cover image The Castle Behind Thorns

The Castle Behind Thorns

Merrie Haskell. HarperCollins/Tegen, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-200819-0

While trapped in a cursed castle surrounded by thorns, 13-year-old Sand, a commoner who would rather apprentice as a blacksmith than fulfill his father’s aspirations by attending university, unintentionally resurrects Perrotte, a young noblewoman who once lived in the castle, which has been torn apart: “Nothing was whole here, nothing at all. Not a spoon, not a toothpick, not a bed, not a door.” In this ambitious historical fantasy set in medieval Brittany, Sand and Perrotte form an intense, prickly friendship as they fix what they can of the shattered castle and learn that “some things are not meant to be mended.” Haskell (Handbook for Dragon Slayers) seamlessly integrates the legends of Breton saints into her story, making the magical miraculous and grounding it in the location and era. Her characters’ passions for blacksmithing and astronomy, the details of which she accessibly describes, further anchor this fantasy in reality. Exploring a range of weighty subjects, from the horror of war to the difficulty of forgiveness, Haskell makes every subplot and character count, reinforcing the story’s elaborate metaphorical and thematic structure. Ages 8–12. Agent: Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates. (June)