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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Hooke

Review of 'The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle'

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

By Janet Fox, 2016, Viking

Historical fantasy, Middle grade, Mystery

Rating: 👻👻👻 1/2 (3.5 out of 4 boos)

Keep calm and carry on.

That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.”

What’s the main character like?

The oldest of her siblings, Kat conducts herself with an air of maturity and thrusts onto herself a great sense of responsibility, along with a fair share of guilt when she makes mistakes. She is quite intelligent and logical and overall very likable. Primarily told from her third-person perspective, the book also gives us glimpses into the world of other characters.

How scary is it?

For a middle grade book, The Children of Rookskill Castle could potentially come across as creepy and scary. Who do you turn to in a castle far apart from everything? What if there really is a Nazi spy or ghosts or both or worse? The book consistently puts young kids in dangerous situations. While I personally think the book is just the right amount of scary for kids, I do want to give some warning!

Who might like this book?

I was somewhat reminded of another middle-grade historical mystery, Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. Fans of that book might be interested, and readers interested in isolated settings or historical settings (particularly World War II era) might also be interested.

What did I like best?

While the Scottish castle setting must get an honorable mention because I always love a good gothic setting, I have to say my favorite aspect of the book is its climax. Without giving too much away, I will say if you like epic showdowns, give this a read!

What wasn’t my favorite?

I can’t think why exactly, but Kat’s little sister Amelia sort of got on my nerves. But maybe that’s just good writing? Aren’t kid sisters often getting on people's nerves?

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