Review Copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion or review.
Wow. This book was just…wow. I had never read any of Merrie Haskell’s work before but since this book was recommended for fans of Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale, I had to try it! Good choice. The Castle Behind Thorns is (possibly) one of the best MG novels I have read so far this year.
Although the beginning is slow (for three chapters, Sand is the only person living in the castle), the pace picks up when Sand accidentally resurrects Perrotte, the princess of the castle who died more than 30 years ago. No, she’s not a zombie. Sadly. Together, they have to find a way out of the castle without being slaughtered by the poisonous thorns surrounding it. Perrotte and Sand alternate perspectives for the rest of the novel. Normally I don’t like dual perspectives but because Perrotte and Sand are the only characters for most of the novel, they were very well developed and I liked being inside their heads.
Perrotte and Sand are very different characters. Sand is a commoner who wants to become a blacksmith and Perrotte was a countess’s daughter before she, well, died. Perrotte is more willing to believe in magic since she was resurrected while Sand is more practical.
There are plenty of what-ifs. What if I was taken away from my family? What if I die and am resurrected years later and everyone I knew has grown up? There is constant suspense here and although a few parts were rather predictable (the ending, for example) I couldn’t see much of the plot twists coming.
As I mentioned before, this novel is based around Sand and Perrotte trying to escape from the “castle behind thorns.” Within the first few chapters, they notice that–using Sand’s blacksmithing skills–the more they mend the objects in the castle, the lower the wall of thorns becomes. A Castle Behind Thorns has plenty of great morals (forgiveness, stay true to yourself, etcetera) and I can definitely see this become a class study novel.
Overall? I really, really enjoyed this one. It is (very loosely) based off Sleeping Beauty and I would easily recommend it. If you’re looking for Shannon Hale (Books of Bayern) for a younger reader, you can find A Castle Behind Thorns on Goodreads. 5 stars!