From the Publisher
"Using multiple narrators and expertly concocted cliffhangers, Pullman crafts a thrilling page-turner. 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. . . . It's whirlwind plotting, manipulated into a pulsing tale of darkened hearts, treachery, and at long last, redemption."Kirkus Reviews
"In this deliciously gothic thriller there are enough demon huntsmen, evil guardians, and brooding castles to please even the most desensitized reader."School Library Journal, Starred
"A welcome diversion . . . [that is] dashing, sparkling, and wildly over the top."Publishers Weekly, Starred
The deft performances of a roster of very talented British actors, led by Thurley, revive for listeners Pullman's diverting gothic thriller first published in Britain in 1982 (and in the U.S. in 1998). Set in a Swiss village in 1816, Pullman's humorous, suspenseful tale of Karlstein's evil plan to trade the young orphaned nieces in his care to save his own soul and his riches proves a thoroughly engaging listen, harnessing all the best elements of Radio Theater. In character as Hildi, the plucky maidservant at Castle Karlstein, Thurley serves as chief narrator, introducing the color, detail and relationships behind the scenes of all the intrigue. Action, adventure, laughs and the crisp vocal gymnastics here will keep listeners on the edge of their seats from one track to the next. Ages 8-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Originally published in Britain in 1982, Pullman's light-hearted debut effort appears in the U.S. for the first time. A welcome diversion for fans impatiently awaiting the final installation of the trilogy begun with The Golden Compass, this novel--though lacking the more serious underpinnings of the author's later books--showcases the boisterous narrative style that fans will recognize as an established element of Pullman's repertoire. Set in a Swiss village in 1816, the story revolves around wicked Count Karlstein, his two wards--the English orphans Lucy and Charlotte--and the nasty bargain Karlstein has struck with Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman, a supernatural being who annually haunts the local woods on All Souls' Eve. Pullman adds further zest to the mix with the appearance of characters like the orphans' former schoolteacher, the indomitable Augusta Davenport ("I was able to console myself with the reflection that an English gentlewoman can rise above any circumstances, given intelligence and a loaded pistol"), and the actor and sometime swindler known as Doctor Cadavarezzi (aka Signor Brilliantini), a mountebank as charming as he is sly. Briskly narrated in a variety of voices, including those of Lucy (influenced by such contemporary gothic novels as The Mysteries of Udolpho) and the bumbling, hilariously self-important police sergeant Snitsch, the plot undergoes a series of twists and turns too complicated--not to mention delightfully improbable--to delineate here. In an exuberant conclusion worthy of the best of comic operas, the orphans find a true protector, the evil Count is served his just deserts and the formidable Miss Davenport is reunited with her long-lost love. Dashing, sparkling and wildly over-the-top fun. Ages 8-13. (July)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Set in Switzerland in a time long ago, Hildi, maid at the castle of the evil Count, overhears a plot to sacrifice the Count's two nieces to the demon huntsman in return for a rich and long life. As All Soul's Eve approaches, Hildi wonders how can she protect them and who can she trust to help her. A gripping adventure, rich with fantasy and humor, this tale will be enjoyed by middle school readers. Parts of the story are told from the perspectives of the unique characters; each chapter is also embellished with their silhouettes.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Philip Pullman's dark and humorous tale (Knopf, 1998) is set in 1816 in a small Swedish village named for its richest resident, Count Karlstein. Two young orphan girls, Charlotte and Lucy, must find a way to outwit the conniving and evil Count who is also their uncle. Hildi, a young girl who works as a maid in Castle Karlstein, overhears the Count discussing his deal with Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman, to sell the souls of his two nieces on All Soul's Eve in exchange for his current wealth and status. With the night fast approaching, Lucy and Charlotte must rely on Hildi, fate, luck, and a bit of conniving on their own behalf to survive the hunt. Rich and colorful characters including the "oily" Herr Snivelwurst, the bumbling Sergeant Snitsch, the unlucky Max Grindoff, and the properly refined Miss Augusta Davenport come together to create a story told through alternating narratives. Using a full cast of actors and mood-inducing music and sound effects, listeners will feel like they are experiencing a stage play. This cliffhanger is audiobook production at its finest.-Stephanie A. Squicciarini, Fairport Public Library, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
With Count Karlstein (originally published in a different form in Great Britain in 1982), Pullman shows himself again a master storyteller-this time in a light vein. The forces of good and evil, very much in evidence, do not have the intricacy and ambiguity of his later, more ambitious work: here melodrama supplants drama with a cast of characters boasting such telling names as Herr Snivelwurst, the wicked Count Karlstein's faithful follower, and Sergeant Snitsch of the local police. But it is the characters with such unassuming Victorian names as Lucy and Charlotte who capture our affection. On All Soul's Eve, these two young nieces of the count are destined to become sacrificial lambs to save their uncle from the Mephistophelean pact he entered into with Zamiel, the Demon Huntsman, tales of whom circulate widely in their mountainous Swiss village. Lucy and Charlotte, having been spirited away by a kindhearted maidservant, meet up with the wily, charismatic traveling showman Doctor Cadaverezzi. Meanwhile, Miss Augusta Davenport, the erstwhile English teacher of our heroines and a feminist ahead of her time, arrives at Castle Karlstein to inquire about them. In pursuit of the girls, these characters and more move rapidly between castle fortresses and hidden caves, between the comfortable local tavern and Karlstein's ominous hunting lodge. Young Hildi Kelmar, the rescuing maidservant, owns most of the narration. But she shares it with Lucy and Charlotte, the increasingly involved Miss Davenport, and a cameo appearance by the lovable but seemingly buffoonish Max Grindoff, sidekick to the doctor. In a clever ploy, consistent with the overt showiness of the story, altered typography announces a change in narrator. Histrionic writing complements the exaggerated plot line, which ends satisfyingly with villainy punished and virtue rewarded; two deliciously anticipated marriages climax this over-the-top romantic thriller.
Using multiple narrators and expertly concocted cliffhangers, Pullman 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.