By Awnali Mills
Alfie Bloom has just inherited a castle. That’s pretty cool, and he’s thrilled about it. Finally, he and his inventor dad can move out of their horrible basement apartment. Even better, the castle is located in the same town as his extended family (including his twin cousins). And the cherry on the cake is that the inheritance includes a stipend that will take care of them nicely, thank you very much, and a butler!
There’s just a little problem. Did you see that coming?
Alfie has no idea why he inherited. Apparently, there’s a mystery surrounding his birth and no one is talking. The castle has been sealed for ages, and the mysterious lawyer who is handling the case tells Alfie that if he ever ceases to call the castle home, it will seal itself up again. Alfie can handle all of that, but how will he handle the two headmistresses of his new school who have a strange hypnotic power over people and seem determined to get into the castle? And how the heck does he keep slipping through time?
I really enjoyed The Secrets of Hexbridge Castle. Kent is an influential game designer, and this is her debut novel. I could see the influence of several different classic children’s books on Kent’s writing. The crazy punishments inflicted on the school children smacks of Matilda, and the two boys and a girl (Alfie and his cousins) working together to solve magical problems is Harry Potter. The flying bearskin rug reminds me of Aladdin (well, the Disney version, anyway), and the self-aware castle reminds me of Tuesdays at the Castle. Even the ravens remind me of the crows in Tamora Pierce’s Trickster series. If you read it, you’ll have to tell me what other elements resonate with you.
Don’t get me wrong. This book was not some weird mash-up of different stories. If I may use a cooking analogy, Kent used the ingredients of lots of wonderful stories, put them together in a new way and came up with a yummy new book. There’s humor, danger, mystery, and great friendship. I’m pleased as punch that the castle hasn’t revealed all of its secrets, and disappointed that I have to wait for the sequel.