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A Tale of Two Castles

by Gail Carson Levine

genre: fantasy, mystery, young adult

Gail Carson Levine was one of the writers that made me fall in love with reading. I first picked up Ella Enchanted in elementary school and no matter how many times I reread it, the ending makes me cry. I don’t know if my tastes have matured or simply prefer the more dark humor of Simon R. Green, but this book was not for me. There is no doubt in my mind Gail Carson Levine is a brilliant author, but this book fell very flat for me.

Synopsis from Goodreads

Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.

A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre’s castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre’s feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.


I was bored from the beginning. I just never connected with Elodie. She’s brave, adventurous, and creative, so I’m not sure why. She’s a sweet kid, but I never connected with her.  It wasn’t like reading about Katniss and pulling for her through The Hunger Games.

Some of the language bothered me. I got used to “mansioner” and “mansion” for “actress” and “acting,” but in the novel, dragons keep their gender to themselves, and since there is no gender-non-specific pronouns for “person” in the English language, the dragon is referred to as “IT” in caps. I cannot tell you how distracting it is to have “IT” pop up when I’m reading. I’m one of those people who hates when people type in all caps and have been known to block them in chat rooms. It seems even the occasional all caps pronoun is as bad as nails on a chalkboard. I really didn’t think it added to the story any and the dragon could very well have been referred to as “she” and been much less disruptive to my reading.

Then there was the “Ehlodie.” I understand people wanting their name pronounced a certain way. Having a name so close to Elizabeth, I correct people sometimes, but the amount of time spent discussing Lodie, Elodie, and Ehlodie was just too much.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it, but I did not enjoy it.  There were too many little things that took away from the flow of the book and it was slow at the beginning.  Just wasn’t in my taste, but I do like Gail as an author and will continue to experiment with others in her collection.

2 stars

amazonbutton2 copy-Eliabeth Hawthorne

If you’ve read A Tale of Two Castles and would like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment below.  To see other books we’ve reviewed or to have your book added to our to-review list, please see our Book Reviews page.