Review: “Knight’s Castle” by Edward Eager

For the love of books

Knight’s Castle was published after Half Magic and follows its sequence with different main characters and a completely new side to Edward Eager’s vision of supernatural intervention in everyday life.  Roger and Ann are sent to stay with their cousins for summer vacation when their father’s health is at stake.  Elizabeth (a.k.a. Eliza) and Jack are not considered the best of company, but soon all four cousins are involved in a magical quest that includes medieval warfare, Robin Hood, and an intriguing retelling of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.  However, as the story unfolds, so do certain details about Roger and Ann’s parents, not to mention a mini-city that comes to life at night and figures that transform into historical characters straight from the past.

Eager has time travel take place in the cousins’ own bedroom, an unprecedented setting for such an event, and the idea of a live city made out of building blocks and miniature people is dedicated to Edith Nesbit’s The Magic City.  The main characters themselves are quite like their parents—outspoken, impulsive, and often daring.  For example, Roger gets himself into a lot of trouble by unwittingly changing the plot of Ivanhoe while Jack mixes a modern pastime like baseball into the Middle Ages.  Eliza’s sharp tongue and “speaking without thinking” create many rough roads for the children, but in the end Ann’s thoughtfulness and kindness win through.  A very special wish comes true for both children after they learn to be unselfish and prove their worth on a magical (and humorous) quest that features giants, valorous knights, beautiful ladies, and risky escapades.

Many famous characters from Sir Walter Scott’s romantic novel about England during the Middle Ages and the legacy of Richard the Lionheart are present in Knight’s Castle, especially a not-so-innocent Rowena, a more compassionate de Bracy, and a very villainous Brian de Bois-Guilbert.  Prince John is there in all his madness, his brother in all his majesty, and Robin Hood in all his prowess with archery.  Knight’s Castle has battles and professions of love, nobility and the power of virtue, sibling rivalry and familiar antagonism. It’s charming and witty, classy and distinguished with the author’s creativity and ingenuity.

However, the story doesn’t suddenly drop into a magical world; it starts with reality and then slowly blends in fantasy, the magic of good intentions being stronger than any spells.  The old man posing as a guide to the children always has good practical advice to give to the reader and this new version of Ivanhoe shows how the story might have developed if certain threads of the plot were twisted another way.  Knight’s Castle not only looks at medieval life but also compares it to modern living and what would have happened if both had crossed in time—a terrible disaster, in short.  The novel ends happily regardless of the cousins’ many mistakes and messed up wishes, with Roger and Ann receiving their only desire.  Noble and true, Knight’s Castle is a classic that spins an original and very realistic adventure based on history and beloved novels.

Original review: Part 4: Selections from Edward Eager’s ‘Tales of Magic’ seriesPart 5: Selections from Edward Eager’s ‘Tales of Magic’ series, Examiner.com

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