The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell Book Review

The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 27, 2014

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. Old stories say that the castle was abandoned after a terrible earthquake, but Sand quickly begins to wonder if those stories are true. Everything in the castle has been broken and split in half, from the apples to the anvils, hammers to stuffed birds. The food has not rotted away, no bugs or birds live inside the walls, and the thorny brambles have a mind of their own. Not sure what else to do and unable to escape, Sand does the only thing he knows how to do, he fires up the castle's forges and begins to mend things. However, as he begins to set things right in the castle, strange things begin to happen. Sand finds the body of a princess and after respectfully laying her back within her tomb, she inexplicably comes back to life. Along with the girl Perrotte, they continue to set the castle right, but there are some things that cannot be mended, especially the anger of a girl who was unjustly murdered.

This book was fantastic! That exclamation mark is there so that you understand how fantastic I thought this book was. Both characters were exceptionally bright, active, and determined. Sand never wallows in the fact that he is trapped in this castle. He tries to find a way out and when it becomes clear that he cannot, he begins to set things right. Like a survivor story, Sand spends his time trying to find food and water, repairing pots, and mending tables. He speaks of the imagination that is needed to be a blacksmith and I absolute love that this young man, despite his father wanting him to further his education at University, just wants to be a blacksmith. Sand loves the labor, the things he can produce, the artistic nature of blacksmithing and this is such a strong desire within him that he is willing to defy his father.

Perrotte, is different of course. Her story is one of pain, anger, and confusion. Someone murdered her, yet she desperately does not want to remember. To open that door will lead to more pain and anger. She is cautious at first, afraid to show Sand her pain and sorrow, but as their friendship grows, she begins to see things differently. In these moments, when dealing with Perrotte, Sand shows considerable maturity an wisdom.

There were so many things to love about this book. The characters, the pacing, even the little twists, were all so cleverly done. It reminded me of some of my other favorite fantasy books and although I love that it was a standalone novel, it left me wanting more. I think I shall go reread the Lioness Quartet now.