Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

Newbery Honor author of Ella Enchanted Gail Carson Levine weaves a spellbinding tale about a clever heroine, a dragon detective, and a shape-shifting ogre.

Newly arrived in the town of Two Castles, Elodie unexpectedly becomes the assistant to a brilliant dragon named Meenore, and together they solve mysteries. Their most important case concerns the town’s shape-shifting ogre, Count Jonty Um: Someone is plotting against him. Elodie must disguise herself to discover the source of the threat amid a cast of characters that includes a greedy king, a giddy princess, and a handsome cat trainer.

Readers who loved Ella Enchanted and Fairest will delight in this tale of a spirited heroine who finds friendship where she least expects it and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

Elodie left home for Two Castles to become a weavers apprentice - or so her family thought. She wanted to be a mansioner (actor) instead. Elodie finds out, only after she has left home, that there are no free apprenticeships anymore and the story follows her as she tries to figure out what do in a foreign place with no family.

On her way we meet an assortment of interesting characters. Goodwife Celeste and her goodman Twah, who cannot help her while she is in Two Castles. Master Dess, who has a fondness for animals. Master Thiel, a cat trainer, whose cats hates Count Jonty Um, the ogre in the land who lives in a castle. Meenore the dragon, who loves to induce and deduce as well as the king and princess who lives in the other castle in Two Castles.

There is thieving, acting, cultural differences, dragons, ogres, glutton kings, fickle princesses all in the middle of a mystery. Someone is trying to hurt Count Jonty Um, and through a series of events (whether unfortunate the reader will have to figure out themselves) Elodie is left trying to figure out who the culprit is.

This story is a quick read, and I would recommend it to any parent who might want to read with their child. Gail Carson Levine describes her world in detail and there are times in which I felt as though I was right there with Elodie, walking through the streets, looking at the stalls, observing. The characters are lovable, I especially loved Meenore and Princess Renn, the way they were written, it felt as though I could almost see them, each with their different mannerisms, through the pages.

The ending - though somewhat easy to figure out - was still delightful and fun. It’s a lovely fairy tale for anyone, young or old.

[arc via Net Galley]

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