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A Tale of Two Castles

by Gail Carson Levine
Reviewed by Kristi

A highly entertaining middle grade fantasy from the author of Ella Enchanted.

Plot

When Elodie fails in her attempt to become an apprentice mansioner, an actress, she becomes assistant to the dragon detective Meenore. When she encounters a thieving cat, a handsome miller's son, a friendly ogres, a strange princess, and a rude and gluttonous king, how will she know which is a friend and which is really a "whited sepulcher", an enemy in disguise?

Morality

Elodie has an occasional and rather strange habit of lying, usually for no good reason. Her favorite lie seems to be telling people she's fourteen rather than twelve, though there's no clear reason why she should, other than that some children wish they were older than they really are.

Spiritual Content

Early on, Elodie mentions that mansioners often perform plays involving goddesses. Apparently these are the goddesses of Greek mythology, which the kingdom of Lenai seems to share with our world.

Violence

One character is shot with an arrow. An ox is attacked by an unknown person or animal and wounded. Also, Elodie's friend and mansioner Albin apparently enjoyed teaching her all about poisons and their effects when she was very young.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Elodie wonders if a sleeping character is drunk, and serves wine to the king, princess and ogre at a feast.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Elodie is sick and throws up on the sea crossing at the beginning of the story. Meenore belches during a meal. One of the charactes blows his nose on his sleeve, but from Elodie's observation, this is considered polite for the time period.

Conclusion

A Tale of Two Castles is a delightful and engaging read, on the order of Levine's Ella Enchanted and Fairest. Taking place in a new location, readers should not expect this ogre or dragon to behave as we have seen in any of her previous works. She lightly threads the story of Puss 'n' Boots through her narrative in a quite unexpected way, while keeping the story firmly focused on her engaging heroine. One of the most enjoyable and cleanest middle grade fantasies I've read in a long time, with the unfortunate exception of Elodie's occasional tendency to lie.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 11-12

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