The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz
My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes
Series: Carmer and Grit #2
Date Published: April 10th, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 368 pages
Synopsis: Shortly after saving the faeries of Skemantis, magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III and his faerie companion, Grit, head out to see the world. They soon come across a mysteriously magical flying circus. As they get to know the outlandish world of Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show, it becomes clear there’s something not quite normal about this circus or its inventor—and that recent airship disasters plaguing nearby Driftside City may have a sinister explanation.
Fans of the Wildwood trilogy and Lockwood & Co. series will love the thrills and chills of The Crooked Castle as it takes readers up in the air with a flying circus, under the sea to the evil Unseelie kingdom, through a terrifying magical snowstorm, and on a chase with the menacing Wild Hunt.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
This is a spoiler-free review.
This is one of those novels that is very challenging to review because of how much I loved it—I have absolutely no idea where to start. At the beginning of last year, I read the first book in this series, The Wingsnatchers, and it quickly ended up becoming one of my all-time favorites. The Crooked Castle was, by far, my most anticipated book of this year, and I was not disappointed in the least. This novel is equally as charming, thrilling, and heartwarming as the last. I so enjoyed returning to this beautifully crafted world and following the adventures of this incredible cast of characters. This novel is pure magic.
We begin following Carmer and Grit not long after their heroic acts in Skemantis, as they set out on their journey to see the world. Though they are pursuing adventure, it usually finds them first—and this time around, it literally comes crashing into their lives in the form of a balloon and its balloonist, Bell Daisimer. Bell joins the pair in order to get to a city where he can find the necessary parts to repair his balloon, but his stay is not quite as temporary as they all expect.
They soon discover a glider mixed up in the remnants of Bell’s balloon, and inside the glider is an exclusive invitation to Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show—a massive flying circus. Upon arrival in Driftside City, and after gaining access to the Wonder Show, it becomes apparent that there is more to this flying circus than meets the eye. Everything appears to be much more mysterious—and decidedly too magical—than they ever could have anticipated.
To top it off, they learn of a whole slew of unexplained airship disasters that have recently been plaguing the city. In their attempts to investigate just what is behind these accidents and the inner workings of the show itself, they stumble across dark secrets and a lot of wicked Unseelie fairies as they attempt to save the lives of their newfound friends, as well as their own.
I completely devoured this novel. It immediately pulled me in, swept me away on an adventure, and melted my heart once again. Taking place in a steampunk world and packed with lovable characters, amazing inventions, and enchanting magical elements, it is such an utterly charming read. The narrative is incredibly fast-paced and exciting, with new twists and turns constantly popping up. Each page makes you eager to get to the next, and I found it difficult to put down.
Reading this story was an absolute joy–there is such a nostalgic tone to it for me. It made me feel so warm and comforted, as though it had wrapped itself around me like a cozy blanket. That is the same pleasant sense so many of my favorite books from my childhood evoked, and I love that I can still reflect on and experience that today due to novels like these. I can see myself cherishing these stories for a long time.
Horwitz’s remarkable talent for storytelling stands out even more than it did before. Her description and world-building are top-notch and her words flow flawlessly from page to page. Every single part of this story is crafted so meticulously, down to the most minor details, and filled with a tone that sparks that childlike sense of wonder. She knows exactly how to unfold fascinating stories, brimming with elements similar to those of a classic tale. It is easy to see the appeal of her work and nearly impossible not to feel a connection to it on some level.
The characters are one of the most wonderful aspects of this story. Whether they are lovable or despicable, they are so vivid. I love the fact that we are able to see more of Carmer and Grit’s friendship and how it has progressed since the last novel. They are a perfect pairing and complement each other so well. And I absolutely adored the new additions to the cast, particularly Bell and another character that enters closer to the end (no spoilers!). Everyone is so fleshed out and multi-dimensional, so it is hard not to become emotionally invested in them and their lives—they will work their way into your heart.
Horwitz seamlessly captivates her readers by making her work accessible to all generations. It is hard not to get caught up in this fantastical world—the type that fuels your imagination and feeds your soul. She not only has a huge amount of talent as a writer, but she is also extremely gifted when it comes to writing fresh, unique stories that still retain that timeless, fairytale-like quality. She is truly doing what she is clearly meant to do by writing these types of novels, and I am completely blown away by what she has created.
Overall, I wholeheartedly adored this novel and never wanted it to end. It met and exceeded all of my expectations, and I was completely enthralled all the way through. Just like the previous installment, Horwitz has produced a story that—while targeted at a middle grade audience—is universally enjoyable, spanning every age group. This novel is an absolute masterpiece and will undoubtedly touch the hearts of every reader. I very highly recommend diving into this enchanting world, and I hope there will be more stories to come in the near future.