Title: Lonely Castle In The Mirror (original title: かがみの孤城)
Writer: Mizuki Tsujimura (translated by Philip Gabriel)
Publishing House: Doubleday
Date of Publication: April 22nd 2021 (first published May 11th 2017)
Rating: 2 stars
‘’You are all Little Red Riding Hoods.’’
A lonely castle no one defends, a castle standing alone. A young girl is being bullied by her classmates as children turn into monsters in the blink of an eye. So, Kokoro (meaning ‘’heart’’ in Japanese) retreats, closes all doors, abandons school and its teachers who have lost touch with reality, and finds herself drowning, too terrified to speak up and tell the truth to her mother. One day, the mirror in her room starts shining. A way out of her despair. An entrance to a strange castle where 6 children are waiting, invited by the strange Wolf Queen. This is how a treasure hunt starts. A peculiar search for the Wishing Key, the one way to fulfil your wish. To forget what you have left in the real world.
But which world is real?
It saddens me to say that I don’t have positive things to say about this novel.
The premise was extremely enticing and Kokoro’s story was a parallel to classic fairy tales and to our times when bullying has become a severe issue to be solved. But the amount of cruelty from children to children was too much. It was terrifying, yes, but it was not convincing. Obviously, I am not familiar with this aspect of Japanese society but it struck me as lacking, exaggerating and caricaturish.
With all due respect to the writer, I felt that the novel was too long, it dragged and dragged and, at times, the writing felt dry and uninspired. I slowly began to lose interest and I was more invested in Kokoro’s personal story than in the exploration of the castle and the Wishing Key. The way the Wolf Queen was presented was intriguing and eerie, initially, but her interaction with the children was laughable. Was it a translation issue? Possible but Philip Gabriel is an excellent translator. Whatever it may have been, the result made me bored to tears.
In addition, Mr Ida has to be the biggest arsehole in the whole entire History of our whole entire universe and I don’t think that there are many teachers who would behave in such a manner out there. One more caricature.
When elements of Science- Fiction started kicking in, I was totally out. In the end, this was a story that left me cold. It shouldn’t have but it did. I just stopped caring. I can see the appeal it may have on many readers but, unfortunately, and unexpectedly, it wasn’t for me.
Many thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.