cover image Castle Hangnail

Castle Hangnail

Ursula Vernon. Dial, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8037-4129-4

Castle Hangnail desperately needs a master, but when 12-year-old Molly, a charming but not-so-wicked witch, arrives for the job, she has an uphill battle persuading the castle's servants that she has what it takes to save their beloved home from decommission. Can Molly defend the property, manage the minions, and assure the Board of Magic that she's the real deal? Molly must first win the hearts of her bizarre slate of servants, including a minotaur for a cook, a woman made entirely of steam, a walking suit of armor, and a stern and skeptical guardian with body parts that "looked to have been dead for quite some time." Molly entertainingly checks off the tasks required, but she still has to face her largest enemy and realize her own power before she can save the castle. In both the narration and occasional b&w illustrations, Vernon (the Dragonbreath series) deftly weaves silly, suspenseful, and only slightly scary elements throughout this engaging coming-of-age story, which will easily appeal to fans of spells and sorcery. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (Apr.)