I finished reading another book this weekend, Gail Carson Levine’s A Tale of Two Castles, which I really enjoyed because A: It has a dragon in it, and B: it has historical costuming details in it, and C: I am a geek. Ahem.
So, if you haven’t already figured it out, I read children's literature. I guess it all started when I read the whole Dragonriders of Pern saga in the sixth or seventh grade. My mom had been reading them for years, and I hadn’t paid much attention to them until a classmate (okay, fine- a rival classmate. She was better at spelling, sure, but no way was she going to be a better reader than I was) wrote a book report on one of them. I was incensed, and determined to read them too. It wasn’t until after I had grown up and been married for a while that I found out that some of Anne’s books were considered children’s literature. Instead of being mortified that my favorite author didn’t write at the higher level that real author’s did (what’s that? Why no, I didn’t get along with some of my college professors and their snooty little sycophants. Why do you ask?) I was instead delighted that I could continue to read my childhood favorites, and find more books like them that were being written by today’s authors. I still read science fiction, fantasy, biographies, the newspaper, etc. But I like to read for enjoyment as well as research or information, and I love a good children’s book for the sheer joy and wonder they fill me with as I read them.
A Tale of Two Castles is a book I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of reviews about lately, so I decided to have a look at it. And I’m glad I did! Dragons who live in the city and do odd jobs? Ogre’s who can shapechange into mice and monkeys? Mansioners and cat trainers and kings and princesses? Count me in!
I especially liked the the historical details Levine used for the setting of her book. The clothing sellers from the medieval ages, along with the walled city and letter writers for hire gave the story the feel of an English metropolis from ages past, but the day to day details, speech patterns and the observances of the differences between the city and the hometown of the heroine flavored the story with an Asian air.
The writing gets a little simplistic occasionally, and the story meanders through the middle of the book until it discovers its purpose at the end, but overall the book has a wonderful life of its own, with characters whose lives fill its pages with depth and meaning. Overall, this was a page turner.