The book was given a positive review in The Times ...
Adventure stories involving brave boys and girls, a dash of magic and a lot of suspense were once commonplace in children's fiction, thanks to writers such as Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and even the much-maligned Enid Blyton. All these have stood the test of time; but where are their heirs? For lovers of Aiken, Ellen Renner's debut, Castle of Shadows, is not to be missed. Set in a country very much like Victorian England, its king is mad and its loved queen has been missing for most of Princess Charlie's life. Charlie has roamed the Castle of Quale for years, learning its secret hideaways and being bullied by servants while her crazy father suspends himself from the ceiling to build a towering castle of cards instead of running the kingdom.
Any adventure that begins with a country 'going down the plinker', revolution brewing and a heroine as spirited as Charlie is going to grab readers aged eight and older by the neck and not let go. Renner's story bristles with talent and brio, craft and polish. Whether Charlie is running through the castle's maze of rooms or out to the gardens where Toby, the gardener's boy, teases her, you know that you're in the hands of a proper storyteller whose characters speak, scold and lie convincingly, and whose plot is full of unpredictable twists.
If Charlie is the usual feisty upper-class brat, she is lippy enough to delight. Once she discovers an unfinished letter from her missing mother, expressing love for her daughter and a fear of what her scientific inventions have led to, the prime minister becomes strangely eager to take up Charlie. But what or who did the queen fear so much? The ending leaves you panting for the sequel, City of Thieves, out this summer.
- Brave boys and girls in children’s fiction, Amanda Craig, The Times, January 30, 2010.
... as well a nice feature in the Western Morning News on Saturday February 6th: Fame is on the cards for Ellen (PDF © WMN, reproduced by kind permission). Luisa at Chicklish liked it too (thanks!).
Castle of Shadows (ISBN-10 1408304457) is published by Orchard at £5.99, and is available direct from the Times Online bookshop.
Members of Exeter Writers gather for the launch of Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner on Saturday 30th January at Exeter Library.