By Gail Carson Levine
Published by Harper
Copyright © 2011
Move over Sherlock Holmes and Professor Watson; here comes Meenore and Elodie. “A Tale of Two Castles” beautifully marries two genres, fantasy and mystery, into a riveting tale of prejudice, theft, deception, and attempted murder.
Elodie is leaving her island home of Lahnt in Lepai for it’s mainland capital city of Two Castles. She is twelve years old and her parents are sending her away to find an apprenticeship with a weaver. However, Elodie has other plans; she wants to join a theatrical troupe and become an actress.
During her sea voyage she learns that it is no longer free to become an apprentice. It will cost her much more than what she has. Her task seems bound to fail, and yet she does not have the money to turn around and go home. Fortunately for her she is taken in by the dragon Meenore to be his assistant. Meenore is a jack-of-all-trades. He will lend you his fire, his wings, or his powers of induction and deduction as long as you are willing to pay his price.
Elodie will now assist him in his business, and one of her first tasks is to proclaim Meenore’s inimitable ability to find what is lost and to reveal that which is not known. This job will eventually lead to a mission into the Ogre’s castle where Elodie must uncover a plot to murder his lordship. Elodie will find that evil does not always wear fangs, claws, or blood red eyes. Yes, just as her mother told her she must “beware the white sepulcher.”
“A Tale of Two Castles” is unlike any fantasy that I’ve read. It is not overloaded with magic and action. There are no magic spells and there are no fights to the death. There is simply a dragon, an ogre, a king, a princess, a smart and determined young girl, and a cast of townsfolk and servants. However, no one is what they seem and little happens with striking observableness. Meenore and Elodie must use their intellect to make logical deductions, inductions, and inferences to get to the bottom of this case.
Levine writes a tale that shows that you cannot judge goodness or evil by mere appearance and outward kindness. In addition, you never know where, or in what form, you are going to find a friend. And lastly, if you are an ogre never get trapped in a room full of cats.
This book is a wonderful gateway for children 8 and up not only into the world of fantasy, but also into the world of logic and intellect. Youths need to read about characters who are mentally superior, not just physically superior, and Meenore and Elodie fit that bill well.