It's wartime London during the Blitz. What parents wouldn't be glad of the chance to send their children to a school housed in a remote castle in Scotland? There will be fresh air, plenty of food from the farm (in spite of rationing), and the children will be safe from the bombs. But things aren't always what they seem, and neither are people. When Kat arrives with her younger brother and sister and a young American named Peter, something feels off about the place and it's mistress, Lady Eleanor. The castle seems to rearrange itself and purposely mislead the children when they try to explore. All the adults appear to be walking around in a fog. And there are children who are not part of the school, but the students see them around the grounds and also see them disappear without an explanation. As logical as Kat is with her penchant for puzzles, math, and clockwork, even she begins to suspect that there is something supernatural at work. Can they solve the mystery before it is too late?
This is an entertaining mix of wartime intrigue (Nazis, spies, wireless radios), enchantments (magical chatelaines, ghostly apparitions, nightmares), and charms or spells in the most unlikely phrases. The children are typical sorts - the younger boys who are glad to have a castle to explore and swords to play with, the younger girls are eager to play dress up, and there is a boy from a wealthy family who is insufferably snobby. Kat herself is very practical, but finds young Peter a possible ally. The ice-cold Lady Eleanor is reminiscent of the "other mother" in Coraline, and just as creepy and insidious.
Fans of historical fiction mixed with fantasy will enjoy the suspense and thrills of Rookskill Castle. Perfect for middle grade readers and up.
There are a book trailer and clip of the audio book available to give you a taste of the story. And Curious City DPW has created an event kit to use with the book.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.