August 14, 2014
The Castle Behind the Thorns by Merrie Haskell
The Castle Behind the Thorns
by Merrie Haskell
Katherine Tegan Books
Middle Grade Novel
Sand doesn’t immediately know where he is when he wakes up in an ashy fireplace. Eventually, he ventures out amid a jumble of broken tables and shattered benches into a room torn apart.
He is in the Sundered Castle.
The castle, battered, broken and desserted, stands above the valley where Sand lives with his blacksmith father, his step-mother and his two younger sisters. As a child, he asked questions about it — what happened? why does no one live there? But the answers (earthquake, fled) where given only grugdingly. For some reason, most people in the valley neither saw it nor thought about it. Even Sand eventually quit asking, but now he needs to find a way out and that presents a problem. The castle is surrounded by a murderous raspberry bramble.
Murderous. These thorns don’t just wait until you snag yourself. If you get too close, they come and get you.
As if all of that isn’t enough, the girl in the crypt comes back to life.
This is clearly a work of fantasy, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but it is fantasy steeped in history.
As always, Haskell’s story drew me in and refused to let me get anything else done until the last page was turned. Yes, I read most of this in 1 day although I had other things to do.
As is so often the case, the best lessons are taught through story and not through a lecture. This is a strong story about the destructive power of hate and anger and greed. It shows clearly that it may take more than one person to create the problem but not everyone has to cooperate for healing to begin. And healing, even imperfect partial healing, is a powerful thing.
Don’t let the above paragraph make you think this is a dark story. It is also a story of family, intention, understanding and strong friendship.
This is probably my favorite of Haskell’s books (The Castle Behind the Thorns, The Princess Curse, and The Handbook for Dragon Slayers). Pick it up for your young fantasy lover, but don’t be suprised if you find yourself pulled in my this tale of brambles and sleep and vengence.