Enchanted Castle on the River

Sylvia Abolis Mennear
Independently Published (2021)
ISBN: 978-1956529005
Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (11/2022)

Fourteen-year-old Mathew has just one wish: to get away from his parents and annoying younger brother, and to have his own adventure. On a family camping trip, Matt meets a strange looking magical dog while walking through the woods. Before he realizes it, Matt finds himself transported to an ancient medieval realm full of witches, spells, and dangerous rivalries, kings, knights, and enchanted castles. But unfortunately, not all is well in the Kingdom! When Mathew finds himself going up against a powerful enemy only he can defeat, you might say it would be wise to heed this warning: be careful what you wish for!

“Enchanted Castle on the River” by Sylvia Abolis Mennear is a fun book for teens. One of the things that impressed me the most was the author’s commitment to Old English speech. The majority of the book features characters who use words like “fie,” “ye,” and “alack,” which may present a challenge to readers who are less familiar with this language style, but also a learning opportunity for anyone who reads it. I certainly learned a thing or two! I also liked that the book included a glossary of these terms at the end, to both study and learn from. There was one instance where a character says something pretty crude about the devil and his backside, which was a little offputting. I personally have concerns with that line being just a tad too vulgar and shocking for the age range of this book, but otherwise I thought the content stayed age appropriate. 

Although the book had an editor, I did feel that some of the errors that remained were a bit distracting while reading. Sometimes the text would switch tenses randomly from past to present, and I wasn’t really sure why, since the majority of the book was written in past tense. I got the impression that the author was very interested in being as accurate as possible with the Old English, but in doing so, the grammar sometimes wasn’t very polished in the modern English portions. There were some errors like missing spaces, letters, and incorrect homonyms etc. towards the front and back of the book, but these issues became less noticeable towards the middle as the author found her stride in the Old English portions of the story.

The addition of illustrations was also pretty neat, but I would have liked more consistency with including some towards the beginning as well; for the longest time, I had no idea there was even going to be any illustrations, but they were a nice surprise. 

Matt was a likable, flawed character who ended up learning a good lesson at the end. I really liked how the author included a short description of the lesson Matt learned in the form of an epilogue and how to apply it in life. Any kid who enjoys magic and good triumphing over evil in a heroic way, will particularly find this book a delight to read. I enjoyed all the characters and how they achieved closure at the end. I’m not sure if the author is planning a sequel, but I see potential for a sequel given the meeting between two prominent characters near the end. I found the author’s passion for Old English and depicting how it’s spoken accurately very admirable, and it ended up being my favorite thing about the book. 

If you have teens who love reading, this would be a great way to introduce them to Old English, which has very few books for younger readers that I’m aware of. This book may even get your kids more interested in reading Shakespeare someday. This story has some fun adventures, likable characters, and even some illustrations, so I recommend this book to parents first, who can decide if the one line I mentioned is too vulgar for their kids or not; but if that line were removed (or sanitized) and the grammar polished, this book would be a solid recommendation from me to the intended age range.

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