Count Karlstein: or The Ride of the Demon Huntsman Paperback – 17 Sep 1992
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"I might have occupied my mind usefully with Improving Thoughts, but the only improvement I could imagine then was a pair of wings, to enable me to fly to freedom. And, of course, a Head for Heights. I cleaned the dust from the window and peered out hopefully, but there was nothing but a Horrid Precipice, with jagged crags several thousands of feet below." Such are the woes of young Charlotte, locked in a tower room of her uncle's gloomy Castle Karlstein in 19th-century Switzerland. Escaping this predicament seems the least of her worries: in a solemn blood pact, her evil uncle, Count Karlstein, has promised to sacrifice his two orphaned nieces, Lucy and Charlotte, to Zamiel the Demon Huntsman--on midnight of All Souls' Eve--in return for his current riches.
First, however, the heartless Count and his "lip-licking, moist-handed, creeping, smarming" secretary, Herr Arturo Snivelwurst, will have to catch Lucy, too--and it is no small task with the headstrong, 14-year-old Hildi Kelmar; her 18-year-old, handsome-in-a-scowling-sort- of-way brother, Peter; and the intrepid English teacher Miss Augusta Davenport on the girls' side. As Miss Davenport herself points out, "an English gentlewoman can rise above any circumstances, given intelligence and a loaded pistol." The events in this delightful gothic farce unfold quickly in a variety of narrative voices, artfully building in suspense to a powerful, terrifying, deeply satisfying stand-off between the Count and the Demon Huntsman of Impenetrable Darkness himself. Subplots and loose ends are gracefully, happily, justly tied up in the light of day, finally allowing readers to exhale.
British novelist Philip Pullman, masterful storyteller and creator of the best-selling adventures The Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, mesmerizes us again with his playful, suspenseful thriller Count Karlstein. Readers young and old will revel in every angle, twist, and turn of this breathlessly paced, very funny page-turner. --Karin Snelson
"Any youngster who likes ghostly tales of the macabre accompanied with much humour will get a lot of fun from this unusual book" (Junior Bookshelf)
"Glorious Translyvanian spoof" (Daily Telegraph)
"Ingeniously-designed comic-cum-novel, a gothic pastiche that can be read as simple fun or as a literary lesson" (Guardian)
"A masterly storyteller" (Independent)
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Top Customer Reviews
Dominic's comment. terse and to the point:"It's BRILLIANT"
I'm only an adult and not supposed to read children's books, but I admire Philip Pullman very much, and I thought the book was hilarious and original in its mix of cartoons and prose.
In a nutshell, Count Karlstein is an epic children’s novel that mixes comedy, horror and fantasy together in to a modern take on the classic fairly tale, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s the sort of book that you could read to your kids and enjoy just as much as they do, and indeed some of the humour is targeted specifically at adults.
Pullman has this great knack for writing for a mixed audience – he doesn’t talk down to children as some authors do, he treats them as equals and doesn’t underestimate their intelligence. That’s why his work makes for such good reading at any age, and why he keeps on winning awards – they’re well-deserved, too.
Count Karlstein might not have the finesse of the His Dark Materials trilogy or the murky Victorian intrigue of Pullman’s Sally Lockhart novels, but it still deserves a place on your bookshelf.
The story's first narrator is a young girl called Hildi who works as a servant at Castle Karlstein. She begins the tale of the Count, who she works for, and his young charges, two young girls who he would rather not have the responsibility for. The story is full of strange and funny characters - there are police officers who seem more than a little inept; there is a trickster on the run from the law, who has a strange and magic cabinet of curiosities to name just a few. But it is Count Karlstein, as the title suggests, who is the driving force behind the tale, as Hildi and a host of others explain his pact with the Demon Huntsman.
It is a really enjoyable tale. There are touches of Gothic horror and comedy which readers both young and old should enjoy.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great, blood-curling storyline! Fantastic atmosphere! Graphics enhance Pullman's text. Highly recommended for readers 9-12 years old.Published 10 months ago by Bookmole
A children's book that likes to challenge children and is also an enjoyable read for the adults as well.Published 19 months ago by Spacecadet
Having read Phillip Pullman before I anticipated I'd like the book. I did. It was set at a fast pace; witty; engaging, exciting and unpredictable right to the end. Read morePublished on 11 July 2010 by Twinkle