YA Friday: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

Friday, May 06, 2011

Title: A Tale of Two Castles
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2011
Source: NetGalley

Elodie is excited to leave her home for Two Castles to find an apprenticeship. She has always dreamed of being a mansioner (basically an actress/troubadour) and can't wait to become an apprentice and learn her trade. However, when she arrives in Two Castles, things are a bit different than she expected. She becomes the unlikely assistant to a dragon and must solve a mystery to save one (or both) rulers of the two castles.

First, let me say that I adore Gail Carson Levine. I haven't read everything she's written (I've mostly read things she published before 2001 or so) but when I was younger her books absolutely enchanted me. (That was not an intentional pun). Enchanted was hilarious and captivating, The Two Princesses of Bamarre was my favorite book for years, and even Levine's non-magical book, Dave at Night, was an excellent read. She is the first author that I ever heard speak, and one of the reasons I wanted to start writing again - after her presentation, I felt the urge that I had ignored since high school. So you could say I have pretty high expectations.

While A Tale of Two Castles was definitely a fun read, it didn't quite meet my expectations for a Gail Carson Levine book. It seemed a bit more scattered to me. In the books I have read by Levine, the characters always have a very definite purpose. Ella is trying to overcome her curse. Addie is trying to save her sister's life. Elodie is trying to become a mansioner... and not displease Masteress Meenore... and save Jonty Um... and figure out who is a whited sepulcher... etc. She has a lot more going on. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it led to the story to feel all-over-the-place. Elodie is trying to deal with so many different issues and she is distrustful of everyone. The plot wasn't necessarily poorly constructed, but it wasn't as well constructed as Levine's other works.

This book may not have meshed as well for me also because it is a (very slight) retelling of Puss in Boots, a fairy tale I am not at all familiar with. All I know is that it involves a cat. I didn't realize this was the case until I saw it on Levine's website. She even says that she doesn't expect everyone to get the connection, but once I did, the story made a bit more sense to me.

Still, despite my slight disappointment with the book, it was exciting. I was late off my break twice because I wanted to find out what happened next. I felt sympathy for Elodie - I wanted things to work out for her. I was curious about the solution to the mystery - because everyone looks suspicious, it really is difficult to know who was guilty (I don't want to give too much detail on the crime because it happens towards the middle of the book). This is a decent read. It is entertaining. However, I've seen Levine do much better.

3 stars

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