MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY: The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron


Tess and Max travel behind the walls of a magical castle where wishes really do come true—if the hawthorn trees don’t get you first.

Tess and Max are sent to the English countryside for the summer and long for some excitement. So when Tess, out for a walk alone, happens upon an ornately carved gate and an old brass key, she decides to see what’s inside. To her amazement, she discovers the grounds of a castle filled with swans, bullfrogs, a hedge maze, an old-fashioned carnival, and a boy, William, just her age. William invites Tess back, and she can’t wait to return, this time with her brother.

But strange things happen at William’s castle. Carnival games are paid for in wishes, dreams seem to come alive, and then there’s William’s warning: Beware the hawthorn trees. A warning that chills Tess to the bone.

In the end it’s up to Tess to save her family and her friends from being trapped forever in the world beyond the hawthorns—but will one wish be enough?


The Castle in the Mist is fun, fantasy read for more reluctant middle grade readers who want fantasy stories but aren't ready yet for the longer tomes.  Tess, Max, and William are appealing characters that it's easy to like.  The author does a good job of getting into the story immediately while still filling in the backstory.  Tess and Max are staying with their Aunt Evie while their mother undergoes cancer treatments (unknown to them) and their father, a reporter, is in the field.  After a fight with her brother, Tess goes exploring and discovers what appears to be a castle.  An encounter with a gate seemingly attached to an invisible fence, a strange key, and a mysterious boy who warns her to stay away from the hawthorn trees leaves Tess wondering what's going on.  After Max discovers the key hidden in her dresser, Tess takes Max to meet William at the castle, where it becomes clear that some sort of magic is involved.  An exciting ride on a merry-go-round, a formal dinner, and the strange coming together of a blue moon and an eclipse leave Tess wondering what's real and what isn't.  An enjoyable, quick read with enjoyable characters, cool horses, and the power of wishes makes for an entertaining read.


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