EDIT: This is my “Writer’s Voice” entry.
Katie, 14, and her brother Zach, 12, have spent their whole lives in the vast and ancient stone fortress called Castle Falcon, located somewhere in the present-day American northwest. Their loving but enigmatic father, driven by secret fears, rarely allows them to leave the safety of the Castle. He has even sealed many of the doors inside the Castle itself against their curiosity.
Katie and Zach, constantly testing the boundaries of their enormous gilded cage, finally crack open the sealed doors. They aren’t ready for what they find: living hearts in jars, people turned to stone, and a cage containing something terrible and invisible.
All that is before they discover a buried gateway to a dark and demon-filled hell, and the strange creature that guards it…
Along with the Castle, the book has secret caves, a few wizards, an evil demon in disguise, a spaceship, talismans, a dragon, a sea monster, a giant spider, a talking lizard, an alien princess from a lost kingdom, a number of small faeries, a healthy dollop of Cthulhu mythos, a touch of gourmet cooking, a really big gun, lethal teddy bears, a fart joke, and one (1) gratuitous mooning of an authority figure. There is no specific mention of a kitchen sink, but there is a utility sink that has an important role.
The theme is families facing challenges together, young people learning self-reliance, and fathers learning to let them go. This is wrapped in humor, mystery, a cast of unusual characters, and episodic adventures building to a climax that is literally explosive.
* * *
Once upon a time, there was an immense castle crouched near the base of a range of low, heavily-wooded mountains.
This was no elegant fairy-tale castle with flag-topped towers spiking into the sky. It was vast and sprawling, with massive turreted outer walls built of gigantic blocks of roughly-hewn stone, black with the patina of centuries and crusted with moss and lichens. Within those walls the castle’s grounds were covered with mansions, halls, outbuildings and scattered ruins, laid out in a maze with no pattern or architectural consistency. Inside these buildings were hundreds of rooms of all shapes and sizes. There were dark catacombs, airy parlors, hidden chambers, attics, quiet cloisters and expansive courtyards open to the sky. There were corridors and passages beyond counting, soaring stone buttresses, and worn slate roofs with brooding and broken gargoyles perched on their edges.
Two children had lived in this castle all their lives, and they loved their ancient home even more than they loved video games.
Katie Falcon and her brother Zach simply called it “the Castle.” In nearby Monte Vista, an isolated small town in the American Northwest, people called it “Castle Falcon” when they were talking to tourists but sometimes called it “The Wizard’s Place” when they were quietly talking to each other.
It was the first really warm day of spring. Katie, who was almost fourteen and eager to be sixteen, had kicked off her tennis shoes and was curled up in a nest of pillows on the cushioned platform of the big bay window in her room.