Castle of Lies

352p. Carolrhoda Lab. May 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781512429978.
Gr 9 Up—Thelia wants to replace her cousin, Princess Corene, and become queen. Bayled, a foreigner and the named heir to the throne, wants to marry Corene more than he wants to rule. Parsifal, Thelia and Corene's cousin, trades in secrets and wants people to look beyond his off-putting "irregular face" and see his true worth. Sapphire, a member of the Elf race everyone fears, is a new member of the Jaguars, an elite warrior group. Sapphire has been told the Jaguars are working to take over the kingdom by force and help the humans before they destroy themselves. This fantasy takes place mainly within the Holy Kingdom, ruled over by a drunkard king with residents fearful of magic, though it remains commonplace in other countries. Promising plotlines are impeded by an excess of information, which finally slows as the central story line starts to pick up with the arrival of yet another new suitor for Corene, which happens just as Elves are said to be planning an attack after years without contact. Relationships that seem clear-cut at the beginning undergo rapid transformation that stretch plausibility, as enemies become lovers with little buildup. There is an array of sexualities and genders as Sapphire goes by "they" and Parsifal appears to be bisexual, though none of the characters discuss these things. The underlying plot has potential but is bogged down by inconsistent characters and information overload from the start.
VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries in need of fantasy with more mature content.

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