The Castle of Whispers

Written by Carole Martinez
Review by Nicole Evelina

The Castle of Whispers is the tale of 15-year-old Esclarmonde, who, on her wedding day, chooses the living death of an anchorite over marriage to a violent man. Thus cloistered from the world, she develops a reputation for holiness that is really based on manipulation and begins to believe in her own power, directing the lives of others for good and ill.

The Castle of Whispers is a strange tale of brutality and madness made all the weirder for Carole Martinez’s use of magical realism to justify a mystical vocation her main character shows no signs of actually possessing. The prologue and epilogue place the reader in the position of one who is exploring the ruins of the old castle and encounters one of its ghosts, Esclarmonde herself, who must tell her story to gain freedom from the stones that have entombed her spirit for over a thousand years. Thus begins a tale that on its surface is about religious vocation and mystical experience, but is really about how the madness of a single person can change the fate of many. Over the course of the book, several characters succumb to this insanity based in religious fervor traceable back to Esclarmonde, and the results are nothing short of tragic.

Magical realism is not my cup of tea, but if you like it and take your stories dark and twisted with a dash of religious fervor, The Castle of Whispers might just be the tale for you.