The Castle of Adventure Review


Illustrated boards by Stuart Tresilian

Illustrated boards by Stuart Tresilian

So this week (and last) I have been reading The Castle of Adventure, or re-reading it I should say. It is one of my favourite Adventure books, probably my third favourite (Circus comes second and Sea comes first).

Castle starts with a cosy school scene between Dinah and Lucy-Ann, who are talking about the letter Dinah received from Mrs Mannering just a few days before, confirming their holiday plans. The children are to join Mrs Mannering in a small cottage called Spring Cottage, seemingly in the middle of Scotland for the Easter Holidays (though I must say it does seem very very mild for the Easter hols – perhaps its a late Easter). The boys join the girls the day after the girls have arrived at the cottage and the real fun begins.

At the top of the hill that Spring Cottage is on, is an old castle, its front door seemingly blocked off by a landslide so they can’t get inside it, to much disappointment. Mrs Mannering does forbid them to try in case they get trapped – however, best laid plans and all that!

The four and Kiki befriend a local wild girl (in a similar way to Five Get Into a Fix when they meet Aily the shepherd’s daughter) and start to explore the area, and Tassie manages to cement her friendships within the group by finding Philip a fox cub to look after. Button, the fox cub, becomes a favourite to them all, including Dinah (although sometimes she does complain about the smell) apart from Kiki who doesn’t like Button at all, and takes great delight in telling Button off with some of her comical phrases.

It is well established that there is lots of wildlife around the area and Jack even thinks he spots an eagle or two in the sky, and persuades Mrs Mannering to let him and the others go searching for the nest, even though it might take them near the castle. This is the turning point for the novel really as Mrs Mannering’s quiet stay in the Scottish hills unravels from the moment the children step foot in the castle and discover that it’s not as deserted as it might seem.

After discovering that the eagles have a nest in the castle, Jack convinces “Aunt Allie” to let him go and make a hide to try and get pictures of the baby eagle learning to fly. She agrees, but Jack can’t start off right away as the weather turns against them. Instead of letting the children mope about the house all day, Mrs Mannering sends them off on the small train to the nearest town (never specified) where they meet Bill Smugs!

Of course everyone should guess by now that wherever Bill is, adventure must surely follow, and we are reading an Enid Blyton novel, so you know it’s true!

We are not disappointed in the slightest, almost from the moment that Jack is left in the castle alone at night, things start to happen. To start off with, he wonders if he’s dreaming, but its only a chance remark of Lucy-Ann’s the next day that makes him think he is right. So the next night, Jack tries to find out what is going on, and does indeed find out that there are people living and hiding in the castle!

Now the action really starts as the others come to stay with Jack and the girls get discovered. I won’t give any more away, but its all alright in the end, and Bill comes to the rescue with some dramatic results. In the midst of the rescue a storm breaks over the hills, and causes parts of the castle to collapse.

I think this book ranks highly on my list because there is a lot of focus on Jack- my favourite Adventurer- and of the stunning locations that surround Spring Cottage. I can really feel peaceful when I read this book. The other thing I enjoy about Castle is that I can see similarities between Castle and Five Get Into a Fix with the animal loving wild girls who know their way around the hills blindfolded, barefoot, and in any weather. The other thing that draws me to this book is the similar weather situation it has to Malcolm Saville’s Lone Pine novel, Lone Pine Five, the landslide in Not Scarlet but Gold and the secret passages and hiding from the baddie in The Neglected Mountain.

I think that this is one of Blyton’s strongest books from one of her strongest series. It has only been a year or so that I have been well acquainted with the Adventure series, but it is one series of Blyton’s that I do not feel like I am missing out by being an older first time reader. In fact I believe I wouldn’t enjoy them as much as a child and most of the wonderfulness of the locations would go straight over my head as a child. As I have said before, this is definitely a series for older readers, the next step up from my beloved Five.

So if you haven’t read The Castle of Adventure, you really should. If you don’t enjoy it, I shall bake you a cake! Now there’s a challenge you can’t turn down!

[Fiona’s note – the book never specifies that the location is Scotland. It is mentioned in a later adventure where they reminisce about past holidays.]

