The Enchanted Castle was written by Edith Nesbit. It was first published in 1907 by Unwin. More information about Nesbit can be found here.
“The enchanted castle is a country estate in the West Country of England, as seen through the eyes of three children, Gerald, James and Kathleen, who discover it while exploring during the school holidays. The lake, groves and marble statues, with white towers and turrets in the distance, make a fairy-tale setting, and then in the middle of the maze in the rose garden they find a sleeping fairy-tale princess.
The “Princess” tells them that the castle is full of magic, and they almost believe her. She shows them the treasures of the castle, including a ring she says is a ring of invisibility, but when it actually turns her invisible she panics and admits that she is the housekeeper’s niece, Mabel, and was just play acting.
The children soon discover that the ring has other magical powers…”
What I Liked:
Another book I read when I was younger! This one I remembered not nearly as much as Tom’s Midnight Garden and others, though. Nesbit has a way of writing that reminds me quite a bit of Diana Wynne Jones (Nesbit inspired DWJ, I believe); the plot advancement and revelations are very similar.
I loved the dialogue and the way the kids spoke; I don’t know what it is, but earlier writers did such a good job at writing kids that made them actually sound like kids—mature kids, even (mature kids are different from kids who sound too old for their age. Mature kids show their maturity through their actions as well as their words. So says I.). I loved Gerald’s talking like he was the hero of a story and Mabel’s bravery and all the rest. I loved the British slang and the old ways of speech from the late 1800s-early 1900s.
The mystery and the enchantment were almost palpable, especially in the section with the statues. It is at that point where both the children and the reader are starting to realize that there is something more than just the ring at work here, and the moments with the moonlight and the Hall are just beautiful.
This is quite an advanced book for children, and it is all the better for it.
What I Didn’t Like:
I actually found myself a little confused about the whole deal with the Hall, and in places the book dragged.
Recommended Age Range: 8+
Warnings: A tiny bit of scary images, for those who may be younger.
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Realistic
“What are you so cross about?” Gerald was quite calm. “You said you’d be invisible, and you are.”
“You are really. Look in the glass.”
“I’m not; I can’t be.”
“Look in the glass,” Gerald repeated, quite unmoved.
“Let go, then,” she said.
Gerald did, and the moment he had done so he found it impossible to believe that he really had been holding invisible hands.
‘You’re just pretending not to see me,” said the Princess anxiously, “aren’t you? Do say you are. You’ve had your joke with me. Don’t keep it up. I don’t like it.”
“On our sacred word of honour,” said Gerald, “you’re still invisible.”
“Can you recommend me to a good hotel?” The speaker had no inside to his head. Gerald had the best of reasons for knowing it. The speaker’s coat had no shoulders inside it—only the cross-bar that a jacket is slung on by careful ladies. The hand raised in interrogation was not a hand at all; it was a glove lumpily stuffed with pocket-handkerchiefs and the arm attached to it was only Kathleen’s school umbrella. Yet the whole thing was alive, and was asking a definite, and for anybody else, anybody who really was a body, a reasonable question.
The Enchanted Castle is an enchanting (ha!) book by an author who influenced such authors as C. S. Lewis, Diana Wynne Jones, and J. K. Rowling. The children’s adventures with the ring are both scary and exciting at times, and some of the most magical and inexplicable moments are some of the most beautiful. It dragged on enough that I can’t picture myself reading it over and over, but it is a delightful book.
You can buy this book here: The Enchanted Castle (Puffin Classics)