Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle

Jessica Day George
Fiction
For ages 9 to 12
Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2011   ISBN: 978-1599906447

On most Tuesdays the Castle creates a new room, which makes life very interesting – or confusing – for the people who live in the Castle. Princess Celie, who has a close connection with the Castle, delights in this behavior and for a while now she has been trying to create a map of her home. The process is, without a doubt, complicated by the fact that rooms that are not being used disappear, and new rooms are being added. The Castle seems to know what its occupants need, often before they know themselves what they need, which can be rather unsettling.

One morning Celie is feeling very piqued because her parents are refusing to take her on a trip with them. They are going to a distant city to attend their eldest son’s graduation from the College of Wizardry. Celie marches off in a huff and find a set of stairs that lead to a tower that she has never seen before. The tower has windows that look in all four directions, and spyglasses are mounted in each one. On a table in the middle of the room she finds some rope, a book, a compass, and a tin of rather hard ginger biscuits. Celie has no idea why these objects are in the tower, but experience has taught her that the Castle usually does things for a reason. She never imagines just how important the tower is going to be in the coming days.

Almost two weeks after her parents leave for Sleyne City the royal carriage returns, but it does so without the luggage cart, or the guards. Inside the carriage they find a battered sergeant who tells the royal children that their parents are dead. Bandits attacked the travelers and the sergeant was knocked out during the melee. When he came to he was surrounded by dead soldiers and scattered horses, and the king and queen had vanished.

The heir to the throne of the kingdom of Slyne, Celie’s brother Rolf, is not convinced that his parents are dead and he asks the sergeant to go back to the site of the attack and search some more. Celie, Rolf and their sister Lilah barely have time to mourn their loss before the Council gathers. The children then find out that the kingdom of Vhervhine is sending an Emissary to Castle Gower, and that Emissary is none other than Prince Khelsh, who is a very disagreeable person. Another prince, Princh Lulath, will come coming to represent the kingdom of Garth at the funeral for the king and queen. Apparently both princes are bringing very large entourages with them, and Lilah quickly guesses that they are trying to take over the Castle. With the king missing, and the kingdom therefore lacking a ruler, Sleyne is very vulnerable and in danger of being “taken over” by one of her neighbors.

The guests arrive and the Castle, to everyone’s surprise, creates rooms to accommodate them all. After the memorial service, Celie is working on her map of the Castle when she overhears a conversation which is being conducted in Vhervhish. Using the Vhervhish phrase book that she found the tower she is able to figure out that Prince Khlesh was talking to his ambassador about the castle, the heir, and “an assassination.” Celie becomes very afraid that the prince is thinking of doing away with Rolf.

Soon after this alarming event the Royal Council of Sleyne, led by Lord Feen, announces that they cannot permit Rolf to become the king without the councilors serving as his regents. Rolf correctly interprets this to mean that the councilors plan on controlling everything he does. Worse still, Celie then overhears another conversation and finds out that the councilors plan on making Prince Khelsh a member of the council and naming him Rolf’s heir. Celie has no idea how she and his siblings are going to prevent the diabolical plan from going ahead as planned. Surely there is something they can do. Surely the Castle will help them protect the kingdom from Khlesh and his supporters.

Often, in tales of magic, we encounter people or objects that have magical abilities. This story is unique because a whole castle is magic. In addition, it seems to be alive to some degree. The castle connects with the people it likes, and makes choices for them that it thinks will help them. Readers will quickly get caught up in the adventure and will find themselves hoping that the Castle Gower will be able to rescue Celie’s family before it is too late.

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