Format: eGalley (courtesy of Netgalley and Harper Collins)
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publication Date: 5.10.2011
Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.
A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?
Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre's castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre's feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.
Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.
I grew up on a healthy diet of Little House on the Prairie, Dear America, and Gail Carson Levine. I have loved her books since I first read The Two Princesses of Bamarre (which continues to be my favorite), and Ella Enchanted (a very close second). I was worried that when I read this new book of hers, I would either love it too much, or not like it enough. That's the problem with being successful in life; people come to expect certain things from you. I wasn't sure how this one would hold up to her other stories.
I shouldn't have worried.
With A Tale of Two Castles, Gail Carson Levine has created a world where children can choose their destiny by choosing to apprentice, cats are kept as deterrents of ogres, and dragons are great detectives when problems present themselves. The world is interesting, and the characters are charming and strong. I really like the main character, Elodie. She seemed a lot older than twelve to me, but I don't see that as an issue. Her unique personality and her love of mansioning (playacting) gave the book quite a lot of its charm.
The main theme of this book seemed to be overcoming stereotypes, or superstition. Levine does a good job of getting the message across through Elodie's observations of the citizens of Two Castles, and their reactions to the "monsters" that live among them. The citizens go from tolerant, to interested, to scared, to angry, and then to...well, you'll have to read it for that one. ;)
This story is similar in feel to Levine's previous books, but it is definitely its own tale. The words themselves have more depth to them, giving the reader more to ponder as the story goes on. This story has more of a "super sleuth" feel to it, but it was very interesting to see how Elodie came her conclusions. I did figure out who the villain was pretty early in the story (I think other people will, too), but I didn't mind and was still interested to see how the story would work itself out.
Overall, a highly enjoyable read!
...you love Gail Carson Levine, you don't judge people by their looks, and you like a little mystery mixed in with your fairy tales.
*This section may contain some spoilers about content!*