Every once in awhile I think it fun to take a risk buying a book from a mainline bookstore. I like to pick up titles that are completely unknown to me. Yes, that does mean paying full price for a book (supporting the publishing industry!) and there is no guarantee that I'm going to like it. Sometimes I win at these bookish Russian roulette games and sometimes I lose. (I won with The Mysterious Benedict Society. Big time!) And so, I guess it was time to lose.
Upon getting into the car, Jonathan asked me, "What book did you get?" I replied that I didn't know. I figured The Castle Corona was either going to be rollicking good fun or incredibly stupid. It was neither. It nestles somewhere in between. (I do wish I had purchased my second choice instead of this one. But oh well! It's all part of the "game" and the thrill of the hunt for a good story.) Here is the description on the back of the book which made me pick it up in the first place:
"Long ago and far away . . .
There was a castle. But not just any castle. This was the grand and glittering Castle Carona. And in this castle lived a family. But not just any family. This was the family of King Guido: rich and royal and . . . spoiled. And King Guido was so spoiled that no finery could please him, for what he longed for was . . . a nap and a gown that didn't itch.
Far below this grand castle in the dense woods lived two peasants. But not just any peasants. These peasants, though poor and pitiful, were plucky and proud. And in possession of a stolen pouch. But not just any pouch. A pouch whose very contents had the power to unlock secrets and transform lives . . ."
Truthfully, I was so bored reading The Castle Corona that I'm having a hard time even writing about it. I keep asking myself, "what can I possibly say about it that will be interesting?" The basic "premise" of the story, can be ascertained from the back of the book description. The plot stays as equally vague and equally specific all throughout. The royal family are spoiled, unhappy and discontent. Not a single one of them is admirable. The king is whiney. The queen manipulative. The princess is snobby and the princes are each disagreeable in their own ways. The chapters flip back and forth from telling you about the royals and the peasants, siblings Pia and Enzio. The story reaches its climax when Pia and Enzio are taken to the palace to become the royal tasters. It is there that their true identity is revealed.
I've never read anything by Sharon Creech, although I understand she won a Newbery Medal for Walk Two Moons. My reading of The Castle Corona left me feeling anything but curious about Ms. Creech's other works. Obviously, the description of the book was interesting enough to me to make me buy it. However, the only reason that I finished it was that I paid full price for it. I didn't care for the characters and I found the plot weak. Grant it, there were moments when I felt that Ms. Creech was on the verge of genius - or, at least, had the option of being quite clever in writing dialogue - but on the whole I was disappointed. Certain characters were in a position to be very witty but weren't. Others had jewels of wisdom which they could have interjected into the story but failed to do so. The story felt very random and listless and so I was, as I said, bored.
I clearly don't feel enthusiastic enough about it to recommend it. If I wanted to spend more time thinking about the story itself, I have a suspicion I could come up with reasons for myself to really despise it. Instead of going down that road, I'm just going to toss it to the side, be glad to move on to something way more clever, exciting and thought provoking. Also I am happy to be done.
Will I risk another book purchase in the future with a book I know nothing of? Most surely! The greatest pleasure I can say I got out of reading The Castle Corona is in the fact that I got to spend a bit of time browsing a bookstore and I had the opportunity to take a risk. Sometimes it's the risk the proves the most fun. And that's ok!