Thursday, March 23, 2017

Book Review: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron

I received a free copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Castle in the Mist
Author: Amy Ephron
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Length: 192 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source: publisher

Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true--if the hawthorne trees don't get you first. 

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what's inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can't wait to return, this time with her brother. 

But strange things happen at William's castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there's Williams warning: Beware the hawthorne trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone. 

In the end it's up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns--but will one wish be enough?

My Thoughts: 
Tess and Max are spending the summer in the English countryside with their Aunt Evie while their father is away in Afghanistan. While exploring, Tess comes across an old rusted gate and finds a key in the dirt that fits it perfectly. Inside, she finds the perfectly manicured gardens of a grand castle and a boy her age that invites her in to play. But he has a warning; beware the hawthorns. The next time she goes to visit, she takes her little brother and together, the trio begin a friendship that can only be found 'once in a blue moon'. 

The Castle in the Mist is a mysterious story of a summer friendship between three young children. The mystery being how anyone can live in the castle that has surely been empty for decades. And wouldn't Aunt Evie have known if she had a young boy as a neighbor? And why does William insist that she always have the key with her so she can come back to play? 

I really love the preface of this story. A hidden castle that can only be accessed with a special key. A dire warning about... trees? Yeah, that sounds like something I'd definitely want to read. It even had a bit of a 'The Secret Garden' vibe to it at first. 

I didn't love it. I was expecting more. The whole story is wrapped in this mystery but we don't get much of anything substantial until the end and then it was just a little confusing. We spend more time on the castle grounds than in the castle. There are little bits of what I suppose are magic but are more likely just bits of Tess's imagination. I honestly just wish it was a little longer and had more exploring or backstory of the castle itself.

But I think I am being too critical because I am not the intending audience for this book. I think young readers would really enjoy the story and not look for all of the answers and accept it for what it is; something fantastically mysterious that happened to two young children. 

My Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. Part of the reason I don't review MG books anymore is because I totally relate to the whole "not the intended audience" thing. As I read, I feel kind of out of place, and like I can't get on the same mindset level as the narrators, which is fine, since I'm not 12 anymore XD haha. However, I'm glad you were able to enjoy this book despite that! It looks really cute :)

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles

  2. This has such a nice cover. I don't read a ton of MG but I do like an occasional one, and they seem to have the best covers sometimes lol. Looks like a good one.