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+