A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine (First Review)

Note: See Briana’s review of the book below!

Summary: Twelve-year-old Elodie leaves her home to apprentice herself to a mansioner, or actor, in the city of Two Castles, but instead finds herself the assistant to a detective dragon named Meenore.  When an ogre commissions them to find his lost dog, Meenore suspects the case involves more than a missing pet and that someone intends to harm their new client.  Elodie must enter the ogre’s castle to keep him safe, but she does not know whom she can trust.  Inspired by “Puss in Boots.”

Review: Levine proves herself once again a master storyteller.  A Tale of Two Cities takes the reader to an enchanting world where ogres and dragons exist side-by-side with humans and adventure waits around every corner, just waiting for someone to take the opportunity to grab it.  Readers will feel as if they hear, taste, see, and smell everything around them as they explore with Elodie and take in this new place, so fully realized by Levine.  If the plot itself did not exist, the audience would probably still feel compelled to continue reading, to live in this magical world just for awhile.

The plot, however, does indeed exist, gripping the readers and daring them to try to take a break, to walk away from the book just for awhile.  Seeing Levine play with a different genre—mystery—quite simply proves surprisingly fun.  She combines it effortlessly with her typical fantasy and creates in the process a completely engrossing story.  At times one might fear the ever-present moral in its slightly stilted form–“bewaring the whited sepulcher” (that is, being careful whom one trusts)—will dampen the mood, but the plot is strong enough to survive a little moralizing.

One flaw that did threaten my full acceptance of and immersion in the story, however, was the matter of Elodie’s age.  Elodie is twelve, but acts rather older than her years.  This particularly bothered me when she developed tender feelings toward other characters significantly older than she.  Elodie consistently tells other characters she actually has attained fourteen years of age, and I began to suspect Levine hoped to convince her audience of this as well.  No doubt Levine had to make Elodie twelve in order to market the book to her intended age group, but I wonder if it would not have been a better choice to erase any mention of Elodie’s age at all.

Despite this, I believe Levine has just released her best novel since The Two Princesses of Bamarre.  I look forward to the day when I follow the adventures of Elodie and her friends in a sequel.  Maybe Elodie can even age a little.

Published: 2011

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.