Sunday, June 12, 2022

Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle
by Jessica Day George
Recommended Ages: 10+

Celie is the youngest child of Glower the Seventy-Ninth, king of Sleyne and caretaker of Castle Glower. In Sleyne, the castle chooses the king, which is why the elder prince has been packed off to the College of Wizardry and the younger, Rolf, is set to inherit. Basically, the Castle acts like a living thing, magically sprouting new rooms every week, rearranging corridors and sometimes making old ones disappear. It "chose" Rolf by putting his bedchamber close to the throne room and making it big and luxurious, while filling Bran's with books. No one understands the castle better than Celie, who is working on an atlas of its ever-changing towers and secret passageways. One day, the king and queen depart on a trip to see Prince Bran graduate. Then the awful news comes for Celie, Rolf and their older sister Lilah. You can guess what he's going to say next when the sole surviving royal guard stumbles, wounded, out of the royal carriage, faces Prince Rolf and says, "Your Highness – I mean, Your Majesty."

Rolf and the princesses aren't ready to write their parents and Bran off as dead until they see the bodies. Unfortunately, the Royal Council has other ideas, forcing Rolf to be crowned as King Glower the Eightieth while the search secretly goes on. Worse, the council has forced Rolf to accept themselves as regents until he reaches his majority. Even worse, two foreign princes and their retinues have moved into the castle indefinitely, and the viler of the two has somehow gotten himself named to the Council of Regents. Worst of all, Prince Khelsh is plotting to be named as Rolf's heir, after which the young king's life won't be worth a boiled egg.

With bigger and stronger people leaning on Rolf to sign the proclamation making Khelsh his heir, the prince and his sisters have very few resources on their side. They have the loyalty of the castle's servants and guards. They have the support of the handsomest youth in the kingdom, a blacksmith's son who has been wooing Princess Lilah. They have, perhaps, a few other allies. But most importantly, the have Castle Glower, which wants Rolf to rule after his father. Such pranks as spreading manure on the Councillors' shoes and slitting the seams of their robes of state will only get the young prince and princesses so far. As the kids find themselves increasingly backed into a corner, it's the castle's willingness to do wondrous things, especially for Celie, on which everything depends.

The concept of a magic castle, along with this book's cover art, prompts would-be readers to imagine a whimsical, light-hearted story with plenty of humor – and it's all that. But at the same time, it goes deeper and darker than you'd expect, putting the young heroes and heroines in greater danger, and their kingdom besides. It strikes tender emotional chords, brings the castle children to the brink of despair, and rises to an intense climax with a big payoff. I've seen Castle Glower described as a cross between Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and Hogwarts, but it's really in a class by itself. When its stairways move, there's a reason or a meaning behind it, even if it doesn't become immediately apparent; it becomes almost a speaking character, with peccadilloes and vulnerabilities all its own. You'll come away from this book sensing that there's still more to explore in its sentient halls.

This is the first book in the "Castle Glower" series, which continues in Wednesdays in the Tower, Thursdays with the Crown, Fridays with the Wizards and Saturdays at Sea. Jessica Day George is a Young Adult novelist who specializes in retelling fairy tales in such titles as the "Dragon Slippers" trilogy, the "Princess of the Midnight Ball" trilogy, the "Rose Legacy Trilogy," Silver in the Blood and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow.

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