Thursday, May 10, 2007

Charlie Bone Faces Danger Again!

Charlie Bone, whose life has never been easy, gets slammed with a whole new problem in Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors. He’s entering his second year at Bloor’s Academy, the school for the specially endowed children of the Red King, who disappeared a thousand years ago.

All his familiar enemies are there, including the Bloors, the Yewbeam aunts, and Grandma Bone. Thankfully, Charlie still has all his friends, him mom, Grandma Maisie, Uncle Paton, and Miss Ingledew. In this novel, series readers get to find out new secrets that have been staring them right in the face, and get a peek as some potential new twists and enemies that Charlie is going to have to deal with in successive books.

Old Ezekial Bloor and Charlie's aunts, the Yewbeam sisters, have managed to resurrect a ghostly horse creature that they believe has the heart of an old, fierce warrior named Borlath. They indend to use the creature against Charlie and his other endowed friends at Bloor's Academy. However, something has gone drastically wrong. As it turns out, they’ve put the wrong heart in the creature and Manfred causes a mistake in the spell that will have dire consequences.

In the meantime, Charlie has to deal with a weird new teacher named Tauntalus Ebony and Manfred’s new position at the school as more or less a teacher role. Now Manfred doesn’t even need his endowed powers of hypnotism to make Charlie’s life terrible. He can just put Charlie in detention and take away his weekends.

Just as with the previous Charlie Bone books, author Jenny Nimmo keeps a lot of balls in the air. A lot of possibilities and threats dangle in front of the reader as they cruise through this tale. It seems as though disaster and defeat lurk around every corner.

Charlie is still looking for his father Lyle, whom everyone believe is dead but Charlie is certain is still alive. Poor Billy Raven still hasn't been adopted, but he gets adopted in this one--by the most evil people in the world. The bit about the Oaths and how they get free and are eventually dealt with is awesome. Nimmo’s imagination summons up some great action.

Charlie and Billy’s travel on the white horse, who turns out to be much more than anyone would guess, to the island containing the Castle of Mirrors is exciting. The whole history of the castle if fantastic, and this deep history is one of the things that Nimmo has come to excel at.

More of the Yewbeam family lineage is discovered, as well as what happened to many of the Red King's children. The things that bind Charlie and his friends, family ties as well as personal stakes, grow even stronger in this novel.

I read these books to my nine-year-old, who enjoys them immensely and takes the tests on the Accelerated Reader program at his school. I enjoy how easy they are to read aloud, and the degree of history that Nimmo has put in each of her novels, building on what has gone on before. The plots do tend to be somewhat repetitive, but they are Charlie Bone books. They tell a certain kind of story with certain elements that the young readers require.

The Charlie Bone books are great escapist fiction for the Harry Potter crowd while they're waiting on the final book in that series. And Charlie Bone hasn't quite progressed to the level of darkness that the Potter books have. Charlie Bone still guarantees excitement and laughs.

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