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The Castle in the Mist Paperback – April 24, 2018
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On the magic side, we aren't talking wands or spells or anything involving a "magic system". We are talking about wonder, and dreamy boundaries that divide the real from the imagined, and wishes, and mists that obscure and illuminate. We're talking about did-that-happen? and I'm-sure-this-is-where-it-was. Gates and walls and hedges and rabbit holes and magical carousels all play a part. What you end up with is, (MILD SPOILER), Brigadoon meets Nesbit's "Magic City" and "Enchanted Castle", meets the original Mary Poppins, as written. (Mary Poppins, in the books, is a powerful and unpredictable elemental earth force, not a sweet nanny.)
This is classic stuff, handled beautifully. Rather than belabor her points, Ms. Ephron uses suggestion and brief bits of dialogue, and passing observations to just sketch in what's happening. We switch from mundane scenes, (breakfast, driving to town, gardening), to scenes of great imaginative power, (finding the gate, escaping the carousel, playing magical miniature golf in the mist). Characters are always reading into what's in other characters' eyes, and half of the action is suggested rather than described. Sprinkled among these rather pastoral bits of wonder, though, are action scenes, (flight, escape, imprisonment), of great suspense and energy. Again, very hard to pull off, but I encountered no bumps or out of tune scenes.
On the realism side, our two heroes worry about and are separated from their parents. Adults are kind and supportive, but there is an undercurrent of real helplessness and isolation. Our heroes are siblings, and their small conflicts and grand loyalties are on full display. I've rarely seen, or believed, expressions of affection and love among siblings in middle grade books, but this tale manages the difficult and old-fashioned task of showing the family ties that bind with great aplomb. And the small and large acts of heroism that each child displays feel authentic.
As a bonus, there are some very funny scenes and some truly witty dialogue.
So, this is a book with a fine story, a marvelous feel as a written work, and a fast pace that never drags out a point or overworks a scene. Both dreamy and sharp, it is a warm, magical and realistic find worth considering. (Please note that I found this book while browsing in our local library. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
The Castle in the Mist is a mysterious story of a summer friendship between three young children. The mystery being how anyone can live in the castle that has surely been empty for decades. And wouldn't Aunt Evie have known if she had a young boy as a neighbor? And why does William insist that she always have the key with her so she can come back to play?
I really love the preface of this story. A hidden castle that can only be accessed with a special key. A dire warning about... trees? Yeah, that sounds like something I'd definitely want to read. It even had a bit of a 'The Secret Garden' vibe to it at first.
I didn't love it. I was expecting more. The whole story is wrapped in this mystery but we don't get much of anything substantial until the end and then it was just a little confusing. We spend more time on the castle grounds than in the castle. There are little bits of what I suppose are magic but are more likely just bits of Tess's imagination. I honestly just wish it was a little longer and had more exploring or backstory of the castle itself.
But I think I am being too critical because I am not the intending audience for this book. I think young readers would really enjoy the story and not look for all of the answers and accept it for what it is; something fantastically mysterious that happened to two young children.
I received a free copy of this book but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Amy Ephron, quickly guides readers into a world of wishes and imagination, in her first middle grade title. While this story is filled with many creative elements, I was still left with an overwhelming desire for a little more adventure. Between the hidden world behind the castle surrounded in mist, the mysterious boy William, his governess and the groundskeeper, there is so much more of a story that has yet to unfold. With its abrupt ending, I can only hope Amy Ephron will continue the story and either bring the children back to the castle in the mist, or continue the very endearing and intriguing storyline behind William and his family’s home.
Excerpt from my newspaper column: For the Love of Books-Dixon's Independent Voice