Saturday, March 23, 2013

Paying Piper & Castles in the Air by Ilana Waters

I remember saying that Ilana Waters had a very Diana Wynne Jones-ish writing style in my review of The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt, a middle grade fantasy novel. That impression was only strengthened when  I read a couple more of the author's stories. 

Paying Piper (or "What Happened in Hamelin Town")

The Pied Piper of Hamelin was never my favourite story. I thought it was rather odd as a child, and when I learn that the piper symbolized plague, I thought it was horrible. So, I was really looking forward to reading a retelling of the story by Ilana Waters, whose Diana Wynne Jones-esque novel The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt made me wish I was a kid again! Needless to say, I loved Paying Piper (or What Happened in Hamelin Town.)

I'm sure many people who are, like me, just children at heart will love this story just as much as I did. The quirky, conversational tone of writing reminded me of my childhood favourites, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl! The story has the kind of playful humour a child may like with the talking rats and the constantly irritated people and a subtler wit that makes it a lot more than just another children's story. Ilana has a way of describing things so well that you wonder if you're actually watching the story, in this case a Disney cartoon; very apt and very imaginative. She has given the story a pleasing twist, making it about kindness and second chances. What I loved is how it never seems like a retelling, but a tale that she came up with herself! The people in the story have so much character and so do the rats, which must have been hard to do, because most of the Grimm stories that I ever read were full of stock characters; here, even the stout miserly mayor seemed more than just that!

Among other things, this story will also be your chance to try a new author before you move on to her longer works. And I'm certain, as soon as you've finished this, you will find yourself rushing off to buy The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt! Read this great little story here

Castles in the Air - A Novella of Hartlandia

Do you see that cover? I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. I could spend pages describing just how amazingly beautiful, magical, fun it looks, but I think you can see that yourself. Interestingly, the novella itself is just as innovative, magical and fun!

Summary: Ten-year-old Wikkley McStag and his family are born farmers, happy to work the land. But then they - and other royal subjects - are forced to buy strange, useless machines. Money starts running out. Now the McStags have two days before they lose their farm. As the eldest child, Wikkley must journey to the palace and ask for the king’s help. His loved ones only hope his reckless nature won’t get him in trouble once he’s there!

When Wikkley arrives at the palace, he finds an unnecessary castle being built right into the sky. The same thing is happening in a neighboring kingdom. When royal foolishness leads to disaster, it’s up to Wikkley to save several lives. Will his recklessness finally come in handy? Or will it mean the end of his family, his farm, and possibly... his life?

My thoughts: Castles in the Air is a pleasure to read. It is written in a conversational manner, like someone is actually reading you a story and you can feel the voice and tone in the words. It's fabulous. There's also a lot of adventure and whole new ideas introduced in every chapter. The world Ilana has created is magical and just absurd enough!

Being a novella, it is swift paced and you could easily gulp it down within hours! Wikkley is very adorable and makes a perfect hero for a middle grade fantasy - he is kind and caring, bold and a little reckless, not to mention, very funny! I think most readers will find it very easy to relate to him and his way of looking at things adds much of the humour to the tale. The story, like any children's book, has a moral; it teaches about family and being brave and doing what it takes. However, though meant for children, the novella could ideally be enjoyed by anyone. At least, everyone who has a little child somewhere in them, who would appreciate such a playful story as this one!

You can buy the book right here. If middle grade fantasy isn't really your genre, you can certainly try this paranormal romance by the same author.


Ilana Waters said...

Hello again, Priya! And thank you again for another glowing review. I'm so happy you enjoyed the story. I always try to include humor and other things that adults can snicker at as well as children--just in case the adults are reading!

*pssst* If you're curious who did the cover, it's the amazing team at!

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