty much raised herself; she’s rude, and wild, and doesn’t always know right from wrong.

But when Charlie finds a clue to her mother’s disappearance, an unfinished letter which speaks of some unknown danger, Charlie finds a spark of hope. Her mother speaks of Charlie and her husband the king as her two greatest joys. Her joys. The queen paints a picture with her words, a picture Charlie never had before, of a loving family, an adoring father and mother, and a younger, happier Charlie. Then terrible danger tears their family apart.

Charlie is willing to do whatever it takes to find her mother. She befriends her mother’s old butler and makes an unlikely ally, Tobias Petch, the gardener’s boy and her biggest rival. As Charlie and Tobias uncover more clues, their friendship grows. Charlie also changes as a person. She realizes that some people do care about her and she cares about them as well. Charlie has a wonderful transformation. The wild and adventurous spirit that used to get her into trouble makes her brave enough for the many difficult and frightening things she has to do to find her mother. Charlie is willing to risk everything. But wouldn’t you?

I thought this book was very entertaining. The plot was exciting and moved quickly. When I was reading this my cousin started reading over my shoulder and didn’t stop for four chapters! I definitely recommend you read Castle of Shadows. I really enjoyed it.

Castle of Shadows Olivia Zeiner-Morrish

Olivia Zeiner-Morrish, 12
Washington, New Jersey

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