I was super excited to read this book, because I absolutely love the whole idea of a castle and huge fantasy area that appears out of nowhere and is absolutely amazing. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely an interesting book, and it did have the awesome fantasy that I was looking for, of course, but it just had the potential to be so much more than it was.
I’m going to try and keep my review short and simple, because the book itself is short and I don’t want to give away any spoilers.
Tess and her brother Max have been sent to live with their aunt in the country while their parents finish up various other things they have to do. Even though they’re missing home, they have no idea what their summer is going to entail – not just boring old board games and dinner at the pub on weekends, either.
One day, Tess discovers a big gate with a strange, invisible fence blocking her path. Upon finding a key, she opens the gate and steps inside, and is met with a huge castle and grounds – complete with swans, a pond, a maze – she is completely enthralled with the place.
Later, when she takes Max with her to meet William, the little boy she was talking to earlier, they get a better tour of the grounds, and even meet the groundskeeper, Barnaby. A few days later when they return for dinner, it gets even better – there’s a carousel, and all kinds of interesting things that they’re absolutely in awe about.
But each time they are there, the little boy gives them a creepy warning – a warning about staying away from the hawthorn trees. While he never tells them why, he keeps saying it, over and over again.
When a fun filled evening goes awry, Tess and Max find out what’s beyond the hawthorn trees that is so awful – and what’s really happening with the castle.
Honestly, this book was enjoyable for the most part, and I read it in a single sitting. The writing was good, and it really drew me into the story.
The first problem I had with this book was how short it was. It isn’t even 200 pages, which made it hard for it to go into a lot of detail or really have much of an adventure. I am taking into consideration that this is a middle grade novel, and I’m an adult, but to be honest, even when I was that age, I would have been mildly disappointed by how short and quick this book was.
The second thing I found a bit bothersome actually was the details in the book. It seemed like some parts of the book were described in great depth, while others were just glossed over quickly. For example, almost an entire page was taken up with the description of the gate that Tess had found, but later, but later on, toward the end of the book, is a scene that should have lasted at least two chapters, but was over in about two pages (I’m not spoiling this, so I won’t talk about what happened, but you get the idea). It felt rushed, especially toward the end – honestly, I think this book could have used another 50-100 pages to create an even more enchanting story.
I wish there would have been more emphasis on the castle…we never got to see the inside of it, but only the outside. The story behind the castle at the end is interesting (and a little bit eerie), and it does do well to explain everything that happens in the book, which was great.
Tex and Max’s characters were solid characters, and the close relationship that the two of them had was nice. It’s always nice to see strong family ties in books, so this was definitely a plus. While their parents weren’t in the majority of the book, their aunt was, so that was a bonus, too.
This was definitely an entertaining read, and I would recommend this to fans of middle grade fantasy, but just keep in mind that you won’t get a highly detailed adventure, as it is rather short and seems to lack important details that might make the story more engaging.