Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Celie is the youngest child of King Gower the 79th of Sleyne, and the Castle has a little... oddity. You see, the castle is itself magic, and can grow rooms and corridors at will, but usually on a Tuesday. In addition to growing and shrinking rooms magically, the castle also picks the people who rule Sleyne, and will steer the correct candidate to the throne room while ejecting unsuitable candidates in more... quick and alarming ways. Celie has made it her life's work to map the castle and know where every passageway leads, and This Tuesday, a new room opens up- a tower room with four spyglasses pointing in each compass direction.

Celie lives in the Castle with her father, King Gower, her mother, Queen Celina, and her older sister, Lilah and her slightly older brother, Rolf. They also have another brother, Bran, but he is away studying magery with the College of Magicians, in order to become the next castle wizard, a role to which he is more suited than that of Crown Prince. But when her parents travel to the college to witness Bran's graduation, something happens on the trip home- the carriage and guards are attacked, leaving only the Sergeant, Avery, alive. He returns to tell the Kingdom the bad news, but all is not lost- none of the bodies of the King, Queen or Bran have been found, and without bodies, it is not certain that they are dead.

Rolf, as Crown Prince, becomes regent, but "ambassadors" from two neighboring countries, Prince Khelsh of the warlike country of Vervhine and Prince Lulath of Granthia come to help "advise" the children and help them watch over the Kingdom until Rolf can become King... in ten years. worse, Sleyne's Council doesn't seem to see anything wrong with this, even though Rolf himself is fourteen. With only the assiatance of Pogue, a young man who flirts with Lilah, and that of the very magical castle, can the three of them hold off a possible invasion and find their parents before their Kingdom is taken over by one of their neighbors?

At first, Rolf holds off the council and councillors with words and by being more than a little obstructionist. But when Prince Khelsh is declared his successor by the Council, and Celie overhears that the Council plans to have Rolf killed after Prince Khelsh is added into the succession, the three Royal children know that they will have to step up their campaign to keep Sleyne and its people- and Castle Glower, free from the machinations of the council and Prince Khelsh. But what about Prince Lulath? Is he just another tyrant in waiting, or might he actually be on their side?

The three children help the castle out with showing signs of its displeasure with the Council members via judious applications of manure, and weakening garment hems and ties so that their robes fall to pieces when worn. The chambermaids hide the chamberpots overnight, and the castle itself vanishes the replacements brought in. All these acts anger Prince Khelsh, but while he threatens to take out his displeasure on Princesses Lilah and Celie, they step up their abuse of him and his men- as does the Castle.

Pogue, seeking proof of King Gower's survival, travels to the College of Wizards to see if they can be tracked magically, while at home, everything starts to go south rapidly. But when Khelsh takes out the Castle with a spell, the Castle suddenly seems to die, and Celie and Lilah know they must get their people out. But will this blow hand Khelsh the prize he has been looking for all along- the throne of Sleyne, or can Celie, Lilah and Rolf keep the Castle safe for long enough to let their father, mother and brother return, or is their quest futile and doomed to failure?

This book was a good, lighthearted dose of fun to read. Celie's interaction with the castle, and the way the castle's history and actions are presented makes it a character in its own right, one that is just as real and immediate as any of the human characters. It's established right off that the castle is its own person, and takes a large part in selecting the next King of Sleyne, but for some reason, Celie, through her investigation of the castle, seems to win the Castle's heart, and it responds to her more quickly and helps her.

And the actions of the council and the other Princes were well-done, adding a touch of menace and uncertainty to the story. Khelsh is set up early on as the main villain of the piece, but other villains are introduced with certain other members of the council- while others end up being on the side of the Royal Family. The book is good at making things go from bad to worse, and while you are on the side of Princess Celie and the rest of her family right away, the book makes you feel their fear and helplessness as the story ramps up.

I liked this book at the way the story kept me in it, right from the beginning all the way to the end. Celie is the most proactive of her brothers and sisters, thinking of plenty of things to do to discomfit the council and how to get the castle to help. She may be the youngest, but she is by no means powerless, and that was very enjoyable to read. Highly recommended.

No comments: