A fun MG Fantasy with a whole lot of heart.
When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is 12 years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them that she is quite wicked indeed (so wicked! Really wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.
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Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon, read by Tara Sands, published by Tantor Audio (2015) / Length: 7 hrs 38 min
SERIES INFO: This book is a standalone. I would love a sequel someday though.
Is it possible to be a Wicked Witch without being evil? Molly is going to give it a try. After all, she must be wicked since she has a good twin. It's a good thing she's a very practical person, since it isn't very often that one of the main problems in a fantasy book is broken plumbing.
This is one of those books I turn to when I need a pick-me-up. It is fun but has depth.
Note: Despite the rather glamorous cover photo above, she is described as quite ordinary looking. Also, unfortunately, we audiobook readers miss out on some very well reviewed illustrations in the text version.
Molly: She reminds me a bit of Tiffany Aching (although their personalities are fairly different). It's probably the big boots, in addition to being a young witch. She is smart & kind. I like that she isn't some super witch. She has a natural talent, but still has to research and work at it.
Majordomo: The castle's chief minion, he is extremely skeptical of Molly and very protective of the others. This is his story as much as it is hers.
The wonderful cast of characters is a highlight of the book, and each of the minions gets a chance to shine. Even villagers we meet rather briefly are interesting and contribute to the story. (It is mentioned in passing that a few are POC.)
Although this isn't a world with strict lines and borders (past masters of the castle include a vampire, a sorceress & a mad scientist), nor is it one where just anything can happen. It appears that most fantasy creatures are real (or used to be). But magic has rules, although there are different kinds.
What is important in the book is the castle and the bureaucracy that threatens it. Apparently castles without masters can become a magical menace. The rather ordinary village & castle lands are explored as well.
The story begins at the perfect point, with the minions awaiting Molly's arrival at the castle. We get the information we need about Molly as we go along. A major point in the story is the unhealthy friendship Molly was in before coming to the castle and her growing recognition of it. There is a very satisfactory ending with a practical solution to their problems.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- Bugbane (Molly's little bat friend)
- Molly's new coat
- Molly learns to stand up for herself
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents = Good / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = I only noticed one small error / Emoting = Excellent / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual
Talk to Me (pretty please)
- What's your favorite quirky MG Fantasy?
- Do you have any strange hobbies? (See the interview below for the author's answer.)
- If you are a first time visitor, how did you discover my blog?
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[Review + Narrator Ivu]
Bonus Author Interview
Tell us something about your lead character(s) that we don't already know. [Exclusive]
Pins and the goldfish have been together for years, after they escaped a very unpleasant alternate dimension together. They are not from around here. Castle Hangnail is a very peaceful place by their standards, and they like living in a place where they aren't running for their lives.
Tell us something about yourself that we might not already know.
I really like bugs. I go out at night and photograph moths around the porchlight so that I can get them identified. It's a weird hobby, but it keeps me out of trouble.
Audiobook / eBook / Paperbooks? Which is your favorite and why?
To my sorrow, I can't do audiobooks very well--I'm losing my hearing, and I've never had any attention span, so I tend to zone out in the middle. So I do audiobooks only on long car-rides alone where I can turn the volume way up and rewind frequently. Which is a shame, because the voice actors on my books do such amazing work and I'm so thrilled about it--I just can't appreciate it myself like I want to!
I actually love ebooks these days. I travel a lot and I'm out of shelf-space at home, so it's very handy to be able to jam everything into one little device and carry it around!
How long did it take you to write this book?
This one went pretty quick! About eight months, I'd say, although there were some large gaps in there when people were reading the opening and deciding whether to buy it. Once all the contracts were signed, it just rolled off the page.
What is the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
I hate cutting bits that are actually funny because the book is getting too long. Generally I write less rather than more--my editors usually ask me to add, rather than subtract most times--but every now and again there'll be no help for it but to slice out a chapter with genuinely funny bits. I don't mind losing drama, but a good joke is a loss.
The easiest for me is dialogue. If I can get the characters talking, it'll just flow. Sadly sometimes they have to stop talking and actually do things!
For more information: https://www.ursulavernon.com
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