The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell is an almost fairy tale retelling -- a thought-provoking work of fantasy in an historical setting.
broken castle lies surrounded by a wall of fierce thorns. Nobody goes
near it, nobody speaks of it. Every item in every room of the castle has
been sundered, ripped it two by some unimaginable force. And within the
castle lies a girl who is sleeping.
No. Within the castle lies the body of a girl who is dead.
doesn't know how he came to be in the castle. He ran away from home,
fell asleep by a roadside shrine, and woke up in the castle's kitchen
fireplace. Nor does he know how to get out -- the thorns are just as
fierce when approached from within. So, he starts setting things to
rights, as much as he can. He patches up furniture, twists torn bedding
into a rope for the well, collects scraps of metal near the smith's
forge. He even ventures down into the castle crypt, where he straightens
the body of a girl his own age, thrown onto the floor like a rag doll
during the sundering (though fortunately still in one piece). Nothing
grows in the castle grounds, but the food that was in the castle is
well-preserved, simply dried out. Sand starts to get to the point where
he can manage, though he doesn't relish the idea of spending his life in
the castle. But then everything changes again: Perrote, the girl from
the crypt, wakes up. She's neither a ghost or a zombie, but simply a
girl Sand's age, who was dead for a while but has come back to life.
Working together, Sand and Perrote mend many things in the castle, and
forge the beginnings of a friendship as well -- but can they figure out
how to break the curse and remove the thorns that imprison them?
As you can see, this is almost a Sleeping Beauty retelling, but not
quite. And, just so you know, there is no kissing in this middle-grade
novel, so that's not the solution to the mystery! Over the course of the
narrative, Perrote's back-story is revealed, and readers get a slowly
dawning sense of why she is alive again and why Sand is the one sent
there to be with her. This makes for leisurely pacing -- this isn't the
sort of book that drives you on to the conclusion. The setting and the
characters make up for any shortcomings in plot and pacing, though. I
enjoyed this book, and would recommend it.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)