Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Book Review: The Secet of Castle Cant

The Secret of Castle Cant by K.P. Bath *****

Orphaned Lucy Wickwright is the long-suffering maidservant and involuntary co-conspirator in the madcap exploits of her mistress Pauline, heiress to the Barony of Cant. However, their relatively carefree childhoods are rapidly nearing an end. Amid ominous rumblings of discontent and even revolution, Lucy finds herself caught up in plots against Pauline and the gum-chewing aristocracy of Cant, and must decide where her loyalties lie.

Intelligent and well-written with an original premise (the premodern barony of Cant, tucked away in the creases of modern maps, which allows for modern incursions such as chewing gum and t-shirts), _The Secret of Castle Cant_ is a very promising first novel. The author's strongest suit, in my opinion, is the fact that he, like the best authors for young readers including J.K. Rowling, obviously respects the intelligence of his readers and doesn't write down to them. His "footnotes" and other references to the "history" of Cant also suggest that this world has not just been casually thrown together but carefully developed in his mind.

Pauline and Lucy develop a wonderful friendship that outweighs their original class differences and, while spoiled, Pauline is portrayed sympathetically and is obviously in the process of changing to a better, less thoughless person by the end of the book. Lucy is fiercely loyal and, while her methods for avoiding trouble without strictly lying may be deplored by some parents, her use of them is certainly realistic (I know I did it), and is unfortunately in common use by many adult public figures these days. My only criticism is that boys close to the heroines' ages seem to be portrayed as either stupid or arrogant, but I hope that will be remedied in the next book.

Altogether this was an enjoyable book, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel.

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