By Author / Illustrator
Sophie Anderson, Saara Soderlund
Fairy Tales & Folk Tales
Usborne Publishing Ltd
Paperback / softback
An enchanting fairy-tale adventure about the power of love and courage, from the bestselling author of The House with Chicken Legs and The Girl who Speaks Bear.
Magic awaits, all you have to do is believe...When thirteen-year-old Olia steps through a magical doorway, she discovers another land. A land tangled by magic, where hope is lost, and a scheming wizard holds all the power. Soon Olia learns that she is destined to save this land, but with time running out and her new friends and family in danger, she must search for the magic within herself - to save everything and everyone she loves.
Olia loves Castle Mila, the ancestral home of her family, a place full of secrets and magic. Although they no longer live in the grandeur of the past, the domed castle offers them shelter and the rest of the village space to celebrate and work. But strange storms are rising and Olia's Babusya urges her to unlock the castle's magic before it destroys everything. So Olia sets off through a magical doorway to another land where, with the new friends she meets along the way, she must use the magic within herself and save everyone.
A natural storyteller, Sophie Anderson has done it again with this gem of a book. The Castle of Tangled Magic mingles Russian folklore mingles with the magic of her own imagination to create a compelling and engaging adventure, told in rich, evocative language with much imagery related to nature and its beauty.
Wonderful characters of all descriptions fill the pages, many with their roots in Slavic mythology. Olia (named for the Magnolia) is an amazing heroine, full of courage and determination, of kindness and compassion. She gathers an amazing assortment of companions as she travels on her quest - Feliks, the castle 'domovoi' or protective house spirit, Koshka the cat, Cascadia the 'rusalka' (female water spirit) and Dub the leshy (tree spirit) to name a few.
Family and love are at the heart of the story- it's not the place that is the home, but the people in it. Taking responsibility for the past - the actions of our ancestors - and not forgetting but seeking to face up to it and making amends is a poignant thread to the tale. Olia has to come to terms with the shameful and thoughtless actions of her predecessors and proves that she is different. People have the power to change things if they believe in themselves.
The House with Chicken Legs remains my favourite book by Sophie Anderson, but this comes a very close second (and there are links!) and would make a wonderful story to share with a class. I can't wait to see where Sophie takes us next.
416 pages / Ages 10+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
13-year-old Olia lives with her parents, grandmother Babusya and baby sister Rosa, whom she adores. The family are descended from royalty and their home is the huge Castle Mila. The castle is 500 years old and with its 33 turrets and domes is full of secrets. Olia loves to explore it, searching for hidden doorways into the domes which are full of magic. When a magical storm threatens to destroy Castle Mila and Olia's family, she is called upon to save it. To do so, she sets off on a thrilling adventure to the Land of Forbidden Magic, which is full of spirits who were banished there by Olia's ancestor, Ludmila.
The Castle of Tangled Magic is a lovely book, a clever mix of adventure, fairy story and Russian folk tale. Olia is a fabulous character; she is brave and loyal - her family and friends mean everything to her. She is asked to fulfil many difficult and frightening tasks, but the knowledge that she is saving her family always keeps her going. She is supported by a delightful cast of characters; Feliks, the house spirit is her right-hand man, always there to encourage her when things seem impossible.
Along the way Olia meets others who become friends and allies: Koshka, a cat who once was a witch; Cascadia, a water spirit, and Dub, a tree spirit. There are flying horses, houses with chicken legs, and headless giants in this strange land, and all play their part in helping Olia in her ultimate quest - to cut off the beard of the wizard Chernomor so as to stop magic spilling into her own world and destroying all that she holds dear.
While this is an exciting and beautifully written adventure story, the main theme running through it is the importance of family, and in believing in yourself. Whenever Olia finds herself in a difficult situation she thinks back to the wise words of her grandmother and battles on. As the author tells us "belief is more powerful than magic", and Olia proves this to be true on several occasions.
The illustrations, drawn by Sara Soderlund, complement the story perfectly. All in all, I found this to be a thrilling and engrossing read.
Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, School Librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+