Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell

Stories don’t know everything.

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. The stories all said the place was ruined by an earthquake, and Sand did not expect to find everything inside torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. Why wasn’t this in the stories?

To survive, Sand does what he knows best—he fires up the castle’s forge to mend what he needs. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending? Or have the saints who once guarded this place returned?

When Sand finds the castle’s lost heir, Perrotte, they begin to untwine the dark secrets that caused the destruction. Putting together the pieces—of stone and iron, and of a broken life—is harder than Sand ever imagined, but it’s the only way to regain their freedom.
(Synopsis from Goodreads).
My Thoughts:
I read Merrie Haskell's The Handbook for Dragon Slayers several years ago when it first came out and loved it. In fact, it became one of my favorite books that I read that year. It made me even more excited to read her newer book, The Castle Behind Thorns. I got a copy before it was released, but just now found the time to read it. I wish I hadn't waited so long. Once again, the author did not disappoint me. I greatly enjoyed the book.

I will admit, I found the beginning of the book very slow-paced. I think it's because the reader learns alongside with the main character what is happening. It can make things confusing at first. It was also hard to figure out how much time was passing in the castle during the book. However, once I got a couple chapters into the book I found myself loving it. I couldn't put it down. I love the way Marie Haskell weaves a storyline. It was like pure magic. It brought back a sense of nostalgia from reading some of my favorite medieval fantasy books when I was a kid. She brought back a sense of wonder that I haven't had while reading a middle grade book in quite a few years.

I also loved the characters in The Castle Behind Thorns. I love how smart and creative Sand was. He didn't just lay in the fireplace and give up, which I'm pretty sure is what I would have done in his situation. It shows younger readers that if you just use your imagination, you can persevere through anything. At first, I wasn't sure about Perrotte. However, by the end of the book, I loved her as well. Even after everything she went through, she was able to adapt to change and learn new things. I love when middle grade books have strong characters, and both of these characters are some of the strongest I've read in middle grade fiction.

Even though the book had a rocky start, I ended up loving it. From the incredible magic system to the strong characters, the book pulled me in and didn't let me go. I think I might have even liked it more than The Handbook for Dragon Slayers. I can't wait to see what Merrie Haskell comes out with next. Whatever she writes, it will definitely be at the top of my reading list. I recommend this book to children, teens, and adults alike. I think anyone that loves a great medieval fantasy book will love this.

I give The Castle Behind Thorns: 4/5.

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I received this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review. 

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