cover image A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles

Gail Carson Levine. Harper, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-122965-7

In this fairy-tale whodunit, country girl Elodie's parents scrounge up fare to send her to the city of Two Castles, with instructions to find a weaver willing to take her on gratis for a 10-year apprenticeship. (Elodie, intent on joining a theatrical troupe, has other ideas.) Alas, months earlier the guilds abolished 10-year apprenticeships; now everyone must pay, and Elodie's one copper is stolen (by a cat) the moment she draws it from her purse. With no other prospects, she takes the only job she is offered: assistant to the dragon Meenore, who, in addition to its skills as mobile water heater, has a sideline as local detective. Elodie must overcome her fear of being eaten to help Meenore save another hated local%E2%80%94Count Jonty Um, the ogre who occupies one of the town's two castles. With a faint echo of Puss in Boots, Carson crafts a persuasive fantasy realm and a capable heroine. Readers should enjoy watching Elodie hone her powers of deduction to unravel the mystery of the ogre's sudden disappearance, and will likely anticipate further sleuthing adventures with this companionable duo. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (May)