Sunday, April 29, 2012

DNF: Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Read pages: 115 of 400

I was really torn about DNF-ing this book because it has SO much potential and I really wanted to love it. I felt invested in the idea of it and I had a real hard time accepting that the reality didn't exactly mesh up with my expectations.

Just take a look at all of these awesome points:

  • An adorable cover
  • A princess
  • A mysteriously missing queen who, we later learn, was up to all sorts of secret things.
  • A mad king mourning his missing wife
  • A kingdom on the cusp of revolt
  • Political intrigue!
  • A gardener boy who accompanies the princess on her quest to find her mother and save the kingdom

Doesn't that sound great?!, the princess, while nice enough, was mostly "stock cute orphan" mixed with "stock precocious girl" and I was never able to connect with her or even care about her. The mad king was more the pathetic king and I couldn't care less about the missing queen. Actually, I kind of hated her and I don't even know why considering I never even got to meet her.

The gardener boy had the most personality and potential, but he didn't have much page time. Charlie takes a bratty approach to dealing with him. I wanted her to hurry up and get to the burgeoning crush kind of MG boy-girl relationship, which I'm sure happened eventually. Or, barring that, I wanted her to at least be nice to him.

I guess I could have overlooked all that if the plot were interesting, but it was sooo sloooow. This book is massive at 400 pages long, but almost nothing important happened in the 115 pages I read. I only got a tiny smattering of rumors regarding the revolt, but there was no sense of imminent danger and the political intrigue bits were practically non-existent.

By the time I DNF-ed, Princess Charlie had only just managed to break into her mother's locked room of secrets. I need a more intrepid MC than one who takes over a quarter of the book just to figure out how to snoop.

The story was nice enough and maybe at that point things would have finally started happening and Charlie would have finally grown a personality, but I was so mired in a a sludge of meh that I could not force myself to find out.

Bookworm1858 explained my feelings perfectly when she said, "...this book did not [have magic]. Not magic as in a plot point but as in casting a spell on me while I was reading."

And that's it exactly. No magic. 



  1. Hmm, 400 pages is loooooong for no magic. If I don't like the characters, it's really gotta have a strong plot for me to finish it. Sounds like this one really didn't have either. Maybe they cut the magic out of it in the editing phase. Can't love em all! Good, solid reasons for why you didn't like it.


  2. The awesome points you mentioned really do sound awesome, but 400 pages is so long for a MG book and I usually like my MG reads cute and fast. I know exactly what it's like when a book is technically fine but for whatever reason just can't make you care for it, too.

    BTW, I just bought The Wicked and the Just based on your review! Can't wait 'til it arrives from the Book Depository.

  3. 400 pages for a Middle Grade novel? Yikes! Although, if it ended up being as OMGAWESOME as it sounds (seriously, it sounds amazing!), I would have no problems tearing through it.

  4. Bummer. So sorry it didn't work for you but thanks for your honesty.

  5. Thank you so much for quoting me! While I did manage to finish the book, I completely understand you DNF-ing it and I love how you do these posts to explain those decisions.

  6. I received this for review. I was looking forward to all the reasons you were. Bummer, for sure!

  7. Bummer!! I really actually enjoyed this one... But like Juju said - thanks for being honest! Did you get to any of the parts with Alistair Windlass? Because he was my main draw in the story and totally had me hanging on his every word. If he hadn't been in the book, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much. Maybe not at all...

    Thanks for your review, Small!

  8. Well, this isn't surprising, you were on such a fantastic "Special Shelf" roll. I knew it was going to come to an end. I'm with you the cover is adorable and the plot/premise is enticing, I have to ask my usual question though, is this one a third person narrative? It seems like the vast majority of MG fantasy-like books are written in this fashion.


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