{Review/Giveaway} THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS by Merrie Haskell

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comes out May 27, 2014!*

Earlier this week,
Merrie Haskell
visited THE BOOK RAT
for an awesome interview!

Check out my review of THE PRINCESS CURSE
one of my favorite fairy tale middle grades!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    SAND WOKE, CURLED IN THE ASHES of a great fireplace.
    Surprised to find himself waking at all, for he had no memory of falling asleep, Sand scrambled to his feet. Soot billowed away from him in a cloud and sneaked up his nose. He sneezed four great sneezes that came back in lonely echoes from the vast room beyond the fireplace.
    Sand had never slept in a fireplace before. He never wanted to again. But he hesitated inside the fireplace, one foot suspended in midair, afraid to leave.
    In the room beyond, everything was broken.
    Every single thing.
(Page 1, US ARC edition)

Moment of Truth: THE PRINCESS CURSE is still my favorite book from Merrie Haskell so far. Granted, I still haven't read my copy of HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS (*hides*), so that may not always be a true statement. I didn't like THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS better than THE PRINCESS CURSE. TPC, however, twists together three of my all-time favorite tales, so that's pretty hard to beat. TCBT is pretty darn unique, too, though. I love Haskell's innovation and the endless scope of her imagination. Middle-grade readers who enjoy THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS should also check out fellow middle-grade Sleeping Beauty novel THE WIDE-AWAKE PRINCESS by E.D. Baker. It's absolutely adorable, and similar only in that both books deal with the same tale, and both completely reconstruct the tale to create something brand-new and fresh in the genre.

One day, Sand wakes up not knowing how he got into the forbidden castle. Everything has been sundered in two; every bucket, every tool, every everything. Somehow, food such as turnips are still good (albeit stale). It's as though everything froze in time during the sundering. Sand, who wants nothing more than to be a blacksmith, decides to fix as much as possible. If he doesn't know how he got into the castle, he surely doesn't know how to get out, either, especially with deadly thorns covering all exit points. When he accidentally brings Princess Perrotte back from the dead, he realizes that the magic loitering about is more powerful than he could have ever imagined...

It was so intriguing to see a Sleeping Beauty story that isn't Sleeping Beauty. The elements are there, but the story is original and unique. Plus, it's middle-grade, so romance is not the focus of this book (perhaps another reason TPC is my favorite!). The world-building was so intriguing. I wanted to know what happened to the Sundered Castle all those years ago that tore it--and everything lying within--into perfect halves.The mystery propelled me forward and piqued my interest. I also liked the unique use of magic, and the way that Sand and Perrotte must rely on one another to break the curse and take control of their destinies. These two don't sit around waiting to be saved. They're smart enough to figure out what needs to be done and work on accomplishing everything necessary. Plus, Princess Perrotte is incredibly smart. It's great to see a literary princess who embraces astronomy and natural sciences. We need more smart girls in fiction, especially for kids.

A lot of the story is internal, since it's just Sand and Perrotte alone in a castle with little exterior action for much of the novel, but the novelty of a Sundered Castle and the magic needed to repair it are enough to keep readers interested and curious to know what happens next. I continued to be delighted by Haskell's sentence phrasing, as well, and will gladly read another book by her in the future. (Hopefully she keeps on writing fantasy with fairy tale flair!)
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Kevin Keele designed both this and Merrie Haskell's previous novel, HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS. I'll admit it: At first, I was sad we weren't getting more illustrations from Jason Chan. But Keele's artwork is great, too, and I especially love the illustration for this cover.

I want to know more immediately just by looking at the cover. Everything is split in half and destroyed. Don't go in there, shadowed boy. Be wary, be wary!

Plus, there is blurb by Rae Carson. That is all sorts of amazing right there!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Merrie Haskell
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books // HarperCollins
Received: For Review (ALA Copy)

A magical adventure set in an enchanted castle that is sure to appeal to fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Shannon Hale 

When Sand wakes up alone in a long-abandoned castle, he has no idea how he got there. The stories all said the place was ruined by an earthquake, and Sand did not expect to find everything inside-from dishes to candles to apples-torn in half or slashed to bits. Nothing lives here and nothing grows, except the vicious, thorny bramble that prevents Sand from leaving. Why wasn't this in the stories? 

To survive, Sand does what he knows best-he fires up the castle's forge to mend what he needs to live. But the things he fixes work somehow better than they ought to. Is there magic in the mending, granted by the saints who once guarded this place? 

Unexpectedly, Sand finds the lost heir, Perrotte, a girl who shares the castle's astonishing secrets and dark history. Putting together the pieces-of stone and iron, and of a broken life-is harder than Sand ever imagined, but it's the only way to gain their freedom, even with the help of the guardian saints. 

With gorgeous language and breathtaking magic, Merrie Haskell's THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS tells of the power of memory and story, forgiveness and strength, and the true gifts of craft and imagination.

Ready to check out 

Merrie has kindly offered up a prize pack of books, including an ARC of her latest release, THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, and an ANNOTATED ARC of HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS! [Misty and I are both CRAZY JEALOUS of the winner of this, 'cause that is awesome.]

All FTF giveaways run until May 10th.

You must register on the Giveaway Registration Form during the event to be considered for any prizes in individual giveaways throughout the event.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. This sounds intriguing. You really make me want to read it.

  2. I just added this to my TBR at the library. :) I'm excited to read it!

  3. The title itself sounds interesting! I want to read it so much!


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