There may be a castle by Piers Torday

cover image

Hachette, 2016. ISBN 9781848668621
(Age: 10+) Recommended. On the wordless turquoise cover, a stylised path winds its way to a distant castle while the blurb simply states, 'like I said, kid, it's your story. Are you ready?'
There may be a castle is a multilayered story, told through the eyes of two narrators, Mouse Mouse Mallory a small eleven-year-old boy, a procrastinator, a thinker whose constant companion is his stuffed toy donkey Nonky and his older sister Violet. Her personality is opposite to her brother's: she is confident and feisty like her hero, a pirate queen. Mouse hates Christmas, as every year they travel to their grandparents' house on Christmas Eve. Even with dire weather warnings, Mum bundles the children out of the house and settles toddler Esme in her car seat.
The car ride is fraught with tension, and in a minute in snowy dangerous conditions, the car crashes. The SUV rolls down a steep hill, the windscreen shatters and Mouse who has undone his seatbelt is catapulted out into the snow. His mother bleeding and unconscious and his sisters hang upside down in the car, Esme safe in her car seat while Violet is trapped by her seatbelt.
This is the turning point of Torday's narrative, clearly delineated by chapters and font styles, the two tales unfold. Mouse wakes up in a magical land inhabited by strange characters, knights, monsters, giant dinosaurs and a large talking donkey. He cannot look back; there is an enemy lurking in the woods. He is constantly encouraged and cajoled to 'maybe find the castle,' that lies ahead. Meanwhile Violet has to confront the consequences of the car crash; it is up to her to save her mother and sister.
Just like Christmas cake that exploded on impact, leaving crumbs in the car and scattered on the snowy ground outside, Torday leaves plenty of clues for the astute reader along the way to the culmination of the story. While each of the main characters shows great resilience and resourcefulness, the reader also needs to persevere at times with different storylines and the individual quests.
This story is challenging, a dark and compelling story, at times nonsensical with the annoying minstrel's lengthy songs, but most of all it is confronting. There may be a castle is suited to a more mature, discerning preteen reader.
Rhyllis Bignell