Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner
Five years ago, the Queen of Quale disappeared without a word. Princess Charlie is now eleven, but treated poorly by the castle staff in the wake of the King’s failing mental health. And the country seems to be on the brink of war and revolution. But when Charlie discovers a letter written by her mother hidden in a book, she finally has a clue to her disappearance. Though, Charlie is unsure who to trust in the castle full secretive and deceptive individuals, save Tobias, the stepson of a thief.
Charlie is a rambunctious, tomboy with little training as a princess. She and Tobias fight like sister and brother, yet the two have a great chemistry and hidden respect for each other. The advanced reader copy I received was for the US version, but contained the British spelling of many words, which if not changed, may be distracting to some. Older children here in the US may also find it hard to side with the monarchy side of politics, while the princess is fearful of the “Republicans.” But Charlie is easy to love. Renner’s characters are fantastically eccentric and engaging. And the adventure and suspense make for a fun and exciting read for all ages. There are still questions left unanswered at the end that will leave readers eager for a sequel.
Castle of Shadows releases from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on March 20, 2012.