Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

Title: The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
Author: Janet Fox
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 15, 2016
Genre: Middle-grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Length: 388 pages
Source: Borrowed

Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it's clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle's temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it's a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend. 

My Thoughts: 
Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson and her younger siblings, Rob and Amelie, whom live in 1940's London with their parents, are sent away north to continue their schooling at a castle in Scotland to avoid the Blitz. Before leaving, Kat's aunt gives her a chatelaine -- a piece of jewelry to be worn from the waist that holds three charms -- that is supposedly magic. Kat doesn't believe in magic, or ghosts, but when they arrive at Rookskill Castle, along with another new student, Peter, it is hard to ignore the fact that something weird is going on at their boarding school. There are weird noises in the night, children wandering around the grounds, and the castle itself seems like a maze steeped in shadows. When students start disappearing, Kat realizes that something sinister is going on at Rookskill Castle and she's determined to figure out what it is. Could it be a German spy or something more?

This is a haunting historical fiction with magical elements and was exactly what I was hoping for!
I've been fascinated with castles since I was a kid and the creepier the better. I'll admit that I knew I'd read this book sooner or later as soon as I saw that title. Rookskill Castle seems to be all winding halls, hidden rooms, and secret passages. I couldn't help but imagine this castle in all it's grandeur. This book gets lots of extra points (or stars) for the setting.

I really enjoyed the historical parts of this book as well. As an American, I don't read enough books about World War 2 that aren't entirely focused on the Holocaust. It was nice to see a different perspective. It actually started out as very 'Chronicles of Narnia'-esque, with the children being sent away to avoid the Blitz. Instead of stumbling into a fantasy world, these children stumble into a pretty spooky situation. 

There were some steampunk elements in this book that, while not enough to call it a steampunk novel, stood out and are worth mentioning. Fans of the steampunk genre would probably really enjoy this. Kat's father is a clockmaker and taught her how to fix them, which serves to keep her busy while in the castle where all clocks seem to stop working every night. There's more than just clock-mending going on in this book but I don't want to give anything away.

This is less of a fantasy and more of a horror story. There's a seriously spooky setting, a sinister magic, and an underlying evil that the children must face in order to save their very souls! I would not recommend to easily frightened children. 

Also, at almost 400 pages, this book is quite long and probably best suited to advanced middle-grade readers. 

My Rating: 
4.5 stars


  1. That's such an amazing cover, every time i see it I want to read this. I love the creepy sound of this- clocks stop working, kids disappear. Sounds awesome. I definitely want to read this one now!

    1. I really did enjoy it and that cover really sets the tone for the story! :)

  2. I really want to read this one, sounds so good. :)