Goodreads: The Girl in the Tower
Publication Date: March 26, 2016
Ever since she can remember, ten-year-old Violet and her mother have been locked away in a tower by the evil Queen Bogdana, who has the kingdom under her spell. The queen has everything she wants except for one thing — beauty. Violet possesses this beauty. She also has a secret: although she is very small, both her spirit and her heart are mighty.
When Violet is summoned by Bogdana to start training to become a real princess, it seems as if her life might be taking a turn for the better. But hope quickly fades when Violet’s mother is banished from the castle, and she and Violet are forbidden to see each other ever again. With everyone’s lives in the balance, it’s up to Violet to break the spell and reunite her family.
I love middle grade, fairy tales, and brave-hearted girls, so I really thought The Girl in the Tower was going to be right up my alley. I wanted it, needed it, stalked Netgalley for it, and was lucky enough to get it. I wish it had lived up to my expectations.
The Girl in the Tower has all the right ingredients for a blissful, charming middle grade fantasy, but they never came together in a compelling way for me. I was thrown off by the stilted prose and awkward “old-timey” dialogue (time period unspecified because people never spoke English like this) in the opening pages, and I never got on the same track as the book. Even protagonist Violet–proud, courageous, and full of imagination–could not draw me in, as she also suffered from clunky speech patterns and had a penchant for making wise pronouncements that left me unconvinced she was a ten-year-old who had spent the entirety of her life locked in a tower with only her mother for company and basically no access to books.
I also found the book overly schmaltzy, even for a children’s book based on the premise love will solve all, and I usually like schmaltz. There were just too many cheesy observations about Violet being one with hummingbirds and people needing to allow love into their hearts and letting the music guide you, etc. for me to buy into the idea that people in this kingdom both thought things like this and walked around saying them with serious expressions. I think the book was going for a deep, pensive tone that tackled all the really important things in life and showed readers that imagination and looking at the world with optimism are important, but it just came across as weird to me.
I’m usually a high rater but I talked myself into being firm about this one and following the Goodreads rating descriptions. I gave it two stars to reflect the fact that I finished reading it primarily out of a sense of obligation and secondarily due to the fact I had nothing else to read on a long train ride. I also can’t see myself recommending it, even to other readers I know who are normally charmed by middle grade. I see the book is garnering some delighted reviews, but for now I’m going to have to be the black sheep on this one.