Lonely Castle in the Mirror by Mizuki Tsujimura
Lonely Castle In The Mirror is a young adult cultural fantasy. I read a version translated from the original Japanese. The story opens with our introduction to high school student Kokoro who has been bullied at school and now refuses to attend. She spends her days at home alone while her parents work. One day her mirror glows and she is transported to a magical castle. There are other children there, and they are given a task to carry out over several months by a mysterious wolf-girl.
With fairytale themes as well as more serious ones like abuse and mental health issues, the children work together to solve the layered mysteries of this story. I thought that the final reveal was very well thought out.
I liked the opening chapters and was quite intrigued with how the story might evolve, but I did struggle to keep reading through the middle sections. I found the narrative style hard to engage with and would say that this probably reflected the cultural differences between Japanese fiction and Western styles. This is a long book; while the ages of the characters suits young adult fiction, the length of the book is more suited to adult or older teenage readers. I’m a little stuck as to whom I can recommend this too. Perhaps the appeal of the book is that it may be enjoyed by a good cross-section of readers.
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Seven students are avoiding going to school, hiding in their darkened bedrooms, unable to face their family and friends, until the moment they discover a portal into another world that offers temporary escape from their stressful lives. Passing through a glowing mirror, they gather in a magnifcent castle which becomes their playground and refuge during school hours. The students are tasked with locating a key, hidden somewhere in the castle, that will allow whoever finds it to be granted one wish. At this moment, the castle will vanish, along with all memories they may have of their adventure. If they fail to leave the castle by 5 pm every afternoon, they will be eaten by the keeper of the castle, an easily provoked and shrill creature named the Wolf Queen.
Delving into their emotional lives with sympathy and a generous warmth, Lonely Castle in the Mirror shows the unexpected rewards of reaching out to others. Exploring vivid human stories with a twisty and puzzle-like plot, this heart-warming novel is full of joy and hope for anyone touched by sadness and vulnerability.
AmazonUK due to be published April 22nd