I received an ARC of this book via Transworld Publishers (Random House U.K.) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
In a tranquil neighbourhood of Tokyo, seven teenagers wake to find the mirrors in their bedrooms are shining.
At a single touch, they are pulled from their lonely lives into to a wondrous castle filled with winding stairways, watchful portraits and twinkling chandeliers. In this new sanctuary, they are confronted with a set of clues leading to a hidden room where one of them will be granted a wish. But there’s a catch: if they don’t leave by five o’clock, they will die.
As time passes, a devastating truth emerges: only those brave enough to share their stories will be saved.
I had no idea what to expect from this book. The cover is a simple, muted pink with an illustration of the character readers come to know as the Wolf Queen. Lonely Castle in the Mirror is not the fairytale I expected, but so much more.
The story centres around Kokoro, a girl who – after an incident of bullying – has decided not to go to school anymore. This book is much more than a story of isolation, and a social commentary on the education system (and, perhaps, the bullying and mistreatment within it), as – through the mirror in her bedroom – Kokoro is transported to a beautiful, mysterious castle.
After being isolated for so long, Kokoro finds herself with a like-minded group of people- her age, also all avoiding school – all of whom were just as easy to get attached to as Kokoro. Their relationships weren’t straightforward but I loved watching their bonds grow, as they navigated the castle and the end goal of granting one wish.
The narrative was an interesting one, full of twists and turns, and I fully immersed myself in it. It isn’t simply a children’s book, or a fairytale, or even a book about children – it tackles mental health, bullying and other issues with sensitivity. I think Tsujimura was very clever with this one, as there’s so many little details woven into this story, the novels pace is slow but it means the reader truly has the time to take everything in.
Whilst I was hooked by this modern take on the fairytale, I have a couple of gripes with this book. Though I did like the story focusing on Kokoro, I wish the other children would’ve had their own narratives – instead of the sweeping parts explaining their individual stories towards the end. Also, there were some parts that were a little bit hard to follow – in part due to my lack of knowledge regarding Japanese culture.
Regardless, Lonely Castle in the Mirror is a thought-provoking, sensitive insight into social issues, friendships with just a dash of magical realism.
The Lonely Castle in the Mirror will be published on 22 April 2021.
What have you been reading recently? I’d love to chat in the comments 😊.
For more things books, baking and everything in between, you can find me on: