The Secret of Castle Cant

by K.P. Bath, Illustrations by David Christiana

Little, Brown, September, 2004.
Hardcover, 292 pages.
ISBN: 0316108480
Ages 10 and up

The Secret of Castle Cant by K.P. Bath The Barony of Cant is so small that it is lost in the creases of even the most detailed of maps. Perhaps that explains why the Barony still has medieval villages, a castle, catapults and dungeons, but also an American mission which provides jeans and t-shirts to the underprivileged. Lucy Wickwright is the maidservant to the Baron of Cant's daughter, the irrepressible Pauline Esmerelda Simone-Thierry von Cant. Pauline is not a bad person, but she is extraordinarily self-centered and drags Lucy along on a number of ill-conceived pranks, such as catapulting soggy underwear into the middle of a formal occasion, much to the dismay of the assembled noblemen. There is a mysterious rebellion brewing in the Barony as the revolutionaries fight to stop the importation of chewing gum from the outside world. The cost of importing the gum is nearly bankrupting the Barony, and the gum itself seems to be strangely addictive. Through a series of serendipitous events, Lucy finds herself acting as a spy for the revolutionaries, but her role in the politics of the Barony are actually much larger than she suspects, and the Baron's deathbed confession catapults Lucy into notoriety and the barony into a full-fledged civil war.

K.P. Bath is best known for his Pushcart Prize-winning story "Algae Eaters." This delightful story is his first novel. Written in a slightly pompous style, the narrator describes events with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The contrast between the fairy-tale like Castle and the outside, modern world of jeans, sneakers and chewing gum, provides a great deal of humor, as does the posturing of most of the adults in the story. Lucy is a charming girl, who is as unassuming as she is loyal. She also is very clever (which is most helpful when one is assisting in a revolution) and has a continually runny nose. But it is the delightfully self-absorbed Adorable and Humble Pauline (who is perhaps not quite so unaware as one might think) who really captures the imagination of the reader. Clever, funny and full of witty satire, The Secret of Castle Cant is just as enjoyable for adults to read as it will be for young adults.

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This review was published in the September-October, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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