I have to say, I love this nearly as much as Howl’s Moving Castle. Charmain has been brought up to be very respectable but not at all useful. When she goes to watch over her Great-Uncle William’s house her only real skill is reading. She soon learns she’s in over her head in the home of a real wizard. A small bit of white fluffy dog named Waif keeps her company as well as a blundering apprentice, Peter, who is determined to stay even though he’s been told the wizard won’t be returning for awhile. While Sophie and Howl are not the main characters in this book, we’re aware of their presence far earlier than in Castle in the Air.
The hardest bits so far are the titles of wizardry books, which clearly don’t need to be fully understood. Also Twinkle’s lisp is a bit irritating to read, but I expect it is supposed to be. This is definitely the easiest book in the trilogy. The plot is less complicated, and although there are a few cases of hidden/dual identity, much less is kept secret from the reader, so it is easier to figure out. It also is missing the romantic element that is present in the prior two books. Overall, it could be read by a slightly younger audience, although I would still say you’d need a very advanced fourth or fifth grader to manage it independently.
Great for: Very subtly nudging children toward responsibility. Charmain is incredibly useless when she first arrives, but over the course of the book learns both magical and non-magical tasks must be done.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Charmain’s mother packs her enough underthings for a year.
Profanity – “Damnation,” “darned,” “I hate you,” a few “shut up”s, and in one place the book says “Sophie said a bad word.” We are not told the bad word.
Death, Violence and Gore –Peter thinks a Lubbock killed his father. There’s a rather unsavory passage about Lubbocks, that I didn’t quite know whether to file here or above, but at any rate, lubbocks are known to attack any humans they see, ten months of the year tearing the human to bits, but in the summer, laying eggs in the human’s body. They will then hatch, one will eat the rest and then carve its way out of the host, killing a male host but being born normal from a female host. A midwife will kill it upon birth if she can tell it is Lubbockin, but if no one notices it may be raised as human and go about its life being evil. ICK. Later there is a battle between a fire demon and a lubbock. The lubbock is roasted. A dog attacks a lubbock-egg infested kobold. Some kobolds are kicked. Charmain is told to hold tight to Waif when they visit the castle as Jamal’s dog might slay other dogs in its territory. Two bad guys are turned into rabbits which Waif then hunts and kills.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – Although the lubbocks are clearly bad guys, there’s never any real scariness.