A Tale of Two Castles
Gail Carson Levine
Ages 8-12 (or 23...haha)
This is the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Elodie who leaves her family to travel to the town of Two Castles (so named because of the two castles- one belongs to the king, the other to an ogre!!) to become a "mansioner" (aka an actress). Elodie is very smart- she observes everything which helps her to be a good mansioner. She hopes to become a free apprentice, as her family is very poor, but once she has embarked on her trip, she finds out that free apprenticeships are no more, and she needs to either find enough money to pay or find other employment.
During her trip, Elodie sees some new things that surprise her. Some people are dressed strangely, there is a weird obsession with cats in Two Castles, and she meets the dragon Meenore, who hires her as an assistant. When the ogre, Count Jonty Um, comes to Meenore to ask for help, Meenore sends Elodie back with him to be a secret agent in the castle and protect the Count. This tale is loosely based on the story of Puss 'N Boots... but are the cats in Two Castles friends or enemies?
I absolutely loved Ella Enchanted, so I always make an effort to read anything that Gail Carson Levine writes. I found the beginning of this book to be tentative as far as the warm, magical romance that I expect from Levine, but it definitely showed up in the second half of the book. The plot is well-developed- a mystery with twists, turns, and close calls. Elodie is a likeable heroine, but the supporting characters are really excellent. Masteress Meenore the dragon is multi-dimensional, which is refreshing in a mentor (by this I mean that Meenore goes through different moods and challenges Elodie in ways that surprise the reader), and County Jonty Um is the most unique ogre that I have ever read about- I'll let you read the book to find out more!
I give this book 4 stars and would recommend it for young readers. You can check out the website to read the first chapter, and here is the book trailer!!