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Unmappable structures: Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George: 02/07/18

A road narrative analysis of Tuesdays at the Castle

Now that the series is complete, I've decided to revisit the books, but this time as audiobooks. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George is the start of the Castle Glower series. Like the Greenglass House, Castle Glower is a building that is hard to map. Where the Greenglass House does it through confusion or distraction, the castle does it by changing (and usually on a Tuesday).

The current royal family takes the castle's changeability as a matter of fact. It is what is and it always has been. The castle not only changes on its own whims but it also selects the next king by how it configures the rooms. While the king and queen are gone to take their eldest son to the wizard school, Celie and her brother (and crown prince, if the castle is to be believed) are left behind with servants and advisors and visiting dignitaries.

What I missed the first time around was the importance of the castle's configuration. Celie insists that her parents and brother are alive from the moment news gets through that they were attacked on the road. The evidence is in the castle and how it refuses to reconfigure itself to acknowledge a new king. Castle Glower is labyrinthine but it is also capable of customizing its experience to everyone within its walls. If it likes you, you will regularly find the shortest path. If it doesn't, your room may end up drafty and suddenly next to the privies.

In this regard, Castle Glower is like the home in House of Leaves. The royal family, though, being in tune with the castle and accepting of its influence over their lives, don't find the changeability of their home a threat. The castle may grow or rearrange rooms to its heart's content, but they aren't afraid of what that means or of what could happen the next time it reorders itself.

Celie, throughout Tuesdays in the Castle is the one person who can read the castle and can keep an accurate blueprint of it. Her atlas as she calls it is as flexible as the derrotero of the Skidwrack in Ghosts of Greenglass House.

That is until the final third of the book when Celie, her sister and brother are clearly in danger not from the castle, but from the guests. Both as a method to protect them and as a result of being attacked magically, the castle begins to turn on the family. Passages that once were available, no longer are. And safe havens become traps.

In most stories I've read where a house (or other structure) is able to change, that ability is seen as sinister from the very get go. Or even if it were first treated as a novelty or an amusement, as soon as things start to go wrong, the unreliable space is seen as evil and as something that needs to be destroyed or escaped from. Castle Glower, though, is trusted throughout the order and when the castle itself is apparently neutralized, is mourned as a recently deceased loved one.

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