Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2011--out now in Canada, Oct 25 in US, 240 pages)
I will start by saying that this is the best castle I have ever met in my whole life. Castle Glower is magically alive--changing itself, and its furnishings (most often on Tuesdays) to reflect its opinion of its residents, or sometimes for no apparent reason. The royal family realized, for instance, that the oldest son was destined to be a wizard when the castle started filling his room with books and astrolabes, and it was clear that the second son, Rolf, would be king when his room was moved next to the throne room. Princess Celie, the youngest of the family, loves her castle deeply. She knows it better than anyone else, and it seems to return her affection (I love the tower room it makes for her!).
When Celie's royal parents are ambushed while away on a journey, and declared dead, Rolf must assume the throne. But the council of advisers is led by an unscrupulous traitor, who has invited an evil neighboring prince into the castle. Gradually it becomes clear that this prince has designs on the throne himself.
Grief stricken though they are, Celie, Rolf, and their older sister Lilah believe their parents are still alive. But can the three of them, even with the help of the castle, hold off the machinations of the traitors and usurpers until the rightful king and queen return?
Truly my love for this castle knows no bounds. But that's not all I enjoyed about this book. It was incredibly refreshing to see three children (although Lilah is a teenager, and Rolf not much younger) holding off the bad guys without Special Powers. They are most definitely kids, grief stricken but determined. It's true that they have a magical castle on their side, but mainly what they have to rely on is their wits, as they try to untangle the plot surrounding them, and use the castle's tricks to best effect. In the end, it is Celie's great pluck that saves the day most satisfactorily (with the help of the castle!).
This one should delight any right thinking eight or nine year old lover of fantasy, and likewise any reader older than that who loves a good castle adventure! I would have liked, perhaps, to see more explanation of why the council of advisers turned so traitorous, and I felt a smidge of abruptness at the end, but other than that, I enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it.
(review copy received from the publishers 4 days ago; pounced on gleefully and read in a single sitting....)