What an interesting month! It’s the 19th of September as I’m writing this review and only yesterday I finished my second book of this month. Hooray! 🤯 That’s why I love adding books to Goodreads as soon as I start reading them so I can see for myself how long it takes me to finish them. And oh my, I started «The Castle of Tangled Magic» on the 8th!
Ten days to finish a middle-grade book that could be read in a couple of hours!
I won’t be blaming this all on the book, as September has been very busy and I just didn’t read for the most part of it. But at the same time, if the book was a little bit more engaging, I wonder if I would have made the time for it. Hm…
Olia lives with her parents in an old crumbling castle, filled with hidden turrets and secret doorways. When she follows a mysterious cat to one of the castle’s roof domes, she finds herself stepping through one such doorway into a magical land filled with wonders… But everything is not quite as it seems: the land is under threat from a scheming magician, Chernmor, and the magic is fading away.
With the help of an enchanted band of new friends, can Olia find a way to save both her own home, and the land of forbidden magic?
Thank you, NetGalley and Usborne Publishing for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
I kinda feel bad for saying this, but I didn’t like «The Castle of Tangled Magic»… I was going into it 100% sure that it will be an amazing book, that I will fall in love with the characters, especially after hearing so many incredible things about it.
Besides, it has all the elements I LOVE in books: (1) fantasy middle grade, (2) adventures, (3) friendship, (4) inspired by Russian folklore that is so dear to me. Even with all of these, I still didn’t fall in love with Olia, the main character. To be completely honest, I was bored for the most part of the story…
I still think that this book has great potential and see why other people enjoyed it, so don’t let my review get in your way of picking up «The Castle of Tangled Magic». In fact, I feel very apprehensive about giving feedback on it, since I was so sure that after reading this one book by Sophie Anderson I’d immediately become her biggest fan. I even own her other two books that I was dying to read! [«The House With Chicken Legs» and «The Girl Who Speaks Bear»]
So to actually give some constructive feedback, other than “I didn’t like it” and “I was bored”, let’s actually talk about the things that didn’t work for me (but might work perfectly for you!).
1 – After reading almost 600 books (according to my Goodreads), I can say that I’ve read many different writing styles and don’t consider myself a picky reader. I’m open to anything and everything, as long as it’s not overly confusing and gets the message through. I still can’t put my finger on why I didn’t like Sophie Anderson’s writing style. It fits perfectly the age group. It’s not overly descriptive, and actually quite simple and straightforward, which is exactly what you want in children’s and middle-grade books.
However, after reading quite a few of middle-grade this year, I think that Sophie Anderson’s writing was a little bit too simple. Almost bare, and it made it difficult for me to properly connect to the story.
2 – As a result of the simpler writing style, the execution of the plot was also very straightforward. There was an attempt of intrigue, but it didn’t quite work and every single character got their redemptions way too quickly, in my opinion. Everything, from action to emotion, was explained almost immediately. I know that this book was written with a younger audience in mind, but I think Sophie Anderson didn’t give her readers enough credit that they have the possibility to figure things out on their own, and a couple of hints would have been more than enough.
These were definitely two of my main concerns. I don’t know if the above contributed to my detachment to the story or not, but I just didn’t have any emotional connection to Olia, who was a very kind and likable protagonist. I was supposed to love her, to care about her, but… I didn’t. 🤷♀️
The ending did bring a little bit more emotions and the relationships Olia built throughout the story seemed genuine and tender, but they just weren’t enough to make up for the rest of the book.
I was debating what rating to give to this book. It was probably the first time ever that I wanted half-star ratings to be a part of Goodreads. I’m giving it 2.5 stars. It’s not quite a 2, because there were some heartwarming moments I loved, but it also not quite a 3.
If you’ve read any Sophie Anderson books I’d love to know what you thought of them. Should I try her other books? Let’s chat in the comments below!