Greenglass House by Kate Milford: Ghosts and games
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
see also Ghosts of Greenglass House
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Quality of writing: 9/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal
Age level: 10 and up
Kate Milford introduces the reader to the inhabitants of Greenglass House, an ancient inn and smugglers’ hideout, in this quirky and engaging tale. Told from the viewpoint of Milo Pine (a young Chinese boy adopted by Greenglass House’s owners, Nora and Ben Pine), Greenglass House follows the series of events that occur when items start to go missing after a group of mysterious guests arrive at the inn for the holidays. Full of suspense and unexpected plot twists, Greenglass House is an engaging and enjoyable read that no one should miss out on.
Complex, but still easy to read, the plot of Greenglass House is sure to draw readers into the story in no time. Add a well thought-out backstory and a series of shorter stories within the main story (each of which reveals a secret about the character telling it), and you get the general idea of the book. Plus, Kate Milford adds interest to the entire plot by incorporating the fictional game “Odd Trails,” which bleeds over into real life in the story, leading to an unexpected plot twist (which I won’t spoil) at the end of the book. (10/10)
The story incorporates a sizeable cast of characters, ranging from scholarly to athletic, each with their own unique quirks and abilities. On the whole, the list of characters reads like the cast of a whodunit mystery play: a pair of master burglars, a scholarly old man, a bumbling plant smuggler, and a mysterious girl with a strong affinity for “Odd Trails,” an old-fashioned role-playing game. What is particularly impressive is that each of these characters gets a decent amount of development over the course of the story, through a series of well-written interactions and conversations. Overall, Milford’s characters are varied and complex, and deserve a 9.5 out of 10.
One of the best things about Greenglass House is that while it is extremely engaging, it is also quite readable. The style is fairly straightforward, apart from the numerous side stories told by the characters, and the book is not a difficult read overall. (5/10)
Quality of writing
As I mentioned before, not only are the characters of Greenglass House convincing and interesting, but the plot unfolds at the perfect pace to keep readers “hooked.” Although the storyline borrows elements from the “mystery” genre (some sections are reminiscent of Poe’s The Purloined Letter, for example), it blends these with fantasy and history, creating an imaginative and unique style of writing. Milford also deals with some racial issues (albeit in an age-appropriate way) through Milo’s ongoing struggle over who his “real” parents are (i.e. his birth parents or his adopted parents). Finally, one of the best qualities of Milford’s style is that it never feels forced, like she’s making the characters do something that they naturally wouldn’t. One can almost imagine that she simply set up the setting and backstory and allowed the characters to “play out” of their own accord. Overall, the quality of writing in Greenglass House is excellent and deserves a 9/10 rating.
Greenglass House has zero language, and the only potential “violence” is scene where a customs agent threatens the protagonists with a gun (he doesn’t shoot anyone except for a ghost, which the bullet passes through without harming). Other than that, the only other consideration is a scene where a character is said to fall off a cliff, but the reader doesn’t actually see it happen. Overall, Greenglass House is extremely mild in terms of “violence” (used in the loosest sense of the word), and has no language whatsoever.
While the style of Greenglass House is fairly straightforward, the book does deal with some complex issues, including an adoptee’s personal search for identity and disputes between two women who both love the same man. As modern books go, this one is definitely at the mild end of the “mature content” spectrum; however, I would advise readers to exercise their own discretion in these areas. This book is recommended for ages 10 and up.