I received this book for free from Philomel Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron
Published by Philomel Books on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Magic, Middle-Grade
Source: Philomel Books
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Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorn trees don’t get you first.
Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.
But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.
In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?
The Castle in the Mist is destined to become a classic. No question about it. It draws a lot of classic children’s literature tropes but somehow managed to create an entirely different narrative about families and the magic of nature. My literary analysis senses are tingling and I must stop myself from word-vomiting a bunch of off-topic stuff but seriously, THIS IS A BOOK I COULD write a 10 page paper about and have a lot of fun doing.
My biggest problem with the book doesn’t lie in the actual writing but in the fact that so many books like The Castle in the Mist exist yet all of them seem to feature only white children? Do not white children not deserve to be featured in gothic-y stories that are magical, mystical and all around fabulous? Are only the stories that feature not-white children destined to become classics (totally using my own words against myself but I am a contradictory person.) While reading this wonderfully written book, my brain kept coming back to the fact that while this book was wonderful and transformative, the book was really white?
I don’t know. I generally have a lot of feels about diversity and books and while there are so many wonderful middle grade novels that are already out and are coming out that are #ownvoices, I also just want to see more widespread diversity in middle grade books.
Having said all of that, The Castle in the Mist is still and incredibly well written book and so atmospheric. I love the gothicy-ness and the ways in which it plays with time. I love the relationships between the characters and I love that even though it is drawing on all these classic works, The Castle in the Mist stays true to (some of) its intended audience. It is a book well-worth reading but I wish that it was more inclusive.