Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thursdays With the Crown by Jessica Day George, 2014

Synopsis (from Amazon):

Castle Glower has been acting weird, so it's no surprise when two towers transport Celie and her siblings to an unknown land. When they realize that no one from home is coming to get them, the kids–along with Celie's pet griffin Rufus–set out through the forest to figure out where they are and what's happened to their beloved Castle. Instead, they discover two wizards and an entire lost people, the oldest inhabitants of Castle Glower. And it seems they may know more of the Castle's secrets than Celie. But do they know how to get her back home?

First, don't read this review unless you've read the first two books (Tuesdays at the Castle and Wednesdays in the Tower) by the same author. There are some unavoidable spoilers from the first book and especially the second book, so consider yourself warned!

I read this book in one sitting the day I got it, because i had been waiting for it for a long time. I liked it, but I'm not really the target audience for the book and it's not going on my all-time favorites list along with George's Dragons series, and her Princess series (see my review of the first Princess book, Princess of the Midnight Ball). However, the minute I finished Thursdays my brother, a tween, grabbed it and read it as quickly as he could. And now that he is done, my sister, in late elementary school, has stolen it to read it in every spare moment she can get (and, because we are homeschooled, "spare moment" actually means "when she's supposed to be doing math"). That's one reason this blog post is a little rambling: I haven't been able to set eyes on the book since I finished my first, quick read-through.

Okay, so this was an interesting follow-up to the first two books. Each book in this series has been vastly different. The first book was a fun, quirky story about a trio of royal siblings whose parents disappear, leaving the royal council to attempt to take over the kingdom. It was a fun, clever book with some politics thrown in, not to mention a moving Castle on the kids' side! The second book continued the whinsical theme of a moving, living Castle and the family who lived there (focusing on Rolf, Lilah and Celie from the first series as well as throwing their wizarding brother Bran into the mix), but added in a secret griffin for Celie, the youngest daughter, to take care of, and started explaining/debunking the mysterious magic behind the Castle. I enjoyed Wednesdays, but I didn't think it was as good as the first book because it ripped away a little too much of the whimsy; knowing some of the inner workings of how the Castle functioned made the Castle a little less grand and mysterious.

Now it's time for the third book, and I liked this one a lot! For a relatively short book, there's a lot of storylines packed in there. Webs of lies must be untangled to figure out the true history of the Castle, and the main characters (this time around it's Celie, Rolf, Lilah, Lulath, and Pogue) must discover the truth while also hunting down a way to get home. Oh, and there are lots more griffins in this story. You can tell it's aimed for a younger audience: the amount of baby griffins alone will cause any ten year old girl to go dewy eyed, including my sister, who starts the book today - I can't wait to hear what I already know will be her gushing delight at the book as a whole, and specifically at the amount of griffins in it. Mid-way through Wednesdays she started writing her own book, about a girl who discovers a griffin egg and takes care of the baby inside. If the first Tuesdays book can turn my sister into a reader (it was one of the very first "big books" she read, after years of avoiding books as much as possible) and the second can turn her into a writer when all my attempts at wooing her toward the field have failed, then I am so excited to see what the third book will do to her!

Now for the actual story. The characters are well developed for a MG novel, and have become ever more developed as the series progressed. None of the children are cookie-cutter royals - they're more like ordinary kids who happen to be royal. Not in a cloying way, either. They know they're royal, and Rolf, heir to the throne, is ready and willing to take the throne someday. But he loves his father, and doesn't want him to die. He also doesn't lord it over his siblings that he's king over them (even in - well, I don't want to give spoilers. But I really loved his attitude in the first book). 
I was a bit confused by the bad guy(s), but that was kind of the point: everyone lied to the main characters, and they had to figure out the truth. There was also a character who kind of randomly appeared and disappeared throughout the story. He was originally on the side of one of the bad guys, I think, and then he helped the kids escape, and then they didn't trust him because of - actually, spoilers on that one. I don't want to ruin it for you! But the point is, he didn't add anything to the plot. I think he was the only part of the book that made me go "hmm." Everything else was spot on and perfectly woven together.

All in all, a solid installment in a great MG series. I still love the first book the best, and I don't know when/if I'll ever re-read this one, but I do know that if you asked either my brother or my sister, they would give you a glowing synopsis, complete with arm waving and huge spoilers. And that excitement they have for the series is what really makes it special.

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