Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine. May, 2011

At the age of twelve, sorry, fourteen, Elodie bids her parents farewell and crosses the sea for the City of Two Castles. Her parents think she will become a weaver’s apprentice, but Elodie has bigger plans in mind. She is determined to become a masioner’s apprentice to learn how to captivate audiences from the stage. Elodie’s journey immediately sours as she learns that free apprenticeships have been abolished, and her only bit of money is stolen by a thieving cat. Elodie, determined to be a masioner, offers her free services for 15 years if a masioner will take her on as an apprentice. Rejected, starving, and alone, Elodie goes against her father’s warning of befriending dragons and ogres and agrees to work for Mistress Meenore, the city’s resident dragon. Elodie agrees to be Meenore’s assistant and goes undercover to solve the mystery of the ogre Count Jonty Um’s missing dog. But when she uncovers a more sinister plot against the ogre himself, it will take all of Elodie masioner talent to save the day.

I absolutely loved Ella Enchanted when it came out, and this latest novel by Levine has the same feel and personality. Elodie is a fantastic female lead. She’s resourceful, smart, feisty, and determined to succeed.  My favorite part of the book was Elodie’s audition to be a masioner’s apprentice. She plays Thisbe, grieving over the body of her love Pyramus. By this time, Elodie is practically starving so she pretends the apples on the table are her lost love. “ ‘O Pyramus…’ O Apple. ‘…do you yet breathe?’ Do you yet have pulp and juice?” It cracked me up. I also enjoyed reading Mistress Meenore’s Holmesian deductions about the mysteries around her. Girls will naturally be drawn to this book, but I also think boys would like it since it isn’t very heavy on romance and focuses more on the mysteries that surround Elodie and her friends. I for one hope for many more adventures with Elodie, Count Jonty Um and Mistress Meenore.

And if you’re looking for another great story featuring a feisty heroine and a dragon, try The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. 

Lindsey L.