With the start of November this week and the clocks having gone back last weekend, the noticeably darker and colder days have settled in, which means it is now totally okay to dive into my first festively themed reads, right? There May Be a Castle isn't an obvious seasonal read, but it does take place on Christmas Eve and so I found it to be the perfect novel to kick-off the festive period with. And not only does it feel suitably wintery, it's also an incredibly imaginative and beautiful novel of two young children's courageous journeys throughout one day – a must-read for young and old alike.
It's Christmas Eve when Violet, Mouse and their little sister Esme bundle up in the car with mum to make the trip across the valley for the annual festive celebrations with their grandparents. Because of a snow storm the road is treacherous and while the children are bickering, mum loses control of the car which spins out of control. Mouse had just undone his seat belt to grab something out of reach and he is flung out of the car. Everyone else ends up upside down, unable to get out.
For both Mouse and Violet the horrible accident is only the start of far bigger adventures; filled with knights and monsters, pirates and dinosaurs. And, most of all, two very brave children looking out for their family no matter what terrifying adversaries they face along the way.
There May Be a Castle is story about family, bravery and loss wrapped into a fast-paced and highly imaginative adventure tale. The way author Piers Torday blends reality with fiction is initially not very obvious, but the further we journey alongside Mouse and Violet the more evident this becomes, and it's a very effective way to show the unique coping skills of the children among immense hardships. Their adventures were incredibly exciting and as a reader I felt so engrossed within those elements of the book, I didn't actually connect the dots to the overarching story until much further down the line.
And the children at the heart of the novel were absolutely incredible too, I instantly loved them; little, dreamy Mouse who showed he wasn't quite so little anymore, and Violet drawing upon her knowledge of a strong female historic character to help her. Though I did find it a shame that it is only Mouse who is depicted on the final cover, and is the sole focus in the blurb on the back, when the story is pretty much split in two between them both.
The children have their own adventures in which they show tremendous bravery and endurance. There can never be enough courageous girls front and centre in children's fiction, so the fact that a great one lives within the pages of There May Be a Castle should not be ignored. This is undoubtedly a publishing decision and doesn't take away from the story, or the author's vision, but it is something I noticed.
There May Be a Castle is a fiercely imaginative adventure that seamlessly threads reality with fiction into an ultimately very moving tale of courage and perseverance. Its dark conclusion felt somewhat story and age inappropriate and I would've loved this novel even more without that final chapter, but even so I found this to be a beautiful and constantly exciting read and one I'd definitely recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
There Will Be a Castle is published by Quercus Children's and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.
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