I hate having to start with apologies all the time on my blogs, but here comes another one: I’m sorry in the delay with this post. I sat down to write it a couple of weeks ago (early, if I may add), when this happened:
Unfortunately, these updates took two hours and by the time it happened it was most definitely my bed time. So, things were not going according to plan.
Amazing segue time.
Things certainly do not go to plan in Piers Torday’s There May Be a Castle either. Released this month, I was lucky enough to receive a proof from the kind people of Hachette Australia when I attended their roadshow earlier in the year. This new children’s release introduces us to Mouse, an eleven year old boy, on Christmas Eve, who is travelling to his grandparents’ house with his family. This Christmas is a particularly torrid one for Mouse, as he has to spend it with his elder sister Violet, who is dressed like a pirate, and his baby sister Esme, who is insistent that it is “Easta!”
His mother is equally frustrated with the situation, because in addition to the two girls, Mouse is frequently caught up in his own imagination rather than in the real world. As a result, she has to drive in the mountains in the snow, with low visibility, with one child still in his pyjamas (as Mouse was “somewhere else” when the preparations for their trip were happening), one child dressed as a pirate, and the third deeply confused about how festivities work.
Despite the danger, the family decide to venture into the snow anyhow. With disastrous consequences. The car crashes and goes off the road. Mouse is thrown from the car. And suddenly, the entire landscape of this story changes.
We are no longer in this world. We, in a way, become a part of Mouse, and his amazing imagination.
We are now in a medieval town. We are now speaking with a sheep, deemed “Bar” as all she can say is “Baa”. We meet Nonky, a slightly sarcastic horse who seems to be Mouse’s beloved toy come to full life. We dread the minstrel’s songs. And we are aware of the dangerous Pink Knight, who is following behind at all times. We also know that there may be a castle. And we want to reach this castle, badly.
It is from these developments that this story takes its interesting, remarkable and unique turn. Not only does the story itself change, but the entire experience of reading changes. There are now two different fonts – one which dictates the logical progression of the story, and one which tells us just what Mouse is experiencing. And so, we simultaneously are reading Violet’s valiant attempts (channelling her inner pirate, of course) to escape from the trapped car and save her younger brother, as well as the incredible fantasy which is taking place in Mouse’s story. However, what Mouse is not privy to knowing is just how dangerous this quest towards the castle truly is. There may be valiant steeds and jousting battles, however nothing will come close to the battle of the real world.
This is a remarkable story, and I’d say that it would only be suitable for a certain type of child reader – no spoilers here, but the ending is quite dark and it may not sit comfortably with all children. It has a deep-rooted, adult sensibility about it, despite being something of a work of fantasy. There are chuckles to be had, clashes to be won and life lessons to learn – all told through a quite riveting, surprising book from Piers Torday.