Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Hardcover: 240 pages

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

I figured that I might as well begin the year with my Christmas Book (naturally, at my house there will always be books for Christmas).

I became a fan of Jessica Day George's when I picked up Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow because it was based on "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." It's always been one of my absolute favorite fairy tales, but every retelling I've found tends to turn it into a Cinderella story (which is so disappointing because this is such a great girl-power story). But here, finally, was one that was about as true to the story as any retold fairy tale is. I then moved on to her Dragon Slippers books and loved them as well. She's also written two more retold fairy tales (Princess of the Midnight Ball and Princess of Glass) that are new favorites too. It was only natural that her newest novel for middle grade girls (it has a heroine instead of a hero, hence for girls) was quickly moved to the top of my To-Read list. Happily I was not disappointed.

Tuesdays at the Castle was a delightful afternoon read (admittedly, I read FAST), and I suspect would be perfect to read aloud. Sadly my daughter is still too young to sit still long enough for a book without pictures, but when that changes, this is on my list of books to read to her.

The book is written very well. The language was mostly at a middle grade level with some great vocabulary words woven through it. Nothing was jarring or out-of-place. The children didn't use phrases that scream Suburbia Middle School. There was enough detail to establish a sense of place and get your imagination going without having to slog through tedious passages of total description.

I also love Princess Celie. In her, we have a delightful heroine who isn't nauseatingly perfect, a well-intentioned idiot, or a spoiled brat. She reads as a very real eleven-year-old girl. In fact, much like many a preteen I've known, she's in a bit of a snit when the book begins. That being said, she isn't stagnant as a character either; she manages to grow as a person over the course of the book. This isn't something that's easy to do in so short a book.

That brings me to one of my two major complaints: the length. This was too short. The ending felt very rushed and it didn't tie all the ends together in a satisfactorily manner. I suspect that this is the first book in a new series, but since book two isn't ready to read, I have to live with a vaguely dissatisfied feeling until it is released. If there is no book two, then I'm going to be very disappointed.

My other complaint is a very trivial one, but a niggling little annoyance nonetheless: ages. Now in middle grade, people's ages matter. Once you hit adult you're an adult until you're old, but for everyone under 18 their ages mean something and they are used by people under 18 to help figure out how they need to relate to that other person. Bearing that in mind, ages were something of a mystery. You don't find out the age of Celie's brother until halfway through the book (I thought him a little older), and never find out the age of her sister. There's also another character who I though was much younger than he turned out to be. It was slightly disappointing (and kinda creepy) when I realized his age.

But those two things aside (or included if you like), this is a great read that is sure to appeal to fantasy readers of all ages. I definitely recommend it. (Seriously... I lent my book to my mother-in-law. I need to get that back.)

You can buy it HERE or support your local brick-and-mortar store.

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