COUNT KARLSTEIN by Philip Pullman


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Age Range: 11 - 13
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Using multiple narrators and expertly concocted cliffhangers, Pullman (The Subtle Knife, 1997, etc.) crafts a thrilling page-turner less violent than his Sally Lockhart adventures but no less breathlessly paced. Brought to these shores 16 years after it was first published in Britain, this gothic farce features young orphans, evil schemers, a gloomy Swiss castle, a long-lost heir, stalwart lads, capable women, a con man on the lam, hilariously bumbling police officers, and Zamiel: the Prince of the Mountains, the Demon Huntsman, “swathed in impenetrable darkness, with eyes of raging fire.” Having agreed to supply the demon with human prey in exchange for riches, the amoral upstart Count Karlstein and his slimy secretary Snivelwurst plan to lock bereaved young Lucy and Charlotte, believed to be the last Karlsteins in the direct line, in a hunting lodge on All Souls’ Eve. Fortunately, 14-year-old servant Hildi and chunky but superbly competent English tutor Augusta Davenport get wind of the plot and engineer a clever reversal, but not before a sequence of mishaps, desperate searches, captures, and escapes, complicated by a tangle of subplots and capped by a gloriously frightening glimpse of Zamiel himself, at whose hands Count Karlstein meets a well-deserved doom. In the ensuing hubbub, doughty Miss Davenport is reunited with her lost love Antonio Rolipolio, an escape artist whose feckless assistant Max turns out to be none other than Castle Karlstein’s real heir, kidnapped as a baby and thought lost. It’s whirlwind plotting, manipulated into a pulsing tale of darkened hearts, treachery, and at long last, redemption. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-89255-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998


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