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Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner
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Castle of Shadows (edition 2010)

by Ellen Renner

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484242,697 (3.57)None
Member:MrsBakitch
Title:Castle of Shadows
Authors:Ellen Renner
Info:Orchard (2010), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Children's and YA Fiction
Rating:**1/2
Tags:Adventure stories

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Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner

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Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner follows Princess Charlotte, aka, Charlie, as she does whatever she can to track down her missing mother. A letter recently found is her only solid clue.

That missing letter is the crux of the book. Things do really take off when Charlie finds it but it doesn't come until about a third of the way through the book! The first third is wasted on Charlie's neglect: being poorly feed and poorly dressed. The reasons behind her treatment, though, is never adequately explained except to show that the bad guys are bad!

So while the book does eventually pick up speed, by the time it does, I was already bored with Charlie and her world. While her kingdom is clearly inspired by Victorian England, it has it's own history and customs that are for the most part ignored in lieu of highlighting Charlie's own humdrum life as a semi-prisoner within the castle.

There's a sequel, City of Thieves. ( )
  pussreboots | May 12, 2013 |
I was quite disappointed with this story. The blurb sounded really good but the novel failed to live up to expectations. There is a whole series but will definitely not be reading any more. ( )
  MrsBakitch | Nov 11, 2012 |
Charlie is a princess living in poverty. The poverty of her mother, the Queen, running away when Charlotte was only six. The poverty of a cruel housemistress who feeds her cabbage water and stale bread. The poverty of a grief-stricken, deranged father, the King, who spends his time making castles of playing cards. But Charlie has most of her time to herself and spends much of it in a love-hate relationship with Tobias, the gardener’s helper. Tobias, the ever-smiling in spite of all her jabs, who fiercely protects his dark secret.
When Charlie discovers an incomplete letter from her mother that reveals the first clue to her disappearance, the wild girl is determined to solve the mystery of her beloved mother. The tension escalates as Charlie meets the Prime Minister who’s been ruling in her father’s stead. At first, Alistair Windlass’s charismatic smile lures Charlie to his side, but she soon notices that his eyes hold an opposite, cold message. Charlie learns of the resistance against Windlass and must assume a role of no little danger, staying on Windlass’ good side to gain intelligence for the Republicans.
Twists and turns abound as Charlie uncovers the truth behind her kingdom’s politics, and unexpected revelations unfold for both friends and enemies. But Charlie – Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte Augusta joanna Hortense - is equal to the task with her bold and brave character. Follow Charlie into her world and you will be swept up in the intrigues and secrets of Quale, the castle of shadows.
Renner is a master of descriptive prose that doesn’t impede the action and witty dialogue. Her characters are well-developed individuals with flaws as well as strengths. You will love to hate some of them and hate to leave others. My favorite supporting character is Mr. Molehill, the butler who lives in the cellars, kind-hearted, but timid like me. A meaty first novel that will have readers begging for more. ( )
  bookwren | Nov 8, 2012 |
Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner
Pages: 400
Release Date: March 20th, 2012
Date Read: 2012, April 1st-7th
Received: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended to: 10+

SUMMARY -
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. They didn't act their ages, 11 and 12, respectively. Charlie sometimes acted childish, but her level of thought-process, logic, and overall wisdom was that of a 13 or 14 year old. And Tobias mostly acted 14 or 15. So, I, erm, pretended they were the ages I pictured them as.

STORY NOTES -
Like I said, mysteries don't always cut it for me, but Castle of Shadows certainly did! For me, Renner's writing and the way she crafted her story created a wonderfully illustrated picture of life inside Charlie's castle, as well as Charlie's lifestyle and the lives of those around her. The difference between the lives of, say...Tobias and Windlass were striking.

I really liked the mystery of the missing Queen, but honestly, that wasn't my main draw. It was definitely Windlass, and everything to do with him. I was so surprised by all the things he did. He confounded me, like, every 5 pages or so.

The twist about Tobias in the end was really brilliant as well. I had an idea something like the real deal but wasn't sure...

SUMMING IT UP -
Dark intrigue. That's another thing...the story line was a bit darker/sadder than I would prefer for this age group, but can definitely be an exception. I really enjoyed Castle of Shadows! A great book to curl under the covers with. Especially the last 125 pages - I didn't put it down once!

For the Parents -
Some death toward the end. Darker themes (madness/murder) but not too strong. One or two uses of b****rd. Recommended 10+ ( )
  yearningtoread | May 1, 2012 |
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Epigraph
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For Kit and Zubin
First words
Prologue: In the midnight darkness of Quale Castle, a woman emerged from the Queen's chamber.
Five years later ... "Hold it there, you scrounging, nibbling limb of Satan!"
Quotations
She climbed down. A white moth fluttered against her face and melted. Then another. Snow whirled out of the darkness. (p. 348)
[While in a dark closet, Charlotte drops the buttonhook she'd been using to pick the lock. She ... ] lowered her shaking hand and felt the floor with fingers soft as spiders' feet. (p. 352)
Soft, wispy clouds drifted across it [a window], like legless sheep. (p. 382)
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Book description
Ever since the Queen mysteriously disappeared and the King went mad five years ago,
eleven-year-old Princess Charlie has lived a wild and mostly unsupervised life in the
country of Quale—until now. With the discovery of an unfinished letter in the Queen’s
handwriting, Charlie embarks on a quest to find her mother and save the kingdom
from a revolution. With Tobias, the gardener’s boy, by her side, every step closer to the
Queen pulls Charlie deeper into an entangling web of lies and secrets—as twisted as
the dark castle—where nothing is as it seems.
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The day Charlie discovers a scrap of paper that could solve the dark mystery of her mother's disappearance, her world changes. Forever, Charlie and her friend, Toby, must race against time on a cangerous mission to uncover the sinister truth.

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