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20 Responses to The Castle of Adventure Review

  1. chrissie777 says:

    “Castle” is my second favorite after “Valley” and I started re-reading it two nights ago.
    I also love “Sea”, “Circus” and “Island”.
    Wonderful review, Stef :).
    I put “Not Scarlet, but Gold” and “The Neglected Mountain” in my amazon.co.uk basket for next year. Thanks for mentioning these titles by Saville.

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    • fiona says:

      Chrissie, if you’re going to read the Lone Pine series I would recommend you start at the beginning with “Mystery at Witchend” and work your way through to those other titles. Each story is fairly complete in itself (like the Adventure Series for example) but there’s a lot of character development, friendships, new members to the group and so reading in order is a benefit.

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      • chrissie777 says:

        Hi Fiona, that sounds like a good plan. I added the Malcolm Saville website to my favorites and there is a chronological list of his books. However, I was wondering if “The Ambermere Treasure” is a stand-alone book which I could read upfront to see if I like Saville’s style?
        The only book I read was “Treasure at the Mill” (which was written for CFF, before they made a movie) and that one was really very compelling and blytonesque with the most wonderful illustrations. I have the hardcover copy and believe it’s still available in amazon.co.uk where I ordered mine.

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        • fiona says:

          The Ambermere Treasure is the sixth book of the Jillies series. I use this site – http://www.malcolmsaville.co.uk/ – to check details of Saville’s books. Click on titles at the top and then a list will appear on the left. It starts as alphabetical but at the top of it will say “for categorical list click here” and it will then show you each series and the order the books come in.

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          • chrissie777 says:

            Hi Fiona, I added your Girls Gone By website to my favorites, however, it’s not the same that I have: http://www.witchend.com/
            The trouble with Girls Gone By publishing is that they are only available for a short time and then they don’t offer certain books any longer. And I cannot afford ordering books before 2016, so this will have to wait.

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          • fiona says:

            Yes the Girls Gone By books can sell quite quickly but they do tend to crop up on Amazon and eBay etc. I recently bought a copy of Where’s My Girl from the Oxfam Online Shop, from the printing they did back in 2003.

            The website I linked you to was the Malcolm Saville Centenary site though. It’s great as it is a little like the cave of books in that it lists various editions and their covers/illustrations/text changes.

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  2. chrissie777 says:

    That’s an interesting comparison. “Castle” never made me think of “Five get into a Fix” as that one is set in the winter, but I will re-read it soon and think/be aware of your observations.

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  3. Francis says:

    So sorry you didn’t discover the ‘Adventure’ series as a child, Stef – it was one of the greatest reading experiences of my life to read ‘The Mountain of Adventure’ when I was six and a half. I love reading about your thoughts on these books as I love all the series. The only point I would make that as a child the iconic pictures were magical – they still are!
    Francis

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  4. chrissie777 says:

    Yes, I agree with Francis. The Adventure series is not the same without Stuart Tresilian’s illustrations!

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  5. RereadingBlyton says:

    How strange! I have just been re-reading the Adventure series myself – and am currently on Castle – and with no real expectation had a look today to see if there was any online discussion. And here, just three days ago, a review. It’s as much of a coincidence as, well, Bill Smugs turning up looking for just the villains that the Adventurers have stumbled across! I think that Adventure series are my favourite Blytons, and Castle is one of the best – the castle is just the atmospheric setting we want for an adventure, and Scarneck is great villain. For me Valley gets the top spot as it has maybe just a touch more plausibility and detail; Mountain is also strong. The only negative of the series for me is Kiki. Sorry, I just don’t find her range of vocabulary realistic enough. Timmy in the Five is a better pet. One thing that always intrigues me from an adult perspective is just what we are meant to make of Aunt Allie’s relationship with Bill. What’s going on there?

    Regarding the review, I slightly disagree about Tassie. As with Aily she seems to me like one of stereotypes that EB often gets criticised for, being treated more like a semi-domesticated animal than a person. But I completely agree with Francis and Chrissie777 about the marvellous Tresilian illustrations.

