Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell

Shadow Castle is one of those remarkable books that refuses to go away. Published in 1945, most readers are familiar with it because of the 60s and 70s reprints from Scholastic Book Services. The interior illustrations are by Olive Bailey. Written for young readers, Shadow Castle is a fantasy in the same vein as The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia. Filled with fairies, a prince, a dragon and some very nasty goblins, Shadow Castle is at times surprisingly dark. I first read it at about the age of nine and recall being horrified by the goblins and enchanted by the dragon. I re-read it recently and found it hasn’t lost its magic. The plot is simple enough – a girl stumbles into another realm where she finds a castle in the middle of a dark forest. The castle is occupied by the shadows of kings and queens all waiting for someone to break the spell that keeps them captive. It is a shadow castle in the literal sense. This plot device adds a haunting tone to the book. The girl, Lucy, may well be the one to break that spell. Her adventures are swift and imaginative. Cockrell was a fine writer and also published several novels for adults, although Shadow Castle remains her best known work. An expanded edition is currently in print which restores Cockrell’s original manuscript. Apparently Cockrell’s book was heavily edited and this new edition restores her complete manuscript. If mainstream bookstores like Barnes & Noble hope to remain in business they need to stock their shelves with more independent titles such as the expanded edition of Shadow Castle. This is what people are looking for, not hardcover remainders of today’s flock of unreadable suspense writers. Meanwhile, find yourself a copy of Shadow Castle where the first chapter, “The Hidden Tunnel,” will transport you to a shadow land: “If she hadn’t gone exploring in the deep, dark forest, Lucy might never have met the little dog at all...”

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