A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell (Handbook for Dragon Slayers) is a charming, delightful fairy tale. The pace is gentle but there's enough suspense to keep the pages turning. The scariness comes more from a creepy atmosphere than from violence, monsters, or fast action, but blood is mentioned a few times. The 13-year-old heroes, Sand and Perrotte, are strong role models, and the themes of family, memory, and the healing power of kindness and forgiveness will give kids lots to think about.
What's the story?
Thirteen-year-old Alexandre (Sand) wakes up one morning to find himself inexplicably in an abandoned castle, where every single object in it has been broken. Cut off from escape by the magical thorns that surround the castle, he begins to repair things he'll need to survive alone for what could be months, years, or even his whole life. Soon a girl about his age appears, and they set about finding a way to survive. But, to escape the powerful thorns and get back to the lives they should have had, they'll have to put more than the broken castle back together.
Is it any good?
THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS is an enchanting fairy tale parents will enjoy reading aloud as much as kids will enjoy reading on their own. Its pace is gentler and quieter than the excitement in author Merrie Haskell's Handbook for Dragon Slayers. It's less about adventure and more about learning, growing, and the power of forgiveness. Suspense is created early on and sustained at a consistent level that keeps the story engrossing without over-the-top action.
Stellar language such as "furniture slumped like beasts fallen to the hunt"; the mysterious and poetic recollections of Perrotte's dream-like afterlife; and themes of family, memory, and forgiveness will make multiple readings a rich, rewarding experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what forgiving someone really means. Have you ever forgiven someone or been forgiven by someone? How did you feel before and after the forgiving?
Why are books with magic and fantasy so popular? Why do we enjoy reading books with magic in them?
Did you know Brittany is a real place? Where is it?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.