Reviews (and babblings) by Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host
Confession: I love secret passages. Not that I have any experience with them; I just love them on principle. In fact, if I ever have the opportunity to design my own home, you can bet that I’ll include at least one hidden doorway and a secret passageway or two.
It’s this very obsession with concealed spaces that leads me to absolutely adore Jessica Day George’s best-selling “Castle Glower” series, the third book of which comes out tomorrow, October 7th! And to help you all to prepare for this awesome event, I would like to share my reviews of the first two books in the series (an introduction to the third book, THURSDAYS WITH THE CROWN, will follow the reviews):
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one—other than Celie, that is—takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan—and bookseller—favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic. (Goodreads)
This is such a marvelous book, by such a marvelous author. Jessica’s books are always utterly gobble-worthy...but there’s just something particularly wonderful about this first title in the Castle Glower series. Maybe it’s the setting...
The Land of Sleyne sounds picturesque, with its mountains and bowl-shaped valleys, but it’s the castle that serves as the home for Sleyne’s king (Glower the Seventy-Ninth) and his family that thrills me. After all, what child (or young-hearted adult, for that matter) doesn’t long for secret passages and magic? The layout of Castle Glower is in a constant state of flux, so it’s like one gargantuan maze of secret passages, built through magic. Now that is my idea of a fantastic setting—a castle that can alter its form at will. And yes, I said at will, because Castle Glower has a will. The castle is a key character in TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, and come to think of it, maybe it’s the array of characters that has me gushing over this book.
The castle is like a human in so many ways, even suffering from boredom! When the doldrums strike, Castle Glower “stretches,” resulting in an added turret here, a room there, and sometimes even a whole new wing. This seems rather whimsical of the castle, but don’t be fooled. Castle Glower is not a character to be trifled with. Those who visit the castle had better mind their Ps and Qs, or they could end up like the Ambassador of Bendeswe, who found himself walled into his bedroom once the castle found out he was a spy.
Another character to love is Princess Celie, who is spunky, courageous, and smart. She also possesses an atlas of the changing castle, and it is for this reason, perhaps, that the castle pays special attention to Celie’s needs, even growing escape routes when she needs them...and boy, does she need them! This is a girl who attracts adventure, for sure.
There are also lots of other wonderful characters in TUESDAYS, such as the handsome Pogue Parry, the odd-but-loveable Prince Lulath of Grath (and his doggies), the spine-tinglingly evil Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine, and, of course, Celie’s family. I love the relationships between Celie and her siblings, in particular. Her older brother, Rolf, is the second son of the king and queen, but the castle “chose” him to be King Glower’s heir by moving his suite of rooms next to the Throne Room. Celie’s older sister, Lilah, is capable and a bit bossy, but she proves her worth many times over in TUESDAYS. Celie’s oldest brother, Bran, was sent to a college for wizards after the castle kept furnishing his rooms with books and astrolabes. It is, in fact, on the journey to witness Bran’s graduation that Celie’s parents (who sound like the best king and queen ever) are ambushed and...well, you’ll just have to read the book if you want to know what happens to them and to Celie and her siblings as a result.
I do love the setting and the characters in TUESDAYS, but there is so much more to love, too! Jessica’s writing is rich and vivid. The story moves quickly; there is never a dull moment. Every element of the book works with every other element, creating a tight adventure story that any reader will enjoy.
Strange things are afoot in Castle Glower: new rooms, corridors, and even stables keep arriving, even when they aren't needed. Celie's brother Bran, the new Royal Wizard, has his hands full cataloguing an entire storeroom full of exotic and highly dangerous weapons, while Celie has her hands full . . . raising the creature that hatches from a giant egg she finds! Will they be able to find out what's making the Castle behave this way in time? (Goodreads)
Princess Celie is no stranger to trouble. In the first book in the Castle Glower series, entitled TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, she unearthed a plot to destroy her family and take over the kingdom, and this second book of the Castle Glower series begins with Celie taking on the raising of a griffin she names Rufus! But WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER isn’t just the story of a princess with an odd pet; it’s a mystery!
The tower where Rufus hatches is revealed to Celie not on a Tuesday, as is the norm, but on a Wednesday. So right away, Celie knows something is amiss with Castle Glower. Combine Rufus’s appearance with that of a strange room full of mysterious—and possibly cursed—weaponry, the Holiday Dining Hall (which isn’t due to arrive), and stables that are the wrong size to be of any use, and you have not just a mystery, but a mystery that gets to the heart of where Castle Glower comes from and how it ended up in the kingdom of Sleyne.
This second book in the Castle Glower series brings back many of my favorite characters, including three that get a little more page-time, this time around: Bran (the Royal Wizard and Celie’s oldest brother), Pogue Parry (the local blacksmith and village heartthrob), and Prince Lulath of Grath (and his little doggies). Bran really comes into his own as a wizard, in this book; the reader learns that, just as we suspected from TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, Pogue Parry is much more than a handsome face; and Prince Lulath isn’t always the epitome of the term, “foppish fellow.”
Of course, I can’t name favorite characters without mentioning Celie. She wins me over more with each of the Castle Glower books. In WEDNESDAYS, she is resourceful, brave, and sympathetic to those who find themselves in a situation where it feels as if they have no choice but to do what everyone else tells them to do. In short, Celie is my kind of heroine: the kind that makes hard choices. And I can’t wait to see what happens to her now that she—wait a minute! I can’t give away the ending of this book! Just know unlike TUESDAYS, which resolves at the end (for the most part—there are those tantalizing threads that Jessica Day George so lovingly tugs through this series from book to book), WEDNESDAYS ends with a cliffhanger! So if you haven’t read it yet, save yourself some time and buy THURSDAYS, at the same time that you buy WEDNESDAYS, because you’re going to want it, immediately! And if you have already read WEDNESDAYS, then you’re just like me: eagerly anticipating the release of THURSDAYS on October 7th!
Castle Glower has been acting weird, so it’s no surprise when two towers transport Celie and her siblings to an unknown land. When they realize that no one from home is coming to get them, the kids – along with Celie’s pet griffin Rufus – set out through the forest to figure out where they are and what’s happened to their beloved Castle. Instead, they discover two wizards and an entire lost people, the oldest inhabitants of Castle Glower. And it seems they may know more of the Castle’s secrets than Celie. But do they know how to get her back home? (Goodreads)
“Content Table” for both TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE and WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER:
Market: MG fantasy
Violence: in both books: a few minor injuries; in TUESDAYS: Celie’s life is in danger, and her parents and brother are attacked and their fate is unknown (also, some of the guards who were with her parents are brother are killed)
Sensuality: mild flirting
Adult themes: duplicity, politics