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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars gothic and hilarious, 16 Nov 2005
I warn you: this is not a book that children should read. It's a book that adults should read to children. The fact is that Philip Pullman does a beautiful job of spoofing Victorian "trash" novels and horror romances like Stokers "Count Dracula" whilst writing one himself - for children, supposedly, but I doubt that any child will find it half so funny as their parents will.
Count Karlstein owns a castle deep in the Swiss Alps (which bear a surprising resemblance to Transylvania at times) and has made a pact with the Demon Huntsman Zamiel that ensures Karlsteins continued good health and ownership of the castle. But the time has now come for him to pay his side of the bargain - a life. Fortunately his two orphaned English nieces are sent to live with him as their only remaining relative, and so he decides to sarifice them to Zamiel! But the girls (who have read far too many "horror" stories themselves and use various Victorian expressions in capitals) enlist the aid of their old Headmistress Augusta Davenport, the travelling magician Dr. Cadaverezzi, and, of course, the maidservant Hildi and her brother Peter. A Horrifing Tale ensuses...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Listen, 19 Jan 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Count Karlstein: or The Ride of the Demon Huntsman: Complete & Unabridged (Audio CD)
I bought this audio book back in June to listen to during the summer. I am spending a year in France and cant always listen to the radio and it was only this week I started listening to the CDs, I was put off listening to them because being an HDM fan I didn't want (it sounds stupid) to be disloyal to Lyra, Lee Scorsby, Lord Asrial even Mrs Coulter and the rest of them by getting to know new characters. But within a few minutes of listening I was hooked and the style and prose is so Philip Pullman it is a joy to listen to. It is a dramatised version rather like HDM which I first came into contact with Jan 2002 when it was on the radio. I shall certainly be putting this in the car for 5.5hr car journey back to UK. It felt very comfortable and the characters immediately likeable if Hidl were to meet Lyra they would be best friends as would Max and Lee. Buy it, curl up on the sofa on a wet afternoon and immerse yourself in an imaginary parallel Switzerland
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Gothic Modern Fairytale, 5 Feb 2013
I am a huge fan of Philip Pullman's work, yes most notably his His Dark Materials trilogy, but his whole YA fiction in general surpasses most Author's attempts. He has a knack for coming up with brilliantly told, well structured and complex plots, filled with more twists and turns than you can shake your fist at. Now apparently, unbeknown to me, Count Karlstein (first published in 1982) was Pullman's very first children's and Young Adult novel. I was extremely eager to read it, as you can probably imagine.

Count Karlstein tells the story of Hildi, a maidservant to the Count. The story is set in a little Swiss village and right from the off, we are told of this awful sinister plot to sacrifice his nieces, Charlotte and Lucy. And so sets off an important string of events as Hildi helps the girls escape and go into hiding, for on All Souls Eve, the demon huntsman himself, will show his wrath and feed upon anyone he crosses.

The story itself is told in three parts. The first and third parts are told in Hildi's perspective, whereas part two is told from multiple characters' points of view. This is an interesting way to do things and actually it works quite well, because we can get to see alternate views about the goings on. You can see why originally, Count Karlstein was actually a play, first devised when Pullman was an English teacher.

Of course, every character in the story has their own story arc, not just about Count Karlstein's plan. For example, Hildi's exiled brother, Peter is on the run from the law and he's in hiding at the Jolly Huntsman, their mother's inn. Peter dreams of winning the shooting contest, where he will be declared a free man and no longer have to worry about the police catching up with him.

There's a whole supernatural element to this story, with a demon huntsman and all and though perhaps the story is a little unoriginal, it has a completely new telling; fresh and very easy to follow. It gives this gothic tale a fantasy element and it is done so subtly that it works very well indeed. But perhaps what also is intriguing is the inclusion of Doctor Cadaverezzi and his Cabinet of Wonders. He is a travelling magician of sorts, performing shows for the locals. There just seems to be a whole variety of characters to take a liking too.

Characterisation plays a huge part in this story. Miss Charlotte and Miss Lucy are obviously upper-class children, acutely educated and speak above their young years. Max, Doctor Cadaverezzi's assistant, is perhaps more common and being an orphan means he had to grown up quite quickly and find work. Miss Davenport adds a touch of feminism into the story and reinforces certain values of what is expected such as morals and standards. But no matter who the characters are, Pullman writes with such wit and humour that it is an absorbing read.

And it is this humour that will attract the children. He creates stupid and slapstick policeman that fall foul of the situation and usually find themselves as the victims of some rather funny pranks. The whole book reads like a yarn or fairytale and this is why when read aloud, the world of magic really comes alive.

Although I did love this book, there were certain parts I felt let the book down. The first of which is that I felt the book had so much potential and actually could have been a little longer, giving some story arcs some more action. Doctor Cadaverezzi and his Cabinet of Wonders are introduced as if they are important to the plot, and although there is a twist here, much, much more could have been done. It felt restricted at times, as if Pullman ran out of ideas. His demon huntsman, who is mentioned throughout, only gets minimal inclusion and a more action-orientated ending could have turned this into a great modern fairytale.

And perhaps more surprisingly I found myself shocked at one piece of language. The violence is actually quite toned down here, often coming across more slapstick than actually sinister and Pullman actually creates more of a thriller through tension and situation rather than the actual fights. But late in to the book, as Count Karlstein, he uses the word "slut" when describing Hildi. This was extremely inappropriate, especially when this book is marketed towards older children.

On the whole though, despite some misgivings, I felt Count Karlstein was a gripping tale, lots of psychological tension used to great effect and a whole cast of characters that are appealing and well voiced. When read aloud, Count Karlstein really does come alive and it's a book that will hold many age groups. It is a slightly gothic tale that mixes both tricks and paranormal beliefs, with more traditional behaviour and traditions. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I hope you do too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, 2 Oct 2007
M. G. Hatfield "trekle5" (North Wales UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Count Karlstein: or The Ride of the Demon Huntsman: Complete & Unabridged (Audio CD)
This story is set in the past as like his Sally Lockhart series in Victoran London, but this takes place in the mountains of some other country in Europe.

The evil Count has made a deal with a demon from tales told in his village but the demon wants payment and time is running out for the Count to repay what he owes.

This year on All Hollows Eve (Holloween) he want humans or human competle with souls (Alive) But thanks to a death in the family he has two little innocent girls under his "care" and decides they would be perfect to repay his debt.

Now the race is on to save Charrlotte and Lucy (The Girls) from the grip of the demon can a maid and her brother save them with help maybe this story is wonderfully written and is great introduction to Pullman's stories.

This story is very long (5.5 hours)and is spread over 5 discs which makes it a pain changing the discs but the story will thrill Sally Lockhart fans and will be a good introduction as said above but I think younger children should be read it as there are a few words in the text that should be kept from thier ears until the leave middle school at least.

This is marked down as a childrens book but I think it means high school at least.

This book would make a great addition to you Pullman collection of stories (Sally Lockhart series and Lyra series)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Count Karlstein Is Brilliant Buy it or else, 3 Jan 2004
Mrs. L. Best "lbest101" (England) - See all my reviews
What a book! I picked it up not knowing quite what to expect and could not put it down. Pullman mixes suspense, horror and humor all in one very entertaining book. The book follows one story from various perspectives with the main narrative coming from Hildi the main character. This offers a greater insight into the whole story for the reader. Wonderful Brilliant Marvellous .....Buy it now you'll love it.
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