Published by Viking Books For Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Genres: alternate history, Fantasy & Magic, fantasy, historical, paranormal
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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.
How I love reading a book and just falling in love with it–its originality, its atmosphere, its treatment of history, friendships, and family. The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle is the middle grade book you SHOULD be talking about. And I hope it gets the attention it deserves. There hasn’t been a book this magical for this age range in I don’t know how long. Not that I’ve read anyway.
It’s magical. Opening this book was like cracking open a wondrous new world. A creepy, Gothic, crumbling castle turned into a children’s academy for the duration of the Blitz? Sure, I can get behind that! But you haven’t read a Gothic novel like this. It’s atmospheric down to the very last detail.
Kat and her siblings are evacuated to what they think is a safe castle during World War 2 when it gets particularly bad in Britain. I guess it’s safer in Scotland than England because the bombs are hitting London and the surrounding areas. The castle is not safe at all though. The book gives you a lot of background on Eleanor and flashes back and forth from past to present (present being 1940 in this novel), but the antagonist is evident from the start, and the twist is not exactly hidden well. I’m not sure it’s supposed to be, though? It’s more about the journey to get there than the twist itself. Plus, there are other factors. Spies, a little bit of steampunk, and dealing with the ongoing effects of the war.
The one thing I do want to mention is how much I was creeped out by this novel. It’s not necessarily scary, but the material is HEAVY and haunted, and it might perhaps be a bit too much for younger readers. At the very least, I’d be careful about reading it before bed. Of course, me being me, I read it in my room with the lights down low–it helped bring that creep factor to life.
It’s also not completely wrapped up in the first book, so I am wondering if there is a planned sequel or sequels. This would be fine with me, as I absolutely loved it, but it would have been nice to know this going in. I hate when you get to the end of the book and you realize it’s probably not a standalone and you don’t get all the answers you were hoping for. Like, WHYYYYY? But that shouldn’t stop you from reading it. It’s not like it ends on a cliffhanger, it’s just that the door is open.
I loved this book to pieces. The words on the page are just lovely. The author is great at turns of phrase, and really taking you out of the world you live in, and placing you in the world of 1940’s Scotland. Don’t miss this one!