A Tale of Two Castles
By: Gail Carson Levine
Read by: Sarah Coomes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Source: Received copy from Brilliance Audio for review
Challenges: 2011 Once Upon a Time Challenge
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.
Audio Review: Sarah Coomes is a delightful narrator that has makes this story really come to life with a diverse set of voices for each character. I appreciated that Elodie's voice was feminine but not high and squeaky as some narrators are wont to do with younger characters. There are things about this book that I think can not be fully appreciated without listening to the audio, like Meenore's laugh, for instance, or Princess Ren's small, weak voice. This audio is absolutely captivating, and will be especially thrilling for younger readers.
Book Review: Readers who have been waiting for another enchanting fairy tale from Gail Carson Levine will be very pleased with A Tale of Two Castles. Elodie's adventures begin on the boat from her home town where she is set to depart to Two Castles to be apprenticed to a weaver. But, Elodie secretly plans to apprentice for the mansioners and live her dreams of drama and acting. She learns, however, that the guilds have done away with the 10-year apprenticeships for free, and one must pay for an apprenticeship, but they are very expensive.
Hired as an apprentice to Meenore, the local dragon detective, Elodie gets thrown smack dab in the middle of court intrigue. Elodie's out-spoken nature will endear herself to many readers, as it did to me. She wants to work hard, and her heart is in mansioning, or acting. I loved listening to the ways that she was able to incorporate her talent for acting into solving the mystery. Meenore is a kind-hearted, quirky dragon that abhors filth and is extremely sensitive. All its quirks and oddities combined with its sense of pride, made Meenore a character that I loved just as much as Elodie.
This book is more suited for a middle grade audience. There is very little romance to speak of, and while there are murder attempts, there is no violence. If you love Gail Caron Levine's previous work, you'll enjoy this one. At the very least, it will make you a little more wary of cats.