Sunday, 30 March 2014

Rosi's Castle Edward Eaton
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy 
Book Rating: 7.5 
Personal Rating: 7

This book was an interesting read. I enjoyed it, yet I didn’t. It had all the makings of awesome yet some how I felt irritated instead of awed. It was screaming out ‘give me a nine. Give me an eight’. Yet, with such potential it came out at a seven. After thinking on it, I came to the conclusion that what annoys me the most was what actually drives, a rather good one I might add, plot. Since it was that important it affected what I was so sure I was going to give a nine down to a seven and then ultimately a 7.5.

The setting was perfect for good young adult fiction. Only child lost her father in a plane crash, body not found. Child lives with friends of the family for a short time, she likes them. Child then forced by matter of father’s will to live with an uncle she only knows as ‘evil’ based on the limited amount of info she received from her present caretakers. City girl thrown into the country with lots of teen angst, a love interest, and wine. What more could this book possibly need. How could a formula that is classic to the genre fall by the wayside. It fell in the information not given. This novel suffers from a serious case of ‘wizard of oz’ syndrome without the learning curve. In this case I can’t seem to justify why Dorothy wasn’t told to just click her damn heels. 

Warning: This may contain plot spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Let me throw out some questions. If you knew there was something magical going on, something attached to your niece and that it was being used by her with out her knowing she could do it. Would you not tell her? If you knew that if this power got into the wrong hands it could be disastrous and in this town the connection to this power was stronger at a certain time of the year, which just happens to be approaching, would you not tell her? With all the signs pointing to certain disaster if she doesn’t figure things out would you not help her in some kind of way. Or, would you lock her inside a magical castle. Berate her the first time she manages to escape for doing something she has no idea she can do, but you do know she can do. And as things start to become stranger and stranger still give her nothing. This leaving her frustrated and at the hands of the villain, because she has no information of which to arm herself. The information you as her uncle keep telling her she’ll find out, which she never does, hence the reveal at the end after all is done. Why would any sane adult hold out on relevant info when the stakes of world corruption are this high. They wouldn’t. But this is exactly what Rosi’s uncle does.

So all these things happen around her, and there is only one person who knows what is happening and he isn’t revealing anything. Who are the carols, Rosi’s last name. Why do the town’s people shy away from her. What is with the odd weather in the castle? And at the end when he gives her specific instructions to not go outside during holiday festivities was, to be honest, useless. Why would any sane fifteen-year-old stay in one place, on a holiday when she has not been give sufficient information on why not to stray to far from one place--and when the antagonist is encouraging her to explore seek and find. And most importantly after Rosi tells him about this man she’s been talking to. Her uncle pretty much, he of course knowing who the man is even though the readers don’t, does nothing except say don’t talk to him.

If Rosi were ten I would get it. Some things are just beyond certain age groups. But a fifteen year old? She was clearly perfectly capable of understating complex things, as most teens are. This is evident when she successfully navigated her confrontation with evil at the end of the book. And how little explanation her uncle had to give about her ‘power’ at the end. She understood without needing to ask too many questions.

The story itself was written well. Very well actually. The mystery kept me going. I wanted to know what was going on. And was glad that my initial thoughts turned out to be wrong. It’s always nice when you think you know what the secret is only to find out you were way off base. And the suspense and sense of urgency was kept at a very good page turning pace. Hence why I got through the book very easily, and quickly. The plot was just complex enough to require some brainpower yet easy enough to understand that I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. These amongst others are reasons why I struggled to rate this book. There was so much win here. The type of win that I enjoy. But sometimes I think young adult books do two things: underestimate the intelligence and maturity of their children, and dumb down the reasoning skills of the adults to create unnecessary situations. In the world of teens everything is drama and angst-filled all on its own. Extra help is not needed.

I definitely had a serious love hate relationship with this book. And even though this one glaring issue affected me in such a way, I can’t deny the book it’s cleverness. It’s good character development. The way the teens in the book interacted with each other was also spot on. Crushes, confrontations, and all. And I do want to read the next one. That’s the most important thing. And I’m more than willing to bet that my issue with this book won’t be an issue for the majority of people. I probably just have awkward standards.

Saying all that to say that if I had to make a choice on suggesting this book or not, definitely would. It’s as good as any other young adult novel out there, and better than some I’ve read as well. And as I already said I’m looking forward to part two, and I’m certain anyone who reads it will be as well.

Author Bio

Edward Eaton has studied and taught at many schools in the States, China, Israel, Oman, and France. He holds a PhD in Theater History and Literature, and has worked extensively as a theater director and fight choreographer. He has been a newspaper columnist and theatre critic. He has published and presented many scholarly papers, and has a background in playwriting. He is also an avid SCUBA diver and skier. He currently resides in Boston with his wife Silviya and son Christopher.

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