August 14, 2014

The Castle Behind the Thorns by Merrie Haskell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:33 am by suebe2

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.





August 8, 2013

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 5:31 pm by suebe2

Handbook for Dragon Slayers
by Merrie Haskell

More than anything, Princess Tilda, short for Matilda, longs to write a book.  She gets to do some copy work and other clerical tasks for Alder Brook, their holding, but parchment is dear.  She’ll never find enough for her dream to come true, even if she can find the time, but with her mother traveling someone has to see to the business of Alder Brook even if that someone is a Princess with a lame foot, a Princess that her people do not love.

Most days Tilda would be content if they just liked her.  But when she hobbles by on her crutch she sees people making signs to ward off evil. How can she ever lead them?

Her only friends are Judith, her maid servant, and Parz, a handsome young squire who is learning to be a dragon slayer.  He loves her for her library.  When they catch some time together, she tells him all she has read about dragons for Parz is training to become a dragon slayer.

When Tilda receives word that her mother has been injured and will not be returning home any time soon, she is worried but suspects nothing until she too is kidnapped by her cousin.  He is determined to rob the two women of their home and only has to keep them away for several weeks to be successful.  He’s not counting on the resourceful princess and her two friends.

I can’t say much more about the plot without giving the entire thing away.  Fantasy readers will love the details about the dragons and the spirits of the Wild Hunt as well as the ability of certain people to take on other shapes, even the shapes of dragons.

Before the story is over, a maidservant has managed to teach a princess and a squire about loyalty and determination, a squire has taught a princess what it takes to connect with her people, and a princess teaches her two friends, would-be-dragon-slayers that not all dragons are a problem to be solved with sword and shield, which is also the topic of her very own book.

In my opinion this is Haskell’s best book yet.



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