The Children of Castle Rock
By Natasha Farrant
Published by Faber and Faber
ISBN 978 0 571 32356 2
Ever since J.K. Rowling came up with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, she’s opened the door for other contemporary writers to send their characters off to face the unknown at boarding school; the latest is Natasha Farrant’s The Children of Castle Rock.
With parents out of the frame and kids left to their own devices, boarding schools have always provided great opportunities for mayhem, magic, spying and every other sort of adventure children’s authors could possibly come up with.
Farrant’s Stormy Loch School in the remote Highlands of Scotland is the perfect place for a thrilling story to play out, with a clever plot and a cast of appealing characters who contribute much to the action.
Eleven-year-old Alice Mistlethwaite is a dreamer who can’t get over the death of her mother. She used to be outgoing and full of energy, but not any more. She lives in a house called Cherry Tree Grange where in late summer she can lean out of her bedroom windows and actually pick cherries from a tree in the garden. But more change is about to be forced upon Alice, who doesn’t realise the dark and deadly happenings she will encounter.
Alice’s father Barney is an actor who often travels for work. Alice is left with her well-meaning Aunt Patience, who decides to send her to boarding school to learn how to cope with life.
But poor Aunt Patience didn’t realise what Stormy Loch had in store for her niece. The place isn’t what you would call a “normal” boarding school. It’s run by a wacky headmaster who believes in giving his pupils freedom with a capital F. He believes it is much more educational to spend the day rowing on the lake and setting off fireworks than sitting in a classroom doing regular lessons.
Alice makes friends with two boys, Fergus and Jesse, who have totally embraced the spirit of Stormy Loch. When Alice receives a mysterious parcel from her father with instructions to deliver it back to him at a secret location near the school, the boys are excited to join her, and the adventure kicks off.
It’s hard to believe that any school would allow pupils to go orienteering in the Scottish wilderness without supervision. But this is what the trio must do; danger and mayhem are awaiting the moment the three of them step out of the school grounds.
The Children of Castle Rock is an entertaining romp and a thrilling adventure – as long as you don’t ask too many questions, and just allow yourself to be carried along, you will certainly enjoy the ride.
John Millen can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org