There are some authors who only have one really great book in them, and more and more I’m starting to think that Gail Carson Levine is one of those. Although I adored Ella Enchanted when I read it back in the day, every time I’ve tried a book by Levine since I’ve been ultimately disappointed, and A Tale of Two Castles is no exception. The book has all the elements of a book that I should love–a shape-shifting misunderstood ogre, a dragon, a plucky heroine trying to make her way in the world–but something about the story simply falls flat. I’m finding it hard to nail down exactly why, but the characters feel shallow and as a result the action quickly started to lose my interest.
I almost gave up on the book about half way through, but forced myself to finish it since the thing was short (this is definitely a children’s book) and although they continually failed to really grab hold of me I did like the characters.
The book isn’t bad, but it’s nothing to get excited over. If you have a kid who likes fantasy and doesn’t have anything else to read, you could do worse than Tale of Two Castles, but I’d recommend getting it from the library. This is probably not a book you are going to want to reread over and over.
The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.