Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Enchanted Castle

Review: TheEnchanted Castle (Shioni of Sheba #1)

Genre: YA / Fantasy / Adventure

Wonderful exotic adventure!

The Enchanted Castle is a cracking adventure for teens or young adults of any age in the exotic location of a fictional historical Ethiopia. Marc Secchia has created an outstanding heroine for this story and the series: Shioni is a young slave girl of foreign origin, a maidservant and bodyguard to Princess Annakiya.

West Sheba is a small kingdom within the land known as Abyssinia, and the historical period appears to be about the eighteenth century, perhaps earlier. The king orders a large expedition to reclaim the mountain fortress of Castle Asmat. Hostile mountain tribesmen represent a known danger, but witchcraft increasingly presents an insidious threat, the more so as so few are willing to believe in it.

Shioni is on the best of terms with her mistress the Princess, not to mention the delightful cook and house mother, Mama Nomuula, but the Prince, one of his captains and even the king's General seem to have it in for Shioni, perhaps simply because she is different. While everyone is dark skinned and has black hair, Shioni alone is pale and blonde. She looks like a witch, or a ghost, and when she begins to discover that she can hear things that others can't, that only adds to her troubles.

That this is a young adult book is reflected in the recklessly adventurous nature of Shioni, and also the Princess, and in the breath-holding way they manage to overcome dangers that one might have expected to overpower them. This is also the case in the way the actors are portrayed as 'bad' or 'good' – but let me make clear that this does not mean that the characters are flat. There is a good deal of depth to most of the characters, enough to satisfy many adult readers. Furthermore there is visible growth and development in key players, as events bring them to revise their assumptions and understanding of the world, and of one another.

The plot and pace are first-rate, and the writing is of a professional standard and easy to like. This is the first in a four-book series, but it can be read comfortably as a stand alone story. After reading this one I want to go out right away and get the next, and the next!

What I'm Reading Now:

by Ioana Visan 

by Marc Secchia

Added to my To Read list:

Well, there's The King's Horse, The Mad Giant and The Sacred Lake (the rest of the Shioni of Sheba series, of course!), and then one I've been wanting to read for a while now, 
The Girl who Sang with Whales, and in the Dragon Shapeshifter series (after Aranya, which I read last year), #2, Shadow Dragon, and The Pygmy Dragon.

Love this cover!

That should keep me out of mischief for now!