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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Review

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

A natural-born skeptic must learn to trust both her head and her gut in this suspenseful supernatural novel set against the backdrop of World War II.
 
Certainly there have been plenty of other novels about children being evacuated from London to the British countryside to avoid the Blitz during World War II --- but it’s probably safe to say that few of them have taken an approach quite as creepy as the one Janet Fox explores in her new novel, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE.

"Fox’s novel is fast-paced, suspenseful, and at times, genuinely creepy, especially once readers start to orient themselves to these rapid shifts in time and protagonist."

Katherine Bateson values logic, order, and precision. She’s much like her father, a clockmaker, that way, and she’d like nothing more than to be trained as his apprentice. But when her father is summoned to do intelligence work for the British government during World War II, Katherine and her two younger siblings are sent away to a seriously creepy old Scottish castle that’s supposedly being turned into a school for evacuees like them. Kat’s younger siblings are more than ready to jump to the conclusion that the castle is haunted by the mysterious Lady Leonore, whose legends swirl around the castle and the nearby village. But Kat is sure that there’s a logical explanation for the strange moans and shrieks they hear behind closed doors, as well as for the vacant-eyed children who appear and disappear at random on the castle grounds. Kat’s convinced that the castle is housing a Nazi spy --- a situation no less dire than the supernatural scenarios the other children imagine, but one that squares more easily with her skeptical mind.
 
Just before she left London, Kat’s great-aunt gave her a chatelaine --- kind of like a charm bracelet to wear around one’s waist. Her great-aunt insists the chatelaine is magic, but Kat doesn’t believe it, of course, even though she keeps running into others at the castle with chatelaines of their own...and possible motives to steal hers. And then the other students start to disappear...Can Kat and her new friend Peter get to the bottom of what’s happening at Rookskill Castle before it’s too late?
 
Composed of short chapters that bounce back and forth between Kat’s World War II-era adventures and the cursed two-hundred-year history of Rookskill Castle, Fox’s novel is fast-paced, suspenseful, and at times, genuinely creepy, especially once readers start to orient themselves to these rapid shifts in time and protagonist. The novel’s message about trusting one’s instincts while remaining open to wonder and to new experiences is well integrated, and the final climax is thrilling indeed. What’s more, although this novel stands alone beautifully on its own, Fox has ingeniously left the door open just a tantalizing crack for a possible sequel, something readers are bound to request.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 15, 2016

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
by Janet Fox