Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Philomel Books
Edition Language English
Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorne trees don’t get you first.
Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.
But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorne trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.
In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?
Philomel Books provided me with a copy of this book for an honest review. So here it is. The book itself is gorgeous with a lovely jacket showing the three main characters, Max, Tess and William.
In the beginning, I thought Tess and Max were a lot younger than what they were portrayed later on in the book. Does this mean that the author successfully produced a well developed character arc for each? Yes. Each character and their relationship was wonderfully portrayed and read well, flowed nicely and naturally and you could easily visualize what they were doing or how they were reacting to each other. It was fun!
These two kids were realistic in their portrayal of the family dynamics in their life, the worry they felt for their mother and father and the fear of what would happen to their parents was well-written. I wish there was more written about their relationship with their aunt since she had an important place in the story.
I found the elements of ‘mystery’ a bit lacking in that the build up was their, but the resolution for some fell flat for me. The author did a good job creating a sense of wanting to know more throughout the events that occurred at the Castle, but never clearly explained anything, just added more mystery on top of what she’d written before. If and when she did offer an explanation for what was occurring to the children, it was written too much as an adult explanation for an adult. I like the explanations offered, I just think it would have been more successful, if worded for children of Tess and Max’s age groups.
There were a lot of unfinished business that suggested a possible sequel may be coming in the future, but the biggest one that bothered me the most was how things seemed held in time behind the castle, but life carried on as every day life from the front of the castle. It was never explained why going through the gate was such a big deal when you could simply go through the front. The other thing that bothered me were these hedges and what lay beyond that. That section in the book left me confused and wanting more information as to why certain things happened there, and what the significance of these things meant to the story. Were they thrown in simply for the sake of adding mystery?
The ending I found was abrupt and left too many things unfinished and hanging. If there isn’t a sequel, then this book has other issues. Even so, I think ten more pages could have wrapped things up better and with less ‘jerkiness’ and abruptness affecting the story so negatively.
Overall, the premise is fantastic and similar in style to many classics written for children over the years. The character development is bang on and well done. The plot is great up to about three quarters of the book where it then fell short for me. Pacing was exciting until the climax and then it zigged and zagged everywhere, losing me. Setting was very well written and I could easily visualize what the author was describing. I especially loved the sections when reality dissolved into magical. William’s character was also well written and mysterious; but, his development remained unfinished. I get who he was and his friendship was clearly defined, yet, there just seemed to be things hanging unresolved, especially his relationship with his father. I felt it could have been elaborated on a bit more.
Finally, I felt an adult element seeped into the story near the end that could have been okay if written more from the perspective of a child and not from that of an adult. It was an important element that needed to be included, it just should have been worded differently. I believe if this had been done, the ending would have worked better.
Overall, the book is worth a read and I would recommend it despite some of the issues it holds for me. I therefore, give this book:
It would have been a five star book, with the ending worded differently.