Sophie Anderson previously brought us The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl Who Speaks Bear, so of course I was excited to see her come out with a new book. (Those of you in the UK can also keep an eye out for The Thief who Sang Storms, which appears not to have made it to the US yet.)
Castle of Tangled Magic
by Sophie Anderson
Read from library copy.
Ebook available on Libby.
Castle Mila is a beautiful castle built of golden logs with 33 domes. 12-year-old Olia is proud to live in the beautiful castle with her parents, her beloved Babusya, and her baby sister Rosa. Their family was once royal, but now that the village is a democracy, they just work to maintain the historic building, using its great halls for community events. Olia and her friends especially delight in searching for the hidden staircases that lead to the attics inside the domes, which often contain forgotten treasures. Babusya often tells Olia that she would see the magic around her if she only looked with her heart, but Olia’s efforts have so far been in vain.
Then enormous storms start hitting just the castle, not the village. Suddenly Olia can see the castle’s domovoi, a fox spirit named Feliks. Babusya sends Feliks and Olia to travel to the pocket world from which the storms are coming, the world where the castle’s founder, Princess Ludmila, exiled nearly all of the magic creatures of Olia’s world. Somehow, magic is leaking in the form of storms that are tearing the beautiful castle apart.
The magical realm is full of surprises, and Olia and Feliks befriend new magical beings in each of its various habitat domes, including the grouchy cat named Koshka who used to be a witch shown on the cover, a rusalka, a tree spirit, and a giant. And at the very end, a connection to The House with Chicken Legs is revealed.
The book has many appealing elements, including the magical castle, Olia’s contemporary-feeling, energetic voice, Feliks and Koshka for the fox- and cat-lovers, and of course the exploration of a magical world. I enjoyed all of these elements, but what really made the book shine was the meditation on reparations. All the human characters are white, so we’re looking without the complicating factor of race at the essential question, “What do we owe to people who are still being harmed by the actions our ancestors took well before our own lifetimes?”
On a side note, this book has so many elements that I believe my own daughter would love – she also read The House with Chicken Legs in class and loved it enough to make her own 3D model of it, she still re-reads Tuesdays at the Castle regularly, and it has a cat. But she took one look at the cover, decided it was creepy, and even though she liked the UK cover (at right ) better, flat out refused to try this one.