Raedisch’s (The Old Magic of Christmas, 2013, etc.) fantasy chronicles the storied past of a European castle where supernatural events occur.
Alvenholm Castle is a haunted mansion somewhere in northern Europe, although this slim volume doesn’t tell readers exactly where. It’s also unknown when its construction began, although it was greatly expanded near the end of the 17th century. Guntherius Nissenborg and his wife, Anna-Hedvig, were its residents in those years, before it passed to the Nielke clan in 1775. The dilapidated building was donated to the government in 1957. Now, chief curator Peter Hagedorn presides over the castle, which is now inhabited by old ghosts who can sometimes be seen by looking into old mirrors. The text offers a colorful room-by-room tour describing the castle and its history, from the sumptuous Queen’s Chamber, fit for heads of state, to the Chinese Garden Pavilion, whose beams may have been marked with the script of elves. In the Plain Room, the trompe-l’oeil oak leaves are described as being “so realistic that when winter came they turned brown, fell to the floor and were swept up by the maids.” The most enigmatic figure of all, though, is in the form of a princess’s bones, found in a tomb during an archaeological dig in 2015; the bronze-age princess was wrapped in wild silk clothes and wore a birch-root crown. Her remains and other artifacts seem to suggest an impossible connection with the East—and a likely connection to a supernatural otherworld. Overall, Raedisch’s Alvenholm Castle is an engaging fictional creation, full of details about the furnishings as well as descriptions of past or present events that hearken back to the property’s pagan roots. However, there’s no overarching plot in this very short book, as it relates most events only in brief anecdotes. Passing references to fictive historical figures abound, though, and the story bounces from century to century as quickly as it moves through the castle’s different rooms. The story of the excavated princess toward the end of the book provides some mystery, although it disappears rather quickly.
A pithy, mystical story that suffers from a lack of narrative structure.