Lonely Castle in the Mirror

Hardcover, 384 pages

English language

Published Oct. 18, 2022 by Erewhon Books.

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4 stars (7 reviews)

Seven students find unusual common ground in this warm, puzzle-like Japanese bestseller laced with gentle fantasy and compassionate insight.

Bullied to the point of dropping out of school, Kokoro’s days blur together as she hides in her bedroom, unable to face her family or friends. As she spirals into despair, her mirror begins to shine; with a touch, Kokoro is pulled from her lonely life into a resplendent, bizarre fairytale castle guarded by a strange girl in a wolf mask. Six other students have been brought to the castle, and soon this marvelous refuge becomes their playground. 

The castle has a hidden room that can grant a single wish, but there are rules to be followed, and breaking them will have dire consequences. As Kokoro and her new acquaintances spend more time in their new sanctuary, they begin to unlock the castle’s secrets and, tentatively, each other’s. 

With the thoughtful …

7 editions

Comforting relatable fable about growing up

5 stars

There is a lot of the setting which is specific to Japan. The epilogue mentions some disturbing statistics about the mental health of Japanese middle school children, but there is also the tourist's pleasure of glimpsing bits of Japanese culture and geography half remembered from a previous visit.

The characters on the other hand are somehow universal underneath an exotic (to an outsider) interest in forms of address. The author does a great job of capturing the anxieties and traumas of not just the extreme cases, but the everyday challenges of growing up as the anxious and unpopular kid.

The plot is immanently spoilable, so I won't say much, except that there is a definite puzzle book here as well.

The book should probably come with a full suite of content warnings for (sensitive treatment of) child sexual assault, child death, and family member death. So although I can believe …

Just blew me away

5 stars

Genuinely moving, involving story following seven junior high students in Tokyo who have stopped going to school. The early part of the book may seem a little slow-paced, but I think it's just laying the groundwork and developing the characters, ready for the intensity to pick up with a wild twist in the middle and an ending that's both heartbreaking and yet, strangely, hopeful.

CWs: bullying, cancer, death, sexual assault

Review of 'Lonely Castle in the Mirror' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

This is one of these books that pulls you in and gets better and more compelling as it progresses. It deals with some very serious issues (all the protagonists are Japanese teenagers who for one reason or another do not go to school), and is part fairy tale, part YA fiction, part magic realism, part fantasy, but really quite hard to categorise.

It's very cleverly plotted, with a number of plot twists that come thick and fast towards the end, and involves a truly moving denouement.

Review of 'Lonely Castle in the Mirror' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A bit slow to get into but it really is worth continuing with as it turns into something special. I do feel a bit like the translation might have tried over explaining things to an English-speaker, things that I'm not sure would need explaining in the original?

Essentially this is a message to bullied children, that one day you will grow up and things will get better. A story of kindness and friendship and regaining trust. With added wolves.

avatar for judev

rated it

5 stars
avatar for brzy

rated it

3 stars