The Battle for the Castle

by Elizabeth Winthrop

Paperback, 1994

Status

Available

Local notes

PB Win

Genres

Publication

Yearling (1994), Edition: First Thus, 224 pages

Description

Twelve-year-old William uses the magic token to return, through the toy castle in his attic, to the medieval land of Sir Simon, which is now menaced by a skeleton ship bearing a plague of ravenous rats.

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1993

Physical description

224 p.; 5.19 inches

ISBN

044040942X / 9780440409427

Barcode

1793

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
The Battle for the Castle picks up William's story two years later, when he and his friend Jason are ready to "jump the trains" to prove they're tough now at age twelve. William hasn't played with the castle for quite some time, but Mrs. Phillips has just sent him the magical coin that can make people small enough to enter the castle's medieval world. When Jason jumps the train and witnesses William's failure to do so, William knows he needs to bridge that divide quickly if he wants to keep his friend. So he lets Jason in on the secret of the castle, and they arrive in Sir Simon's world just in time to face the ominous portents heralding a strange and devouring army.

The urge to compare this book to the other YA fantasy stories I know is irresistible. The idea of a rat army reminded me of the evil hordes in Brian Jacques' Redwall books, though Redwall's horde leaders have much more distinct personalities. Gudrin made me think of Eilonwy in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, and Deegan is like many of Alexander's lovable rogues. The parallels with the Indian in the Cupboard series remain, as do the Narnia hints like the rhyming prophecies (which could also be a Redwall nod, come to think of it) and the need for children from our world to rescue the fantasy kingdom from destruction.

After William conquers his fears in the fantasy world, one might expect that he would go back to the real world and jump that train he missed before. But Winthrop goes for something less clichéd; William decides that jumping trains is a really dumb thing to do, and refuses to try again. Jason acknowledges that "there's more than one way to jump a train" and leaves it at that. William will probably be considered less than cool at school for not jumping a train, but the point is that now he doesn't care about meeting other people's standards. He knows what he has achieved and that knowledge gives him self-respect, which is more profound than gaining mere social acceptance by performing an arbitrary rite of passage. This is a pivotal difference between this book and its predecessor; the stakes are higher and the lessons that William must learn are so much more serious.

I thought it a brave choice for Winthrop to speak through song lyrics of "the Lord." She did that in the first book too, picking favorite lines from "The Battle-Hymn of the Republic" that mention the Christian God. If you are nonreligious it's easy to skip these parts because they don't tie in especially with the rest of the books. I just found it an interesting choice for this type of book.

One thing that didn't quite make sense from the first book to the second was William's family's finances. In the first book, they're paying Mrs. Phillips' salary as a nanny. In the second, his parents buy him a cheaper bike than the one he wanted because their budget is too tight. Maybe the real reason Mrs. Phillips left was because his parents could no longer afford to pay her? Did William's mother quit her job to spend more time with her family and that's why money is tighter in the second book? I did breeze through this so I could have missed a crucial clue about their changed financial status.

Overall, this was a fairly good sequel and I'm glad to have discovered Winthrop's work.
… (more)
LibraryThing member EmScape
The Castle in the Attic was one of my favorite books as a child, and thanks to LibraryThing, I was made aware of the sequel. In The Battle for the Castle, William returns to the realm of the Silver Knight, and with the help of his friend, Jason, and the fair maiden Gudrin, is able to save the castle from another dark and mystical threat: a plague of rats.
I was a little disappointed by this story, as it seamed really rather anticlimactic and not as well plotted as it's predecessor, but it was good to meet up with William again and see how well he's grown up. Gudrin was an engaging and high-spirited addition to the action as well.
I would recommend this fantasy story to parents reading to their kids at bedtime, unless they're really prone to nightmares. On second thought, I may not even be able to sleep tonight thinking about those rats!
… (more)
LibraryThing member ncgraham
I have a complicated relationship with this book, and thus have a difficult time communicating my opinion of it. Let’s start with the facts: it was written in 1993, eight years after its award-winning predecessor, The Castle in the Attic, which is surprising because it feels like a logical continuation of the first novel. That’s not to say it’s as good as Castle—it isn’t—but it’s a fine enough book that it loses only by a hair. Either way, I enjoy The Battle for the Castle more now than I did as a child. It is a thrilling, tender, thought-provoking, and sometimes scary continuation of William’s adventures in the world of knights, sorcerers, and castles.

