The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, was published in 2016 by Viking.
Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can’t make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and her siblings have been sent to escape the London Blitz. What’s making those mechanical shrieks at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And who are the silent children who seem to haunt Rookskill’s grounds? Kat believes Lady Eleanor, who rules the castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must face the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and what Lady Eleanor is—before it’s too late.
I heard some good things about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, so I decided to pick it up even though I don’t usually tend to go for paranormal/supernatural. And while I didn’t think it was blow-me-away-amazing, I did like the subtle tension underlying the novel and the atmosphere of terror created not just by WWII, but also by Lady Eleanor.
Kat was also a good protagonist, although the “you’re the only one left and have to save everyone” mechanic is a little overused, in my opinion—but it does make for good tension. I liked the other characters, too, although I wish the charmed children were more directly involved with the plot. Once they became charmed, they melted into the scenery a little—it would have been nice to see the other characters interact with them a little more.
I wish Lady Eleanor’s character had been developed a little more, and the resolution of the novel got a little hazy in its attempts to explain everything. There were a few things that I thought were simply hand-waved away, and other things didn’t make much sense as to why they happened. I also thought the book would have been better as a whole without the additional MI6 side plot thrown in, although clearly it’s a way for Fox to continue writing books with Kat as the main character.
I enjoyed The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle for its subtle tension and spookiness as well as its use of historical artifacts and philosophy as magic. I thought some of the characters could have been more developed, especially Lady Eleanor, and the resolution of the book could have been a lot neater in its execution, but it’s a fine book for those who enjoy spooky reads.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Historical Fiction, Supernatural, Middle Grade
The door burst open behind them. “Kat!” Robbie fell into the room, Peter on his heels, Robbie’s eyes like saucers. “Kat! You won’t believe it. We found a secret hiding place. A hidden room. With something—or someone—locked inside that makes terrible shrieky noises.”
Kat looked at Peter, who nodded, then back at Rob.
He was white as the cliffs of Dover. “Sure as sure,” Rob said in a low voice, “sure as sure, it’s a ghost.”