    Thanks so much for this review – it’s made my day. Now I must browse the site …

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    • chrissie777 says:

      Hello RereadingBlyton, your comment made my day as well 🙂 🙂 :)!
      How nice to meet a new member in this special blog :).
      It’s great that you can read the Adventure volumes with Tresilian’s illustrations included…that adds to the magic. Which one will you read next? I will read “Valley” hopefully from tomorrow on, then “Sea” and “Circus” (that must have been my first Adventure volume as a child), maybe “Ship”. Unlike Francis (I hope he can forgive me) I never cared much about “Mountain” and “River”.

      We are a small group who writes comments in this blog, but there must be a lot more silent members I guess.
      Did you already discover the Enid Blyton Society? The design is absolutely beautiful and Tony’s Cave of Books contains every book EB ever wrote with different editions (hardcover and paperback and later editions) and at the bottom of each book after the reviews you’ll find the illustrations. So in case you are a Blyton illustrators aficionado like me, you will be delighted with the Cave of Books.
      Then there are lots of wonderful forums in EBS about all the different Blyton series (boarding school series, suspenseful series and the books for youngsters like Faraway Tree etc) and even her stand-alone books like “Secret of Cliff Castle”, “The Treasure Hunters” etc get discussed.
      My only regret is today that I hesitated quite long before I finally joined EBS.
      Cheers,
      Chrissie

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      • RereadingBlyton says:

        Thanks. I think ‘Sea’ is next for me, as it is the only other one I still have a copy of. I will look into the EBS, for sure, I have only glanced at it. I often re-read (despite being, hmmmm, coming up to 50) a lot of the books I read as a child, some more often than others, not just Enid Blyton – but of her work my tops, apart from the Adventures, are Famous Five, St Clare’s, Wishing Chair, Faraway Tree (which I just gave to my 6 year old god daughter who loves it). Secret Seven and Finders Out I read as a child, but for some reason they no longer appeal. The Adventurous Four is another favourite, as is The Secret of Moon Castle, which doesn’t seem to be mentioned on this site (which I have been reading avidly all evening learning, amongst other things, that Bill Smugs and Aunt Allie end up getting married. Crikey! I’d either never known that or forgotten it.). Writing that last sentence makes me think: time to dig out Moon Castle for a read and – who knows? – a review for this site.

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        • fiona says:

          Welcome to the blog, glad you are enjoying it!

          We haven’t yet reviewed any of the Secret Series books or the Adventurous Four ones, you’re quite right. Blyton wrote so many brilliant books it’s hard to cover them all even though we’ve been going two years. We’re always thrilled to get articles sent to us from readers – especially if they cover something we’ve not yet written about.

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  6. chrissie777 says:

    RereadingBlyton, I do the same and re-read many of my childhood books from Germany and France, not only EB books. It’s really like entering a time machine and feeling like a kid again, isn’t it? 🙂

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    • RereadingBlyton says:

      Your mention of Germany makes me wonder if you like Erich Kastner (sorry, can’t do the umlaut)? Maybe my favourite children’s book is his ‘The Flying Classroom’.

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  7. chrissie777 says:

    Fiona, I’m a bit sad, because last year I did send you or Stef an article about André’s and my river walk from Marlow to Bourne End with lots of pics, but you probably didn’t like it (or the not correct English maybe?) as it got never published in the blog.
    I thought our walk was showing/demonstrating a different kind of approach as it was starting from Marlow (with pics of the big church next to the bridge, the church was mentioned in one of the FFO & Dog books I believe) and not from Bourne End towards Marlow like in some articles of other members.
    We even discovered (and took a photo of) Christmas Hill/Winter Hill. I haven’t seen that in any of the Old Thatch/Bourne End/Thames articles. I do read them all and print them out, because each of them has a different point of view which I enjoy :).

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    • fiona says:

      I’ve just had a look through the blog’s emails and I can’t see anything from you Chrissie. I know you PMd Stef a while back about writing for us and she replied through the blog’s email account but I can’t find any articles or photos from you. I had the same problem with someone else last month – they sent us an email about something they had send us a year before and yet we never saw it.

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