The story opens two years after William first visited that other world; now, he is just about to turn twelve, and rather scared at the way things are turning out. In the past year, his best friend Jason has changed drastically: he’s grown a foot, become obsessed with biking, and generally kept himself too busy to spend time with William. When Mrs. Phillips sends William the Janus charm for his birthday (she hadn’t dropped it in the sea after all), he decides to use it to shrink himself and cross the drawbridge yet again—but this time, he invites Jason to come along with him.

Unfortunately, things have changed at Sir Simon’s castle as well. Calendar is dead, leaving behind her dark prophecies that no one but her granddaughter Gudrin believes; meanwhile, Sir Simon has grown lax and careless since the episode with Alastor. The prophecies appear to be coming true when an unknown evil reaches the shore in the form of a ship filled with skeletons … and, it seems, something else.

One has to applaud Winthrop for creating a sequel that is true to its predecessor without retreading old ground. Many authors, after finishing the first book in a series, commit one of two grave offences. Either (a) they have left their protagonist no room for further development, and so he remains in his unchanging, “purified” state for the rest of the series; or (b) they have him go back to Point A and repeat his journey from the first book all over again. Not Winthrop. William is an older and wiser character than he was in The Castle in the Attic, but he is still flawed, carrying within him self-doubt, insecurities, a jealous streak, and a sense of un-belonging. He still has much to learn, and at twelve has a new set of problems to face than he had at ten.

As much as I enjoy the fantasy sections of this book, it is the scenes set in our world that really stick with me. Even though the first time I read the book was in junior high, I never forgot the scene in which William and Jason try to jump the trains as part of a rite of passage undertaken by all young boys in the town. Jason makes it. William doesn’t. The image of them standing on opposite sides of the tracks, with the train still whizzing by, has always stayed with me. I can’t think of a more evocative description of what life can sometimes be like for a boy of that age.

In an interview, Winthrop once noted that though “there are wizards and dragons and swords” in the Castle books, they are “very grounded in today’s reality.” The real world and fantasy sections in this volume are mutually beneficial: the former gives credence to the latter, while it in return gives William an opportunity to work out his problems in a more physical, visceral manner. And this part of the book is memorable and haunting, too. This is certainly a darker story than Castle, and one scene in particular sent shivers up my spine—quite an accomplishment, considering that the villains in this book could easily have induced laughter rather than fear. But Winthrop handles the whole situation so beautifully that it really is quite frightening. If your child is given to nightmares, it might be wise to set this book aside for a few years.

And in the end, of course, William learns that true manliness does not come from physical prowess, athletics, or silly rites of passage, but simply from having a good heart and doing the right thing in the face of danger. What I really like about the ending, though, is that it doesn’t short-change Jason: he gains a new respect for his friend, yes, but despite some mistakes made at the beginning of the book, he is also worthy of our respect and admiration.

This was a difficult review for me to write, and as it is I feel I’ve only skimmed the surface of the book: there really is so much there, especially considering this is marketed as light children’s fiction. But Winthrop, master of subtlety that she is, leaves most of it unsaid, and so I feel that I should do the same.

She is still writing … maybe now, after another long stretch of time, she will feel the urge to write another Castle book. I would certainly read it!
… (more)
LibraryThing member BeatrixKiribani
Two years after the conclusion of A Castle in the Attic, William finds himself thrown into another adventure when his former housekeeper sends him the two headed token. He discovers the amazing land has once again been thrown into turmoil by a band of monstrous rats. William returns with his best friend Jason to conquer the evil rodents. While there he meets a court jester whom steals his magic token, leaving him defenseless against the rat hoard. He uses Cunning and skill to overcome the obstacles and beat the large rats. There is enough description of the settings and characters to make the book captivating and beautiful. There are twists and new characters. Some moments are frightening but not too scary.… (more)
LibraryThing member msrenee1
This book is a sequel to Ms. Winthrop's book The Castle in the Attic. It is a really great book! It has mystery, excitement, castles, dragons, magic, good vs. evil and knights....all the things children really enjoy reading about. My boys loved this book though truthfully, it is a wonderful book for kids of any age!
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
Note - this adventure does stand alone ok, but the first book is actually a bit better as the themes are richer and deeper. This has more thrilling adventure, though.

I do need to check if I can get anything else by Winthrop.
LibraryThing member notemily
This book scared the crap out of me when I was a kid. GIANT RATS, you guys. RATS THE SIZE OF PEOPLE. Well, technically, the people are the size of the rats. But my point is, it scared me, but I loved it and read it several times.

Lexile

700L

Pages

224

Rating

(80 ratings; 3.8)
Page: 0.2956 seconds