Inside the Enchanted Castle, by R. A. Albano

inside-the-enchanted-castle-by-r-a-albano coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: iUniverse
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by James Carpenter

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Hansel and Gretel Meet the Fisher King

Inside the Enchanted Castle starts off with a climactic scene: the evil witch Turbidine lays waste and ruin to the enchanted fantasy realm of Porphyria and renders the ruler of that land, the Knight-Wizard Bartol, powerless. But the story actually begins at that point.

Bartol’s castle is mysteriously transported to southern California. Nestled in the mountains, the castle cannot be seen by anyone until 12-year-old Becky Austen and her 10-year-old brother Toby discover it. The two children are drawn to the castle by much more than curiosity: they have a mystical connection to it as well. After finding a magical means to enter the castle, Becky and Toby encounter many strange and fantastic creatures: the elf Candor, the fairy Caramella, the runt-troll Hidegud, the brownie Gridlock, the gnome Feldspar, the ogre Korfus, and more. With the help of Candor, Caramella, and Hidegud, Becky and Toby set out on a journey through the desert of Porphyria to track down the witch Turbidine and find a means of restoring the vitality and vigor of Porphyria.

Inside the Enchanted Castle bears no relationship to The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. Nevertheless, Inside the Enchanted Castle does contain many themes familiar to readers of fantasy: family values, friendships, personal identity, personal courage, and trust, among others. Like Harry Potter, Becky and Toby also are creatures of destiny: descended from a magical ancestor, they belong to the enchanted realm of Porphyria. But unlike Potter, Becky and Toby are uncertain of having any magical abilities and instead have to rely upon their own fortitude and courage. The role of their destiny, one may assume, will probably take shape and develop as future volumes in the series appear.

The character of Gridlock, a most mischievous brownie who is the personal assistant to Turbidine, adds humor and flavor to the tale, which has at its center the classic conflict of good versus evil. A later reference in the novel to the story of Hansel and Gretel underscores the fairy-tale influences of the novel; and, indeed, most of the characters have a mythic, fairy-tale quality about them. However, the protagonists, Becky and Toby, are modern creations that complement and blend in smoothly with the fantastic elements of the book.

The author, R. A. Albano, does a fine job of blending the Hansel and Gretel story to the ancient Myth of the Fisher King (in which a sick king appears to be suffering along with his kingdom until a knight-champion finds the means of restoring both the land and the king). Yet the mythic and fairy-tale elements remain carefully and snugly in the background in this story of two children experiencing a most magnificent adventure. This book is sure to delight many young readers of fantasy and, perhaps, a few older ones as well.

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