Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson LevineA Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
Series: A Tale Of Two Castles #1
Published by HarperCollins on 2011-05-10
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Girls & Women, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

Newbery Honor author of Ella Enchanted Gail Carson Levine weaves a spellbinding tale about a clever heroine, a dragon detective, and a shape-shifting ogre. Newly arrived in the town of Two Castles, Elodie unexpectedly becomes the assistant to a brilliant dragon named Meenore, and together they solve mysteries. Their most important case concerns the town’s shape-shifting ogre, Count Jonty Um: Someone is plotting against him. Elodie must disguise herself to discover the source of the threat amid a cast of characters that includes a greedy king, a giddy princess, and a handsome cat trainer. Readers who loved Ella Enchanted and Fairest will delight in this tale of a spirited heroine who finds friendship where she least expects it and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

I am pretty sure everyone who begins a book enters the book hoping to love it. With a select few books that people may start off with their fists swinging, I think the vast majority of us want to love what we read. I am not immune to this, nor do I ever want to be immune to the desire to fall for new words and worlds. Unfortunately, I ultimately did not love A Tale Of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, despite my hopes.

A Tale Of Two Castles begins on an interesting note. Young Elodie must leave her impoverished family to travel to the land of Two Castles and get an apprenticeship. Her family wants her to apprentice as something useful, but Elodie wants to be a mansioner, which I guess is a trouper? Anyways, she ends up in Two Castles only to discover that one needs to pay a fee to apprentice, as free apprenticeships have been abolished. To make matters even worse, her last bit of copper was stolen by a cat. Along the way, Elodie befriends a dragon, a princess, and an ogre.

I won’t say that I hated or even disliked A Tale of Two Castles, because I didn’t. However, I just didn’t click with this book the same way I do with most fantasy that I read. I just felt as though there was too much going on for me to really grasp onto a plot thread and connect. I mean, was this a detective story? Was it a friendship story? I’m still not even sure. I also felt as though all of the characters were held at arm’s length. For instance, the character Meenore the dragon, just as we start to get a decent amount of facetime with Meenore, it disappears for several chapters. Or, Count Jonty-Um the shape shifting ogre with the heart of gold. We got to meet him a bit more in depth, then he also just kind of disappears. Elodie was definitely there for the duration of the story, but it felt like she was one of those any-characters. Oh, sure she is brave and pure of heart, and desperately wants to be a mansioner. But what else is she? I don’t even recall her specific character traits, the things that make her unique.

I imagine if I was ten years younger, 12 or 13 again, I would have absolutely loved A Tale Of Two Castles, what with the fantastical elements. However, I’m not that age. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love YA and I do enjoy middle-grade from time to time, but I just think that maybe A Tale Of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine wasn’t the right book for me. However, I don’t think you should let that stop you from trying out this book, just as I won’t let that stop me from trying out Ella Enchanted.

Disclosure: received for review via Netgalley.

Other Reviews:
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Purchase A Tale Of Two Castles here.
*Read as part of the Once Upon A Time Challenge V – Falls into Fairy Tale Category

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I have this ready to read but I’m worried that I won’t be able to connect with the story either, especially because I loved GCL when I was younger but haven’t read her much as I aged.

  2. Whoa, nostalgia! I loved Gail Carson Levine as a kid. It’s a bummer that this one wasn’t for you, but hopefully you’ll enjoy Ella Enchanted (loved that one so much as a kid)!

  3. Ya know, Gail Carson Levine always leaves me feeling a little lukewarm, too. I can never quite put my finger on it, but I just feel meh after her books. No hate, but no real love either.
    And so many people seem to love her, so I always feel the need to try her again, but so far…still meh.

  4. I always hear people rave about this author. I’m glad I read your review because I really do think I wouldn’t enjoy this one so much for many of the reasons you listed. I’m very stingy with my reading time so I only pick up MG every now and again. I’ll prob pick up something else to satisfy my MG craving.

  5. Honestly, Gail Carson Levine peaked at Ella Enchanted, and I have never felt the same about her other books. Ella Enchanted is a really excellent book, and I am fond of Levine’s other books only insofar as they remind me that I need to reread Ella. :p

  6. I had to put this one down, too, because I couldn’t really get into the story. I’m kind of glad to know that I wasn’t the only one. I liked her other novel, Fairest, and while I haven’t read Ella Enchanted yet, I know people who loved it. Perhaps it’s really with her audience? Maybe she really is targeting younger readers.

  7. Were there any centaurs? If you haven’t read Ella Enchanted yet and are planning to, please look out for the centaurs. We read Ella Enchanted for this seminar I led (Fairy Tales Retold) and I think the centaurs were the main topic of discussion for an hour. I still don’t understand why she portrayed them the way she did.

    Thanks for the review.

  8. April… I think I recognize you from goodreads?? Are you apart of the YA Book Club?? I am the moderator there! I just started blogging so I just ran across your blog! The title of the book A Tale of Two Castles is sooo interesting. Too bad you didn’t love it!


    ~New Follower~