Greenglass House is written by Kate Milford. It was published in 2014 by Clarion.
It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cooks’ daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.
Greenglass House turned into something I was completely not expecting, in the best possible way. When it first started, I thought, “Well, this is interesting, I guess.” Then the roleplaying game stuff started, and all I could think was, “Is this really necessary?” (although a big YES to depicting a girl being the one to suggest the idea of the game in the first place. Girl gamers unite!) And then the rest of the novel unfolded like one big, beautiful story, and I was swept up in it.
I say “story” but really the novel is a compilation of multiple stories, told a la The Canterbury Tales. Not only do the guests tell stories, but Milo reads a book that is also a bunch of stories. And the whole thing is really beautiful coupled with the winter imagery that Milford brings out. This book is the perfect book to read on a snowy evening next to a fire drinking your hot beverage of choice, because that’s exactly what the characters do when they’re telling/listening to a story.
Not only are the stories beautiful, but the mystery is also really complex, complete with such a shocking reveal at the end that I am being incredibly careful not to accidentally spoil it in this post, since I want my reaction to be everybody’s reaction when they read it. Let’s just say the reveal took the book in a whole new direction, and it was a little strange but wonderful at the same time, and it didn’t feel out of place at all, not with the lore Milford had already set up earlier.
The only thing I thought was a tad overdone was a certain moment where one character expresses her feelings about two other characters. It felt a little melodramatic and over-the-top to me, but perhaps that’s just me.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Realistic, Middle Grade
“What sort of stories do people tell in the book?” Clem asked curiously. “Is there…I don’t know…a right sort or wrong sort for this kind of occasion?” She scratched her head. “I don’t honestly know if I’ve ever told a story before.”
“You’ve never told a story?” Negret asked. “Not ever, not to anyone? You must have.”
“Well, not like this,” she protested. “This isn’t the same as when you tell someone how your day went, is it?”
He opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t quite like that, not exactly—but then he stopped himself. “It can be any kind of story you want. The point is that you share something with everyone. It’s supposed to be a fun thing. I don’t think you can do it wrong, if that’s what you mean.”
Greenglass House is wonderful, the sort of book that you will want to read over and over, not just to soak all the beautiful stories and images in, but also to catch all the little hints and clues placed for the resolution of the mystery. The mystery was quite good, but the most memorable moment for me was so memorable that I tried to leave out anything in this review that would even marginally point to what it is.