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Castle of Shadows Hardcover – March 20, 2012
Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life
Bestselling author James Patterson's most beloved middle grade protagonist, Rafe Khatchadorian, is getting the Hollywood treatment. Hardcover
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"Renner's plot is both complex and compelling." —Booklist
"Smart writing that combines mystery, historical fantasy and a touch of steampunk...Readers will also delight in Charlie's transformation from hotheaded victim to shrewd leader--and friend." —Kirkus
"Charlie's transformation from scullery to rightful heir is an adventure not to be missed. Well written, well plotted, well done." —School Library Journal, starred review
"The shadowy passageways of a castle in ruin and an urban populace steeped in poverty and rebellion make for an ideal backdrop to the plot's many twists and turns." —Bulletin
Top Customer Reviews
This is one of those books I'd love to have a (target-audience) child read and respond to so that I could better understand his/her comprehension of the book. Castle of Shadows is aptly titled, but a bit challenging in certain respects. There are areas in which the book at least meets expectations but then there are more where it falls short in my estimation. First some of the good things:
The sentences are very readable and flow together really well. Ellen Renner understands how to put words together in a way that phrases sound good together. This includes dialogue which flows pretty naturally in the text. I never had an issue of figuring out who was speaking to whom in the course of the book even when sections were not tagged. Each character seemed to speak in a particular enough way and had his/her own particular way of being that it was easy enough to track who was speaking and when.
Middling issues include setting problems, and a few weird vocabulary choices. The latter isn't so much an issue as a potential hang-up if one is inclined to noticing vexing words in text and trying to reason as to their presence. The setting, however, is a potential problem.Read more ›
Charlie is a plucky enough heroine but I felt like she never quite became her own agent rather than someone else's pawn. For all that the author keeps commenting on Charlie's intelligence, she doesn't really demonstrate using her wits to solve her problems. At the book's climax, she is rescued by another character rather than defeating the villain herself. That struck me as very retro (and not in a good way).
My 9 y.o. daughter liked the book okay, but didn't love it either. She thought that the book should have explained more about Charlie's mother, Queen Caroline.
Upon finding a fragment of a letter written by her mother, Charlie experiences hope for the first time in five years. Could it be that her mother is still alive? And if so, how can Charlie find her? First she turns to her friend and confidante, Mr. Moleglass. Formerly her parents' trusty butler, Moleglass has been recently relegated to the castle cellar by the evil and tyrannical O'Dair. Moleglass advises Charlie that she can only trust one other person with the letter, and surprisingly that individual is the pesky garden boy, Tobias, who is just a year older than Charlie herself. But when Charlie gains the attention of the charming and smooth-talking prime minister, Alistair Windlass, she shows him the letter as well, with disastrous results. Soon, Charlie is involved in a plot by radicals to oust Windlass while she pretends to be his naïve student in matters of state. Her goal remains to find her mother and heal her father, even if she has to risk her life to do so.
And risk her life she does. Charlie and Tobias must sneak all around the castle and eventually the city outside. They are constantly pursued by the vindictive O'Dair and her armed lackey, Watch.Read more ›
Her Royal Highness, the Princess Charlotte Augusta Joanna Hortense of Quale, more commonly known as Charlie, has spent the last six years getting to know every nook, cranny, and shadow of her father's castle. Her father, the King himself, busies himself by building card castles, higher and higher, driven mad. Some say by grief, others say by guild - that he killed Charlie's mother, the Queen. But Charlie knows she is alive, and is determined to find the whereabouts of her mother who disappeared all those years ago without a trace.
MY THOUGHTS -
I really enjoyed this mystery. I'm not a huge mystery reader - it typically has to blow my mind and shock me numb for me to 5-star it. But this book really was wonderful, a fun read as well as an intense one. Ellen Renner's style is lovely, her writing very sophisticated but easy to read.
CHARACTER NOTES -
I really did enjoy this cast. Charlie was such a fun MC, a girl with a lot going on - plus a huge personality. Tobias was a great addition, helping Charlie but to what end? Why is he helping her? His motives remain unclear until the end and I love this about him.
Mrs. Odair, the King, Mr. Moleglass, Bettina, Peter and a few others were great supporting characters, good or bad. All had a place and really complimented every aspect of Castle of Shadows.
My favorite character, however, is Alistair Windlass, Prime Minister of Quale. I won't spill any secrets about him, but I'll just say that he was perfect. Part of his perfection goes to the fact that one moment you hate him and the next you love him and after that you're wonderful where his loyalties lie. It's brilliant, really.
I had one issue with two of the characters - Charlie and Tobias.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE COMPLETION OF THE SERIES. Castle of Shadows and City of Thieves were both moving adventure packed tales. Read morePublished on February 4, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Wow, this one had some tougher themes for the younger reading group, more for YA than middle readers which the book is aimed at with the length, cover image (which first attracted... Read morePublished on April 19, 2012 by Heidi Anne Heiner
The queen, Charlie's mom, mysteriously disappears one night abandoning her kingdom.
With the help of a gardener boy, Charlie's quest to figure out the mystery kept me... Read more
I really wanted to like this book, but I can't say better than that it's okay. The faux-mid-nineteenth century England is nice, and the little steampunk touches (the "atmospheric... Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by Big Dave
The writing is crisp and clear, the characters are believable and the plot is more gripping than most young adult authors could hope for. Read morePublished on March 15, 2012 by J. Roberts
I'm kind of ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed myself while I was reading it, trying to puzzle out the dark secrets of some of the characters and enjoying... Read morePublished on March 13, 2012 by bookworm1858
Castle of Shadows is like a fairy tale crossed with Sara Crewe and a touch of steam-punk, but what makes it really work is that it has heart. Read morePublished on March 5, 2012 by Glenda Boozer
What an exciting book. Charlie's mom is queen and under mysterious circumstances abandons her family in the middle of the night. Read morePublished on February 26, 2012 by Georgia Mom