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Saturdays at Sea: 03/21/17

Saturdays at Sea by by Jessica Day George

Saturdays at Sea by Jessica Day George, the fifth (and final, per the author's post on GoodReads) of the Castle Glower series sees the royal family on a visit to the Kingdom of Grath for the upcoming wedding on Lilah and Lulath.

They are also there to build the ship from the pieces scrounged from the Castle because the Castle wants it! Since the very beginning, the royal family have been at the beck and call of their Castle — to the point that it picks the next king. So when the Castle tells you to go build the Ship — you do it! (Even if you're not sure how to)

In comparison, the Grathian royal family lives in a more traditional castle — a non-magical one called the Sanctuary. They are instead obsessed with flowers and dogs. Although the Munians of Star vs the Forces of Evil do in fact have magic (the seat of power being held in the form of the wand that the Queen inherits), I couldn't help but picture the Grathian dogs as Star's horde of laser-eye puppies.

And maybe that's part of my on-going slight irritation with this series. My own goofy imagination gets in the way of unusual (in a good way) world building of these books. I still find Grathian as understood through the Sleynian language off putting. With an entire kingdom, and therefore maybe a dozen different Grathians with dialog, it was like taking a tour in the Land of the Boov — if they were people living in a seaside community that looks like something out of a painting by Sir John Everett Millais.

Both "languages" are written in English. There is never any sort of snippets of either language as they would be spoken if either were real languages and we could listen in. The Castle Glower family is usually given very down to earth dialog — highlighting their commoner roots, and perhaps to make the book more accessible for the intended audience (middle grade readers).

The Grath, though, are presented as flowery — they like things to excess. Why have one dog, when you can have a hundred? Why have a single flower garden when your entire capital can be covered in flowers? Their language too is "very, O so very". It's both poetical and ungrammatical.

What's never made clear is why they speak this way — or at least, why their language is rendered this way. At first I thought it was because Lulath was trying to hard to impress his future in-laws. Then I thought it was just to make him sound foreign. Now I think it's supposed to be a hint at how Grathian language works.

Rather than giving a good sense of the different kingdoms and their cultures. I would say that of the two, Grath is actually the more fully realized kingdom in that it has a sense of place with a surrounding city, a sense of the people who live there, their artistic sense, their livelihood, etc. For Sleyne, the emphasis has always been on the magical Castle to the point that it's not always clear that there is anyone outside its walls.

So far my long winded review has only covered the first third of the book. The thing that really makes this series tick is the sentient Castle and how it seems to have roots into all manner of things beyond it's apparent foundation. In this regard, the Castle is like a happy, non-malevolent version of the house in House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Now the Castle is expanding its reach through the building of a Ship.

The second act of this book is the maiden voyage for the Ship. Through the ship we get the largest glimpse of the world beyond. We also see just how much (or how little) control Celie and her family have over the Castle and now the Ship. We also see how frightening a sentient, magical structure can be, especially when it has the ability to move.

The final act is indescribable without giving away spoilers. It though fits well with my recent "cornfield" research for the road narrative project. That, though, I will leave for a separate article, looking at the idea of dessert island as cornfield.

As I mentioned at the very beginning, the author posted in her "review" on GoodReads that Saturdays at Sea is the final book. There are still two more days in the week and Lulath and Lilah still aren't married. I think it should end with Matrimony on Monday, but I can't think of what Sunday would be. Regardless, this book is enough of a wrap up to be an ending but there's enough wiggle room left if the author ever wants to revisit the world and these characters.

Four stars

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