This is a sort of oddly named book. It should be called The Enchanted Ring, because there’s an enchanted ring that is pretty central to the plot but the castle is kind of tangential.
Title: The Enchanted Castle
Author: Edith Nesbit
Rating (of 5): ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Year published: 1907
While on school vacation, three children — Gerald, James, and Kathleen — discover what appears to be an enchanted castle. As they explore it, they come across a sleeping princess, who awakens (with the requisite kiss) and begins to tell them about the castle’s magic. Skeptical but excited, they listen as she tells them the palace’s secrets and shows them a magical ring. The princess tells them that the ring bestows invisibility, but when she puts it on to demonstrate she is shocked to discover that it actually works. She panics, quickly admitting that she is just the housekeeper’s niece, Mabel, and that she is not at all a princess. Although the princess is a fake and the castle isn’t enchanted, it turns out that the ring is really magical. Unfortunately, Mabel can’t get the ring off, leaving the children with some major explaining to do. The children deal with the practical logistics of having an invisible person in tow and then go on to experiment with the ring’s various abilities and enchantments. Along the way, they bring dolls to life, frolic with statues, and each takes turns at being invisible.
I thought this was going to be a lot better than it was. Even my summary of it sounds like a very promising book. It is, of course, a children’s book, so the expectations are different. Also, it was written in 1907, so the prose is clearly different than what you’d find in a book written for the 7 to 13 demographic today. Despite having altered my expectations accordingly, I was simply not drawn in by this book. It sounds excellent in theory, but in practice it didn’t work out that way. The characters were a little flat, especially for a children’s book. The beginning was a bit tedious. Overall, it was a book that just left me thinking, “Meh.” I’ve enjoyed other children’s books of that era like The Secret Garden, The Wizard of Oz, and The Lost Prince. Of course, since I’m an adult (or so I’m told), I may not be the best judge of this book — and accordingly I’m going to give it to my neighbor’s kids and demand a review. I’ll add an update if they have a different reaction.