Megan is a delightful young lady who came to hear me speak at the Gaithersburg Book Festival when Falling for Hamlet was new to the world. Megan stood out in the crowd because she was, I believe, the only actual teen in the audience. Anyhow, we’ve stayed in touch, and she even arranged for me to speak to at her high school. In the middle of getting ready to graduate from high school and beginning a new chapter of her life, she agreed to review a book for the blog.
Megan, you’re wonderful! Happy graduation.
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford
“It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smugglers’ inn is always quiet during this season, and Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.”
A perfect read for a quiet day, this book blends mystery with fantasy in Milford’s well-imagined world. The characters are eccentric and unique—much in the tradition of a turn-of-the-century mystery: it’s easy to imagine Professor Plum stepping into the mix with Clem Candler, Mr. Vinge, Dr. Gowervine, Mrs. Hereward, and blue-haired Georgie Moselle. These five guests seem to be suspects—after all, they have come to a smugglers’ inn—but it’s unclear what the crime is, or even if there is a crime at all. While the guests are easily defined by their eccentricities, they defy flat characterization, instead possessing aspects beyond their initial introduction. The hotel staff, too, is full of well-developed characters, including Milo’s parents, who are kind and generous without being boring. Milo, the protagonist, very much has the potential to be an average middle-grade hero, but differs from his literary peers by having depth to his quirkiness. He’s adopted, but Milford stresses that this is not even remotely the most important part of his character. Instead, he’s curious, polite, and geeky. Milo listens to his parents and (largely) obeys their wishes, but without seeming too much like a goody-two-shoes. He is a likeable character, but also believable—he isn’t always sure of what to do, and often uses easy-to-follow logic.
The Greenglass House is a lot of fun to read because often the reader can guess what’s going to happen next just a little bit before Milo does, but the ending is genuinely surprising (not something I can say for a lot of books). Especially for younger readers, this book gives the satisfaction of piecing together the mystery yourself, without being predictable. The details are vivid and tactile: Milford’s descriptions of the stained-glass windows that distinguish the inn are beautiful. Her world is truly well crafted, and the reader gets the sense that it is built up far beyond the town where Milo lives (indeed, the book is connected to some of Milford’s other books by characters mentioned but not present in Greenglass House). Nonetheless, even portraying only a tiny corner of it, Milford gives a clear and lucid depiction of the world.
Well-defined and eccentric characters with dynamic relationships, set in an interesting and vibrant world; a clever yet easy-to-follow mystery; a Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque role-playing game; a mysterious map: The Greenglass House is perfect for middle-grade readers who like mystery or fantasy, or older readers who like a good adventure. Highly recommended.