Although it is written for elementary to middle school readers, The Castle Behind the Thorns is a fantasy that will intrigue any reader right from the start. Sand, the young hero in the story, finds himself magically transported to the inside of a castle that he has known about all his life, but that no one could visit.
It had been impossible to get inside the castle from the outside world for twenty five years because it is covered by an impenetrable wall of thorns, yet Sand is definitely inside the castle. He had always been told that an earthquake destroyed the castle and the inhabitants fled – never to return. Sand soon discovers that there has to be more to the story than an earthquake because EVERYTHING inside the castle is broken or ripped apart, and nothing is growing inside the walls.
As he tries to resolve his dilemma, he begins to repair things that he finds might be useful to him. After finding the dried body of a young girl that was thrown about in a crypt under the church, he straightens her body out and covers her with her clothing as best he can. He tries to repair the relics of two saints that were housed inside the church. Later, Perrotte, the girl whom he had found in the crypt comes to life and the two of them work to understand the mystery of the castle and why Sand was brought there.
Both begin to realize that whatever Sand tries to fix is repaired. The soil begins to grow things and birds begin to fly about, but Perrotte wants to get out of the castle to get revenge on the person who killed her. Sand begins to worry that if he and Perrotte ever get out of the castle, a war would be started because Perrotte is set on revenge- not on rebuilding.
I loved the story. I think it has a definite message that we should always try to make things better than we found them and that family and loving relationship are what really matter. I recommend its purchase for upper elementary and middle school libraries.