Title: The Beasts of Clawstone Castle
Author: Eva Ibbotson
Date(s) read: February 28 – March 2, 2013
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
Source: Library (Audiobook)
Narrated by: David Tennant
Running Time: 3 hours
Can two children foil an outrageous criminal plot with the help of some of the funniest and maddest ghosts ever invented?
Clawstone Castle is ancient and famous, but its elderly owners have no money. In its great park live a legendary herd of wild white cattle that have roamed there since the days of the Druids, and now their future is threatened. Rollo and Madlyn come to stay with their uncle and aunt and, with the help of a mysterious recluse in the castle library, they collect an impressive team of phantoms who agree to help them turn Clawstone into a tourist attraction. There’s a bloodstained bride, an aristocrat whose chest is permanently gnawed by a rat, a girl who was sawn in half in a circus, a pair of feet without a body, and more. Paying visitors soon pour through the gates. But then a terrible fate befalls the cattle, and the ghosts and the children find themselves facing some very sinister enemies.
I will admit that the only reason I decided to listen to this book was because of the narrator. I am a HUGE fan of David Tennant and this audiobook really hit it home for me that he is an amazing narrator. And I’m not just spouting on about him because I love him, but he’s actually very good at narrating stories!
But I digress!
I love a good middle grade book and this one was no exception. It was fun right from the start. I loved the idea of Madlyn and Rollo going to stay with an uncle they know nothing about because their parents are too busy to take care of them. While that idea is fun on its own (since their uncle really doesn’t come off as a warm soul!), the story gets really good when they decide to make their uncle’s home a tourist attraction by bringing in real, live (er … real, dead?) ghosts for all to see.
The story was kind of eccentric in a way, almost reminding me of a Neil Gaiman story, or a ride through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It was spooky and quite the ride! I did really like, also, how I could really get a feel for the atmosphere and setting of the book — the author painted such a great picture that it was hard not to see it all in my head as I listened.
David Tennant, like I said earlier, was great at narrating this book. I loved the voices he used for all of the different characters and how they all seemed different enough that I could really tell them apart while listening. This narration is what I want when it comes to listening to a children’s book — it was fun and quirky and brought a smile to my face and really brought the story to life.
One thing I didn’t like about the story — or, rather, something I feel that might mislead future readers — is that it’s quite gory. This is no light read! While it may seem very Harry Potter-ish, the ghosts are scary and there are some very evil situations that take place. And there’s a lot of blood and gore. Of course, the book is only about a 3 hour listen and there are plenty of funny things that take place, but those gory parts could be a bit scary for young readers or listeners.
I also wish that the plot had revolved more around the ghosts. There seemed to be a lot of wandering around, from the ghosts, to the mystery, to the cows, to a few other things, that I found it hard to keep track of where the real heart of the story was. I think the book would’ve been fun with more ghostly shenanigans taking place!
I wouldn’t say that this was my favourite book — really, my favourite part remains the narration — but it was a good one. Definitely a fun way to pass a long drive.